Wolfe Sunday is an artist who has been making waves across the south of England and beyond. Through relentless touring, soulful tunes, and a strong DIY attitude, he’s made a name for himself. He has been granted radio play, a chance to tour across the UK and Bulgaria, and a loyal fanbase. He will play anywhere, alongside venues, pubs, and bars to the streets, even launderettes and peoples’ houses. Speaking to Mr. Wolfe himself, we chatted about what inspired him to play music, his work, touring, the DIY attitude and more in this lengthy but lovely chat.
Jack: So how are you doing?
Wolfe Sunday: Great cheers, it’s been a busy few weeks for me so it’s nice to have some down time.
Jack: What inspired you to start playing music?
Wolfe Sunday: I have always loved music, I grew up in a very creative family, all making things in one way or another. My parents are both artists and have been featured in some major galleries, and my sister creates a lot of cinematic art. I guess I chose the musical avenue because it was something different to them. I have always had the burning desire to create, ever since I was small, when I was drawing and photocopying small comic books for my mates in the playground. Then I fell in love with music and I had to start playing.
Jack: Wolfe Sunday is your stage name, what inspired you to use a stage name instead of your real name?
Wolfe Sunday: I’ve always liked the idea of performing under a pseudonym, so that there is a clear difference between myself and the act. Lots of my favourite musicians do it; City & Colour and Iron & Wine are great examples. It means that I can make Wolfe Sunday into anything; it can be a full band at times, a solo act at others, and it also means it can, like any good band, eventually slow down and be replaced by another project. But I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Jack: Your sound is “Anarchist Folk Punk,” what artists inspired you to create this?
Wolfe Sunday: I think there is a very thin line between the genres of folk and punk. They come from the same upbringing, and often talk about the same themes. Guys like Woodie Guthrie were making political waves with their folk music that very much rivaled any punk act today. I love acts that go beyond a certain genre and folk punk and associated acts definitely do that. Bands like Days N Daze, Roughneck Riot, Ducking Punches, and Frank Turner are all big inspirations.
Jack: There’s a very Frank Turner feel to your work. Is he an influence?
He is definitely a key influence. He really got me, and many other people, into the folk punk movement in this country. A lot of my political and personal values are aligned with him. If you haven’t heard him yet, I’d very much recommend checking him out, along with many other acts from the UK that he has inspired and helped out along the way; like Will Varley, Joe McCorriston, Burden Blues, Brandon Neal.
Jack: BBC Radio Kent DJ James Whale said recently that “punk music is never in tune,” which is obviously not true. Do you get annoyed by the misconceptions attributed to punk music?
Wolfe Sunday: There will always be misconceptions about things that people do not fully understand, and we shouldn’t let closed-mindedness get in our way. Not all punks are meat-heads that simply like to hit things/other people/themselves to four chord songs played out of tune. Not all punks are covered in tattoos and angry all the time. Some of us punks just want to pick up an acoustic, jump on a train and get new people listening to what we have to say. It’s the same with the many metal misconceptions. We’re all nice people really.
Jack: Before I talk about your latest album I want to talk about Troubadour, which is considered your breakout album. Is this one of your favourite releases?
Wolfe Sunday: I will always love that album. Prior to the release, I had already recorded a bunch of poor quality EPs that had been floating about, but I wanted to release something with more body, that people could chuck on their stereo and really get into. I already had a few songs I knew I wanted to use that I had left over from the EPs, that had already gone down well at shows, but I needed more. At the time of writing it, I was really going through a bad time, I was feeling sad all the time, I was going through quite a tough break up, and life really wasn’t going well. I basically holed myself up in a room for a few weeks and wrote most of it then. I’d like to think that these feelings of pent up isolation come across in the songs. I still play a lot of those songs live, they mean a lot to me and I hope people get as much satisfaction from them as I did creating them.
Jack: You recorded it by breaking into your University Radio station and recording it in the early morning. How was that experience?
