Interview + translations from Spanish to English by Anna White
Tani Wolff, aka Tani, writes pop songs condensed to their core—sweet and simple, like the sonic equivalent of a blush.
The first time I spoke with Tani about her music was in 2017—as we sat in the kitchen of the Buenos Aires apartment she shares with her parents, she spoke softly and with slight hesitation, eloquent but a little shy.
When I video chatted with Tani last week, there was a noticeable difference—it feels like she’s really come into her own. This shift is tangible in her newest release, Mew (Discobaby Discos, Yolanda Discos)—the album still carries the “naïve and honest” pop sensibilities of Uturnis, but with an element of newfound confidence. Mew is Tani at her best—her repetitive lyrics and upbeat piano are playful, but there’s also an air of maturity in the album’s sleek production.
I spoke with Tani about the inspirations behind Mew and the difference between writing songs in Spanish and English.
You just released a new album, Mew, on November 16th—tell me about the new songs!
They’re songs that I wrote years ago, when I was in middle school. I never recorded them well, and I had the opportunity to, in a studio with a producer.
Why did you choose to record these songs in particular?
The record I released before is all songs I wrote in 2015, and I don’t have many other songs! I like these songs that I wrote a few years ago, and I thought that they were special to me, and it would be good to record them. And like I told you, I don’t write a lot of songs.
Why are these songs special to you?
Because they were the first songs I made, and they’re pretty songs; they were the first that I liked and thought other people might like. Before these I had songs that were more playful and a little ugly, but these I truly like. I played them for years alone in my room, and now I want them to leave my room a little.
Ah, truly bedroom pop! What were your inspirations for these songs?
The songs were inspired more or less by things that happened to me during middle school—conversations I had with people and romances, but because [they’re from so long ago] I think it’s a bit of an ironic point of view, taking myself out of the situation a little. For example, one of the songs says, “you’re not the love of my life, but you’re close,” and this is like a pop song, I’m not taking the things seriously. I think that’s what I’m trying to do in the record—I’m not thinking and thinking about everything.
What was it like recording songs that you wrote so long ago—do you feel like the emotions are different now?
They changed a little, because before they were closer to me, what I was feeling in the moment, and now not as much. Though they’re not what I would write about right now, they’re still a part of me, and so I like to sing them. It’s different to sing them in public than in my room, like before.
Mew sounds very different from your first album, Uturnis—how do you feel like you’ve evolved as an artist on this album?
Now I’m working with other people, playing with a band, and I recorded the album with a lot of people, which didn’t happen with the other album. I grew musically by incorporating other people and being able to listen to and perform with other people, not doing it all myself like I used to feel like I had to. The other album, I didn’t ask anyone anything, and nobody helped me out. For me it was growing to let other people help.
Now that you’ve released Mew, what’s next?
I’m thinking of a third album; I’ve been making loops in my house and thinking of songs in Spanish.
Oh, wow! Do you prefer writing in English or Spanish?
I haven’t tried to write a lot in Spanish, so it’s easier for me in English. I still haven’t found my own voice in Spanish.
That’s interesting. It’s easier for you to write in English?
It’s more fluid in English. It’s because always, when I was little we watched the music channels on TV, and the music that was from here was a lot of rock nacional, which isn’t my style, so I started thinking that if I wanted to write music in Spanish it had to be like that, like how they sang. It’s a type of singing I don’t really like, so I listened to a lot of music in English, and started playing around, singing songs without language, in a made up language, or translating things to English, and through playing around like this I got used to it. I feel like I can be less playful in Spanish.
Do you think it’s getting easier to be playful with your writing in Spanish now that the music scene is growing and you can hear more music you like?
Yes, I think now there’s a lot of variety in Spanish music, and before there was just rock nacional. Now there’s more pop, like the Laptra Discos scene, Las Ligas Menores, Louta. They’re very different.
What do you think about the music scene in Argentina right now? It’s very separate from the U.S.
Yes—I think we listen to more music in English than people in the U.S. listen to music from Latin America. It would be good if it would start to mix more.