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The synthwave genre has evolved a lot in the past decade. Retro blast-beat pop songs from the 1980s were retroactively cool, but it wasn’t until the release of 2011 movie Drive which really pushed the genre into cult status. The seminal soundtrack from Cliff Martinez encompassed the retro-themed distant future of cherry sunsets, palm trees and a bygone era of Americana that might not have even existed. What followed was a boom in synthwave and retrowave bands and artists, who pointed to Drive as the inspiration behind their ethereal, calming and picturesque vibe. British synthwave band Wolfclub risked becoming just another wave in the ocean of digital music, but have since proved how determined they are to recreate the genre. Bandmembers Steven Wilcoxson and Chris Paul-Martin recently sat down with Express.co.uk to exclusively give some insight into their work, their history and their brand new album, Just Drive – Part 1.
Just Drive is an ambitious venture for the duo, who have already committed to creating a second part, creating “the next lineage” of their work.
This isn’t an unusual tactic for them, however, as Steven pointed at the band’s previous records as all being part of the same narrative.
He said: “I guess the first three albums with [record label] New Retro Wave, Infinity, Frontiers and Runaways felt like a whole. A trilogy of albums.”
The aforementioned records even had their artwork created by the same artist – James White, otherwise known as Signal Noise. White has produced some of the biggest synthwave acts’ album artwork, including Gunship, Arcade High and even Muse.
Signal Noise also designed the poster for Drive.
Steven continued: “But then, this next album, we wanted to go quite a different direction, but continue with that narrative, that story.
“Most of our songs are usually about escape – which everyone needs at the moment – driving away, great nights, skies, stars. All of that imagery that gets pushed a little further.”
On what inspires him to continue delving into the almost happy-go-lucky tones of the synthwave genre, Steven thought: “It’s aspirational, it’s a dream-like quality, isn’t it?
“I guess the genre is very filmic so there’s that element to it… I guess we all grew up on films that are based [on that aesthetic]. There’s something about it that’s otherworldly. It’s timeless. It’s kind of like a great place to escape to.”
Chris, the lyricist and singer for the band, agreed and pointed at Drive’s “unbelievable soundtrack” as inspiration for getting him started in the synthwave scene (as well as Saved By The Bell).
Wolfclub are not only inspired by film, but have contributed to it as well. Last year the band provided some tracks to the score of Joshua Caldwell’s film Infamous. starring Bella Thorn.
Even now, Chris found it amusing how he received the invitation to get involved over an Instagram DM, before learning of Bella Thorn’s involvement in the project. A huge get for a relatively small band at the time.
The pair explained how, at first, they were commissioned to provide two songs for the US box office-topping film, but went on to give six to the entire soundtrack.
Looking back, Chris sees Wolfclub’s 2020 album, Runaways, as a companion experience for the movie.
Another cornerstone of the genre’s distinctive sound is the inclusion of saxophone. Heavy hitters in the industry, such as The Midnight and Gunship, built their reputation on screaming saxophone solos with almost primal riffs.
Conversely, Wolfclub’s Just Drive – Part 1 is the band’s first real foray in using the instrument, a decision they didn’t take lightly.
Chris sighed: “It’s easy to overkill the sax. I think we’ve been quite good, sort of, not going with the quintessential ‘loads of sax’. We’ve not had sax on our last four albums so it’s been cool just to sort of bring it in this one.
“And not just powerhouse solos! There’s a bit of a mix. There are some powerhouse solos, but also some floaty, really vibey sax as well.
“But I do listen to a lot of synthwave and wonder… ‘Is there really any need for sax right there in that bit?’ But hopefully we’ve got the right balance on that.”
Do they feel pressure from the industry to include the instrument in their music? Steven shook his head: “To be honest, not really.
“The only song we’ve had [with sax] before was Sunset Drive, which was on our first album, and then to be honest all the other tracks we’ve had… nothing really seemed like it was crying out for – or had space for – a saxophone solo.”
Deciding to bring the sax into their next collection of albums simply felt “right” to them (“I just felt it could massively benefit from a massive guitar solo or a sax solo”), and Wolfclub are confident enough in their sax work that they have placed it front and centre in the first two tracks of their new album – Just Drive and A Sea of Stars.
The release of Just Drive – Part 1 has already prompted fans to ask for Part 2 (which will be coming out “hopefully in summer 2021”) – but after that? Fans might get a Part 3.
Steven laughed: “For a moment we toyed with the idea of a Part 3! But I don’t know if that would work, because I think – given the sort of direction of the latest few demos after Part 2 – I’m not entirely sure if it would fit.
“But, you know, we might do! It’s a good way of keeping the releases going and keeping on top of things.”
Beyond even that, Chris revealed the band are already working on next year’s album.
He said: “That’s the thing with music. Actually, In terms of how we write, nothing’s really changed [since Covid-19 hit].
“We’ve already got 15, 16 tracks that we’re really, really pleased with [and] are pretty strong.
“We’ll see how Part 1 goes, see how Part 2 goes. But hopefully maybe summer 2022 we’ll have something ready to go.”
Wolfclub Just Drive – Part 1 is out now on all streaming services, and is available for purchase here.
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