Even within a music genre dedicated to nostalgia, few artists capture the same sense of childhood wonder and magic as Wolf and Raven. Pulling influences from ‘80s-era video games, anime, and rock and metal, the duo puts their own unique spin on outrun and delivers it with dynamic synth melodies and high-powered guitar solos. Iron Skullet had the pleasure of interviewing Chris and Anthony–the brothers behind the project–about their creative approach, favorite video games, and what the future holds for them and their exciting style of synthwave.
1. Your music is unique and very recognizable within synthwave. How did you begin making music in this particular style?
(Chris) – Well, I’ve always loved ‘80s music in general. So when I found that there was a scene out there that actually cared for the type of music I loved, I really wanted to be a part of it and share our style with everyone. My brother and I always enjoyed electronic music so being able to work in a style we truly enjoy is awesome.
2. Your albums have prominent influences from video game soundtracks. Who are some of your favorite OST composers?
(Chris) – There are a ton to go through but we will just list a few of our favorites. David Wise, Chris Hülsbeck, Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu, Hiroki Kikuta, Koji Kondo, and Yuzo Koshiro. Many more I can’t think of off the top of my head. Many of them are from classic RPGs we played. So there is definitely a huge influence from many Japanese musicians.
3. Are there any synthwave artists you respect or look to for inspiration?
(Chris) – Oh absolutely, there are quite a few we listen to! My main go-to is Mitch Murder. He is actually the reason that brought me to the scene. I was at work and a friend was going through some tunes he thought I would enjoy. He was literally just playing a few seconds so I could get a feel for the style but one stood out from all of them. I heard just a few seconds of it and told him to go back. I asked, “Who is that artist?” He said, “Mitch Murder.” I remember in that instant just thinking that this guy definitely knows how to write what I consider the true ‘80s sound. I haven’t really found anyone else that compares honestly. He is just on another level by himself. So I definitely look towards his music to get inspiration everyday.
Some other synthwave artists we listen to regularly are Myrone, Satellite Young, Droid Bishop, Chaconne, Phaserland, Robert Parker, Forêt De Vin, Bart Graft, Sebastian Gampl, Vincenzo Salvia, and Ultraboss to name a few. All are really awesome in their own style as well. Definitely some of our most played along with others.
4. What are some other influences on your style?
(Chris) – We listen to all types of music really so there are way too many to name. It really is that extensive. But to keep this simple, another big influence would be the big hair metal genre from the ‘80s as well as some of the heavier metal. That is ultimately what I fell in love with the most while learning to play guitar. I still listen to all that stuff, so I am sure I will love it forever. I also do have quite a bit of influence from the ‘70s rock scene. Led Zeppelin was a band that first got me into guitar to begin with.
To name a few for those out there wanting to check some bands out: (No particular order) Scorpions, X Japan, Ratt, Warrant, White Lion, Van Halen, Skid Row, Cinderella, Winger, Mr. Big, Racer X, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Slaughter, Night Ranger, Extreme, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, XYZ, Dio, Accept, Autograph, Vinnie Moore, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman…and so many others so just look up ‘80s metal! I love it all really.
As I mentioned though, there is a ton I could talk about on this topic alone that’s outside of the metal genre. I listen to a ton of pop in general, K-pop, J-pop, J-rock, jazz fusion, orchestral, classical, techno, EDM, future funk, Eurobeat, etc. Just about everything except country music. That may be the only type I can’t listen to at all. My brother is essentially the same way. I haven’t really heard anything he has played that I totally hated. We both just love the majority of music, retro and modern.
5. What is your background in music like? Did you have any projects before Wolf and Raven?
(Chris) – The background for both of us consists of us just playing and practicing on our own. Neither of us has any training whatsoever. All of it is mostly done by ear mimicking popular tracks and improvising. We have learned some basics just from online tutorials over time, but it has all been self-taught. I didn’t have any other projects prior to Wolf and Raven. Just some random game covers here and there. It was mostly just a hobby for a while.
(Anthony) – I used to be a drummer for a band called Offset Sunset which was an acoustic folk cover band. I love drumming, but I was always drawn to the piano because of the way it can express any type of emotion. The band ended in 2012 and that’s when I began messing around with the piano, which is when I started getting into writing orchestral music. I write very emotional pieces due to the anxiety I faced for many years, which helped me overcome the fears I faced, and so I started writing music to help others who might be currently where I used to be. My brother started up Wolf and Raven not long after that, and it was so fun to write music similar to music we grew up with.
