[Interview] House of Wolves

Los Angeles native Rey Villalobos is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who goes by the moniker House of Wolves (a direct translation of the Spanish “Villalobos”). His impressive debut album, Fold in the Wind, is a collection of minimalist alt-folk songs that are all too often heartbreakingly beautiful. Suffused with soft and hazy melodies and blended with poetic and melancholic lyrics, the album is possessed of a remarkable cinematic quality. But moreover, his music is utterly otherworldly – the kind that will haunt you long after you’ve finished listening to it.

I was first introduced to House of Wolves with the devastatingly beautiful song, “50’s” – the album’s first single and standout track. Before the first 15 seconds were up, right around the time when Rey Villalobos softly croons “Kiss me like it’s the fifties”, I instantly realized I was faced with something truly special. And towards the end of the song, as he sang “it’s the bitter side of life that I like”, I was  completely sold and already halfway through purchasing his album. His music is immediately gripping, and demands a full listen.

The greatest strength of this album is its simplicity. The musical arrangements are subtle and largely unadorned, often consisting of solely an acoustic guitar and a piano or horns here and there, which proves the old adage that “less is more”. In this age of drum machines and Autotune, it is always refreshing to find music that doesn’t rely on over-production to be powerful, but instead on the raw emotion that it conveys. It’s going back to basics. House of Wolves has all the warmth and intimacy of candlelight, in contrast with the impersonal harshness of fluorescent lights.

The simplicity of the music allows for his lyrics – and above all, his voice – to stand out. Without a doubt, Rey Villalobos’ tender and vulnerable vocals are the album’s greatest instrument. His voice has an androgynous quality that makes every song that much more gripping, and adds to the ethereal aesthetic of Fold in the Wind; his quivering falsetto – sometimes dropping to almost a whisper – conveys deep and often desperate emotions. But what is truly remarkable is how much of himself he pours into his music: every song is awash in longing. His voice is tender and sweet, but there is always an underlying pain or nostalgia, which echoes with every poignant verse and heart-jarring plea. He bares all, making every song feel personal and intimate, as if he were whispering a forbidden secret to you.

The songs are soft and subtle, yet deeply affecting. The album is full and encompassing, leaving you hanging on to his every word and every note. It has the kind of beauty that is sensed, more than stated.

The track “Follow Me” has a very distant, yet raw feel to it; Villalobos’ soft and sorrowful plea, “promise me you won’t die”, paired with ethereal melodies that have a Sigur Ros quality, conjure up feelings of hopelessness and impotence when confronted with the impossibility of saving someone who cannot be saved, and losing ourselves in the process. With “Jealous” we can feel a growing tension in his voice, as he captures and convincingly delivers the self-consuming aspect of the emotion. The echo effect applied to his vocals only highlights his longing; the pleading becomes increasingly desperate, until he gently sings: “I’m seeing reality” as a feeling of helplessness takes over.

Rey Villalobos, much like his music, has an immediate warmth that is instantly charming. During our exchange he was candid, friendly and just an all-around swell guy, and we’ve immensely enjoyed this whole process. Listen to some of the tracks while you read the interview below.

“50s”: 

“Follow Me”: 

“Jealous”: 

How would you describe your music?

Hazy & far away, nostalgic.

How did Fold in the Wind come together?

I had one lyrical phrase “roses in the nordic countries” which i was thinking would make a good album title for a collection of mellow songs that I’d been writing and saving up for a year, that title ended up becoming a song on the record, then one night i heard a Dodos song on the radio and really like the sound of it, so i looked up who produced it, and it turns out it was John Askew, we had met years before a few times through mutual friends. So i called John up, he was super into producing the album, once the date was set, i finished up the lyrics, hopped on a plane up to Portland Oregon and we started tracking the album Feb 1st 2009. The record only took 2 weeks-ish to record, but over the course of 2 years, we would get together every 3 or 4 months or so when ever we could arrange some time.

What is your favorite song from the album, and why?

