Kurran and the Wolfnotes (L-R): Chris, Max, Natalia, Kurran, Ben
Kurran and the Wolfnotes are an exciting bunch. After just a handful of live shows they’d set the blogosphere alight and industry tongues wagging. So much so that just five months after their conception, the band decided to cancel their gigs, take a month off and polish their live show to make damn sure they lived up to the ever-swelling hype surrounding them. For Folk’s Sake caught up with them ahead of their first post-hiatus performance, at which their upbeat harmony-laden folk-rock set even the most reluctant of scenester toes a-tapping. We couldn’t be more excited to bring you the first of two instalments of this, their first ever interview. Ladies and Gents, Kurran and the Wolfnotes.
How would you describe your sound for people who’ve not heard you yet?
Kurran: That’s not actually something we’ve answered before. On our MySpace it says “alternative folk” and we kind of like to leave it that open ended. You know you wouldn’t say Arcade Fire are a folk band – not that we aspire to be Arcade Fire – but there are a lot of bands who are keeping in with their folk influences but doing stuff that still translates well to a bigger stage.
Chris: We’re all into different stuff but folk is the main thing.
Max: We all listen to folk.
FFS: Do you like new folk or older stuff like Bob Dylan and the Laurel Canyon scene?
Kurran: We’re more influenced by the old stuff.
Max: Yeah I like a lot of the electric Dylan. We listen to everything.
Kurran: We like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash all that stuff and then there’s the whole antifolk thing. You know you kind of take influence from a lot of things. But I think we’re more influenced by the old stuff. Current stuff we’re into is probably more along the lines of the Maccabees and stuff.
I’ve seen you compared to Bright Eyes, Elliot Smith and Jose Gonzales. Do you think those are reasonable comparisons?
Max: I love Bright Eyes, I think Cassadaga is such a good album.
Kurran: Bright Eyes is a great artist, but I think those artists, within that genre are still quite different. References to any of them are great. I can see why people would say all of them.
Chris: I don’t think we would agree that we sound like any one of them but together they make sense. I mean I have listened to Jose Gonzales, but that’s not anything to do with the way I play the drums!
Why do you think there’s been so much buzz about you?
Kurran: The honest answer to that is that, I think that we had a bit of luck, I mean we got demos together and everything like that and we were lucky that because of other connections we had from other bands people they were picked up by some people who started pushing those around.
Chris: I think that from the people who got involved early, they promoted us to some bands and those other bands have come down to gigs, and those bands have chatted to other other bands and it came about that way. We’ve not done that many gigs yet.
FFS: How many do you reckon?
Natalia: About eight.
Chris: It can be a real problem sometimes that there’s real hype at the start and it’s not founded but I think people who’ve come to see us have started to talk about us, because they enjoyed it. So I guess we’ve been doing something right, with the live show anyway.
Did you take a month off to practice to make sure you did live up to the hype?
Kurran: Yeah, we did really. We were really lucky in that with only six gigs we had management. We kind of took a decision with our management that we would pull back and practice.
I read in a blog, which seems strange now I know you’ve only played eight gigs, that you’d just debued your electric sound. Is there any truth in that?
Kurran: Actually, we did two or three gigs electrically first, they were our first ones and there weren’t a lot of people down at them and then the first one when we had industry people there happened to be acoustic. I think we only did two acoustic. No one acoustic set.
Chris: The whole thing with the acoustic show and the electric show we kind of felt like because we were playing the Old Queen’s Head and it was one of those venues that we knew wasn’t really going to work with electric show. So we stripped it down. And we found out from doing that that it really works. So now we just give people choices. It’s nice to know that we can do that strip it all down.
Kurran: Chris won’t admit it but the fact that we can go between that is basically because Chris is awesome. We all the play the same stuff in the acoustic set. What changes is what he plays.
Chris: I play bongos and stuff.
Max: The harmonies really come through, acoustically.
FFS: OK so you’ve got two different sounds?
Kurran: Yeah, but it wasn’t a conscious thing
Chris: But it works, you know.
Can you give us a brief history of how you met?
Natalia: We met at college
Kurran: me and Natalia met in college
Natalia: About five years ago
Kurran: We met Ben at a guitar store, he was serving us.
Natalia: I was buying my first guitar and Kurran chatted him up.
Kurran: He bent over to pick up a guitar and I was like “I’ve got to have him” and then I got him in the band.
Max: He’s always like “Max I dropped my pick”
Chris: I think I was next…
Kurran: Chris and Ben we found through a website.
Kurran: Yeah, gumtree, there was a lot of weeding through, max was good, me and max auditioned loads of people. We knew as soon as we heard them.
Max: they came quite close together didn’t they and they worked well together.
Chris: Obviously we’re all from different parts.
Where are you all from?
Kurran: New York
Ben: Lille in France
FFS [to Max]: sounds like you drew the short straw
Max: That’s not the short straw! I’m not from Ashford!
Chris: Yeah, one stop away
Max: I’m from a nice bit by the river!
What were you doing before you formed the band?
Ben: I was an Au Pair. So changing babies in the morning and then rocking out
Kurran: [mishearing ‘rocking’ and ‘working’] Doing bicep curls with babies?
Natalia: He said “rocking out” didn’t he?! Not working out.
Kurran: Oh rocking out…
FFS: I prefer working out. With babies
Chris: I’ve been in London about three years. I played in some bands before and then came here and then taught drums and stuff.