6. Have the two of you always played music together?
No, this is the first music project we have worked together on aside from the random jam sessions.
7. How did you decide on the name Wolf and Raven?
(Chris) – It was mainly an idea I came up with that played some role into how my brother and I work together for this project. The majority of it is me, and my brother will contribute a few tracks. He has his own project that takes most of his attention, but I figured it would be good for this one to have some of his ideas included as well. As they say, two heads are better than one. So with that in mind I looked to animals that had similar relationships when it came to survival or just coexisting. Wolves and ravens have a lot of aspects that feel similar to how this project felt for me, so we decided on that. There is quite a bit of information on the relationship they have and they are found in a lot of mythology from different cultures, which I thought was really interesting.
8. What was the first song or album you were really drawn to?
(Chris) – I cannot pick one album in particular. But one song that truly surpasses many in my opinion is by X Japan called “Art of Life.” It’s a 30-minute masterpiece by some artists far ahead of their time. Yoshiki, who is the main writer, is an absolute genius for all his work. If you enjoy ‘80s metal at all I feel you will love this band. All their work was ahead of the game but they are mostly known in Japan. Awesome twin lead guitars mixed with extreme technical drums and beautiful orchestral compositions. It is a haunting yet beautiful work of art overall, and I highly recommend giving it a listen. These guys are in my top 3 best bands of all time for sure. They are one of the best live bands out there. If you can find time, you should just check out X Japan The Last Live video. One of the most amazing shows I have come across.
(Anthony) – It is so hard to narrow it down due to the fact that my music taste is all over the place. I will say that the first album I had ever owned was Eiffel 65 Europop. Listening to them made me wish that I was in that band playing in front of thousands of people. It gave me a vision for music and that has stuck with me to this current day.
9. Do you have any go-to sources for motivation when you’re writing music, such as albums, movies, or artwork?
(Chris) – I’m sure it is the same as many others within the scene as most of the influence comes from ‘80s and ‘90s video games, movies, and cartoons/anime. So I suppose it’s not much to mention as there isn’t anything really different there from others regarding the retro culture. We do like a lot of old school anime though which has influenced a lot of the writing style as well as the artwork we like to showcase. A lot of the music in anime is really unique and a good source for inspiration. I think that is one thing we have that sort of gives us a different identity.
10. Do you guys have any favorite foods or snacks for writing and recording?
(Chris) – Often there are many late nights for me when I am recording, so snacks can be anything I can find! I try to keep it healthy but it’s good to indulge here and there. I do love Monster Rehab Peach Teas. Best energy drinks out there. No, this isn’t a paid sponsorship, but I’d take one even if they just paid me in Rehab Teas!
(Anthony) – When I’m writing and am in need of a snack, I always have a peanut butter sandwich with a banana on the side and a glass of milk. If not that, I always just have fruits or nuts to keep my mind alert. I cannot write when I get hungry!
11. What are some of your favorite video games (any era)?
(Chris) – My favorite game of all time is still Chrono Trigger. It is one of the only games I’ve ever been happy and sad about when it was completed. For its time, everything about that game to me was so amazing so I say it’s definitely a must play.
(Anthony) – This one’s a tough one. I loved Zelda: A Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo because of the music and how it captured the atmosphere in such a beautiful way. I remember being so scared entering the dark world and feeling the sense of sadness. A few games do this right and for me being a little kid when I played this, it set the bar high on other games to create such a beautiful story through visuals and song.
12. How about favorite video game systems or generation?
(Chris) – This is a bit tough for us to answer as we have always been gamers. I really like a lot of the modern gen only because of the online access to friends. But I’ve been hating some of the business practices these days regarding micro-transactions and extra purchases. It seems like they release games that aren’t even fully complete and still charge for full price. It is super annoying and I have bought fewer games on release because of it. I will say that the original Xbox and Xbox 360 had some of the funnest times for us since we went to so many LAN parties. You can’t beat a house full of friends in every room, with random TVs and systems connected by cables, playing on the same game.
13. Do you have any creative side projects you want to mention, music or otherwise?
(Chris) – I don’t have any other projects I’m personally working on. Sometimes I’ll work on some digital paintings on the side that I upload to our Instagram. But most of the focus just goes towards the music for Wolf and Raven. My brother does have a project that he tends to. He works on orchestral/piano compositions mainly aimed at helping those that deal with anxiety. They are all really great works and you can search him up on YouTube under the name Anthony’s Melodies.
