Thursday, 12 June 2014

Interview with Sunwølf


Today's guests have a growing fanbase within the Stoner/Sludge/Post-Rock community as their previous two albums have been acclaimed by fans and critics alike.

Though it's with their stunning 3rd new album - Beholden To Nothing And No One – which is going to launch these guys in a big way. As it's colossal 84 minute double album that sees the band venture into heavier sludge/post-metal territory that Neurosis and Isis made their name with. 

I described the album as: “Sunwølf have delivered an unsettling album with a dark twisted vision that will have you thinking about its hidden meanings for a very long time to come. Ignore Sunwølf’s previous albums, as this is where their future lies. They need to stick with this style of apocalyptic sound as it will take them a very long way indeed.

WOW!!! – Plain and Simple. – WOW!!!”

Sunwølf are here to explain to us here at Sludgelord HQ what the album is all about and why the change with their dynamic in sound yet again.

So lets get started with Sunwølf.

Q1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you all today.

Hi Steve. Thanks for having us. All is well cheers, I’m enjoying some rare Scottish sunshine and Dom is over in Vienna on a short break.

Q2 – Can you tell our readers a brief history on how the band started and where it is today.

Sunwolf started in June 2012 when Dom and I were playing in an ambient project called Ten. We decided to mix up some ambient sounds with some riffs and out came the first SW album shortly after which was ‘Beyond the Sun’. We put out an LP last year called Midnight Moon and did a few tours off the back of that in mainland Europe.

Fast forward to today…we recently finished recording a double album which is due out on 30 June.

Q3 – Where did the name Sunwølf came from.

I honestly couldn’t tell you. There was a lot of back and forth with Dom and I about the name. We had some terrible ones to whittle out, but this was the one we both agreed on and still like, so we did pretty well.

Q4 – How did you all become involved with music.

I’d only be speculating about Dom’s musical education but I’ve been in bands since I was a teenager. Some of my earliest memories of playing music are bashing the living daylights out of the school drum kit. Although, I use the term ‘music’ advisedly, it was a lot of fun, and I remember those days fondly.

Q5 – Lets get talking about your new album. Beholden To Nothing And No One. Awesome album. Was it a hard or easy album to write and record for?

Thank you very much! It was a very ambitious project for us to undertake and the process was a very different one from before. We spent a good few months writing and making pre-production demos which is something we haven’t done before, but it allowed us to review the songs and make additions and changes. We were super prepared when we entered the studio and even had one of those progress-chart-grid things that those professional bands have, with all the instruments, tempo maps, tunings, midi stuff, overdubs and so forth plotted out on. Pro shit!

We also had a load of guests on this album so that was quite hard to synchronise as some of them live in other countries, and as with any project with a time-frame, we had to do some occasional nagging to get parts sent over. We’re really happy with all the talented guests we have on the album, we wanted to make a collaborative record and I think we’ve achieved what we set out to do in that respect.

We managed to record and mix everything over 7 days at Ghost Town Studio in Leeds with long-time SW producer Ross Halden. Again, it was a lot of work considering the amount of material we had to lay down, but we managed to get through it with very little compromise…or sleep.

Q6 – What is the overall theme of the album? It can be a very cold, violent and emotionally involved experience.

By enlarge we like to leave the themes and feel of our music open to interpretation by the listener. Obviously there are certain feelings that we are trying to evoke through our music and artwork, but what we’re really interested in is the different ways that people analyse our songs and find understanding in them. For me personally, the themes of this album are largely ones of isolation, reflection and anxiety. Cheery bunch we are…

Q7 – You have added vocals to your music for the very first time. Was that a hard decision? Will you be adding vocals for future Sunwølf releases?

No, it wasn’t a hard decision at all. We both felt that the time was right to try some new things out, it’s something we’d been discussing for some time. It was perhaps a gamble putting out an album with so many vocal tracks, considering we’ve been an instrumental band since we began. But, the new material is way more song orientated, so we figured a vocal would finish the tracks off nicely.