50’s because we got the sound that i was going for on the album, (the sounds of the distant horns, the pace and textures while using minimal instruments.) I also love Follow Me, we recorded the vocals in John’s kitchen and something about that song i really dig.

What is your process when writing songs? Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?

I start out on the guitar, record my song ideas in 30 second clips or so on a little tape player then totally forget about it, then later on I’ll go through all my ideas, pick out my favorite song ideas and start to work on them. As far as inspiration, yes i do draw from real life experiences, but i never think about any particular life experience and then write a song about it, for me its not about writing songs, it’s about finding songs, like getting little gifts from the sky or finding hidden buried treasures.

Some songs are best played at certain moments of the day, like Sunday mornings, when it’s raining, or while walking back home at night. What would you say is the best moment to listen to your music?

Late at night in the car on a long road trip.

Generally speaking, what inspires you?

Forests, lakes and oceans, the past, movement, the sun above and the mud below.

You’re a Los Angeles native, but your family comes from Mexico and Italy. Has your mixed heritage influenced your approach to music? If so, how?

Yes for sure, my mom is a singer, and she would always be singing old standards around the house from the great American song book of the 1940’s like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald,  Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, etc, and also traditional Italian songs along with classical music too, and my father would always have Latin music on in the car especially bossa nova, and i just recently realized that’s what I’ve been attempting to do is mix the old classic standards with classical music, bossa and folk, i think some of it came out on this album but you’ll hear even more of that vibe on my next record.

You’ve listed Chopin as your first musical influence, and your music sounds similar to Elliott Smith’s, which is always a good thing. What other musicians have influenced you?

John Lennon was a huge influence on me, his music is so honest and raw, and also Frank Black.

You’ve toured across the US and Europe with awesome artists and bands like Sharon Van Etten, The Middle East, Avi Buffalo and Fanfarlo. Do you have any good stories or fond memories from the road? 

I woke up one night in my sleep arm wrestling with my keyboard player 🙂 Other than that i love meeting other musicians and collaborating together, and i also love discovering all the good Coop’s and thrift stores along the way.

What is the first album you ever purchased? Would you buy it again now?

Led Zeppelin 1, and hell yeah i’d buy it again, i used to play drums in bands, and Led Zep’s drummer John Bonham was a huge influence on me.

Which artist or band would you love to work with?

Twin Shadow – Arcade Fire – Beach House – Low – The Knife!

Could you name an artist or band that you’d consider a guilty pleasure? We all have one!

OutKast “Hey Ya” – And the 2011 live Emmys performance of “I Need a Doctor ” by Dr. Dre, Eminem, Skylar Grey –

Do you believe in love at first listen? If you do, tell us about a time when you experienced it. 

I had moved up to Portland while i was recording my record, and one night i went out after to see some music and i randomly saw Y La Bamba a local Portland band and I instantly loved them, Luzelena Mendoza’s melodies and song writing que bella!

House of Wolves has been recently signed to Antistars, and he will be touring across Europe this summer. If you have the chance, we strongly suggest you see him play – we can only imagine what it must be like to see him live. Click here to find out more about his tour dates.
Connect with House of Wolves: Website I Facebook I Twitter I Bandcamp I Soundcloud

[Listen] New track by Beirut – “Santa Fe”

The Rip Tide is shaping up to be one of this year’s most anticipated albums, probably due to the fact that Beirut is one of the finest bands out there, which consistently puts out great albums.

The album’s fantastic first single was “East Harlem” – another track featured on our Summer Mixtape. The brand new song, “Santa Fe”, is an ode to Zach Condon’s hometown, and definitely a feel-good track – perfect for the summertime. The Rip Tide drops (digitally) August 2nd via Pompeii Records. Listen below.

Connect with Beirut: Website I Facebook I Twitter

[Video] Timber Timbre – “Bad Ritual”

We are big fans of the Canadian trio Timber Timbre, and you should too. They are masters of obscure and sinister folk, if you could call it that. Their latest – and fourth – album, Creep On Creepin’ On, was released in early April via Arts & Crafts and it is pretty damn good. Now they’ve offered us the video for the single “Bad Ritual.” Watch below.

