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Introducing: James Wolf

From its very first string of balearic, canned chords, ‘Heart & Soul‘, the second single from London’s James Wolf had us hooked. The follow-up to last year’s ‘No Danger’, it’s a hugely infectious melding of pop, house and disco awash with another tropicalia to feel perfectly suited to continental dancefloors once the summer months hit.

Perhaps that’s nothing to be surprised about though as Wolf has pop pedigree through and through. Not only did the fast-rising songwriter and producer open for the Scissor Sisters and Calvin Harris on his first two live dates, but he can also count the former’s Jake Shears as a past roommate. Throw in the fact that ‘Heart & Soul’ can boast of being the final ever track remixed by near-legendary Canadian dance quartet – and Notion 55 cover stars – Azari & III, and you’ve got a rather tantalising proposition indeed.

You can check out the appropriately poolside video for ‘Heart & Soul’ below, and keep reading to find about Wolf’s time sharing stages – and living with – Shears, going wild at Barcelona’s Sonar Festival, and what the on-the-up Londoner is up to this Valentine’s Day.

PlanetNotion: So James, your new single ‘Heart & Soul’ is out this week on Herculean. Tell us a bit about the track’s origins and inspirations.
James Wolf: It’s an equatorial-influenced piece of nu-disco/deep house. When writing the track, I was keen to create something with a slightly off structure, which still fits in the parameters of a pop song. It’s about that moment where you bare your soul to somebody and let them know just how into them you are. You’re laying your cards on the table and taking a gamble.

PN: Azari & III’s final ever remix is of your ‘Heart & Soul’. That must be quite an honour! Have they been much of an inspiration to you over the years?
JW: Oh hell yes! I’ve been a huge fan of theirs ever since I first saw the video for ‘Hungry for the Power‘. I’ve seen them live a couple of times too and was completely sucked in by the energy of the two lead vocalists. So when they agreed to do the remix I was totally blown over. Our music isn’t totally dissimilar, as we both inhabit the worlds of house and disco. They were definitely a reference point when making my record.

PN: The video for ‘Heart & Soul’ takes place against a pretty lush, island backdrop and you’re pretty forthcoming about referring to your music as tropical. So, I have to ask, what’s been the best holiday of your life?
JW: Good question! I think it has to be the last time I went to Sonar. My god that was wiiiiild! About 20 friends and I all went over and raved and bathed for five days. I’d never seen anything like the vast expanse of Sonar by Night before. It was so high spec and, well, fancy for a festival. Plus, the fact that we could hang out in the city during the day or get some sun made it the ultimate experience.

PN: And, on that note… Seeing as the track feels perfect for tropical nightclubs, what’s your best memory of being in a club abroad?
JW: Well, there was this one time when I was fifteen in Portugal… actually, maybe we shouldn’t go there. I am big into going out and have lots of stories that are probably best not shared here, but I did see Grace Jones perform at Space a few years back. That was incredible. She has such a commanding presence and her tunes are awesome. I had the time of my life.

PN: There are also some extraordinarily lavish garms in that video. Who were Chloe Hayward and yourself drawing inspiration from when styling the shoot?
JW: Why, thank you! I had an amazing stylist called Gary Armstrong who helped me out on the shoot and we actually got a lot of the pieces from my wardrobe. So, what you see is pretty much what I wear all the time. I’m glad you used ‘lavish’ instead of ‘glarish’!

PN: Your first live shows were supporting Calvin Harris and Scissor Sisters respectively. That must have been a massive coup! How were they both to share stages with?
JW: They were both amazing experiences. In particular, I’ve always been a monster fan of the Scissor Sisters and have always looked at the dynamism between Ana Matronic and Jake Shears with awe. They are such pros! I actually used to live with Jake and we’ve had some great times together. He very kindly took me to the Life Ball in Vienna one year, which was amazingly insane. For one night only, the whole city dresses up in drag – women included – and goes mental. Awesome fun.

PN: You’ve been working with quite an array of production talent of late. Can we take that to mean you’ve got even bigger plans for the rest of the year? What’s up next after ‘Heart & Soul’?
JW: There’s loads going on this year, which is outrageously exciting as I spent all of last year hustling around recording studios. We just picked out the second single and that should be out in May. I’ll also be doing a load of gigs in the coming future. Next up is the Macbeth on February 26th.

PN: On a final note, as it’s February 14th today, what would be your dream Valentine’s Day? And with whom would you spend it in an ideal world?
JW: [Laughs] My dream Valentine’s Day would have to include a foot rub, a pizza and a ride. I’m pretty uncomplicated in that way! [Laughs] I’ll be spending Valentines with my dream lover, so fingers crossed that’s what’s gonna be in store.

- Alex Cull

The Heart & Soul EP is available now. You can buy it here.

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