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Meet the Sacramento-Born Singer Who Fuses Folk and Metal

On her new album, Hiss Spun, the genre bender takes a turn toward the darkness.

Chelsea Wolfe


Read more from the Fall Arts Preview from our September 2017 issue here.

Chelsea Wolfe, the rising Sacramento-born vocalist behind the new album Hiss Spun, is often referred to as existing between musical genres. On acoustic recordings, the warmth of her voice can sound like folk; when the distortion kicks in—as it does often, and heavy, on Hiss Spun—she’s most definitely metal. Others see in her goth, doom, industrial, and black metal. “Plus a little bit of drone and old country,” she adds.

Wolfe’s infidelity to a single genre reaches new heights, or rather, depths, on Hiss Spun (out September 22 on Sargent House Records; she’s playing locally November 4 at the Regency Ballroom). Whereas on past albums she’s only hinted at her metal influences, this time they’re front and center. Says Wolfe, 33, “While I was writing Hiss Spun, my band and I were in a bit of a ’90s vortex for a while there, listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins, Tricky, Deftones, and Soundgarden on jukeboxes at our favorite dive bars. But I was also listening to a lot of Neurosis and Ozzy as well.”

The result is a heavy—like, heavy, man—sound best exemplified by the lead single, “16 Psyche,” a track that made a host of outlets’ songs-of-the-summer lists. Wolfe says the new album is a departure in more than just style: It’s far more personal than her earlier efforts. “I tend to mostly avoid writing about my own life so as not to deal with it,” she says, “but I guess it was high time. There are moments on the record that are intensely personal, but that I know a lot of people can relate to.”

The track “Scrape,” for instance, was written during the two weeks Wolfe waited for results on a cervical cancer exam. “I typically consider my music, and sometimes myself, genderless, but a lot of this record is from a woman’s perspective,” she says. “There’s a lot of anger for my female and genderqueer ancestors who’ve had to put up with a lot of bullshit.”


Orginally published in the September issue of San Francisco magazine

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