background image
Wolf Alice – Interview


Out of all the bands who featured on the ‘rising stars of 2013’ lists back in January, it’s Wolf Alice (briefly associated with the B-Town ‘scene’ despite forming in North London) who are looking most likely to make a proper go of it. Managing to avoid the overtly ’90s mirroring vibe that acts who took up much of the press attention were wholeheartedly buying into, they’ve made a tidy niche for themselves – a very modern interpretation of New Wave, with frontwoman Ellie Rowsell’s distinctive, unhurried vocals taking centre-stage.

They started with the ear-catching ‘Fluffy’ (“What’s there to do / I’ve got nothing in this dead old town”), before following it up with the camaraderie and heartwarming sentiment of ‘Bros’ – “Oh, there’s no one who knows me quite like you”. Recent EP ‘Blush’ saw them step up once again, with both the rolling, bass-heavy rock of ‘She’ and the stripped-back atmosphere of the title track adding an extra layer of anticipation around their forthcoming debut album (slated for release next year).

We caught them in between a return trip from Asia and a photo shoot with a paper rag, and found a band full of ambition but cautious not to lose touch with reality…

So you just did a little stint around Hong Kong?

Joel Amey, drums: A very short stint. That was so fun, one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever, ever done. Not the most outrageous thing Joff’s ever done though…
Theo Ellis, bass: It was more party than gig. It was like six days of travelling for not a lot of gigging.
Joel: It made you think of one of those game shows or something and they win a fridge, a car, and the prize at the end is to go away on a little trip, all expenses paid. I felt like we’d won a competition on This Morning, except we had to play. Hong Kong’s amazing as well.

It must be quite intense flying somewhere that far away for only twelve hours…

Joel: I feel more tired than I did at the time. But yeah, it was intense.

Been a big month for you guys…

Joel: Definitely, and Dingwalls, that was incredible.

I’ve seen you go from small venues at the beginning of this year to playing festival stages, is the aim to be headlining in the near future?

Ellie Rowsell, vocals/guitar: Yeah.
Theo: I think that’s always the aim. I don’t really know any band that wants to get big and then go down again.
Joff Oddie, guitar: [sarcastic] Get big until it blows up in our stupid faces.

I guess you sometimes come across younger bands who aren’t that vocal about wanting success…

Joel: What? Well they should stop doing what they’re doing.
Ellie: There’s no point in doing it if you’re just like, “I don’t mind it staying like this”. You’ve got to be ambitious…
Joel: I think a lot of people must just start bands because they’re studying in London and it’s just a fad.
Theo: Playing big venues is the best feeling in the world. I don’t know why anyone would not want to do that.
Ellie: It’s just proof that other people like your music. It’s not just you.

You’ve been doing lots of industry stuff, showcases and the like. Would you say you’re more or less cynical now?

Joff: I don’t think you can really take a note of all those extrinsic kind of things. You’ve kind of got to be thinking, ‘what would we be doing if there wasn’t that kind of pressure or you weren’t meeting those kinds of people?’, or else it’s going to get a bit…
Ellie: …false.
Joff: You might end up thinking about other people too much, and you’ve got to be thinking about what you want to do.
Joel: Especially from the point of view of writing songs. It’s really easy to be like, “ah, this guy would really like this sort of song”, and you start writing a few of those, and that’s not the sort of thing you would’ve done [otherwise]. You’ve got to keep your feet on the ground.

Have you experienced doing that, and then stopped?

Joel: No I wouldn’t say we’ve done it, but we have become more confident in ourselves.
Ellie: We used to say “ah, we need this sort of song…” but now we don’t.
Theo: You can get a bit disillusioned with things, with the smoke and mirrors of everything. Like when you were a kid and you went to shows, you couldn’t understand how anyone could be that much of an amazing person. Then when you understand that you wait around for six hours sat in a tiny room, the glamour of the things I used to think were cool when I was a kid aren’t as cool. Still amazing though.

Is keeping a sense of glamour important?

[Laughter at the idea that they’re at all glamourous at this stage]

Ellie: When I see a band even making a mistake or saying something and you can see they’re a bit embarrassed, I like that. It’s like, “ah, they’re normal people”. Some bands do everything so sleek and they don’t slip up at all, or, like, don’t show their true colours.

We bring up a gig at The Lexington where an equipment malfunction was responsible for a long silence…

Joff: That was a total mare! We just stopped playing for ages…

What actually happened?

Joel: The tuner just decided to go completely bonkers.
Joff: It was tuning the guitar two steps down, and we didn’t realise.
Joel: So to your ear, an E would still be an E. You’d play an E chord and it would still sound like an E chord, but obviously you’d be two tones down from everyone else.

That could have been really awkward, but the crowd were really supportive…

Joel: Yeah, if it wasn’t for them we’d have been completely fucked.
Theo: Although there was one guy at the front, what was he saying…
Ellie: “Hurry up! The other bands didn’t do this!”.

The notion that people hold musicians in high esteem is brought up…

Joff: I don’t think you should be put on so much of a pedestal because you’re making music.
Joel: Hero worshipping is so weird, it’s always for the wrong people I guess.

Well I guess that happened to Lou Reed recently after he died, and that acceptance speech was going around of him claiming that rock’n’roll can change the world. Do you think that’s still applicable?

There’s a bit of toing-and-froing about how doctor’s are probably more important than people in bands…

Joel: Well, if you’d lived through the ’50s and then The Beatles came along then rock’n’roll probably would’ve changed your life, because everything changed around then. It’s going to take something pretty fucking spectacular for that to happen now. Stopping a war or something. Maybe we should become soldiers…
Theo: Politicising your music is so difficult nowadays, because unless you can validate yourself by talking about it you just look gross or stupid. I really would respect a band who could do the political and the cool, and not going all Frank Turner…
Joff: There’s a really thin line between doing it well and being crass.
Ellie: If you really like music and you really like writing music, but people end up not liking your music, which is perfectly good, because of your own political views, then you’ve lost respect for the music…
Joel: It’s easy to alienate people.

Alienation is one thing Wolf Alice won’t be fostering. From their candidly personal lyricism to their upbeat but intense brand of indie rock, they’re certain to continue to pick up fans. And with national magazine covers and sold out shows under their belt, they’re sure to roar into 2014 (cue awkward segue)…

Nicholas Burman

Previous in Features

FEMME - Video interview and competition

FEMME - Video interview and competition
In our first ever video interview, we invite one-woman pop powerhouse FEMME into our HQ to pick her brains, and she's kind enough to leave some goodies for you lot to win too...
Read More


EP Address: Datassette, Sudan Archives, Mighty Lord Deathman and more…

We look back at some of the best EPs released over the summer, including debuts by Sudan Archives and Mighty Lord Deathman…

Read More