Connect with Timber Timbre: Website I Facebook I Twitter I MySpace

Watch The Flaming Lips and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros play “Do You Realize?” at Hollywood Cemetery

The Flaming Lips and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros sing over and over “do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” at the Hollywood cemetery. Oddly, it’s not creepy at all. In fact, it is a beautiful and powerful performance which, in spite of the large number of people playing, comes across as a very simple and deeply personal one, at that.

There is something strangely haunting about playing that song in a cemetery, and yet, it almost feels necessary. We all think about death – some more than others. But this song isn’t about death – it’s about life. And as Wayne Coyne suggests, we should all “seize this thing.”

It really is pretty special. Watch below.

[Listen] Laura Marling – “Sophia”

We’ve come to expect nothing but great music from gifted British singer-songwriter, Laura Marling. “Sophia” is the first taste of what her upcoming third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, might sound like. The indie folk darling seems to have gone a little bit country-rock on this one. “Sophia” is a slow building track, with a little bit of Americana thrown in for good measure, but it is also a little bit darker and more defiant than some of her previous songs. It’ll be fun to see what tricks she has up her sleeve, but we’ll have to wait until September 12th, when her album is released. Listen to the track below.

Connect with Laura Marling: Website I FacebookMySpace

[Video] Björk – “Crystalline”

Here is the video for “Crystalline”, directed by the always awesome Michel Gondry, who has worked with Björk in the past. Her latest album, Biophilia, arrives September 27th via Nonesuch Records.

Connect with Björk: Website I Facebook I MySpace

[Listen/Download] Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “Maniac”

We previously posted about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s first single, “Same Mistake“, the first offering from their highly anticipated upcoming album, Hysterical – set to be released in September. Here is CYHSY’s latest single, “Maniac.” Listen and download below.

[Mp3] Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “Maniac” 

Connect with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Website I Facebook I MySpace

[Listen] Alex Winston – “Velvet Elvis”

Alex Winston has a knack for choosing odd subjects for her lyrics. Her previous single, “Sister Wife” – which we featured in our Summer Mixtape – described the inherent difficulties in a polygamous relationship. Now, for her latest single “Velvet Elvis”, she has chosen to examine the notion of objectum sexuality, whereby people fall in love and develop sexual feelings towards objects. And yes, the object in question is a velvet Elvis doll: “Ma said I ain’t right / Clutching on you all night / But you’re my, you’re my guy / Elvis”…”.When I feel your velvet / I can’t help it / You don’t breathe / So you can’t leave me”.

She is working on her debut album with a release date set for January 2012 – and we can safely asume it will be pretty damn good. She certainly keeps things interesting, and consistently delivers great, infectious tracks. We cannot wait for her to surprise us with her next single.

[Mp3] Alex Winston – “Velvet Elvis”

[Mp3] Alex Winston – “Sister Wife”

Connect with Alex Winston: Website I Facebook I Twitter I MySpace

[Video] Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “The Death of You and Me”

The infamous Noel Gallagher has embarked on his new project called Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. His debut single is titled “The Death of You and Me”, and now has a video to accompany it. The self-titled album will be released October 17th through his own label, Sour Mash Records.

Connect with Noel Gallagher: Website I Twitter

[Video] Tennis – “Marathon” + Mp3

Here is the video for Tennis’ awesome single “Marathon.” It is the kind of song that instantly grabs you. It has a 60s feel to it, with doo-wop melodies carried by soft and warm female vocals, making it s perfect summer song.

The band has an amazing story, too. Tennis is formed by husband and wife, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley. The couple decided to spend all their lives’ savings on a boat, and sail around the world as long as the money allowed. They ended up sailing for 8 months, and during this time they managed to record their debut album “South Carolina”, out July 27th via Firetalk Records. Watch and download “Marathon” below.

[Mp3] Tennis – “Marathon”

Connect with Tennis: Facebook I MySpace