14. Your Platforms EP is quite a bit different than your other releases. What was the inspiration behind that EP, and do you think you’ll do other releases like Platforms and Cursed that branch off from your usual sound?
(Chris) – Platforms is mainly inspired from the (SNES) Donkey Kong Country series. David Wise is one of those artists whose music just really stuck with us. So we really wanted to work on a release that had very similar tones but for our future Mayan/Aztec setting. The tunes in that EP were actually completely done about 6 months before the release of Renegades. However, I didn’t want to release those tracks until we had some sort of establishment in the synth scene.
The style is different enough where I really didn’t know how it would be received. It has definitely given us some of the best feedback regarding our style, which always means a lot to us. Even more so with that release because of what the EP is paying tribute to. We definitely are looking at releasing another iteration in that style in the future. So for now I can say there will be a return to Platforms! As for other interesting releases, it is a definitive yes. The EPs or singles are a way we like to showcase our range in style. So expect more after this next album release!
15. You’ve released two full-lengths and three EPs over the past two years, and they’re all great. Do you have a personal favorite album you’ve released so far?
(Chris) – I really love all our work. Every time a new idea comes up I get super pumped to keep adding to it and they always turn out so fun. But for a personal favorite, I think I would say the Ace of Space album. Mainly because we were able to showcase more with our style and establish more towards our signature sound. My personal favorite from that album is “Space Strippers” since I was able to get a bit of that ‘80s hair metal I’ve been aching to add more into our work!
(Anthony) – I love the album Ace of Space. Mainly because I feel like we have finally passed that stage where we don’t spend as much time trying to figure out how to use the programs we record in. We are able to just focus on the sound and storytelling. This album captures the sound we’ve always sought after and to create game-like soundtracks was super fun. It just proved to ourselves that we are capable of being like the artists we grew up listening to.
16. Wolf and Raven has rightfully earned a loyal following over the past couple years. Has there been anything that really surprised you or stuck out to you, like letters from fans?
(Chris) – Anytime a new follower discovers us and starts telling us what they love about a particular track or what it reminds them of, it always gets us stoked. Especially when it is coming from fans across the globe. It just blows our minds how far some of the music has reached! But that is what is getting us to where we are now. The fans ultimately hold part of the reins. Even in the beginning when we barely had any follows, we would still have those few fans loving our stuff and for us that was perfect to just keep making tunes. We are still far from some other guys out here as far as fans go but we hope to continue building a base up. The future of it looks very good so don’t expect to see us go away. We love making our music anyways so that alone keeps us pushing!
17. Any big plans for Wolf and Raven in 2018 and beyond?
(Chris) – We have an album in the works as of right now. I won’t be giving any dates until I know for sure we are able to. But it is very close to completion so definitely be expecting something announced very soon! (Update: Lair of the Dragon will be released September 15th, 2018!)
This release will still have a lot of our style but we are also trying some other things that I don’t think anyone in the scene is doing. Not any that I know of anyways. Everyone seems to be continuing the palm trees/sunset feel, but we are definitely heading in another direction. Still retro inspired of course but we are working on building a different self-image as a whole. I think our fans will love it so we are excited to get this out to everyone!
18. Anything else you want to mention?
(Chris) – The only thing left I would like to say is a big thank you to all the fans and support out there! We are extremely thankful to those out there building a community around this scene with various projects, videos, games, radio shows, websites, and reviews like yourself! Without any of that, it is very hard to get the work out there to those fans who could really appreciate it.
So definitely a thanks to those who have helped bring our music to the forefront. Much thanks to Sofa King Vinyl for helping us get Ace of Space on vinyl. Special thanks to the following: everyone who worked with Synthetix Sundays, Andy from Beyond Synth, Drive Radio, Those Lovely ‘80s Synthwaves (TL80s), Neon Dystopia, Neon Order, NRW, The ‘80s Guy, The Prime Thanatos, Neon Nights, and you as well with Iron Skullet. I am sure it is difficult to be a reviewer, getting praise and hate when most of it really is subjective. Regardless of what any reviewer says I think it is good to have people out there willing to take time out of their day and present their take on the music and what they felt. We understand that not everyone will love our music but it is still valuable to see what perspective people take when they hear it. And for those that do enjoy it, we have much more incoming!
Follow Wolf and Raven on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify, Twitter, YouTube, and on their official website. Support their music on Bandcamp.Enjoy weekly updates in Iron Skullet’s popular Synthwave / Retro Electro playlist for a wide-angle look at the synthwave genre.
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