Remi Wolf took more risks in her music by learning to be uncomfortable
Like many people, Remi Wolf’s life in 2021 was full of ups and downs. She released her debut full-length, Juno, as well as a We Love Dogs!, an album of remixes by everyone from Beck to Kimbra. She went on her first European tour, performed at Outside Lands and got really, really into making beef curry. “I cook in phases,” she says. “I get really obsessive about something, and then a month later, I’ll stop. But that was my favorite phase, for sure.”
She also dealt with her fair share of feelings of anxiety and isolation. From these feelings, she learned how to be “comfortable being uncomfortable,” constantly pushing herself creatively and mentally to grow from the chaos.
One of the most shocking turn of events to happen to Wolf in 2021 was actually underway during her interview. As she sat in her beautiful London hotel room and reminisced about the past year of her career, she revealed that she’s going to be stuck in that room for a while, seven days to be exact, due to COVID-19 regulations in the United Kingdom. Even after learning the news that the last three shows of her European tour would have to be canceled, she still kept a positive mindset. “It’s really cool to see fans from other countries and be able to eat food in all these amazing, beautiful cities,” she says. “It’s the absolute dream.”
With her through it all has been her dog, Juno, whom she got when everything in the world started to go downhill. “I think that if I hadn’t gotten him at the beginning of quarantine, I would have really, really, really struggled a lot more than I did, and I still did really struggle a lot, but he helped me get through the day every day,” Wolf explains.
What were your biggest highlights in 2021, personally and professionally?
Professionally, releasing an album — my first album. It’s a massive milestone in my life and also in my career. It’s crazy to watch that reaction and also work so hard on the release cycle and the lead-up to it. It took up my entire year, so to see the fruition of all of that work has been really amazing and satisfying. Then another highlight of the year has been getting to tour again, which is my favorite part of my job. I love performing. It’s always been my No. 1 passion. Getting to play festivals and play Outside Lands — which is my hometown festival — was a really big moment for me, and I think we had 20,000 people in the audience, which is the most I’ve ever performed to. That was also another crazy, crazy thing that I have gotten to do [last] year.
Personally, I have finally gotten to meet a bunch of other creative people and other artists in the industry that I wasn’t able to meet during COVID. I felt very stalled out during COVID socially, which was really frustrating, especially as my career was doing well. I was always frustrated and felt so isolated and lonely. I was going through this massive change in my career, all by myself without being able to talk to other people in person. Being able to do that now, I finally feel like I’m forming relationships and friendships that really mean a lot to me and that I can grow from. It’s been a really tough year for me personally, but professionally, it’s been great.
On the other hand, what have you failed at?
I’ve realized that I am not a very proficient communicator, and I used to work on my communication skills. With people that are closest to me in my life, sometimes I find it hard to communicate fully and efficiently where everybody feels heard. I think I can work on that a lot more. I don’t know if that’s a failing, but it is something that I know that I need to keep working on. I feel like I fail every day. I don’t take showers all the time. I have no routines. I think that’s kind of a failing. I don’t really like the word “failure,” to be honest. I think that there’s just things that we can work on and do better at. I’m trying to work on little things every day. That idea of “perfect” is so unachievable and doesn’t really exist.
You released two albums in 2021, Juno and We Love Dogs. What was challenging about that given the state of the world?
The remix album came together, actually, very smoothly. Remixes are more oriented towards being able to do it online because you’re giving all of your work to somebody else, and you’re asking them to do their own take on it. So it doesn’t really require me being there with them. So that project felt very doable, and it came together really organically. The way that I made the album was, it was me, my friend Jared [Solomon], who I work on everything with, and pretty much my dog.
That was the crew throughout the entire pandemic. I have grown up, and my musical upbringing has been in a jam band setting. I loved being around people, and I work best when I’m social and feeding off the energy of others. It was difficult to strip it back to just me, Jared and Juno for seven months. I went crazy multiple times, lost my shit multiple times — which I think actually ended up feeding into the music. I don’t think the record would have been the same had COVID not been such a massive factor in it. But it was definitely a challenge trying to get it done, not drive each other crazy, not drive myself crazy [and] keep a level head.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from each album?
I have learned that I’m capable of doing a lot of things. I didn’t think that I was going to finish an album until the middle of 2022. In February of 2021, I was like, “OK, I’m going to finish my album by May.” And I did it. I put my mind to it. I’ve learned that I’m capable if I put my mind to something. With the remix album, one of the biggest lessons was don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask, nothing happens. If you ask and you get a “no,” then fine. But if you ask, sometimes they’ll say yes. Ask for what you need.
How did you get over the fear of asking?
Hype yourself up a little bit. Have your manager help you out. That was a nice one for me. Everything’s so scary. The world is so scary. Maybe build a protective shield around you. I built up a tolerance for being uncomfortable in the past couple of years. I’m pretty comfortable with being uncomfortable right now because my whole life is constantly shifting, so I have to be a chameleon in that sense and roll with the punches. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable as much as you possibly can. Try to put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable and build up a tolerance.
What does it feel like to step onstage again after being in lockdown, especially being able to tour outside the States and play at festivals for the first time?
Fucking crazy. It’s been amazing. It’s been so stressful. It’s been a shock to my body. I was not really in shape, so having to get up onstage and fucking scream my ass off and run around and jump and roll on the floor is a lot of cardio. It’s a workout. I’m doing a full-on workout onstage. My show is hype like that, so that took a while to adjust to. It took me probably three weeks to get back into touring condition, and still I’m in and out of it.
The most crazy part of getting back out there is that now, everybody knows all the lyrics to my songs. They know every single song. A lot of times, the crowd has been carrying me through. It’s such a beautiful collective energy in the room. Whereas before COVID, I was doing a lot of shows where I was opening for other people and building an audience. Now that I have my own audience, it’s such a different ballgame. It feels amazing. It’s so cathartic and euphoric for me.
What was your first thought when you saw your face on billboards in Times Square?
Probably, “Jesus Christ, holy hell!” It’s obviously very exciting. It’s very surreal. I don’t even know how to process it. I wish I was able to see it in person, but I wasn’t in New York when that was happening, unfortunately. It’s a crazy feeling with shit like that. Sometimes I can’t even think too much about it because it breaks my brain a little too much. Too much of a mind fuck for me.
What are the biggest ways you have grown as a person and as a musician?
I am a much more open person with experiences. I’ve been forced to be very open, and like I was saying before, I’ve been forced to be very uncomfortable for the past couple of years. Because of that, I feel like my mind is so much more open, and I have so much more freedom of expression to be myself in every and all situations. I really strive to always not let anxiety take the best of me — that’s something I’m really conscious of.
Musically, I’m more willing to take risks than I ever have. I’m willing to work with more people. For a long time, I was really scared to work with other people out of fear of not being good enough or not being smart enough. I think that I’ve finally gotten over that, and I’ve been able to push myself to work with other people and get out of my comfort zone a little bit.
This interview appeared in issue 401 (the AP Yearbook), available here.