Jayli Wolf, lead singer of Toronto-based electro-R&B duo Once a Tree, has been having a lot of productive dreams lately.
Before writing the video treatment for the band’s debut single — the dreamy, sinuous “Howling,” which Billboard premieres below — Wolf had a dream appropriate of her married name (husband/producer Hayden John Wolf makes up Once a Tree’s other half.)
“I was running with white wolves, and I was on this cliff under this grandiose full moon and purple skies,” Jayli recalls, “And I just felt so alive in that dream, so free, that I had to put the past to rest. I think it’s a moment a lot of people can relate to — when you finally forgive and the freedom that comes along with it.”
What Jayli and Hayden both found themselves running from was their respective religious upbringing. Both raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the couple no longer identifies with any specific religion. “The song is a good way to express self-discovery — the occult scenes are representing the oppression that the past can hold over a person, the church setting relates to how me and Jayli have comes to terms with our relationship to God,” says John. “And the wolf represents freedom, and the blowing out the candles is putting the past to rest and opening a new chapter.”
“Howling” teases Once a Tree’s forthcoming debut EP, to be released via Toronto-based Foreseen Entertainment later this year. “You’ll hear themes of God, self-love and taking a stand for yourself,” Jayli says. Expect more overt hip-hop influences, too — Jayli is infatuated with Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier, ?and John cites Childish Gambino, Danny Brown and Chance the Rapper as key influences.
And then there’s a matter of their first live shows, which have a lot to live up to now that the cinematic clip for “Howling” is out. “We want really want to build a multi-sensory experience — something that promotes visuals as well as the musicality,” John says.”