Remi Wolf appears on our Zoom call in a pink sweatshirt, a pink-and-white trucker hat—her thick brown curls spilling out from all sides—and pink oversized sunglasses covered in rhinestones. The rosy look is playful and humorous and fun, much like the singer’s usual wardrobe (fuzzy hats and colorful makeup are go-tos) and her music. Her unconventional pop—which has impressed John Mayer, Nile Rodgers, Beck, and more—and psychedelic-inspired videos exude a lovable weirdness, eccentric charm, and joy. The same goes for the 25-year-old California native herself, who takes the video call from her phone, outside, pacing on a sidewalk in New York's SoHo neighborhood while sipping on what’s left of an iced latte “from four hours ago.” (The view from her vertical screen is close up and angled at her face.)
As much as Wolf is a master of mixing humor, funk, and good vibes in her songs, she’s also not afraid to get real and sad. She doesn’t flinch while diving into her new single, “Liquor Store,” out now, and its link to her journey getting sober. “In the song, I’m talking about my sobriety and codependency and my fear of being cheated on. It’s honestly such a personal song to me,” she tells BAZAAR.com.
“I want you to feel really good when you’re listening to my songs, and when I’m listening to my songs, I want them to be upbeat and danceable, you know?” she continues. “But in this one specifically, I feel like I was really sad and really expressing some deep shit, like some deep personal trauma. ... I’m really proud of the song.”
Despite making it onto American Idol in 2014, Wolf’s big break didn’t come until after her stint on the competition show—and after she got a music degree from USC—with her debut single, “Guy,” in 2019. The praise continued to pour in with her EP, You’re a Dog!, that same year, and with her follow-up, I’m Allergic to Dogs!, in 2020. It also didn’t hurt that her single “Photo ID” went viral on TikTok. Now, Wolf is gearing up to release her debut album later this year.
Here, the singer, songwriter, and producer walks us through her writing process post-pandemic, where she gets her hats, and how her fans got the nickname “Remjobs” (yes, really).
I want to talk to you a little bit about “Liquor Store” and how it came to be.
I made the song back in late November, early December. I got sober this year during quarantine, so that was a major life event. I went to rehab and everything, which was a very strange thing to do during the pandemic for a lot of reasons, but also it was kind of the perfect time to do it, too, ’cause work was slowing down for everybody. So it gave me the time to really think about my life.
When making this song, I had been out of rehab for maybe a month and a half, which was barely any time. I was just trying to get my footing as a sober person in the real world, instead of in this really isolated campus. And it was really fuckin’ hard. I was really, really struggling. The week that I made “Liquor Store” was the first time I had seen Jared [Solomon], who has been my collaborator throughout pretty much my entire career thus far. It was the first time I saw him in five months or something, and it was very emotional because we’re very close. And this was maybe like the third day that we were hanging out with each other again after this hiatus.
It was a very cathartic time for me. During the session, while writing the song, I was just sobbing. I could not stop crying, and it would be like, sob, sob, sob for maybe 20 minutes, then I’d be like, “Okay, I’m ready to write a verse.” And then I wrote the verse, and then I’d cry again or go outside. It was such a fuckin’ roller coaster of an experience, honestly. I feel like you can really hear it in the songwriting. And you can hear the emotion, which I’m really proud of.
Even if it wasn’t your intention, I’m sure the song will also resonate with other people who might have gone through the same thing.
I hope that people, when they listen to it, can either learn a little bit about me or learn a little bit about themselves or see a piece of themselves in the song and feel understood and not like they’re crazy. I feel like the issue with addiction and mental illness is, a lot of times, you feel super isolated and alone. You feel crazy, you feel like everybody around you doesn’t understand, and you’re one person on this island. At least for me, I just feel really insane sometimes. In this song, I tried to express feeling that insanity and that inner tension and just that desire to escape.
I want people to feel like, if they’re going through that, I understand it, and I’m there with them and that they’re not alone. But if they don’t relate to it at all lyrically, I just want them to think it’s a fuckin’ banger. I want people to feel the bones and the meat in the song, because musically, I think it’s also a really strong song. I hope that, if nothing else, they’re like, “This slaps.”
Speaking of new stuff, what can you tell us about putting your debut album together?
With every project I’ve done so far, it’s always been pretty piecemeal. I’ve never really been like, “All right, I’m going to camp out for six months in a studio and bang this out.” I’m way more sporadic. I’m floating, and then sometimes I’m like, “Okay, I want to make music today,” and then it’ll happen. So it kind of came together like that.
The first song that we started writing on the record, we started back in February, right before the pandemic hit. We had the bare bones of the structure. And then, from February onwards, it was a pandemic, so it was all when I went to rehab. I think we started really writing in November; that’s kind of when we got the bulk of the album out. From there, it started to take form a little bit. From January to April this year is when we started adding more tunes and doing all these one-offs. Songs just kept happening, and we just kept beating other songs that maybe we were going to throw on the record until we had an album.
