Interview with Julien Sournac of Wolve

After returning from Wolve’s very first European tour, frontman Julien Sournac talked to Progressive Music Planet about the writing and recording process of their latest EP “Lazare” as well as the band’s experiences on tour and future projects.


What were your main influences during the writing process of “Lazare” (musically and lyrically)?
Personally, I’m influenced a lot by what happens in my life, I’m really aware of what surrounds me. Sometimes good things happen and sometimes shit happens… and shit was particularly numerous this year. I started to write on “Lazare” by the end of 2015, I can remember that it was the beginning of November. I wanted to write as much music as possible in three or four months before going back to the studio with the band to record something during the winter holidays. Unfortunately, there was the attack in Paris about the same time… which eventually influenced the direction of the EP. Not that this EP deals with this topic, but we tried to put what we felt in our music. Music is our religion and I think this EP is somewhat of an unconscious response to what happened.
Lyrically, it deals with pure human emotions like anger, abandonment and duality. You know this Freudian model which says that there are at least two or three parts in each individual: id, ego and super-ego. Sometimes there is confrontation, you have to deal with it and face your own demons to keep going and find your way.
Musically, we wanted to go back to the music we liked when we were kids, let’s say back to the roots. Our generation was a lot into alt rock from the 90’s. We dig a lot of bands like Tool, NIN, RATM, Radiohead, Beck, The Smashing Pumpkins… We don’t really listen to them as much as in the old days, but I think they’re a huge part of our culture now. There were other influences as Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” and of course the map to hell by Botticelli, primitive art, astrology, engraving, tarot games… trippy stuff!

“Lazare” was mainly recorded live. How would you describe the recording process, especially compared to regular recording?
Well, I think regular recording is live, a lot of bands that we’re listening to record live. It made the sound more honest and organic, I think. We have this small room for us where we usually rehearse, and we thought: “Ok, let’s do this with what we have.” Brice, the producer, helped us a lot in the process, he has a real love for sound aesthetics. So he took the time to place the microphones in the right places and created the base for the sound.
For the track “Lazare”, we were all in this small space and I played the bass line, so I could watch Simon hitting his drum and Alexander who played the guitar part that you can hear on the left side of the mix. We liked that a lot because there were real emotions involved in the takes we recorded. We could look at each other. It really unifies a band to experience a recording like this. There was the producer in the room with us who was our external gaze and he advised us really well. I think the man really understands where we want to go. When the instrumentals were recorded, I just had to finish the lyrics and track the vocals and additional guitars.
This way of recording [live recording] is, in my opinion, much better because you catch the real emotion. You can really hear the band playing when you listen to this EP. We really enjoyed it, I think we found a way for our band to process and we will continue in that direction in the future. Not to mention that you also save time and money!

Can you tell us something about the artwork for “Lazare”?
We worked with Louise Le Quinquis, who is a gifted French artist, and we tried a lot of directions in a really short time until we found what fitted perfectly what we tried to express musically.
We went into many different directions: engraving, for instance, which we ended up not using because we thought it was not the right direction – such as impressive plastic artworks – but we found them too tidy compared to what we have expressed with our music.
So, we went into a lot of directions, until we instinctively thought that we have to go into a “rawer” direction – the same way that we conceived this EP. I was really inspired by primitive art and I thought that we have to do something with what we had at the moment, like the way we recorded this EP. We took a canvas, paint and brushes and I painted the lyrics of the song “Far” while I was listening to the mixes. I’m not a painter so I did my best and we thought that it worked great because there were a lot of imperfections. Then Louise painted the other lyrics on canvas. She came up with other ideas that ended up on the final artwork, like the spectrogram inspired by “Porcelain”, the fresco of stamps behind the disc… We wanted this artwork raw, simple, and I think it turned out really well.


In general, how would you describe your experience on tour?
We had a lot of fun altough if it was very difficult… We had to get our hands dirty to make this tour go well and even to finish it!
We have been on tour with French post-rockers SaaR and we tried to help them like they helped us a lot during the good and difficult moments. We get along well together; we got to know each other and to built a strong relationship to them. They’re great guys. We even invited their drummer to perform with us the opening song “Lazare” on the last gigs. He does percussion and that was so cool!
Touring at our level is very difficult because all is made by ourselves: DIY. But we enjoyed it a lot, that was the first time for us and we found the right solutions to our problems.
I learned a lot about myself and the others, we learned about life in community because we were ten guys living together, so you understand really quickly that you have to put your ego aside and find the strength to bring it back when you have to go on stage.
We had a lot of good times in Germany, I think that German people make a great audience for us; they have a great concert culture and were more receptive during our gigs. There was a lot of exchange between us and the audience: We gave our music to them, they gave us their energy, so we gave more energy back through the music, and they gave us more and more energy. It really helped us letting ourselves escape into our music and embodying it far better. We even went off the stage to play with the crowd, a thing that we absolutely wouldn’t do in our country.
Touring was very formative to us, we have become more and more efficient, more professional. And of course we had a blast! We had a lot of fun, we met a lot of lovely people who helped us, even hosted us. I’m thinking of our friends from The Makeshift Project (Köln), really cool guys and they made us feel at home when we were in Köln. You have to dig them, they’re such a great band. Also Shamotte from Oldenburg, a post-rock/math-rock trio, Flowers In Syrup, all of them… I can’t mention everyone but there were a lot of great and talented people that supported us, so we came back home with heads full of beautiful memories. This helped us to evolve as a band and we can’t wait to go back and hit the road again!

Is there anything you wish you had known before going on tour?
No, not really, I went on tour without expecting anything so I couldn’t be disappointed.
This was a 100% positive experience to me, so I certainly don’t wish I had known anything before hitting the road with my mates. I was there to learn, and I’ve learned a lot!


picture by Alex of SaaR

What do you like most about being on the road?
There is this particular moment when you had a hard day on the road – because being in a car for five to eight hours a day for two weeks is really alienating – and you give all you got every night, then you go off the stage completely empty, and you feel great. People are smiling around you. You have a beer and laugh with your mates and talk with people in the audience about anything. I think this is what I like most about touring.

Have you been faced with challenges?
Yeah … many! There were moments of discouragement, you know … We had to cancel a gig because of this f***ing broken car in the middle of a Czech highway, and we had to find a solution to finish the tour as well, because 48 hours after that we had to play in Berlin. During the gig in Berlin, one of the windows of our second vehicle was vandalized. There was a lot of frustration that we transformed in energy during the sets, which were becoming more and more rock ‘n roll, more sincere, I guess.
We also learned to put our ego aside, learned to live in a community, there were short nights with little sleep, which is not the best for vocals… so I had to warm up twice more. I tried to stay healthy and to not fall into those tour/ego traps, you know, too much partying, too much alcohol… it could make you feel really down.

What are the next steps for Wolve?
I think we’re attracted by the idea of giving a follow-up to “Lazare” while writing songs for a second LP, but the first step for us is to take a look at what worked during the tour and what did not in order to come back in 2017 with a stronger set.
We’re actually working on this in the studio with Brice, we’re working on dynamics to get even more impact. Results are coming quickly and sound impressive, so we just can’t wait to play our next gig in February in Paris! We’ll be working on a live video for 2017 to capture a bunch of songs… basically, I’d say normal work that small bands like us have to do to step up their game!

Read our review of “Lazare” (EP) here and of “Sleepwalker” here.

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