We view the vocal just the same as any another instrument and have taken that approach on some tracks; processing and manipulating a vocal much in the same way we would say a synth, and it has produced some great sounding results.

Q8 – You have changed your sound with each and every album. Stoner/Ambient/Post-Rock and now your adding elements of Sludge/Post-Metal/Drone to your music. Are you going to stick with the new sound on Beholden To Nothing And No One? Or will you change your style yet again?

Who knows? To be honest, we just get our heads down and write the music, there’s very little thought given to a preconceived idea of ‘right…let’s write a stoner album’. We don’t over-think the process, nor do we write 50 songs for a 10 track album. We just do our thing and have some conviction in the songs we commit to tape, which I think is key. Far too many bands are too critical of themselves, forever scrapping material, which I think is just counter intuitive.

Q9 – Why did you decide to record a double album? One part heavy. The other part more quiet. Would it of been easier to combine the two for one epic release?

We began the recording process with the intention of recording it as one whole record…but it soon became apparent that we had some really different material this time around. I was pretty concerned about the narrative of the album; that it would be a little too eclectic, bordering on the random. So I suggested that we release it as a double album. It’s worked out perfectly and has been really well received so far by everyone’s who’s heard it.

Q10 – Why did you call the album – Beholden To Nothing And No One? Any particular meaning behind it?

It’s an embodiment of our independent diy spirit…we’ve always done everything ourselves: booked our own tours, made our own artwork, done our own press, all on our own terms, and we don’t owe fuck all to anyone. That’s not to say we’re not grateful for the time people invest in our band, be it those listening to our music, booking us for gigs, reviewing us. I’d like to make that distinction clear; we’re not ungrateful, but nor do we feel bound or owing to anything.

There are just so many artists and bands who become diluted and jaded when they sign their rights away to these two-bob labels and often become artistically compromised as a consequence. We’re total advocates for taking the road less travelled and this record is a real testament to that spirit.

Q11 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians? Any particular band or album that stand out?

I always find this question hard to answer because I’m not entirely sure what the actual answer is…There are people who’s attitudes and values I respect and then others I just really enjoy their music. To save a long, drawn out answer I’ll just list a bunch of stuff I really like. Fall of Efrafa, Harold Budd, Stars of the Lid, Neurosis, Black Sabbath and Red Sparowes. 


Q12 – Who designed the cover and how much input did you have with overall design.

Reuben at Rainbath Visual did the cover art… I love his style, he’s done some great stuff for near enough every decent band out there. We just gave him a few pointers, sent him some new songs of ours and left him to it. I think it’s important to allow artists to have a lot of creative input. I’ve commissioned artwork in the past and sent an essay sized brief for artists to follow, and they usually end up way off track. They’re trying to re-create my vision, when I should perhaps be embracing theirs instead. At least that’s the way I’ve come to see it…I find it’s best to find an artist who you like and let them do their thing, to some extent.

Q13 – What is the song-writing process in the band? Is it down to one individual or is it a group collective?

There’s a few ways we tend to write Sunwolf songs. Typically, I write the majority of the material, demo it and send it to Dom and then we’ll go over it at practice and he’ll add his drum parts or what-not. But sometimes, especially with the more experimental or ambient stuff, it’ll be a case of building the layers gradually. Dom will send me some samples, I’ll work on them and send them back and we carry on from there. Then we normally leave room for a few wildcards in the studio, eleventh hour type tracks, which will be largely improvised around one core idea or phrase. We utilise a bunch of different processes in writing, and it’s all very natural, and never forced, which is very important.

Q14 – How big of a help has Bandcamp and the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community been in promoting your music?

Bandcamp has been great for us, it’s a brilliant platform, run by smart people who understand what bands want and need, which is why it’s been so successful. And what’s more…they don’t rip bands off, unlike the big con that is Spotify et al, who pay bands around £4 per 1000 streams.

