Inside Remi Wolf’s Wild World of Pop Destruction

Through absurd lyrics and wacky fun, Wolf paves a new lane for genreless stars
Remi Wolf
(Credit: Ragan Henderson)

Remi Wolf is happy to psychoanalyze her nonsense words.

“Gwingle, to me, is the little angel on your shoulder, and then Gwongle is the little devil that’s always there,” Wolf says, unpacking the gibberish title of her sold-out “Gwingle Gwongle” U.S. tour, which kicked off in September. “And I think that my music explores stuff like that, like love and vices and, I don’t know, just good and bad distractions.”

A necessary follow-up: Who’s steering the ship these days, Gwingle or Gwongle?

“I’m pretty Gwingle today,” she answers without hesitation. “Which is weird because I just got two absolutely massive tattoos on my arm, literally 30 minutes ago, which maybe some would perceive as Gwongle, but I think that is pretty Gwingle of me.”

Wolf, speaking over the phone ahead of her sold-out shows at New York City’s Terminal 5 last month, likes to keep things silly and fun. The absurdist funk-pop firestarter is quick to laugh, to joke about how her indie-leaning fans gasp whenever she reveals her deep affinity for Drake — “he’s such a sad boy and he’s so hilarious, he’s incredible to me,” she gushes. Or how she’s become so obsessed with Spades, the old-school card game she and her band play on tour, that one of her new tattoos includes an ace of hearts in commemoration.

 

Yet beyond her patented goofiness, Wolf, 26, has worked tirelessly to build her ascendant career — 1 billion listens and counting across all streaming platforms — into something that bounds well beyond her slinky bedroom-pop beginnings. The California-based artist, who’s already collaborated with Beck, Nile Rodgers, Dominic Fike, Free Nationals and Sylvan Esso, has spent nearly all of 2022 on the road, supporting her kaleidoscopic debut album Juno, which was released last fall. The album, which teems with a self-assured personality and disregard for genre boundaries — pop, soul, rock, hip-hop and jazz are all in play — was re-released in June, as a deluxe version with six additional tracks.

She spent April and May opening for Lorde at vaunted venues like Radio City Music Hall, where she won over the early- arriving crowd with her rangy vocals, with every track painted with a different tonality, from the Amy Winehouse smolder of “Liz” to the Daryl Hall-on-acid allure of “Photo ID,” her biggest hit. But what ultimately sells a Remi Wolf show is her unrivaled energy — the twirling, jumping, galloping, ass-shaking magnetism of an artist treating each show, big and small, like a stadium extravaganza.

 

Wolf is candid when asked where her perpetual-motion presence comes from: “I have literally no idea … I was thinking about it last night and I was like, ‘how the fuck do I do this job every day?’ … I actually don’t understand because my body should be failing and I should be way too exhausted, but I keep going.”

Fans do their best to keep up with Wolf’s outlandish, tongue-twisting lyricism — wacky lines like this one from the bumping “Quiet on Set”: “Orgy at Five Guys with five guys / That’s 10 guys and Holy Christ / I’ve never seen more nuts in my life.” Or this one from “Sexy Villain”: “High libido, cheat on Chester, fuck with Fritos.” Or this one from “Liquor Store”: “You got an ice cream cone on your leg, motherfucker / I’ve got two fish kissing on my clit, motherfucker.” You get the idea.

 

Explaining her fever dream songwriting, which ping-pongs from swagger to exasperation to wild musings about Chuck E. Cheese and The Human Centipede, Wolf says: “It’s very jam based, I’m purely improvising. I’m trying to get into a flow state as much as I can. … And I like to write fast because I lose attention really quickly, which is why I think sometimes my lyrics are jumping around.”

Her sonics flip and twist with similar aplomb, from the shreddy guitar lines finishing her single “Sexy Villain” to the Prince-adjacent synth jabs of “Guerilla” — all part and parcel of an artist who refuses to adhere to a single sound.

“I think genres are pretty obsolete at this point,” she says. “I think artists are their own genre, where every artist is creating such a world for themselves that they are becoming the sound and the thing, which is fucking amazing.”

The “Remi Wolf genre,” she notes, draws from references well beyond music, from food (she loves Canadian celebrity chef Matty Matheson’s creative approach to cooking) and visual artists to architecture to foreign cities. Touring has brought Wolf all over Europe and the U.S. this year, where she’s pooled inspiration, she says, and got more tattoos — at least 10 in 2022, from Ireland, Belgium, Austin and beyond.

Remi Wolf
(Credit: Ragan Henderson)

While Wolf hasn’t had much time to pen new tracks — she prefers not to write while on the road, admitting “it’s just too much” — she already knows the sort of album she’d love to record sooner than later.

“I really want to make a band record, an album that is exclusively recorded, one band in a room and we’re just all playing together,” she says, as opposed to the digital cobbling that’s fueled her work so far, from her groovy debut track “Guy” in 2019.

But through the end of the year, Wolf is focused on her live show, building her stamina and surging forward for her quickly expanding fan base.

“I don’t think I’ve had a single mental breakdown this tour yet, which is pretty good,” she says with a laugh.

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