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Remi Wolf Doesn’t Just Want You to Hear Her World — She Wants You to Taste, Touch, and Smell It

Remi Wolf’s eyes are scanning the immediate area surrounding the metal table we’ve claimed on a side street in New York’s Chinatown. “Fuck, there’s no wood,” she says, swiveling her head around once more before finding what she’s looking for. About six feet away, outside of a barber shop, sit two wooden chairs — and, as she sees it, the key to continuing her streak of good luck, or at least warding off any potential bad fortune. “I’ve developed a knocking-on-wood tic,” she explains after jogging over to double-tap her fist against the seat. “Another friend of mine has it. Maybe I caught it from him.” 

Wolf, 28, has too many stars aligning in this present moment to take any chances. A few weeks after we talk in March, she’ll embark on a two-month tour opening for Olivia Rodrigo in Europe, following up recent stints with Paramore and Lorde. Then comes the big one — or rather, Big Ideas, her sophomore studio album, set for release on July 12. 

For more than a year, Wolf split her time between the stage, the studio, and her home in Los Angeles, settling comfortably into an insular creative cycle as she crafted the follow-up to 2021’s Juno — the lyrically unpredictable debut LP that marked her as one of the quirkiest, catchiest artists in alt-pop. Now, she’s reacquainting herself with an entirely different routine. “I made this record, did all my writing, and now here comes the other half of the job: going out and having to look good,” she says. “I just try to do whatever I would do naturally, but at a certain point — when you’re constantly being perceived — I don’t really know how it’s affecting my psyche.”  

Wolf noticed some signs of how all the attention was changing her in 2022, and she didn’t like what she saw. “I went through this big period where I had so much anxiety,” she recalls. “I couldn’t leave my house. I hated seeing anybody I knew or anybody that knew me. I just deeply was like, ‘I can’t handle the thought of people using me or wanting something from me.’ I hate the idea of hidden intentions, and it’s kind of always happening.” (Keeping a tightknit group of friends has helped minimize that problem, she says.)

Bodysuit by Palace. Heels by Lidow Archive. Necklace and Anklet by Petit Moments. Earrings by Dauphinette. Bow by Pipen Colorena.

Big Ideas sees the return of Wolf’s longtime producer Jared Solomon, whom she’s known since she was 15. Her drummer Conor Malloy is another main character in the cast of her life. They met while she was attending the USC Thornton School of Music and living in a “cockroach-ridden” house with nearly a dozen people in the mid-2010s. Wolf holds a particular fondness for the people who knew her during that time, when the parties she threw and the songs she penned alone in her room were more instrumental to her education than her actual coursework. 

“I was a bad student and I didn’t listen or go to class,” Wolf admits. “I mean, I did go to some classes, but a lot of the classes where it was like, ‘Let me teach you the right way to do this,’ I was sleeping through.”

Her brand of pop music, accordingly, veers far away from the melodic math of someone like Max Martin. Her verses are often sprawling and hyper-specific, like leaked messages from a group chat of close friends. And her melodies will at times take on three different shapes within a single chorus. Where many pop traditionalists would push for polished storylines and pristine production, Wolf prefers distorted synths and metaphors that liken chaotic relationships to making buttermilk from scratch (“One second we’re good, then it’s overkill”).

She credits TikTok with making her more of a “pop consumer” in recent months. “I think TikTok has gotten me into the Ariana Grande album,” she notes (Eternal Sunshine was co-produced by Martin). And there is one place where she and someone like the veteran superproducer overlap. “I am a stickler for syllabic ease,” Wolf adds. “I would rather say a word that feels good than say a word that makes sense.” 

When Wolf was growing up in California, her mom often played Prince and other giants of Eighties pop. Her father, meanwhile, leaned toward acts like AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses. Once she was old enough to pick out her own records, the first album she sprung for was Lindsay Lohan’s 2004 debut, Speak. 

Wolf took a newly soulful approach to Big Ideas, which was largely recorded with vintage equipment at Diamond Mine and Electric Lady Studios in New York. There’s a horn section on the single “Cinderella,” plus the same Rhodes that Stevie Wonder played in the Seventies. Elsewhere on the album, you’ll find tracks that are pure synth-funk magic, and others with viscerally transportive sensory detailing — all burning rubber, chlorine, and tangerines. Wolf doesn’t just want you to hear her world. She wants you to taste, touch, and smell it, too. “I am truly trying to describe what I was experiencing,” she says. “We live in a world where we’re eating and kissing and touching and smelling.” 

The songs themselves usually take shape, at least on paper, over the course of one to five hours. The events that inspire them tend to be much longer. “I try to not paint any pictures that are at all far from the truth,” Wolf says. “In that way, I don’t feel like I’m directing the characters. I feel like the characters are directing me, and the people in my life are influencing what I do, what I write about, where I’m hanging out, where I’m going to dinner.”

On one highlight from the new album, Wolf narrates a real-life solo trip to Art Basel, where she was invited to attend a Playboy party. “It’s like there’s cocaine everywhere, and I’m out there meeting people that I’ve never met before and making new friends,” she says. “But it’s all under this kind of psychotic, manic, cocaine fever dream.” Wolf has been partying since she was 18, and feels as though she’s mostly gotten it out of her system in the past decade. “There’s still a beast inside me that wants to rage, but it’s more tame,” she says with a laugh.

Bodysuit by Palace. Heels by Lidow Archive. Underwear by Lucille Reynolds. Earrings by Presley Oldham

Much of her debut album circled the boundaries of sobriety, particularly from alcohol. Those lines are still blurring for her, especially in social settings. “I hate feeling like I’m somewhere and I cannot participate in what is happening,” Wolf says. “There’s times when I drink and I feel like shit. There’s times when I’m sober and I feel like shit. I’m trying to figure out how to not feel like shit in both areas.” She recognizes it as a nonlinear process, adding: “If you’ve struggled with it, it’s gonna be a struggle for life no matter what direction you go in.”

Incorporating consistent routines into her day-to-day has helped Wolf feel more present, both physically and emotionally. When we speak, she’s been in New York for four days and hasn’t yet been able to complete all three of her daily-target goals: go on a two-hour walk, go to yoga, and grab a cup of coffee. “It’s hard to feel grounded when you’re having to think about your feelings all the time,” she says. 

Even going to yoga alone was something she initially had to pep-talk herself through. “My job is to know and understand myself. It’s an amazing pursuit, but it’s an exhausting pursuit,” she adds. “And sometimes I just don’t wanna fucking think about myself.”

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