Peta Jeffress and Gabriel Wagnberg met in Sweden and created electronic duo Peta & The Wolves. And they are a modern-day musical match made in heaven.
Perhaps it is fair to say that Peta Jeffress encapsulates the journey of the modern day pop artist. Journeying from a school choir to national television to travelling the world and ending up working with a Swedish producer, Peta has used each of these experiences to build her skills and hone her artistic gift. Growing up in Melbourne and joining a choir at the age of eight, Peta got her first taste of a variety of musical genres and experiences and decided a life in music was hers for the taking. By 2012, Peta ended up on The Voice Australia, wowing audiences with her sultry version of Oasis hit Wonderwall. While she was knocked out of the competition before the finals, Peta kept going and developing herself as an artist. She trekked around the world making music and meeting people, focused on creating the perfect sound and solidifying what she wants to sing and what she wants to say. A few years ago, on the hunt for a partner to form an electronic duo, Peta was traversing Sweden and introduced by a publisher to a producer named Gabriel Wagnberg. It was in Gabriel that Peta was able to finally find her perfect musical match. Over the past couple of years Peta and Gabriel have created electronic act Peta & The Wolves. And they are making some pretty epic music. Peta's penchant for jazz inspired melodies accompanied by her fascinating and strong voice, paired with Gabriel's super modern sonic choices and brilliant beats, have brought about some stellar singles from the Australian/Sweden twosome. A few years ago, their song Scum would land a sync on the popular television show Vampire Diaries, and the pair hooked up with hip hop group Thundamentals to release the vibey single Think About It. Their latest release Equal Measure is fresh and bold, and we are seeing snippets of what looks like a wonderful new music video coming out soon - all ahead of their debut EP which will be released in a few months.
Peta has never given up on her musical endeavours, and her commitment to hard work and exploring her artistry is truly admirable. She sat down with Music Love's Julie Kerr to talk about her childhood musical classes and how wonderful it was to meet and work with the formidable Gabriel Wagnberg. The pair are back in Australia as part of a university tour - check out the cities and dates below because Peta & The Wolves are definitely an act to catch and keep your eye on.
JK: Growing up in Melbourne, do you have any memories of going to music classes, or are there any music teachers who stood out to you?
PJ: I was at a fantastic primary school, and they have a renowned music choir there run by a fantastic teacher called Anne Williams. She's won so many awards. What she does with these children is absolutely incredible.
JK: How old were you when you had Anne as a teacher?
PJ: I was in grade three. The music and repertoire that she puts together is incredible, but also it’s the sense of community that she creates. That's really where I started loving music. We sung everything from Gershwin to songs in Latin. I got a solo – and it was the first time I’d ever sung on my own.
JK: Were you scared?
PJ: I was so scared. I was absolutely frightened. I did Castle on the Cloud from Les Mis.
JK: Wow, that’s a big one.
PJ: Yes. I was a soprano. That’s where I learnt a lot about different music, harmonies, and singing in different languages which got me wanting to travel.
I met Peta and Gabriel from Peta & the Wolves today. She is from Melbourne but has been travelling all over the world to write and develop her craft. She ended up in Stockholm and met Swedish producer Gabriel Wagnberg and they hit it off. Their music is rad. New single 'Equal Measure' released a few days ago. And both super lovely lovely people. 🌻🍁
JK: Is your family musical?
PJ: No. It was just this choir that influenced me. It was just was a beautiful thing to be a part of. I took so much pride in it.
JK: When was the moment you decided, “I want to be in music, I want to do something serious with this"?
PJ: In this choir – when I got that first solo.
JK: And you couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything different?
PJ: No, no. I fell in love with music.
JK: When you performed on The Voice Australia, I thought you were going to go more into a jazz /sultry/soulful space. What you’re doing now is obviously not, but your voice has definitely got a lot of those jazz undertones. Thinking of your rendition of Wonderwall on the Voice – was that chosen because you were in the habit of singing that style a lot?
PJ: That rendition was just something that came out of me. I love singing with a piano in a soulful/jazz way… improvising... But going back to the choir, we learned to sing gospel and we sang all different types of music, and it made me now love such a huge variety of music. Each song will be completely different in the way I attack it. Sometimes soulful, sometimes more staccato....
JK: I feel like today we are in a world where genres are really morphing into one another. Gabriel, you might be able to speak about this too…. Do you think genres are dead?
GW: I think, ah, new genres are born. People want to put labels on things, but essentially everyone wants a new sound. Well, maybe not everyone, haha.
JK: How do you two create together?
PJ: I like to start on the piano. Mostly, I start to write a jazz ballad - although I wouldn’t say I’m a jazz singer, but I’m incredibly inspired by the Etta Jameses of the world - and then we bring the incredible Gabriel into it which transforms it.
JK: I think you’ve both done it really well. Your songs carry that jazz/soul vibe, and you make it modern and youthful
PJ: I think Gabriel makes me modern
JK: So how did you two meet?
PJ: I always wanted my act to be two people but it took a very long time to find the right person. I had a very good idea of what I wanted it to be. But then finding that other person was a whole other story. So I travelled the world and back again. Then I was in a studio in Stockholm and Gabriel was meeting with a publisher there and the publisher said, “Come on, you have to meet this kid. I’ve never heard beats like this." And I was like, “Well I’ve got to get on the train, but ok,” and from that moment I changed all my plans and we’ve been working solidly since
JK: How does it feel to be back in Australia?
PJ: So amazing. I hadn’t been in Australia for two years before I came back for Christmas 2016. We had just been working solidly. And I really love Stockholm but home is home and I really miss it.
JK: What next?
PJ: Getting the EP out and yes, this has been many years in the making but it’s the pages of the diaries of my life. It’s all really quite personal and I hope that other people can identify with the songs and know that they aren’t alone in these stories which are quite common.
JK: Sounds like you’re in your sweet spot. Finally, who are your favourite women in music?
PJ: Sia, hands down. I’ve been following Sia since 2005 and everything about her is just – oh, I’d love to meet her. She’s just an incredible woman. I’m also a massive fan of Lorde.
Unisounds 2017 kicks off this month with an exclusive tour with an 10-date national campus tour from new electronic duo Peta And The Wolves. For more info on Unisounds '17 and your chance to win 100K in prizes click here
Wednesday, 19th July, 12pm @ Melbourne Polytechnic Fairfield Campus, Melbourne
Monday, 24th July, 8pm @ Swinburne University, Melbourne
Tuesday, 25th July, 12pm @ Flinders University, Adelaide
Wednesday, 26th July, 12pm @ University of South Australia, Adelaide
Wednesday, 2nd August, 6:30pm @ UCU, Canberra
Wednesday, 2nd August, 12pm @ CITSA, Canberra
Thursday, 3rd August, 12pm @ University of Wollongong, Wollongong
Friday, 4th August, 6pm @ UNSW, Sydney
Wednesday, 9th August, 12pm @ University of Newcastle, Newcastle
Friday, 11th August, 4pm @ SCU, Lismore