Remi Wolf wants you to finally let loose at her shows.
Zooming with MTV News in a baby-pink sweatshirt and an all-caps “deep funk and divine intervention” slogan baseball cap, Wolf, 25, recalls writing and recording her hallucinatory debut album, Juno, out tomorrow (October 15). The singer-songwriter’s powerhouse pipes and funk-infused sound have already scored her collabs with industry legends like Nile Rodgers and Beck, cementing her status as an alt-pop whiz kid. Her music is fun, frisky, and utterly her own.
But what you can’t glean from her brazen lyrics or trippy Insta aesthetic is how much Wolf struggled personally while making the record. She was newly sober, living amid COVID-19-related lockdowns, and adjusting to life with her adopted French bulldog, Juno, the album’s namesake. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” she remembers, twirling a lock of her bouncy black curls between her fingers. “It was really exhausting. I love the music I made, so I’m happy about that. But [making it in a pandemic] was really, really horrible.” As she makes her way through the United States on tour, you can see why she’d be excited to turn her concerts into post-vax revelries.
A born-and-raised Californian currently based in Los Angeles, Wolf grew up listening to everyone from Stevie Wonder to MGMT. She joined her first band in the sixth grade, and by age 16, she’d taken to performing at open mics and busking as one-half of Remi and Chloe, a duo she formed with a friend in high school, in their hometown of Palo Alto. “We were just two girls,” she says, “and we just played guitar, staying in harmony.” One fateful day, they made $200 in under two hours. It was an unfathomable profit for the teen. “I was just like, wait. I really love performing. I really love singing. And people are paying me now.”
Wolf, MTV’s Push artist for October, studied music at USC Thornton and applied herself “relentlessly,” an effort that included auditioning for Season 13 of American Idol. At school, she connected with other performers, who fed that spark and jammed with her after class in their massive, 10-person off-campus house. She has kept in touch with many of her peers, whom she calls “incredible musicians” and credits as the most crucial part of her education. During that time, Wolf also partied and “learned so much about life” through simply existing, an important but often unsung part of any artist’s creative process.
Wolf released a series of moderately successful singles and her first EP in 2019 before signing with Island Records in January 2021. The major-label name helped her existing discography travel even further: Her electro-pop bop “Photo ID” had a viral moment on TikTok after getting the Dominic Fike treatment, and her two previous EPs, 2019’s You’re A Dog! and 2020’s I’m Allergic to Dogs, spawned the star-studded 2021 remix record We Love Dogs!. (No, there is no deeper meaning; the whole canine thing is a “stupid inside joke” that grew legs.)
But it wasn’t until Wolf sat down to work on her debut album in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, that she realized how sacred live performance was to her. “It’s just in my blood at this point,” she says. “I love bringing people together, and I love making sure that people have a good time.” Citywide lockdowns and stay-at-home orders deprived her of the energy she regularly absorbed from shows — the reason she pursued a career as a musician in the first place. She was lonely and unable to do what she loved most. “It was me, Juno, and Jared [Soloman], my co-producer,” she says. “That was the squad for a fucking year, you know?”
Luckily for all her fans out there — the “Remjobs,” as she christened them — Wolf persevered, bringing her eclectic influences and distinct flair to each track. “I used all that angst to my advantage,” she explains. On the funky-fresh “Anthony Kiedis,” Wolf name-drops the Red Hot Chili Peppers singer before begging to “put my head in the hole of a guillotine, chop,” while she sing-raps about everything from Sugarfish sushi to The Human Centipede on the stomping, chaotic “Quiet on Set.” Juno’s psychedelic cover art completes the moodboard, fusing kaleidoscopic patterns with Wolf’s Y2K-inspired personal style.
“Liquor Store,” the album’s sonic pièce de résistance, doubles as its thesis statement, tackling codependency — on substances and other people — over a rollicking rock beat. Wolf recorded the song in November 2020 during her first trip back to Los Angeles after checking herself into rehab. She was five months sober and “absolutely going through it,” and she still had to quarantine to get studio access, which didn’t help. “It was a fever dream of a writing session,” she recalls. “Very, very manic. I love that song because I poured so much into it. It was an explosion of feeling, and I think I really captured it.”
Her sound straddles genres, but Wolf isn’t concerned about being difficult to define. “People aren’t listening to music based on genre anymore,” she says. There will always be fads — Wolf points to the current resurgence of pop-punk among Gen-Z artists, which she “fucking loves” — but she believes the industry has moved beyond the need to put artists in neat boxes. “You either fuck with the artist or you don’t.”
As for what Remjobs can expect from her next? Wolf will continue the current leg of her tour after Juno drops, a prospect that excites her beyond belief. After the emotional rollercoaster that was 2020, she’s ready to release new music so she can add it to her live repertoire. She teases a “crazy, heavy twist” to the live version of “Quiet on Set,” which sounds “like a Limp Bizkit song or something.”
“I want to curate the best night of people’s lives,” she says, smiling wide. “That’s kind of my whole goal. I just want people to be able to let loose and be free because there aren’t a lot of spaces that allow you to do that.” (She’s spent over a month separated from her beloved Juno, whose weak stomach wasn’t made for life on the road, so you know she means it.)
The day of our interview, Wolf was coming down from the high of performing at The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, one of her biggest gigs yet. It was “the craziest show” she’d ever played: Everyone in the audience knew “every single word” to her songs, and she was surrounded by her friends and collaborators the whole time. Fike even hopped on stage to perform “Photo ID” alongside her.
“Having all of those people come together, who mean so much to me, and then all of these fans knowing my words… it’s really overwhelming and very beautiful,” she says. “It makes me want to cry. I cried, like, six times yesterday.”