Wolfe Sunday: I’ve always believed in the real DIY side of life, and I felt like this release had to be done entirely independently for it to sound exactly right. So I broke into the university radio station about an hour after they stopped recording for the night over three consecutive nights, from about 11pm-4am. I recorded all the vocals and guitar separately, and then took the files and mixed them at home.
Jack: Did management find out? If so how did they react?
Wolfe Sunday: No one except the radio manager at the time found out. He found it quite funny though. I’m pretty sure I gave him a free copy as a kind of thank you. Big up to my man Lee Stansfield for that.
Jack: Is ‘Christmas in Mexico’ based on a true story?
Wolfe Sunday: When it came to writing Troubadour I knew I wanted to write a ballad of some kind. I hadn’t attempted one before that point, ever. So that song was my attempt at writing a ballad. Sadly, it isn’t a true story, but it is based on a lot of recurring ideas I’ve seen in American folk punk songs; people always seem to go to Mexico to kill themselves for some strange reason, beats me why. Well, I wanted to kind of, respect that tradition and also play on it a little bit, by giving it my own twist. The character goes to Mexico to escape the horrors of capitalist America, and ends up finding true solace there. It’s a happy song, about traveling to find yourself. That’s a major theme in Troubadour and so I guess that’s why I chose that little story to be a bit of a prelude to the album.
Jack: ‘Botany Bay’ has struck a chord with fans who seem to know the words. Why do you think this song has become a fan favourite?
Wolfe Sunday: I honestly have no idea. That song is an adaptation of a traditional folk-song, and I wrote it one day along with a couple of other adaptations of traditional songs. That’s the only one that made it out my bedroom door though. Maybe it’s because of the funny video I made for it, where I’m dressed as a pirate running about a play-park. Maybe it’s because I go pretty mental during that song live. I like to get on tables or bars or whatever I can find to climb on and shout at people during that one.
Jack: How does it feel seeing fans singing along and wearing the shirts?
Wolfe Sunday: Oh man that is the best feeling. When I started this project, I told myself that the only goal was to play shows where people came down wearing my merch and shouted the words I wrote right back at me. It literally gives me goosebumps every show. It never gets old. Shout out to all those guys that come to every show in their area, hang out and party with me.
Jack: Now let’s talk about your recent album Empty Bottles, Broken Bones. Are you happy with the response?
Wolfe Sunday: The response has been everything I can have asked for. All the reviews have been positive and it’s great to be able to play some new songs live. I’ve already seen a few pits for tracks like ‘Dead Benedict’ too!
Jack: How was the release show?
Wolfe Sunday: Absolutely mental. Everyone came down, packed out the room and really got the party going. There was so many guys and girls sweating and dancing and singing. Canterbury has always been kind to me.
Jack: You recorded with drummer Will Cummings (formerly of Arise), why did you decide to record with a drummer?
Wolfe Sunday: I knew as soon as soon as I wrote the first song for the album that I wanted this to be a much bigger and more impressively sounding record than the previous. That meant I had to get a drummer involved. I knew Will from work and when he told me he drummed, I had to get him involved.
Jack: What was working with Will like? Was weird recording with another person?
Wolfe Sunday: He’s a great guy, who loves music and was brilliant to work with. He’s also a very talented musician. As soon as I first rehearsed with him I was blown away at how good he sounded, and how much the addition of drums brought to the songs. He learnt the tunes really quickly too, that’s a very special talent.
Jack: Did he contribute ideas to the album at all or was it purely your own work?
Wolfe Sunday: Will definitely helped mold the tunes I had written into really outstanding songs and interjected ideas. It was his idea to make the chorus of ‘Spare Change’ half time. Little touches like that really make songs.
Jack: Did it feel weird recording in a studio as opposed to in a radio station?
Wolfe Sunday: Making this album was the first time I had properly stepped foot into a professional studio and it honestly was a little bit daunting. Working with a producer really helped me though. He gave me lots of advice and really believed in what we were creating together, which really made the album what it is.
