Already starting off the year as the UK’s single most blogged about band of 2013, Wolf Alice were already set up to have a massive year ahead. We caught up with the North London four-piece when they hit Birmingham for their triumphant headline slot at the Temple earlier this May.
The group – initially beginning as a solo project by lead singer Ellie Rowsell – consists of Ellie, Joff Oddie (Guitarist), Theo Ellis (Bass) and Joel Amey (Drummer) and began back in 2010. Anyone aware of their releases up to now, will spot the contrast of filthy grunge tracks such as “Fluffy” (reminiscent of early 90s bands Hole and Elastica) to the calm, haunting refrain of late-2013 single “Blush”. This versatility of the band in their sound is what makes them so exciting, and sets them apart from the rest of the pack of “buzz-bands of 2014”.
After numerous supports slots for bands such as Peace and Swim Deep (the lead singer who is dating Ellie Rowsell, is present at various points throughout the interview), they hit the big-time when joining The 1975, supporting them on their UK tour at the start of this year. Of this experience Joel says the band learnt most from the production aspect – “It wet our appetites for the kind of shows we could have in the future with regards to lighting and sounds. We’re fairly close to them and they’re such lovely, down-to-earth guys!” One memorable moment that seems to stick out for most of the band while supporting the band is how Theo ended up with a tattoo of a cow on the inside of his right arm after a heavy night in Liverpool. “We’d been out at a bar called Sinners the night before.” says Theo of the story. “Joff wanted his name and I said no! He grew up on a farm in Cornwall and we both shared a bedroom with seven sisters, so to solidify our friendship I got a tattoo of the Cravendale cow. Joff paid for it though!”
With Ellie already having been on the front cover of NME twice now I ask her whether she feels things have changed as a result of that. “No not really! I mean obviously it’s weird but I guess it just solidifies things for my family and friends who don’t really follow new music. That’s when they’re like – “Oh, you’re not just dossing around and people are actually noticing you!””.
I also ask them how they feel about being nominated for the NME award of “Best New Band” so early on in their career – in which they were up against Chvrches, Courtney Barnett, Drenge, Jagwar Ma and Swim Deep – where it’s evident nonchalance was not present. Ellie – “I think I was genuinely just happy to be nominated! I mean at the time I was like it would be cool to win but I really don’t mind! I just think that’s good enough!” Joff chips in exclaiming – “I mean we weren’t going to win were we?! Just before they announced it we thought it might be us! A friend of ours who’s an NME journalist and a photographer came over just as they were about to announce the winner and we were ready to get up. Until we hear – “And the winner is Drenge!”” The band however, all agree in unison that the Castleton duo were the most worthy of winners in the pack. With regards to the ceremony the band say it was one of the first times they got a taste of the celebrity lifestyle, with Ellie even making it into the tabloids eating pizza between Mick Jagger’s former wife and model, Jerry Hall – “Ellie got papped eating pizza behind Jerry Hall which is such a great picture- we need to frame it!”
Recently off the back of a string of appearances at industry showdown SXSW in Texas, Ellie tells me how she feels that it was the first big turning for them in the band’s career. “It was amazing! Maybe because we were in a different country we all thought “Okay, we’ve got one chance, let’s just not have any inhibitions and play as well as we can and have as much fun as we can”. It’s great because I think now we’ve kind of carried that attitude over to the UK and our shows just feel a lot more comfortable now.”
The shows in Austin were merely the beginning of what is sure to be a hectic schedule for the band in the next four months – with them already being christened “Summer 2014’s Festival Heroes” – leaving them with very little debut album recording time until late September. Theo says of the situation – “I think we’ll do a bit of recording at the end of this tour and in-between festivals. We want to immerse ourselves properly into the record to make it as good as possible. I think doing it all in one go is what will result in the highest quality for our record”. The band have plans to record it at ICP Studios in Brussels (where Swim Deep’s debut LP last year was also recorded) along with Australian producer Catherine Marks (Foals, Howling Bells) and can’t wait to get down to business. “There seems to be a really nice relationship – including that studio. ICP + Catherine + Wolf Alice makes good times for us!” When asking the band about how they go about getting ideas for songs they make it clear that their best stuff does not come on-demand with Ellie saying – “I think we need to be inspired by something and it doesn’t matter where you are. I think the good stuff really just comes to you.”
In the meantime, the band will be playing pretty much every major UK festival, so I ask them how they feel about finally playing the teenage rite-of-passage which are the Reading and Leeds festivals. Recalling their first times there Theo tells me – “I remember when I was 15 I went up on the train and broke into Reading with one of my best friends – which was a bit naughty! It’s everyone’s first festival and it’s so special in that sense”. Joel, however ponders the more unforgiving nature of the crowd that the festival’s history tells – “My mum took me and my best friend James when I was 13 and I didn’t know there was anything else there apart from the Main Stage. So I was sat there on a deck chair and I saw The Rasmus and 50 Cent get bottled off. Which was sad. I hope we don’t get bottled off…” Rest assured, with the way things are going at the moment that is nothing to worry about and it appears their biggest problem will be trying to fit everyone in the tent that they’re playing in!
With the Radio 1 playlisting of their new single the “Moaning Lisa Smile” and the recording of their new music video for it (the details of which the band are very keen to keep under wraps), Wolf Alice are certainly set for a busy 2014. Considering where the band would like to see themselves this time next year they all agree they would like to play the big room in the Institute where Swim Deep had their epic homecoming show this time last year – “That would be just amazing wouldn’t it?” says Joff. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person that knows this time next year that will no longer be a question…
Wolf Alice release their “Creature Songs” EP on 26th May