Chelsea Wolfe

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Chelsea Wolfe
Chelsea Wolfe 2015 crop.jpg
Chelsea Wolfe, May 2015
Background information
Born (1983-11-14) November 14, 1983 (age 32)
Roseville, California, U.S.
  • Singer-songwriter
  • record producer
  • musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
Years active 2009–present
Associated acts
Notable instruments
Taylor Guitars 716ce
Fender Jaguar
Gibson 335

Chelsea Joy Wolfe (born November 14, 1983)[1] is an American singer-songwriter. Her mix of styles, incorporating elements of gothic and folk music, earned her underground acclaim with her first two albums, The Grime and the Glow (2010) and Apokalypsis (2011).

On her following albums, Pain Is Beauty (2013) and Abyss (2015), Wolfe incorporated elements of neofolk,[2] electronic and metal.[3][4] Wolfe's music is characterized by its experimental guitar playing, hazy vocals and surreal soundscapes.

Early life[edit]

Chelsea Wolfe was born in Roseville, California,[1][5] and grew up in Sacramento. Her father was in a country band[6] and had a home studio, where by the age of 9, she had written and recorded songs which she later described as "basically Casio-based gothy R&B songs".[7]


2005–2011: Early releases[edit]

In 2006, Wolfe composed an album, titled Mistake in Parting, which was never officially released.[8] Of the album, Wolfe said: "I was 21 years old and wrote a shitty singer-songwriter breakup album. I didn’t even really want to be a musician back then, but a lot of my friends were like 'let’s do this, I’ve got some producer friends' and they helped me make this over-produced, terrible record... I sort of took a break from music for a while since I wasn’t happy with what I was making".[8]

She sold a CDR EP at live shows, titled Tour 2009.[9] Another CDR, the full-length Soundtrack VHS/Gold, was issued in 2010 by Jeune Été Records as a limited edition of 30 copies.[10] Remixed versions of the latter material were also briefly issued on Wolfe's Bandcamp page under the title Soundtrack VHS II.[11]

Wolfe officially debuted with her album The Grime and the Glow (2010),[12] released on Pendu Sound Recordings, a New York-based independent music label. Her second album, Apokalypsis (2011), stylized as Ἀποκάλυψις, gained her an underground following,[13] as well as critical acclaim, receiving favorable reviews in Pitchfork[14] and CMJ.[15]

Wolfe toured extensively in North America and Europe to support both albums, and suffered from extreme stage fright, which she eventually overcame; when she initially began performing live, Wolfe would wear a black veil over her face.[16] Wolfe said, "Performing was something that I had to learn. I could barely handle being onstage for the first few years, and it's the reason it took me so long to start my career as a musician".[17]

In 2012, Wolfe covered five songs by British anarcho-punk band Rudimentary Peni, and issued them as A Tribute To Rudimentary Peni on February 17 as a free download via Pendu Sound. She later rerecorded the Peni songs with her band at Southern Studios in London,[18] and released them as an EP, Prayer for the Unborn, in January 2013 on Southern Records.[19]

2012-present: Sargent House[edit]

Wolfe signed with Sargent House Records in 2012 to release her third album.[20] Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs was released on October 16, 2012,[21][22] and featured a more folk-oriented sound, as opposed to her earlier work, which had been heavily centered on droning electric guitars and distortion. The acoustic album contained "'once-orphaned' songs",[23] according to Wolfe. On July 28, 2012, the first single, "The Way We Used To", was premiered on NPR.[23] On September 20, the second single, "Appalachia," was premiered on The Fader[24]

Wolfe released a live album, Live at Roadburn, on September 28, 2012, recorded that April 12 at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands.[25][26] Wolfe's fourth studio album, Pain Is Beauty, was released September 3, 2013,[27] as well as an album trailer,[28] followed by a supporting North American tour. During 2013 and 2014, Wolfe released two split 7" singles with King Dude, Sing Songs Together... and Sing More Songs Together...[29]

Wolfe also contributed guest vocals to the American post-metal band Russian Circles' fifth studio album, Memorial, released in October 2013. Wolfe and Russian Circles toured Europe together in late 2013.[30][31]

In 2014, her song "Feral Love" was featured in the trailers for Game of Thrones season four and the television adaption of 12 Monkeys. She also released a long-form film, Lone, featuring music from Pain Is Beauty and directed by Mark Pellington.[32]

"Carrion Flowers", "Iron Moon" and "After the Fall" were released as the second, third and the fourth singles, respectively, from her fifth album, Abyss. "Carrion Flowers" appeared in the trailer for The Walking Dead spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead, the Far Cry Primal trailer "Beast Master" and TV ads for Life Below Zero.

