Chelsea Wolfe Discusses Magic, Fashion, Visual Media

Azlynn Corpuz

Posted on April 02 2024

B/W image of Chelsea Wolfe in dark clothing crouching down near broken glass

Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz, Courtesy of Loma Vista Recordings

"I did actual cord-cutting rituals and then applied that same magic in a practical way, literally cutting ties from a couple of major toxic habits and relationships in my life."

First off, congratulations on She Reach Out To She Reaches Out To She. As with a lot of your art, it feels very monumental in a literal sense; a monolithic testament to not only your musicianship, but also to this specific era of your life.

Q: Is there a song on this album that you're particularly proud of?

A. Thank you. I’d say “Whispers in the Echo Chamber.” It was born from a deep inner knowing that I needed to make some big changes, and while writing that song it became a guide to take action on that in my life. I did actual cord-cutting rituals and then applied that same magic in a practical way, literally cutting ties from a couple of major toxic habits and relationships in my life.

You’ve spoken about how your father, a country musician, helped to grow your passion for writing and recording music. Some of your music (specifically lyrics) and visuals certainly evoke elements of gothic Americana country-styled dirges and ballads.

Q: What are some artists or albums that you grew up listening to which continue to inspire you? Do you think any of them would come as a surprise in regards to how your music has evolved?

A: Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Nico, Sibylle Baier, Katastrophy Wife, Dolly Parton, Broadcast, to name a few. I’m not sure any of those would be surprising, because they’re such greats, but I love to blend genres and work outside of songwriting rules, so I think my inspirations show up in unique ways within my own music. 

Q: What are 3 albums you’re listening to right now, whether new, new-to-you, or an old favorite?

A: The new Spectral Voice album Sparagmos, Divide and Dissolve - Systemic, and been going back to Fordlândia by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Q: Describe your ideal environment & medium for listening to music

A: My favorite ways to listen to music are in the shower, on a walk, or laying down with my eyes closed, in headphones. I’m the type who creates playlists for different moods and activities, and one of my favorites is this kind of mystical / fantasy / medieval ambient playlist I made for walks in the woods.

B/W image of Chelsea Wolfe wearing dark clothing
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz, Courtesy of Loma Vista Recordings

Historically, your lyrics feel rooted in folkloric prose and mysticism, and you recently spoke (with AP) about your own relationship with witchcraft and spiritualism.

Q: What does your relationship with spirituality look like in your day-to-day life?

A: At this point my spiritual path is an intrinsic part of almost everything I do. One thing I’ll share is that I live by the cycles of the moon, setting an intention at every new moon, so then I’m checking in with that intention each day of the cycle in accordance to whether the moon is waxing or waning, feeling into what needs attention, what needs letting go. It’s helped me create a lot of positive change in my life, and I like that living by the cycles and the seasons is a bit of a slow process. There’s no rushing the moon - there’s a patience that’s required to sit with where she’s at and let that energy reflect into your own life.

We loved the use of oracle cards in the promotion for this album, and the playlists attached to each.

Q: Do you personally use tarot cards, or another kind of oracle deck?

A: I work with both tarot cards and oracle decks. One I really resonated with during the writing of She Reaches Out was Kim Krans’ Archetypes deck. The Forest card was a repeat pull for me during that time. I loved the line in her writing about the card: “get lost getting found.” I still feel like I’m getting lost getting found! But the awareness of it is something to hold on to. 

"There are so many little death processes happening, and that still must happen."

Q: If you are familiar with tarot decks specifically, what 3 cards in the Major Arcana would you assign to this point in your life?

A: The three Major Arcana Cards I’m feeling connected to right now are Death, The Chariot, and The Sun. I’m going through so much transformation still, as my new album songs continue to teach me and guide the way out of the old and into the new. There are so many little death processes happening, and that still must happen. The Chariot feels very relevant to being back on tour again after a long break after the pandemic began, trying to find my footing out in the world and onstage again. And The Sun is an inner warmth to keep me going through all the chaos - a sort of inner *light at the end of the tunnel*. 

You’ve been a major muse for Noctex throughout the years, and we’re very lucky to have had the chance to photograph you before. Many of your outfit & makeup looks feel very much weaved into the tone and ambience of your music.

