In a tiny dressing room in The Institute, we interviewed Wolf Alice for a second time. This time we spoke to Ellie Rowsell, lead singer and guitarist, with a little intervention from Joff the guitarist at the end. We discussed the new album, touring, and what it’s like being a girl in the rock scene.
You’ve just come off tour with Alt-J, how did that go?
It was really good, they’re playing massive shows all around Europe, including a date at the O2 arena in London. They’re really nice guys and the crowds were really responsive to our set, it was a good experience.
How was playing the O2?
It’s never as nerve-wracking when it’s not your headline show, so even though it was huge I enjoyed it. I wasn’t too scared or anything.
You’ve also toured America this year?
Yeah, our first ever headliner tour around the US. Well, our first tour around the US, which was amazing! We finished it off at SXSW festival, it was really good.
You’ve just released the single ‘Giant Peach’. What’s your favourite Roald Dahl book?
I haven’t read a Roald Dahl book since I was a kid! I guess the BFG is a nice one.
Speaking about books, do you write your songs based on literature at all?
Sometimes, not a lot. I think reading poems and literature is always a good way to spark off ideas if you’ve not got something in mind which you want to write about. It’s a good starting point.
Do you write like that, lyrics first?
Sometimes! Most of the time, no. Sometimes I’ll have a line in my head, and that’ll start the song off.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
We always have a hug, we’ve got certain songs that we sing to warm up sometimes, like ‘Take Your Mama’ by Scissor Sisters. It’s a good vibe for pre-shows.
You’re one of only 9 bands announced for Reading & Leeds 2015 with a female member. Does it affect your identity as a band at all?
It doesn’t, well, it shouldn’t affect it. It probably does affect the music just because of how your gender subconsciously affects everything, but I don’t change anything I do based on who I am. It’s a sad thing, but I guess the Reading line-up has always been quite hard-core and rock, and there’s not that many women in those kinds of bands. It’s not Reading’s fault, we were saying that’s just a symptom of something a lot larger that has to be dealt with. I think encouraging girls in schools to pick up the guitar, play the drums, and not just the flute or the violin.
How conscious are you of your band being part of that motivation, now that you’re getting more successful?
I tend not to think about it too much, it’s not really important as long as people are enjoying it. I don’t think too much about the attention, it can make you a bit nervous.
If you could go on tour with anyone, who would you go with?
I’d like to tour around America with Kings of Leon because obviously they’re the biggest band in America, but it’s still not touring with a huge pop act. When I was younger those first 3 albums were some of my favourites, and we’re not too dissimilar from them, so it would be quite interesting to see how they deal with playing those massive arenas.
If you could play anywhere in the universe, where would you play?
In the universe?! Probably Mars, I don’t know! I would like to play everywhere. At the moment I can’t imagine going anywhere except places I’ve already been, but at one point it’d be nice to be able to get over to Asia, South America, even the Middle East.
Would you want to play smaller gigs there, or have you gotten used to playing bigger crowds?
Well I don’t see us as playing massive crowds. Even on our tour in America, we went down to tiny venues because you have to build yourself up again, otherwise it’s not really a natural way to do it. It’s not really fair on people who don’t get the chance to see you at those small intimate gigs, which are more fun.
You often talk about not feeling restricted by genres, and you used to be a folk duo didn’t you?
No, not really. Joff and I used to play music together and we didn’t play drums or electric guitar, but I don’t think you could call it ‘folk’. It wasn’t that clever.
Is there anything on the album which is more like that?
Yeah, there’ll be stuff like that. We try, and you shouldn’t stunt all your different sides just because people think you have to choose which genre you want to be and stick to it. I think because it’s a first album, we’re still testing the waters and seeing what we want to do. It’s varied in that way.
How did you find working with Mike Crossey?
Yeah, it was cool. We never really worked with a producer like him before. He’s been doing it for a long time and worked with a lot of guitar bands who have gotten a bit of attention. He definitely helped us out.
Were you self-producing before?
Yeah, well, no… ‘Creature Songs’ [EP] we worked with a woman called Catherine Marks, she’s really good. We’ve always worked with engineers, because we don’t know how to use the software and stuff like that, but yeah it was more self-produced. I’d say this album is not ‘self-produced’ but it was definitely a collaboration. We didn’t come in there with no ideas, and he sorted it out for us. We came in with the ideas and he allowed us to make those come to life.
If you weren’t doing music, what do you reckon you’d be doing?
I really don’t know. My mum works in nursing and I really admire all that, so maybe I would’ve done that, but I don’t think I have the emotional power to work in a hospital. God knows!
Is this what you’ve always wanted to pursue?
No not really, I never knew what I wanted to pursue. I’m still making up my mind. I don’t want to do one thing for the rest of my life.
[Joff the guitarist comes in]
You came at the right time, we have this one question… Last time we called you, we asked if you had any crazy tour stories.
J: Ah yeah, we’re not very good at that question!
E: I think if something crazy happens, people are not gonna tell… All our fans are really fun and nice. We’re not crazy, we’re pretty boring.
J: Honestly, at some point we will have a funny or interesting story.
E: I’m gonna start writing a journal, and I’ll just take it to interviews with me and I’ll quickly skim through it and see what I’ve been doing because I can’t remember anything!