On April 1, 2016, Wolfe released the non-album 7" single "Hypnos",[33] preceded by a music video on March 22.[34]


Wolfe is known for playing a Taylor Guitars 716ce[35] and a Fender Jaguar. She has said that she composed her first two albums on her mother's classical guitar, which was missing a tuning peg; as a result, the strings had to be tuned down, which was a stylistic element carried on to the studio recordings.[36]

Musical style and influences[edit]

Wolfe performing live, 2012

Wolfe has mentioned an array of artists and specific genres as influences, including black metal and Scandinavian folk music, but has said: "I do have a hard time sticking to one genre, and honestly I prefer it that way. I'd rather be free to experiment and make the kind of art I want to make than be easy to define."[37] Various critics have noted elements of doom metal, drone metal, black metal, gothic rock, folk and dark ambient in her music.[37] Wolfe has said: "I think deep down I wish I had one of those really gritty voices like Kurt Cobain, so maybe I'm making up for it with distorted guitars."[36]

Wolfe has expressed a strong affinity for R&B music,[38] citing Aaliyah as a huge influence on her career since her childhood. She said, "I grew up listening to my dad playing guitar while singing harmonies... As a kid I wanted to record my own songs so he set me up with an 8-track. The vibe of those earliest songs was like, Aaliyah meets Fleetwood Mac – what I was listening to mixed with what my parents were listening to. "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number" was my favorite song back then."[39]

Other musical influences include Vladimir Vysotsky, Selda Bagcan, Nick Cave, Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt.[38] Her most recent musical influences are Suicide, SPK, Burzum and various "1920s and '30s music".[38]

Wolfe has cited the visual elements of filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and photographer Nan Goldin as influences,[36] as well as the writings of D.H. Lawrence and Ayn Rand.[40] However, on September 24, 2015, she stated that with regard to her supposed affinity with Rand: "When I said I liked Ayn Rand many years ago I didn't know anything about what she stood for or what her books meant. I recant!".[41] Other writers she has mentioned as inspirations include Marcel Proust, Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Sylvia Plath.[38]


Studio albums[edit]

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • Tour 2009 EP (2009, self-released)
  • "Advice & Vices" digital single (2010, Pendu Sound Recordings)
  • A Tribute to Rudimentary Peni EP (2012, Pendu Sound Recordings)
  • Prayer for the Unborn EP (2013, Southern Records)
  • Sing Songs Together... split 7" single with King Dude (2013, Sargent House)
  • Sing More Songs Together... split 7" single with King Dude (2014, Not Just Religious Music)
  • "The Warden (Maceo Plex Remix)" digital single (2014, Ellum Audio)
  • Chelsea Wolfe Folkadelphia Session 5/31/2014 digital EP (2014, Folkadelphia)[42]
  • "Iron Moon" digital single (2015, Sargent House)
  • "Carrion Flowers" digital single (2015, Sargent House)
  • "After the Fall" digital single (2015, Sargent House)
  • "Hypnos" 7" single (2016, Sargent House)

Live albums[edit]

  • Live at Roadburn (2012, Roadburn Records)

Band members[edit]

  • Chelsea Wolfe – vocals, guitar
  • Ben Chisholm – synth, bass, piano[43]
  • Aurielle Zeitler – lead guitar
  • Dylan Fujioka – drums
  • Andrea Calderon – violin
  • Ezra Buchla – viola

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Director
2009 "Gold" Brandon Schilling
"The Whys" Jason Rudy
2011 "Mer" Zev Deans
"Sunstorm" Sean Stout
2013 "Flatlands" Charlene Bagcal
2014 "Feral Love" Mark Pellington
2014 "The Waves Have Come" Mark Pellington
2014 "Lone" Mark Pellington
2014 "Kings" Ben Chisholm
2015 "Carrion Flowers" Ben Chisholm
2016 "Hypnos"


