Wolves : The Visual Artists Behind Your Favorite Shows

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Visual artists truly are an amazing species. Turning the mundane into the fantastic is probably just another day in the office for them. And one group seems to be particularly good at precisely that. We’re talking about Wolves, one of India’s leading visual agencies. With a portfolio spanning across the most renowned acts both within the country and outside such as Noisia, Mutemath, Nucleya, Karsh Kale and Dualist Inquiry, to some of the biggest events which includes the YouTube Fanfest and Sunburn 2015 editions. I think the following video gives a pretty good idea of what these guys are capable of:

And that’s only one year.
As for 2016:

 

Yup. Giant killer robot kings. And that’s just one event.

Stellar representatives of the burgeoning visual artist scene in the country, Wolves started off as a duo comprising of Jash Reen and Josh D’Mello and have grown into a full fledged pack that handles everything from projection mapping to augmented reality, the latter being quite indicative of the pair’s love for Pokemon Go. Even if those terms sound fancy to you, the bottom line is that if it’s visuals, there are few who can beat Wolves at their game. This fantastic group has grown from strength to strength and become an integral part of the music scene in the country, so much so, that it’s worth going for the gigs even if it’s just to see the mad visuals these guys come up with.

We talked to Jash about everything from what makes them tick, favourite artists, their inspirations and their opinion of the scene. Check it out!

Q) What’s the story behind the name Wolves? How did you guys get into the visual artist industry? What were your first steps as professionals and what do you consider your breakthrough moment?

We’ve told so many different version of the ‘name story’, I’m not sure which one’s right anymore. Where we’re at now, we like the fact that an artist, a group of artists or even a company can exist under a completely inconspicuous and unrelated brand name and give weight to that name, rather than the name define them. The Wolves title for some reason just clicked with us and people who enjoyed our work. They instantly recognise the name and the symbol that goes with it. We’re really grateful for that.

We’ve never had formal training or an educational background in visual work (and I guess that’s all the more reason to hide behind a strange name). But we firmly believe that curiosity in this, the year of our internet, crushes all myths related to professions. If you’re determined to create, work hard and stand by your art, the designations will follow. Best case it’s a designation you’ve created for yourself.

Our breakthrough moment was at a relatively nascent stage when we did a small projection mapping setup for (a then upcoming) Nucleya. It’s still a bit overwhelming how things built up from there.

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Q) What are the things that inspire you to create the things that you do? What is the process behind creating visuals for any particular artist or event, and how collaborative is the process?

We (Josh and I) grew up as best friends in the golden age of nineties pop culture, film, comics and videogames. Mainstream superheroes in tights, left of centre anti-heroes, cult horror icons, you name it — they took up a lot of our time and they still do. I feel that everything we create till date somehow pays homage to that era.

Collaborating with musicians and artists that are totally out of our comfort zone is the only reason we still find relevance in what we do. We go by a strict code of starting with an empty canvas and customising our sets and installations to a collective vision between us and them. We rarely repeat ourselves. What could have easily remained a pet project is now ravenous just in terms of the ideation work we put behind every project, right down to the technical all nighters that help bring them to life.

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Q) Who are your favorite Indian indie artists? Jash, you used to play in a metal band, do you think that the musician in you has influenced your work as a visual artist?

Haha I love that you dug that up. I’ve honestly been a punk/ hardcore fan for as long as I can remember. I played in metal bands because that was the only kind of aggressive music that had an audience in India. This music — bands like Norma Jean, Every Time I Die, The Ghost Inside and Vanna — still drives me because of the DIY ethics and strong communities they hold together. They’re not always very well accepted on the charts and that drives them to package their music with stronger themes down to their album art and merchandise. It’s definitely influenced my work.

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Q) Which has been your favourite visual set up with an Indian indie artist so far? What was the idea behind it?

It’s come full circle. We just had the honour of doing Nucleya’s latest live visual rig for his Bass Yatra Tour. It’s a giant LED fortress that pays homage to each of the iconic avatar’s from his various albums (created by his wife Smriti airphish.com). We’ve adapted a ridiculous amount of larger-than-life size animations to the whole layout, and the fact that it’s complementing a boundary crushing artist like Nucleya makes every night on the tour special.

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Q) Who are some artists that you would love getting the chance to work with?

Joris de Jong is an absolute mentor and I don’t even think he knows it yet. Besides being a vital contributor to live visuals worldwide (he co-created Resolume Arena) his thought process with every update has been shockingly parallel to our workflow. It would be great that are schedules so that we can work with him. Other visual companies that are constantly keeping us on our toes are Eye Supply, V-Squared Labs and Neither Field.

If you’re talking about artists in music, Josh and I would argue for a bit, but I think we’d settle on Deftones, M83, Chemical Brothers and Massive Attack.

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Q) What advice would you guys give to aspiring visual artists and to musicians looking to implement visuals into their live performances?

Don’t wait for someone to give you a chance. Get the software, show up at clubs/venues and take your best shot. Any ground you achieve with that, is more than any art degree or educational institution can offer you.

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Q) What’s your take on the current indie scene and the position of live visuals in it? What are your expectations from the future?

I think the word indie is exhausted. It’s just a subconscious term that keeps crawling up in conversations with artists, and for the most part it translates to them being amateurs, but we’re all getting pretty good aren’t we? Let’s ditch the indie brand and start powerful brands of our own. I’m not pointing fingers, I just want every artist coming up locally to know their worth right now. I perceive every dedicated artist in about 5 years to be a force to reckon with; when I say dedicated, I mean right from the creation stage to marketing it and making a whole lot of noise, till everyone is listening of course.

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Q) What’s next for Wolves?

Honestly? Shows, Long car journeys playing Pokemon Go, Shows, Mortal Kombat, Repeat.

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