British singer/songwriter Patrick Wolf is coming to the U.S. next week for a few shows in support of his new album Lupercalia – a disc that shows a decidely more upbeat side of him.
"I think even when I’m extremely melancholy and talking about suicide and depression, I’m very high energy when I talk about these issues," Wolf – who has been public about his struggles with depression – tells Rolling Stone, laughing.
But there's no question Lupercalia takes Wolf in a different direction, one that is evident from the buoyant video for "The City," filmed on Santa Monica beach and looking like a cross between a J. Crew ad and a Gidget flick.
"I confused the whole of the United Kingdom with that video – which I’m very happy to do, I do it on a regular basis," he says. "But I was really on a Chet Baker tip and a Bruce Weber tip and thinking about Brian Wilson. That’s a big part of the music I’ve grown up listening to."
For Wolf it's part of his renewed commitment to the U.S., where he'll be spending six months or so next year to tour properly and regain some of the buzz he had from 2007's The Magic Position album. And he will be doing it largely in California, which was a big part of the making of the album. "I kind of started off writing and producing Lupercalia with a guy called Miguel De Vivres, who’s done some Britney Spears remixes," he says. But he also drew on Mexican music for inspiration. "The euphoria was listening to a lot of Mexican radio and driving from Hollywood to Santa Clarita and tuning out all the Ke$ha and the kind of Dr. Luke stuff, and tuning into all these amazing mariachi bands and radio stations," he says.
Another influence was Patti Smith, with whom Wolf played viola. "I would say Patti really is the one that has given me a lot of belief in myself as a writer," he says. "When I felt maybe a bit lacking confidence in a way, [she] definitely restored some faith in myself as a writer and a performer."
The result of all these experiences is a collection that has earned rave reviews in the U.K. and one that showcases his full range of emotions, going well beyond "The City" to songs that move even their author to tears.
"I would say the two that have really got me in the past were 'The Days' and 'House,'" he says. "Once we finished the arrangement for 'House' I was in the mountains of Spain. I’d been on a journey with this song and it felt like I summed up that sense of finally – after years of running away from things – you found your anchor, your place in the world you feel peace with. That’s something that really makes me cry," he says. "And 'The Days' was just thinking about death. So I would say those two are twins on the record. One’s about tears of sadness, one’s about tears of joy."
To Wolf, though, the whole album is a work that resonates: "I had to chuck a lot of songs away and I ended up with these 12 songs I really feel have a lot of heart."