  1. ^ a b "Chelsea Joy Wolfe was born on November 14, 1983 in Placer County, California". The California Birth Index. Retrieved April 11, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe announces new album, Abyss, premieres "Iron Moon" – listen – Consequence of Sound". Consequence of Sound. 
  3. ^ Manning, Erin (August 7, 2015). "Album Review: Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved August 22, 2015. 
  4. ^ Heather Phares. "Chelsea Wolfe – Music Biography, Streaming Radio and Discography – AllMusic". AllMusic. 
  5. ^ Vanairsdale, S.T. "Through the Glass Darkly". Sactown Mag. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Video interview with "Indie-eye network"". 
  7. ^ "Interview with "The Writing Disorder"". 
  8. ^ a b Bugbee, Tim (October 8, 2012). "Chelsea Wolfe on LA's Strange Darkness And Her Dark, Deep Secret". Prefix Mag. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe – Tour 2009 (CDr)". Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  10. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe – Soundtrack VHS/Gold (CDr, Album)". Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  11. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe – Soundtrack VHS II (File, MP3)". Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  12. ^ "The Grime & The Glow – Chelsea Wolfe". Chelsea Wolfe. December 28, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Ἀποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis/Apocalypse) – Chelsea Wolfe". Chelsea Wolfe. August 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-07. 
  14. ^ Raposa, David (October 20, 2011). "Chelsea Wolfe: Apokalypsis". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  15. ^ Patpatia, Sasha (August 25, 2011). "Chelsea Wolfe: Apokalypsis". CMJ. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  16. ^ "Interviews: Chelsea Wolfe". Subbacultcha: 19–22. April 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  17. ^ Parks, Chris (November 30, 2015). "Stage fright hasn't sidelined singer Chelsea Wolfe". CNN. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Rudimentary Peni". Chelsea Wolfe. Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  19. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe – Prayer for the Unborn [Vinyl]". September 24, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  20. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe moves to Sargent House". February 27, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Unknown Rooms on bandcamp". October 16, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Tracks". September 20, 2012. 
  23. ^ a b "Song Premiere: Chelsea Wolfe, "The Way We Used To" : All Songs Considered Blog : NPR". July 28, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Stream: Chelsea Wolfe, "Appalachia"  : MP3/STREAMS : THE FADER". July 28, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe – Live at Roadburn (Vinyl, LP, Album)". February 27, 2013. Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  26. ^ "CHELSEA WOLFE Live at Roadburn LP pre-sale started. Artwork revealed!". August 15, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Pain Is Beauty announcement on Wolfe's official Tumblr". June 3, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Pain is Beauty album trailer". June 3, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe / King Dude: "Be Free" | Tracks". Pitchfork. February 19, 2014. Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  30. ^ Adams, Gregory (August 8, 2013). "Russian Circles Unveil 'Memorial,' Premiere New Track". Exclaim!. Retrieved September 14, 2013. 
  31. ^ Blistein, Jon (September 13, 2013). "Russian Circles Brood on Meditative 'Memorial' – Song Premiere". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved September 14, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Terrorizer Film Review: Chelsea Wolfe’s "Lone" directed by Mark Pellington". Chelsea Wolfe. May 20, 2014. Retrieved 2015-08-10. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Pearce, Sheldon (March 22, 2016). "Chelsea Wolfe Wields Snakes in 'Hypnos' Video". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  35. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe on Taylor Guitars". Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  36. ^ a b c Campbell, Karyn. "Q+A with Chelsea Wolfe (Issue No. 5)". The Work Magazine. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  37. ^ a b Crowe, Jessica (March 26, 2013). "Love Is What Remains: An Interview with Chelsea Wolfe". The Quietus. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  38. ^ a b c d "The Writing Disorder – Views, Reviews and Interviews". Retrieved 2015-11-13. 
  39. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe Talks Aaliyah and Sleep Paralysis". PAPERMAG. Retrieved 2015-11-13. 
  40. ^ Martin, Erin Lyndal. "The Rumpus Interview with Chelsea Wolfe". Retrieved 2014-09-24. 
  41. ^ "CHELSEA WOLFE on Twitter: "FYI when I said I liked Ayn Rand many years ago I didn't know anything about what she stood for or what her books meant. I recant!"". Twitter. September 24, 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-03. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Chelsea Wolfe". August 26, 2012. 

External links[edit]