Interview with Kate Sproule from Mt. Wolf
I have to admit something – I often have low expectations for opening bands. I try my best to have an open
ear mind, but sometimes I will “accidentally” delete a review for an opening band if I can’t find anything remotely nice to write. However, when you see an opening band that not only doesn’t suck, but blows you away, you don’t soon forget them. This was the case for me back in March 2012, for the talented London group Mt. Wolf.
Mt. Wolf are a foursome lead by Kate Sproule, a woman with an astounding vocal range, from soft and ethereal to the powerful, attention-grabbing force that immediately won me over. The band are rounded out by Sebastian ‘Bassi’ Fox, Stevie McMinn, and
Al Mitchell. Playing a self-described genre of dream folk, the band fuses soft electronic music with acoustic sounds, and layers of vocals and other sounds. While professing my love for Mt. Wolf while I was in London, I didn’t think to interview them until I was over 5,000 km away, back in Canada. Kate was kind enough to do an interview over email, and we talked about the band’s sound, their live show, and the town they need to visit in the USA.
PeteHatesMusic (PHM): Journalists seem obsessed with being able to define a genre for every band. More and more these days, bands blur these genres, creating new and exciting sounds, and you guys are definitely one of those bands. The term I see you guys like to go by is dream folk. How did you arrive at this hybrid dreamfolk sound for the band’s songs?
Kate Sproule (KS): By experimentation really. As a group we met with the intent to make music. I’d only known Stevie from the band previously, as we were friends from home and the first time I met the others we started writing and talking about the live show. So the hybrid came as we patched our individual styles and strengths together. The idea of a fusion of acoustics and the ethereal tones of dream pop seemed to sum up what we were producing, but we are continually experimenting around all these elements so it’s impossible to define a ‘sound’ in that way, I guess. It’s never going to be neatly packaged.
Mt. Wolf – Life Size Ghosts
PHM: Because of the electronic element to your songs, do you do a lot of writing in the studio, or do these effects come after the core of the song is constructed?
KS: That depends. We write in lots of different ways. Sometimes a song will be already be there in basic form and then the production takes over from there. Other times the electronics take more of a lead and yes, a lot of writing is done in the studio. Generally speaking though, chord progressions and an idea of structure is present before the studio comes into it. But there are no rules really.
PHM: When I saw you live, I was pretty blown away. My beer drinking pace slowed right down (note: this never happens) as I was drawn into the cinematic nature and expansiveness to your songs. Do you write songs with the live setting in mind, or do you like to re-arrange songs for a bigger and bold sound when on the stage?
KS: Thank you! That was one of, if not our first, live outing I think. The show has changed a lot since then; now we do absolutely everything live which means we all juggle between electronics and acoustic instruments. We found that working out ways to get the best from our songs in the live context is one of the most exciting things about being a musician. It can be hard work and means looking at what you’ve written in a new light. But it lets you can play around with impact. As a band you want to lift and drop your audience so they build through the set with you and that often means playing around with the sound. It’s not just about making it bigger, sometimes we strip everything back and try to include softness and subtlety too. So yes, we do quite a bit of re-arranging!
PHM: You guys recorded a very well-received cover of Usher’s Climax. How did this come about? We should start a petition and try and get Usher to cover a Mt. Wolf track!
KS: Ha! Yes I think he’d do a great rendition of Shapeshift… It came about because we were asked to perform at a night called The Coveryard in London. As part of that we had to choose a cover to play with an orchestra. Alex suggested that we try Climax and to be honest, it’s a great track, but I wasn’t convinced. We started to work it out though, and the vocal sat really nicely; Stevie and Bassi came up with some gorgeous guitar lines and Al brought a perfect subby beat to it. We loved it from the off.
PHM: Not to toot my own horn because I’m a blogger, but you guys have been getting a lot of love from music blogs it seems. How important has this been for building your fan base?
KS: Hugely important. There’s no doubt that the role of bloggers in directing and dispersing new music in a genuine and impartial way is vital. As artists it makes you feel like your music is being filtered through the hands of people who are passionate about music for music’s sake. And consequently you see a real fan base gather rather than just the hype of those hoping to see a return on an investment.
PHM: What is the worst wolf-related pun you’ve read about your band?
KS: Hmm. I’m not sure we’ve had that many puns thrown our way as such… People have often misheard or read our name as Mr Wolf or My Wolf. I was out with a friend recently and we played an impromptu game of Grandma’s Footsteps. She thought that changing ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ to ‘What’s the time Mt. Wolf’ was hilarious… But that probably says more about my friend than anything.
PHM: Do you feel obligated to go to Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania?
KS: Obligated and desperate! We are definitely going to make it out there when we’re next in the States. The photographic possibilities would be endless.
PHM: What does the rest of 2013 have in store for Mt. Wolf, in terms of tours and releases?
KS: Well we are looking forward to a series of UK tour dates beginning at the end of April culminating with festivals both here and in Europe. We’re playing a bit of dream show at Koko on 5th May too, joining xxyyxx, Sholhmo, Salva and others. In terms of releases, our new EP ‘Hypolight’ comes out on 8th April and an album is in the works so we’ll keep you updated!
PHM: Congratulations! You are a guest-editor on PeteHatesMusic.com, which means my hangover can be ignored for today. What new band (or artist) would you tell all of our readers about and why?
KS: We are keeping our eyes firmly on Pále, who remixed Hypolight recently. He’s a great young electronic talent who we’re sure will go far…
Make sure you check out Mt. Wolf, especially if you’re in the Mt. Wolf, Pennsylvania area. Their dream folk will be taking over your stereo soon. Their new Hypolight EP is out April 8, and you can (and should) grab it here on iTunes.