All the stoner/Metal blogs have been a massive help in promoting us to a wider audience. There’s a number of blogs who have been really supportive of Sunwolf from the very beginning and we really appreciate that. I much prefer reading blogs such as The Sludgelord because the writers are so passionate and actually love the music. Whereas with bigger print publications

Q15 – What is your verdict on the current state of the UK Sludge/Doom/Stoner/Post-Metal scene? It has been thriving over the last few years. Can you see this continuing? or do you see a natural decline when you're performing gigs at home or on the road?

To be perfectly honest I’m not massively in tune with what’s going in that scene right now but I’ve really enjoyed the new record from heavyweights Conan…really cool band and it’s great to see them doing so well! The Bast album is a banger too!

The underground Metal scene in the UK is definitely thriving, there’s a great network of awesome bands and promoters all over the UK putting on some cool stuff, so I definitely see this continuing and becoming stronger. I guess this is where I say who my favourite UK bands are? Latitudes are phenomenal, we’ve been booked to play with them a bunch of times but it’s never happened for one reason or another, I love all of their records! Some of my other favourites are: Fen, Ageless Oblivion, Envoys, Nhor and Dragged into Sunlight.

Q16 – What is your musical set-up when playing live or recording your music? Any hints and tips would you like to give to the budding musicians out there?

Live I use a Gibson SG through a guitar amp and bass amp which varies from time to time. I use a pretty minimal pedal setup (reverb, delay, tuner, distortion.) I’ll have a few stereo di’s for samplers and a laptop. I’ll likely use a midi keyboard live also. I need more limbs so I can operate it all at the same time. Dom’s live setup is normally: drums (snare, kick, rack, floor, hats, crash, ride) Bass, keys and sometimes harmonium. We’ll use a similar setup in the studio.

The advice I’d give…start recording your songs as soon as you can, all you need is a half decent laptop, some software (logic), an interface and some cans. Record and review all the stuff you write and before long your songwriting will really start to develop and improve.

Midnight Moon cover art

Q17 – We are massive Vinyl Heads here at Sludgelord. Are you vinyl fans yourselves?

We are indeed. We were super stoked to get our last record out on wax…a first for us both and a special milestone for Sunwolf. It’s such a wonderful format and it’s the antithesis of the intangible, disposable, mp3 generation. Listening to records is such a ritual and it’s great that people are buying LP’s again, as it’s restored some value to music, a value that has been otherwise lost in the digital age we live in.

Q18 – Do you guys perform a lot of gigs in your home town? Or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly?

We’re originally from Leeds which has a ton of awesome venues…so we play here pretty regularly, perhaps a little too often! But that’ll change soon…I’ve just moved to northern Scotland so we’ll be playing live a lot less frequently.

Q19 – What is your verdict on the whole crowd-funding scene? Where bands ask fans to fund their next album. Are you a fan of that platform? Would yourselves ever go down this route?

I’ve got mixed feelings about the crowd-funding scene. On the whole I think it’s a brilliant idea, it essentially cuts out the need for a label, connecting bands directly to their fans. However, some of the campaigns on there are just woeful and it’s obvious that some bands are just trying to pull a fast one and make a quick buck.

We considered it for our latest record, to enable us to put the album out as a double gatefold LP. But I don’t think we have a big enough fanbase to make it happen and I wouldn’t want to spam people about it all the time trying to reach our target.

Q20 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band, What would it be?

Don’t bother… get a proper job instead! And if they ignore that sage advice I’d just say… just have fun with it. Don’t start a band because you want to get signed or get famous. You see bands like that all the time, it’s so transparent and fucking sad. They all end up as these strung out 30+ yr old weirdos, hitting on freshers at shit rock clubs. Just have fun with it.

Q21 – The last thing before you go, Do you have anything else to say to your fans?

Thanks for the interview and your continued support! I hope I haven’t come across too jaded or vitriolic! Haha. The new Sunwolf album will be out on 30 June. People can pick it up here: or here:

Well guys. Thanks for doing this. All the best with the album. 

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Written by Steve Howe

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