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Haley Appell "When I was 15 I really started feeling like this was what I wanted to do," says Wolf.
Remi Wolf's debut album, Juno, opens with a buoyant blast. On "Liquor Store," the 25-year-old introduces herself as a free-flowing powerhouse with a knack for turning personal struggles into ecstatic bops. "I'm a thrift store baddie," she proclaims, "and I've got headaches and headaches and headaches."
The track, written just after leaving rehab for alcoholism, was the watershed moment that jump-started most of the songs on Juno (out now). "For anybody who has gotten sober before, they know it's a very fragile, emotional, confusing time," she tells EW, "and it just turned into this very explosive session."
Recorded over the course of the last year in Los Angeles, the album is a rich and infectious meditation on working through it on your own terms. For Wolf, 25, that means funky freestyles that bubble over with wild humor and frank self-awareness. Across the record's 13 tracks, everyone from Angelina Jolie to Chuck-E-Cheese gets namechecked. There are songs about the adult film industry ("Quiet On Set") and falling for a serial killer ("Sexy Villain"). And if you listen closely you'll hear what sound like Slack notifications pulling double duty as drum samples.
Fresh off of two back-to-back EPs and co-signs from the likes of John Mayer, Camilla Cabello, and Maude Apatow, Wolf's debut (which was named after her newly adopted French Bulldog) comes with its own dazzling worldview. Along with her hyper-colorful outfits and oversized accessories, Wolf helped guide each of the record's brightly hued music videos, which call to mind '90s and early aughts genre-benders like Missy Elliot, Jamiroquai, and recent Wolf collaborator, Beck.
"It's become part of what I love about my own art," she says. "There's such a juxtaposition between the sound and the visual and the actual content that you have to listen a couple of times to really dig in and kind of sink your teeth into it."
Here, Wolf discusses her earliest musical inspirations, the trials and triumphs of getting sober, and the story behind her latest ode to Anthony Kiedis.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you start singing?
REMI WOLF: I started when I was in fourth grade. Me and one of my friends sang at a talent show on this farm — we sang "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. That was the first time I ever performed for people, really. From then on I've been singing in bands. I was in a girl group for a while with two other girls and we sang barbershop quartet-style harmonies. Then when I was in high school I started a band with one of the girls from that group, and I performed and sang and wrote songs in that band up until college. I'm the only musician in my household, so it was all very foreign to me. But when I was 15 I really started feeling like this was what I wanted to do, like, "Okay, this is sick and really fun."
Do you remember some of the CDs you were listening to back then?
The first CD I ever owned was that Lindsay Lohan album Speak. I think the first CD I ever bought for myself was Salt-N-Pepa 20th Century Masters. I was also watching a lot of Disney Channel at that point, and High School Musical was coming out and I was pretty obsessed with that. But so many different musical inspirations have seeped their way into my sound. For the past couple years I think Beck has been a really big influence on me. Eryka Badu. John Mayer was always big for me.
You and Beck worked together on a remix. Have you met each other in person yet?
We have! We've met a bunch of times. He's a very nice man. I think hopefully we're going to get in the studio soon, once we both have time and headspace to do that. We were both in New York at the same time so he came to my DJ set. He feels kind of like a proud dad at this point. It's really funny. I mean, it's so wild. It's crazy. I've known his music for so long and I've looked up to him for a really long time, and now I would call him a friend, so that's pretty fun.
How did the writing process for Juno start?
For me, the defining song of the album was "Liquor Store," which kickstarted this week where I wrote four songs in like three days. I had just gotten sober — I think I was four months sober at that point — and there was so much surfacing that I had been repressing for a really long time. It was my first time back in L.A. and my first time seeing my collaborator Jared [Solomon] in a long time, and I had kind of been in and out of emotional breakdowns all day. It was unpleasant then, but I think you can hear just how raw it was in the recording, especially on the chorus. It's so dead on to how I was feeling at the time. Getting sober is so hard, but it's also been such a rewarding experience. It was something that I felt like I had to talk about. A lot of the album ended up being about going through these painful self-realizations and growing pains, which is interesting because sonically, everything is so upbeat.
Right. Even in its heaviest moments, it's a very fun record.
And I love it like that. I want my shows to be the funnest shows ever. I think that I express myself that way. I like music that's upbeat. I want to dance, I want you to dance, so it ends up coming out sounding probably a little more cheerful than the actual content of the songs. The songs are meaty, but you don't know it unless you take the time to listen, and I think that's cool because some people won't dig in deep, and if they don't dig in deep then the songs, I think, are still bangers. They still hold their own. If you do take the time though, you're like, "Oh okay. She's talking about some real s--- here."
You named the album after your dog Juno. What can you tell me about him?
I got him at the beginning of the pandemic. A week into the pandemic I was just like, "F--- it, I'm going to get a dog." I'd never owned a pet before, so it was definitely a learning experience. But I think my life is a lot better because he's in it. He's a great distraction and he gets me out of my own head. And he has a great personality. He's so friendly and so silly and hilarious. He's very weird. Plus I feel like I kind of look like a bulldog and act like a bulldog, and we walk the same — I have a bit of a waddle when I walk and so does he. When we're walking down the street together, I think people are like, "Oh yeah, that makes sense."
What's the story behind your song "Anthony Kiedis"? Are you a big Chili Peppers fan?
Yes, I am a huge Chili Peppers fan! I've been a fan since I was in high school. I think they were one of the bands that really broke my brain when I was little. But the song "Anthony Kiedis" started when I was reading his memoir, Scar Tissue. I was so fascinated by his relationship with his dad. His dad did all this crazy s--- when he was — younger he was a drug dealer and kind of pimped him out a little bit — but he still has so much undying love for him. When I wrote that song, I was in a place where I was really thinking about my relationship to my family and family dynamics and what that means, so in the song I sing, "I love my family intrinsically, like Anthony Kiedis." But I do f---ing love the Chili Peppers. Anthony Kiedis' writing style is so freeform. He just says whatever the f--- he wants, and I'm very inspired by that.
This interview has bee edited and condensed.