FFS: [To Kurran] You were in Trash Fashion, is that right?
Kurran: No that’s right!
FFS: And they’re new rave?
Kurran: Yeah I was at Boarding school in Switzerland and I was asked to leave and I came back here and I had three months to do my A-levels and I couldn’t get into any schools and one of my tutors – my maths tutor – i didn’t know anyone else – was like I’m in a band you should join. So I was in it for what I thought was going to be a couple of years. Mainly for the fact that they were just such nice guys. I didn’t do any writing I just played bass for them. In a way because I was doing that for so long I had so long to put together demos and that sort if stuff. Because what I was writing wasn’t contributing to that band at all. It was great. In terms of being 18 and getting to be in tours and stuff and that kind of experience. They’re so much bigger outside the UK in Scandinavia and Germany in stuff. But not in England.
FFS: They’ve got a pretty comprehensive wikipedia entry
Kurran: Oh no, have they? I’ll have to check it out.
FFS: You’re only mentioned once. It says you left.
Kurran: Ha! Let’s leave it at that. That’ll do.
Natalia: Three years and that’s what you get.
Chris: I was in a band and I moved to London about three years ago called ‘V Formation’ kind of post punk, new wave, Pixies-esque band.
Kurran: Did you ever think that you’d say that in an interview, you said were always getting that in interviews.
Chris: I know I know! We used to get that in interviews all the time. I thought I’m just going to say it. So that was my main thing here, then one day I decided that I wanted to join another band. I basically traipsed through Myspace and then I saw a Gumtree ad that Kurran had put up. I just wanted to do more melodic stuff and get involved a bit more. And when I heard the demo I was just like ‘yes’. So I went for some auditions and we got on really well.
Kurran: With Chris we could add another harmony because originally I had Natalia do a second harmony, and Chris was like I really want to sing as well.
Max: He’s like Phil Collins!
Kurran: He’s our BeeGee
FFS: So is that why you wanted to do more melodic stuff because you wanted to sing?
Chris: I had done some backing vocals before in other bands and I suppose I just wanted to be in something a bit more melodic. The band I was in before was quite heavy and I just wanted it to be more… I’m going to say it again…
Max: I wasn’t really in bands, I just jammed with friends and played in my bedroom and stuff. I was in bands and we just played gigs in the pubs round where we lived and stuff.
FFS: You landed on your feet.
Kurran: Me and Chris won’t let him and Ben forget it.
Kurran, I read that you’ve lived in Dubai, New York, London and Swizerland, is that right?
Kurran: My parents moved around a lot and to very different places. I think moving from Dubai to Switzerland, from desert to mountainside, that was pretty extreme.
FFS: Has that had any influence on you musically?
Kurran: It’s weird you should ask that because the one thing about that is that when you start moving around is that when you’re younger you’re so easily influenced by what everyone else is listening to. But when I moved the first time I already knew what I liked so much that I stuck to it. I had overlapping music tastes with the people I was around still, but when you move around you stick to what you actually genuinely love. Like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. I think I had more my mum’s influence than anything, she’s a big Leonard Cohen fan.
What do you think of the London folk scene – are you happy to be considered a part of it?
Max: A lot of it is a bit more organic, it’s really acousticy if you know what I mean.
Kurran: It’s not something we’ve set out to do. I can see why people think we’re in it. In terms of like Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn I don’t really feel a connection with them in terms of being part of that scene. In my old band I really felt like part of a scene.
Chris: I think it’s just, we haven’t really discussed it, we are going to be going on a couple of dates with Cherbourg, we get along really well with them and we really like their music. But I think we’re more similar to them than like the other bands in the scene.
Kurran: I can kind of hear how they probably go about writing their songs and I think it’s probably fairly similar to how we do.
Max: We’re going on tour with them at the end of May. Doing Bristol, Southampton, Reading and Wimbledon.
Chris: Well remembered!
Who do you rate in the UK at the moment?
Kurran: I love the Maccabees, they’re one of my favourite bands. I think their sound is just so British, I think they’re great.
Max: I liked the Good Shoes album, I know it was quite a while ago.
Kurran: Alexander Wolf is good. We happened to be in the studio when he was there. He’s a British singer songwriter, kind of like Neil Young.
Chris: I think we probably listen more American stuff as a band…
Kurran: Radiohead! Oh yeah! You forget they’re British, they’re just like the world.
Natalia: I can’t believe you’ve not mentioned Brand New yet
Kurran: They’re not British
FFS: We can branch out
Natalia: He’s a hardcore fan
Max: When we first met we bonded over Brand New
Kurran: That was one of the selling point of Max actually…
FFS: You like Brand New? You’re in!
Chris: Then he went out and bought all the albums!
Max: Yeah, I was like, errr…. I like track one.
Chris: That’s the thing is that we’re all from different parts. So we have an Irish influence, French, it’s like all these different influences and Kurran’s eastern influence.
Kurran: We’ve got the harmonium going. We’ve all got stuff we want to do, but we just all seems to go in one direction, I don’t know if there’s actually a band at the end of that direction.
Chris: I mean obviously we have three part harmonies and stuff we get a bit of an influence from Crosby Stills and Nash. I think we’re trying to amalgamate all of our influences. It’s nice to think that maybe we’re going to create something new together.