Jack: Do you plan to add drums to any of your old releases?
Wolfe Sunday: Sometimes the rawness and simplicity of one man and his guitar is enough. I wouldn’t want to spoil that.
Jack: Aside to your work with your other band The Overnight Angels, do you have any other projects?
Wolfe Sunday: I also have a small ambient-noise project called Armour King. I’m actually releasing new music via Hexx 9 Records very soon. If you’re into that you should definitely check it out.
Jack: You tour relentlessly, is it hard fitting it in with a day job and a degree?
Wolfe Sunday: It seriously is. If I’m not in a warehouse working, I will be either in a lecture or on the road to some gig miles away. It’s very hard to balance them all, but I really have to thank my managers for being so flexible, my lecturers for not being down my throat about deadlines, and my friends, for not minding me being really hard to contact, and never having the free time to hang out. You guys are literally the best.
Jack: What inspires you to keep going?
Wolfe Sunday: I really think it’s the burning desire to create. If I’m not making something of some kind, I just don’t feel myself. I need to be writing music, or performing in some way to feel okay about everything. When I’m not doing that, you can probably find me in a corner somewhere drawing, or painting or writing zines.
Jack: What do you love about the DIY ethos?
Wolfe Sunday: I love how friendly everyone is. In the DIY world, everyone is equal, looking out for each other, respecting what each other is creating, and enjoying life in general. I think those things really need to apply to the wider world too.
Jack: What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any tours or new EPs?
Wolfe Sunday: I’m currently booking a UK tour for September. Full dates will be released very soon. I’ve also got a bunch of festival dates including the great Blank Generation punk festival in London this May. I’m always writing music so maybe if I get a handful of tracks I like I might throw them out to the world. I also might not. Who knows?
Jack: Last year you toured Bulgaria as sponsored by Beefeater Gin, what was that like?
Wolfe Sunday: Getting the chance to explore a part of the world I had never dreamed of going to was absolutely amazing, and getting to then perform to people there was unreal. It’s crazy what music can do and how far it can take you.
Jack: How was Bulgaria different to Britain?
Wolfe Sunday: Well, the obvious thing is that no one speaks English in Bulgaria, which is interesting in regards to my music as it is pretty lyric based. Having people enjoy my songs simply for the melodies and tunes was cool. It’s a very rural place too. Even the big cities like the capital, Sofia, are in fact very small, and quite quaint. It is literally another world to where we live. Another, very beautiful world.
Jack: Are you a gin drinker?
Wolfe Sunday: (Laughs) No! But my wife is, so she had a great time. She drank litres of the stuff over that tour. They do great beer over there, luckily, so I managed to enjoy myself too. There was one bar that a bunch of us went to where the beer was on a direct tap to each table, and you could just pour your own! Brilliant idea!
Jack: You were set to tour America but had to drop out, are there any plans to go back to America?
Wolfe Sunday: Yeah, the tour clashed with my very sudden and unexpected decision to get married, but I’m actually talking to that same promoter right now about going back there soon. American folk punk is a big influence on me and the chance to tour with some big folk punk acts from that side of the world would be a dream come true.
Jack: Finally, last year you played in a launderette with other acts such as Didgerideath, The Dressing Gown Warrior, and Story From A Scrapbook. What inspired you to organise a gig on a campus launderette?
Wolfe Sunday: We were all stood in a club when we had the thought. It was honestly the strangest drunken idea we’ve all ever had. But it was brilliant. I’d love to do something like that again.
Jack: Are there any plans to do any more gigs in weird places?
Wolfe Sunday: Not at the moment, but I would never turn down the opportunity, so any launderette owners, or anyone who wants me to come have a shout in their place of work or home, hit me up!
Jack: Thanks very much for your time and I hope to see you at a show soon.
Wolfe Sunday: Thanks man.