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Retro Synth Group WOLFCLUB with “A Sea of Stars”

For their relatively short career, WOLFCLUB have been fairly prolific and have already kicked off 2021 with single “A Sea of Stars.” To some extent – and perhaps reflective of their inspiration – their pace – one to two albums a year since 2017 – is similar to synthpop bands’ output in the 1980s.

Back then, Depeche Mode, New Order, and the Pet Shop Boys released new full-length albums at a similar rate, before spacing them out every three to five years starting in the 1990s. 

WOLFCLUB’s history goes back to 2014, when Steven Wilcoxson and Chris Paul-Martin started working together. While both share production and songwriting duties, Wilcoxson’s primarily a guitar player in the group, while Paul-Martin typically handles the vocals.

Their self-titled debut album W O L F C L U B dropped in 2017, followed by Chase the Storm and then Infinity, both in 2018. Frontiers – their fourth studio release – came out in 2019, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Electronic chart and peaking within the top 10 of the U.S. and U.K. iTunes charts. 

2020 marked another progression for WOLFCLUB. Their most recent release, Runaways, made an appearance that year, this time reaching No. 2 on the iTunes electronic chart.

Adding another degree of visibility to their career, two tracks from that release – “Rush” and “Rebels” – plus four more WOLFCLUB songs made it onto the soundtrack for Infamous, the Bella Thorne-starring moving skewing social media culture. 

While much of WOLFCLUB’s output can be seen as an updated homage to the glory days of synthesizer-based music, “A Sea of Stars” feels like a crossover track that could easily fit into a tropical house DJ’s set without losing the group’s nostalgic character.

At the same time, the intro sounds like an updated, brighter version of New Order’s classic “Temptation.” 

We had a chance to speak with WOLFCLUB about this track and their career thus far:

“A Sea of Stars” is your first track of 2021. Why did you select this single to kick off the year?

We’ve tried to steer in a slightly different direction for the new album, and “A Sea Of Stars” gives a good overall representation of how the new record sounds.

I had the vocal idea written down in my notebook for some time, and it has some of my favorite lyrics, melody lines, synths, and guitar riffs, so I was really eager to release it.

“A Sea of Stars” also features vocals from Dora Pereli. How did you end up working together?

We have been wanting to work with Dora Pereli again on a new track for some time now. She’s appeared on a bunch of our older tracks but didn’t feature on our last album, Runaways.

When this one was written, I couldn’t really imagine anyone else singing it, so I sent the demo over to her. We were lucky to work with her on a couple of tracks for this record and a number of songs we plan to release in the near future.

Where conceptually does “A Sea of Stars” fit into last year’s Runaways?

We wanted to keep true to our overall sound but add new elements and experiment a little with different elements of our style. Our last three albums, Infinity, Frontiers, and Runaways, felt like a trilogy of records, even down to the amazing artwork that was created by the mighty Signalnoise.

We are going to release two albums this year, so hopefully it sounds like us, but slightly more advanced, a little further down the road on the journey we are on, if that makes sense.

We think “A Sea of Stars,” and the next single (out in the next few weeks) set the tone and pace for the rest of the album. The overall sound is of live instrumentation blended with analog bass, euphoric synths, and catchy vocal hooks. 

You’ve put out five albums over the past three years. What’s been your approach for putting together an album?

We tend to write as many songs as possible, generate loads of demos and ideas, and then hone them down to ten or so tracks that we love, and then focus on making them as strong as we can.

The aim is to make something that feels cinematic, that could play as a collection of songs that serve as the soundtrack to a film in each album we have made.

For Runaways, we were lucky enough to see that that concept, that dream, and aspiration really become a reality, as three of the tracks were featured in a Hollywood film (Infamous, starring Bella Thorne).

How did you two start working together?

We’ve been friends since we were kids and have been writing songs together for over a decade.

Initially, Chris used to work independently on sort of singer songwriter of mostly acoustic tracks, and I was working on my own electronic instrumental songs.

Then, around ten years ago, we started working on a few demo tracks in my loft, and we just developed our sound from there.

The two of you do a mix of songwriting, guitar-playing, and producing. How do you get started writing a track?

Usually, I come up with a backing track of completed music that I send it across to Chris to write some vocal parts to. In some cases, he writes all the melodies and lyrics; other times I write all the vocal parts, and then on some tracks we work on the vocals together.

We like to play around with different ideas and kind of talk about the song, what it’s about, what lyrics work, what lines do not.

Then we look at the mix, if the guitars are working, are the synths too loud, the bass not loud enough, do the drums push the song forward enough…all these different elements until its finely tuned into what we want it to be.

Whether you’re recording or playing live, what gear do you prefer?

We use Logic Pro X for the electronic elements with a bunch of different VSTs thrown in for the synths, and drum samples for the beats.

I use a Fender Telecaster for the guitar sounds and a Marshall amp. I’ve got a Hofner bass and some old vintage electronic drum pads.

While you’re often grouped in with electro artists, how would you describe WOLFCLUB’s sound?

I’d say we make retrowave, synthpop, indie rock music. Blending a bit of each of those genres and styles, taking our favorite elements from them.

With live venues closed for most of 2020, what have you two been up to?

Been busy getting everything in place for the release of the new album, all the promotion and art and teasers ready whilst simultaneously working on the next record. We have been writing and making loads of demos that will eventually become future songs.

We had a couple of weeks where we generated a lot of material, the bare-bones ideas, so now we are going about filling those out, and I’m looking forward to seeing what those songs turn into as we develop them.

Should venues re-open in 2021, what are your plans for playing live?

We are going to see how things pan out, but we were hoping to play a few festivals in the summer, a show in Dublin, and another in London.

The London gig has been pushed back to November, and we will see about the others. I’m happy to wait until its safe for everyone, but also looking forward to getting out there and meeting people again.


Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born EDM and synthpop enthusiast and interviewer who recently relocated to beautiful Boston, MA.