A lot of the process was like, we had all these songs that were maybe 70 percent done. And something that I like doing is getting out of the space that I’m comfortable in. I like renting Airbnbs and camping up in the house. We finished a lot of the records that way.
How would you say this album follows up your I’m Allergic to Dogs EP? Is there some sort of evolution there that you see?
I think something that’s really important to me in my artistry is just constant experimentation. I think in all the past EPs, everything, every song has been its own experiment, and on this record, we just kept that same mentality all the way through. I want to push myself, I want to push my writing, and I want to push the soundscape and the sounds we’re able to use, the words I’m able to use, the vocal tone that I’m able to use. I think that I’m just constantly challenging myself and experimenting with that.
Experimentation is another through line for me, and I don’t ever think that it’s not going to be. It’s just a part of what I really value in art. I want to keep it alive; I want to be innovating. I want to constantly try to innovate the sound of pop music. My biggest dream for this album is that people consider this the new pop.
It’s like you’re rewriting the rules.
Yeah, exactly. Erase the rules of pop. It would be my dream if radio was like, “Wait, this is sick,” because it’s so different than everything that’s on the radio now. At the end of the day, I want everybody to like my music.
A big part of your artistry is also in the visuals. It’s really interesting how you include a lot of color and psychedelic influences. Where did that all come from?
I’m a big proponent of color. I’ve loved colors since I was little. I fuckin’ love color, dude. It’s just a personal preference. But I really like building a world that people can jump into. I want people to feel, when they’re either watching my videos or listening to my songs or just interacting with me onstage or, like, on the Internet, like they’re exiting their world and entering another world. Almost like in an escapism type of way. I want to be a place and a sound where people can escape their life and feel something different for a second.
I really valued that in the artists and musicians I listen to. I love it when I’m just completely transported, and just by listening to one song, I can have a completely different headspace. So I want my visuals and my songs to kind of provide that for people. And for me, I just love psychedelic colorful shit. So that’s just the way I’ve chosen to kind of go about it. It’s like an extension of myself and, like, my personality. I think we’re gonna make some really cool videos for this project.
Speaking of your colorful style, I love your big fuzzy hats.
I’ve always loved hats. I used to be a ski racer and, honestly, this is probably really subconscious, but I would wear a helmet all day, which makes my head look really huge. And then after I would stop skiing, I would always wear either a beanie or a trucker hat. Hats have just been a part of my life for a long time. But I found this designer, his name is Jimmy Paul, who is from Amsterdam, and he makes these crazy big feather hats. And immediately, when I first saw them, I was like, “That’s the shit.” And I just have not stopped wearing his hats since then.
You have a really strong connection with your fans, and I didn’t know that your fan base was called “Remjobs.” Did you start that or did people on the Internet and then you picked it up?
That is something that I started, I think. And the second I said it online, it sparked. Like, everybody loved it. Back to the whole skiing thing, I had a coach when I was probably like 10 and he would call me “Remjob.” And at the time, I had no idea what it meant. I was just like, “What the heck?” Everybody was laughing. I had no idea. And then once I finally found out, I was like, “Wow, that’s inappropriate.” [Laughs.] That’s how that phrase came into my life. I just think it’s really funny. And the fans love it, and I love my fans. They’re the best. I truly can’t even believe I have any fans. The fact that I have people who listen to my music and seem to care about me is insane. I just want to keep making them happy and, like, feeding them and making them feel good.
Who would you say your dream collaborator is?
I have this fascination with Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates, so I would love to collaborate with him. I would love to collaborate with Paul Simon. I know that sounds like a weird one, but I just think he’s a genius. And SZA. My queen. My goddess. I would just love to be around her and just take in her energy. I don’t even care about collaborating. I just want to get coffee with her, and the collaboration would be, like, a bonus.
What would you say has been the biggest high from your career so far?
I think [releasing] “Liz,” because it’s a song that has such a different sound, production-wise, than all my other songs and I’m really singing my ass off. And for some reason, I was really, really scared to release it. I was, “Oh, my God, people are going to hate this. People are going to be so confused.” But I think the fact that it just got so much overwhelming, positive feedback gave me a lot of confidence going forward. I’m like, “Okay, well, I should just probably be fucking belting my ass off all the time.” The reaction to that song was really special.
How will you know if you’ve made it? What will that look like for you?
Dude, I already feel like I’ve made it. Like, I got John Mayer in my DMs.
That’s it. That’s the answer.
Once you get the John Mayer cosign, you’re fucking set for life. So I’m okay.
I feel like I’ve already exceeded my wildest [dreams], and anything else that happens is just a major cherry on top. I mean, I would love to have a long career. I want to be able to do this for the rest of my life, and if I can do that, I will be so happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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