Youth Music NextGen Fund artist, Wolf Peaches, is a queer pop/folk artist based in Sheffield creating politically-fuelled, reflective songs.
Not only this, but the grant enabled Wolf Peaches to pay a PA to help them manage the project, a vital source of support for their ADHD and mental health.
We caught up with Wolf Peaches to hear more about 'dwelling', from why collaborating with other creatives was intrinsic to the process, to what they learned, and their tips for other emerging artists.
You’ve recently released your EP ‘dwelling’. Can you dive into the project’s themes and meanings?
'dwelling' is a series of different homes. Both the production and theme shift and sway throughout the EP. If you knock on the doors of 'rotten fingers' or 'here when you’re here', you’ll be greeted with themes around mental health. 'here when you’re here', with the amazing Jemma Freese on backing vocals and keys, is a song started in the wake of a panic attack. I was going through a real tough patch and a beautiful friend of mine gave me some much needed care, whilst simply stating 'i'm here when im here’. You can learn to hold that close.
However it's not all reflections of mental health, there's also themes of neuro-divergent love, frustration with the billionaire’s race to the moon and at some point even a voice note from my Grandma pops up. One of my favourite tracks 'staring at the grain' reflects on the humxn relationship to water, plants and the turning of the seasons and our responsibility in being guardians and stewards for the space around us.
Collaborating with other creatives has been integral to the project. Thanks to the Youth Music NextGen grant, you were able to pay a visual artist and a video editor to help create the ‘rotten fingers’ music video. What benefits did you see from working with other creatives?
Working with a visual artist that understands the feeling in your song can be amazing. We’re so overloaded with new songs that it can be hard to make an impact quickly in the fast paced online environment. Zita Baynes, the animator I worked with, was incredible. She really understood the feeling of the song and created a whole other art piece to work alongside ‘rotten fingers’ and was able to produce the work in a short deadline. When image and sound align it can really amplify the meaning behind a song. I worked with a video editor on a second music video during the project, for ‘staring at the grain’. Both of these experiences were very different as Zita was creating hand drawn animation, whilst Sebastian Van Looy was editing video footage. It helped me to learn about project management, expanded my knowledge of different editing techniques and was generally very inspiring to engage with someone else’s creative realms.
The music video for 'staring at the grain' was directed by yourself. What did you learn from that opportunity?
The video for ‘staring at the grain’ was an undertaking! As I was trying many new firsts and trying to bring together my music and political action, by organising a wet trespass of a reservoir in the Peak District. This was part of Right To Roam’s year of trespass, raising awareness about the injustices around land rights and access to nature in the UK. Getting together a mass of people to wild swim in September, multiple videographers and also film a music video, in hindsight was incredibly ambitious. I was managing recruiting creatives to help film the action as well as the music video without any budget, people were very generous with their time, big thanks to Sebastian Van Looy and Pablo Candia da Silva. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to pay a video editor to get the narrative in the video across. Staring at the grain includes a phrase "our trees are arteries" that acts as a prayer of sorts, to humans to remember our innate "natureness" as we are nature. The video climaxes in footage from the wet trespass. I learnt a lot about how to communicate ideas and perhaps have developed skills that would’ve been handy in managing such a big project, but that’s exactly what learning is about isn’t it!
As a queer musician based in Sheffield, what is your experience of the local music scene? Is there anything you would like to see change? Or any nights you want to shout out?
Sheffield has got a lush amount of DIY events going on, it would be ace to see some of the more mainstream venues step up in terms of diversity - recently a day festival was booked and they had only hired male artists, despite there being several professional and reputable female-lead bands of the festival’s genre. DINA venue is a great venue and has a lot of people putting gigs and events on, a particular favourite of mine is ‘Key of She’ an improvisation night for women and marginalised genders. This is such a queer, inter-generational space that creates a nurturing expansive musical space. If you’re a singer, spoken-word artist, musician or spectator, I’d highly recommend checking it out. Gut Level is an amazing queer venue and dance community that hosts great workshops and parties, so shout out to them. They’re currently fundraising to fit out their new venue with accessible toilets, soundproofing etc. Go and check them out! Migration Matters festival was on [the other week] and feature[d] some incredible musicians from the global majority, worth checking the programme out to discover new music. In fact I could shout out for a while so I’ll stop there.
Which queer, emerging Northern artists are you listening to at the moment? Is there anyone you would like to spotlight?
I hardly get time to listen to new music, but here are a few. In the folk world George Sandsom, [Youth Music NextGen] Maddie Morris and Babbit are doing great work. Pop-wise, JOSH YAU is also making gorgeous tunes. Big shoutout to Gut Level, Flaw Collective, and Rat Party, who are doing great work for the queer scene in Sheffield and Leeds. Some great DJs you can catch. Gut Level has recently secured a new venue which supports a wide variety of queer arts - here's the fundraiser link if you've got some spare pennies.
You’re quite active on TikTok. As an artist, how would you describe your relationship with the platform? Do you feel a pressure to create in order to build an audience, or do you see social media as more of an opportunity to engage?
I often use social media as a way of learning what’s going on in different areas of the music industry, Harriet JW (as well as many others) is someone I follow on social media who shares support for independent musicians online. As the social media market is so saturated I only spend time on TikTok when I’m having fun making something, and within that is an opportunity to engage. I mainly use Instagram because I know more people on it, and do not have the desire to become a social media influencer, I use it as a tool to communicate. Building an audience online can look good in numbers, but I don’t focus on it as I feel much more fulfilled performing live and connecting with people in person. It’s a great place to put yourself out there if you’re happy creating content all the time.
What advice would you give to other independent young creatives pursuing a musical career?
Do what you can easily sustain, it’s exhausting putting yourself out there and it can impact your self-esteem easily. If there is an aspect of your music that brings you joy and energises you, find a way to use that to your benefit. Ask for support, whether it’s mates sharing stuff you’ve made, or people you know who have general business skills and can help advise you on ways of supporting your endeavours. Remember that the music industry is dominated by privilege and luck, you don’t need to be big for your creativity to be worthwhile. EMAIL LISTS are important, form genuine connections with people because there is so much music out there, forming genuine connections will support you in the longer run. Things can go SLOWLY, some artists ‘make it’ once they’re over 30, so don’t worry if you’re not filling out massive venues in your first year of trying to put yourself out there. Look out for organisations supporting young musicians and skill up as much as you can.
Connect with Wolf Peaches
The NextGen Fund has been made possible thanks to generous support from TikTok, Dr. Marten's Foundation and players of People's Postcode Lottery. We are also grateful for our vital support from the National Lottery via Arts Council England.