In Conversation with... Scarlett Woolfe
Words by Angelika May
Photography by Anya Rose + Veronica Maier
It seems to be that folklore and mythology are more present than ever in our current culture. With the rise of “Succubus Chic” and “Goblincore” trending on Tiktok, we are currently in the digital age of mythos. If you’re looking for a dark, ethereal new band that resonates with this, look no further. Scarlett Woolfe is the avant-garde goth-rock witch of your dreams, think of an orgy between Siouxsie Sioux, Bauhaus and Kate Bush (steamy) and this is what you get. I sat down with Scarlett to talk about literature, the psychopathology of women and World Book Day.
What was the conception of Scarlett Woolfe?
Scarlett Woolfe - I’m an only child, I’m very close to my parents and I felt that I needed to escape so I created “Scarlett Woolfe” to separate myself. The name resonated with a lot of the imagery that I like, things that are dark and ethereal and it gave me the right emotive feelings. Before it was a band, it started off as an Instagram profile, I wanted to use Instagram to make a version of myself I could escape into. Scarlett Woolfe as a live band started before COVID, then paused when it had to and now it’s started again but it took around a year after the pandemic to be comfortable performing the songs that I had written. During COVID I had a lot of time to think, which allowed me to create a vision of what I wanted to write about. Essentially it was always about experiences, lived experiences as women and I wanted to see if it was possible to help others by writing about these happenings. COVID made it easier for me to untangle these deep-rooted thoughts, but it all started through poetry which I’ve always written.
There’s a poignant, characterful narrative in your lyricism, where do you draw your inspiration from?
SW - Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams and T.S. Elliot. These writers all have that same style of creating a piece of literature that feels like a moment in time like a song does. To me this type of literature is the most similar to music, it has a rhythm, it’s like dance and you can get enveloped it in and completely lose yourself. I never used to like Virginia Woolf until I read The Waves and thought that it was amazing. My mother is a writer and a lot of the stuff I’m obsessed with, I get from her or my grandmother.
"I feel like I've had a good gig when I have felt like I really connected to the lyrics like you would do a script."
Are there themes that run through those authors that resonate with you?
SW - Often silenced women, those who are dealing with psychological problems. My great-grandmother was put into a mental institution, and that era was fraught with women who were driven insane by societal issues and not being able to have a voice to express themselves, like in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. I feel very privileged now that we have the space to speak about this, but it’s still very much ingrained within society. I found the juxtaposition of having women who are very instinctive and intuitive, but harbour a lot of depression or feeling quite lost speak to me, partly because of the association of this within my family.
The song you’re releasing Poor Suzy, what was the process behind writing that?
SW - It’s actually about a murder I remember happening when I was younger, so it’s quite dark. The murder was all over the news and it really affected me. There was a lot of imagery that came to me of this woman, of life, taken too soon, especially for those who had maybe “gone down the wrong path” or had “met the wrong guy”, or “got into drugs”. Because the murder was near Christmas, I thought of the images of the body in the snow as a metaphor for hidden secrets. It was a very intense memory, especially when you are a young woman yourself.
Having come from an acting background do you find Scarlett Woolfe to be ostensibly theatrical?
SW - I do find that through doing this I am constantly making new versions of myself or different characters. I feel like I've had a good gig when I have felt like I really connected to the lyrics like you would do a script. It’s quite surreal as a lot of the time it brings up different feelings on different days. A lot of the lyrics I wrote when I was nineteen and quite depressed, recently some lyrics I had uncovered from that period in my life had never resonated with me more. I think it’s very theatrical in the sense that, when the meaning of a song changes over time, that’s when it feels more like theatre because there’s a long process and formula.
Who were you brought up listening to?
SW - My parents are polar opposite people, my mum loved Nina Simone, The Lighthouse Family, Nick Drake and Suzanne Vega, who is a wonderful story writer and talks a lot about women who are in abusive relationships and women’s plight. My dad loved Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones. My mum and I would go to the library to borrow CDs and come home and sit and listen to them, which gave me a love for a lot of different genres.
Was it wholly intended for Scarlett Woolfe to have a nod to the gothic, witchy aesthetic?
SW - Nothing I guess I just am a witch.
Who would you dress up as for “World Book Day?”
I did! I work as a teacher and I dressed up as Bellatrix Lestrange.
Oh so on brand!
Yep, massive witch. Massive witch.
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