Chelsea Wolfe released my favorite album of late with Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs. True to its name, it’s a spare set of darkly beautiful tunes with little more than Wolfe’s voice, acoustic guitar and strings, offering a sound that’s at once hollow and spilling over with emotion. Wolfe spoke with me a bit about her latest album before her performance at Amoeba Hollywood Sunday Oct. 21 at 5 p.m.
PST: Why give the album a subtitle like “A Collection of Acoustic Songs”? Did you want to be honest about what to expect from the album, and did you worry that that would set up assumption about what the album would sound like?
Wolfe: I added that because the songs span a period of years; some were written five years ago, and some I wrote very recently for the album. I had planned on releasing a collection of recordings from the past, orphaned songs that I never released on an album, but I found myself writing new acoustic songs, so I decided to do new recordings of the older songs as well and approached them in a new way. I chose the songs I felt would live well together in this home of an album.
PST: I should say I think it’s your best album yet! Was part of the reason in stripping down the music to allow the quality of the songwriting and performances to come through clearly?
Wolfe: Thank you. I don't think about things like that, to be honest. I wanted to get back to my roots a little bit maybe. I love rock ’n’ roll, but I also have this folk side to me, to my music, and it was really a good time getting back into it. I look forward to touring with these songs, it will be a very different energy than how I've been playing the past couple of years.
Wolfe: Yes. It took me a long time to feel even remotely comfortable as a musician and performer, and it took me even more time to be ok with playing songs that were more personal in nature. But, just because a song feels personal doesn't mean it's a story from my own life, it’s that they touch on more inward matters, like solitude, or love.
PST: Were you inspired by Appalachian folk on this release? (Hear Chelsea Wolfe’s “Appalachia” here.) What else inspired you?
Wolfe: The idea of isolated living intrigues and inspires me. And history of coal-mining families inspires me — I think that comes from reading D.H. Lawrence novels. Open spaces, desolation, the simplicity that comes with darker times, nature and the elements.
PST: I’ve read that you’re also a fan of black metal. Does that filter into your own music? A sort of different reading on some of the moods presented in that genre?
Wolfe: There's something present in the noise of black metal that I understand and I sometimes find it in my own music.
PST: It’s October and this album seems fitting for the season, nocturnal and at times eerie. Are you a fan of horror movies? If so, what are some of your favorites?
Wolfe: If you want to see a brilliant horror film, watch Antichrist by Lars von Trier. I had to step away from the screen often because I don’t do well with horror films. I don’t think of my music as eerie or scary. I adore the autumn season though, and honestly I can’t wait until the sun is hiding behind grey clouds.