Q: As you evolve into & with your music, how does that influence how you dress – both onstage and off?

A: I’ve had the pleasure to work with costume designer Jenni Hensler for many years now to create a new capsule collection of stage clothes for each album. I send her all sorts of inspirations - colors, textures, mythology, films, lyrics, historical references - and she comes up with the most wonderful pieces that work together in interchangeable ways. Jenni really is a wizardess. In this process over the years it’s helped me figure out my sense of personal style on and off stage. Currently, I’m finding myself drawn to barely any makeup, and keeping my stage outfits a bit more minimal, which I think matches my new music. Not a lot of jewelry, just a long dress, Margiela tabi boots, and maybe a sleeve or two (Jenni makes the most wonderful sleeve options, they’re so fun. I’ve also worn my Noctex arm warmers onstage as well!). I got a bunch of scrap ribbon right before this tour and have been tying little bows on my dress or my shoes. I like those little last minute quick details that nobody else might notice.

Q: What would you say most influences your personal styling day-to-day? Whether that is a person, a feeling, a natural-world element, etc.

A: I posted a carousel of my personal style icons on my Instagram a while back that was Helena Bonham Carter, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Ann Demeulemeester, Leonor Fini, Georgia O’Keefe. There’s definitely a through line there of black clothing, long silhouettes, layers, wide leg and looser fit, mild influences of Victorian and even steampunk. Definitely influenced by Yohji Yamamoto and Uma Wang as well.

While on tour, it’s about finding what feels true to my personal style that’s also utilitarian. At home I tend to wear more white, gray, cream and wear a lot of dresses and skirts, but on tour I usually stick to black layers and pants because it’s easier for me to quickly throw an all-black outfit together. I love an oversized black blazer to throw over everything - definitely some Scandinavian street style influence there. Also, I graduated high school the year the movie Amélie came out and loved it during such a formative time, so it seems like no matter what, that midi skirt, combat boots, and cardigan / jacket combo keeps coming back to me as well. 

B/W image of Chelsea Wolfe with hands partially covering face
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz, Courtesy of Loma Vista Recordings

Your visual media throughout the years has always been striking, and ranges greatly. It often feels tethered within the same sort of world, or speaking in the same sort of visual ‘language’.

Q: Do you have any inspirations for your visual media that you tend to return to – a director or an artist, a specific film or art piece?

A: There’s usually one or two films or books that end up being touchstones to the artwork for a new album. For She Reaches Out, that was 1985 anime film Angel’s Egg, and Marjorie Cameron’s painting The Black Egg. So much of this album lives within this sort of liminal, in-between, void state, and I felt drawn to the language of this ominous egg that I was protecting and nurturing, with all of the mystery and potential of the future held within the egg. 

Q: Last year you worked with Tyler Bates on the original soundtrack to Ti West’s X. What were some major differences you felt between composing a soundtrack for a movie versus writing your own music?

A: Being given specific assignments and scenes to write to for the film was a big difference, and I found it really enjoyable. There’s so much in my life and career that is self-led, so I kind of loved being given the task of creating a certain type of voicing for a character, then finding these voices within myself, channeling energy and sending a bunch of options to them to see what they liked. I found a lot of freedom in letting myself try new things with my voice. Tyler definitely encouraged that as well. 

Chelsea's Shop Picks:

Q: Do you have a favorite original soundtrack from a movie?

A: Such a great question. I love the original scores for Arrival by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Women Talking by Hildur Guðnadóttir, Annihilation by Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow, The VVitch by Mark Korven. One of my all-time favorite movie soundtrack albums is for 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. 

Q: Given the chance, would you ever want to work on a full-length film surrounding or inspired by your own music? If so, who would be your dream-come-true composer and/or director to work with?

A: Definitely desire to do more score work. I don’t think it would need to revolve around inspiration by my own music, but I’d hope that anyone who wanted to work with me would resonate with my sensibilities of course. I would love to work with Brit Marling, Robert Eggers, Mike Flanagan.. would love to collaborate with Alessandro Cortini, Geoff Barrow, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and create more with David Sitek, Shawn Everett. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us Chelsea. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for having me! <3 

Interview by: Azlynn Corpuz

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