Torii Wolf’s Dark Trip-Hop Embraces the Bright Side of Creation
L.A. artist/DJ Premier protege turned a down year into nearly 20 new songs, an EP and a fresh video
One of the most important lessons an artist can learn when the world is shut down is how to create a new one. That’s never been a problem for Torii Wolf.
Prior to the pandemic, Wolf’s stylistic contortions as a singer-songwriter revolved around blending, burning and rebuilding genres. The Long Island native’s uniquely powerful, rage-filled rasp was the catalyst for Wolf’s breakout collaboration with legendary producer DJ Premier on their moody, trip-hop debut “Flow Riiot” in 2017. It was a launchpad that most new artists dream of, culminating in years of touring the world with ‘Preem while breaking barriers as a non-binary, LGBTQ artist.
“It was a moment where I realized that massive shows are not as frightening to me,” Wolf tells SPIN of the three years they spent on the road, including a sold-out show with Disclosure at Red Rocks. “I was somehow not very nervous because it was just so surreal, seeing so many people in front of my face,” Wolf says.
After COVID forced the cancellation of their next upcoming European tour earlier this year, Wolf became fiercely firmly entrenched in their songwriting, putting out a dizzying barrage of nearly 20 singles and an EP. Together with fellow songwriters David Kiyanu Kim and FWD The MAN, Wolf also created a group called Siren Siren aiming to compose music for TV and Film. Additionally, Wolf was one of four hand-picked artists to perform at Moonrise V, a virtual festival created by Betawave.
“I guess in this apocalyptic time, I made this commitment to myself to just release music and let it flow,” the Los Angeles-based Wolf says. “Because I’m constantly creating and collaborating. Sometimes, as creators we can get caught up in what should be, and what rules, there are, or some kind of conventional idea about how things are supposed to be released.”
Amid the pandemic shutdown, Wolf also put out a host of cinematic music videos, including a new visual for the far-East-flavored, hypnotic boom-bap track called “Holy Ground,” the first song created for Siren Siren [They will be taking part in a release party on Dec. 5 for the tune which you can check out here]. Shot in Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, the video directed by Wolf’s partner, Kayko Tamaki (Wildfire Pictures/Memento Mori Productions) is packed with scenes of sweeping desert plains, colored smoke and sultry mystics outfitted with lavish adornments by Object & Dawn.
Even after a year of challenges, Wolf continues to find new avenues to collaborate and put out new material. Instead of just posting new work to the traditional streamers like Spotify or YouTube, much of Wolf’s new art will be partnered with emerging tech platform Bandvest, which rewards fans for sharing news of their favorite artists’ projects.
Ownership is a big part of creating your own world, and for Wolf, that has been the most freeing part of switching things up in the face of the pandemic. Going from an artist whose life revolves around album releases and tour schedules to having free reign of their creative work is something that won’t likely change for Wolf anytime soon.
“I went from this whole album-driven, very carefully curated way of doing things into just going for it,” Wolf says. “I don’t have the answers by any means but I know it feels really good to take that pressure off and just create as if I’m just sharing the song with my mom or something.”