London-based Wolf Alice, fresh off the back of their successful May tour, have their sights set on the future. The four-piece, defying genre pigeon holes by describing themselves as “fun, loud, quiet, pop, alternative, rock, grindie, style, nu nu rave” recently came to Oxford, where I grabbed a quick word with them.
Although Wolf Alice has not been established for an exceptionally long time, forming in 2012, the group have seen a remarkable increase in their popularity following the release of their debut E.P., Blush last October. This change has been evident in ticket sales, as guitarist Joff Oddie pointed out. “I’m looking forward to Guildford, for some strange reason. We played it a while back – not that long ago, maybe five months back, and there was literally no one there”, he explained, “It’s where Joel [Amey, drummer] is from, and the tickets have sold quite well, so it’ll be interesting to see what’s what”. It certainly appears that the latest show at Guildford’s the Boiler Room attracted a large crowd – YouTube clips of the gig show a large and active crowd, sure to have pleased the group.
Brighton and the Dot to Dot festivals were also high on Wolf Alice’s radar – “they’re always really solid! We did it last year, it was one of our favourite shows last year” – and these shows also seemed to have gone down well. Reception to Blush has “grown a bit over time”, Joff mused, “They’re certainly the songs people seem to know more when we play live. It’s more the new things that we’re focussing on at the moment”.
As Joff mentioned, Wolf Alice’s latest tour has seen an increase in audience since their last. “There’s more people. We’ve got more people jumping around, a lot more mosh pits. In Birmingham we had kids going mad-” Here, the nail-polish wearing drummer Joel cuts in with “Circle pit!”. “Yeah”, Joff continued, “we had a big circle pit a couple of times. That was fun!”
Young in comparison to other bands that have been active for years, Wolf Alice, named for the Angela Carter short story, began when Joff and Ellie Roswell, vocalist and guitarist, wanted to branch out from their musical duo. “Ellie and I were playing together already, doing acoustic stuff. We got pretty tired of that, so we just wanted to play with a full band”, Joff explained. “We roped in a couple of out friends, but one of them went off to become a nurse and couldn’t carry on, and a mate of mine, James, broke his arm…somehow.” The group’s manager, described as Joel as a “mutual acquaintance”, sourced Joel and quiet bassist Theo Ellis as replacements. “These guys came over, helped us out, and kind of stuck”, Joff laughed.
The group, as it is, has been together for about a year and a half. Despite this, the group still appears to be in the process of really finding their footing as a band. “We haven’t been together long enough to have found a set way [of writing songs]”, Ellie noted.
Creature Songs, their second E.P., dropped May 26th. “We worked with a producer for the first time, so it’s a lot more mature and less unsure of itself”, Ellie correctly contemplated. Where Blush was a new band fumbling with songs that appeared to run away with themselves (still a great E.P. though, check it out), Creature Songs embarks upon an assured grasp of the music, haunting and sophisticated in every sense of the word. Ellie’s belief that the band “understood these songs more than we understood the last ones” is evident. Yet, the music is still unmistakably Wolf Alice, with Ellie’s unique vocals and the mixed pace marking the songs as their own.
The difference in professionalism is partly due to the nature of the recording of Creature Songs. “We recorded it in a really nice placed called ICP in Brussels. It was really good, one of the better experiences we’ve had.” Amongst the nods of Joff and Theo, Joel noted that the time frame of the new E.P. allowed the band to get to grips with it. “We’re rushed – no, not rushed, but time was never on our side with recordings. But, we had a longer stretch of recording at this place. We were working with people who’ve been there for 30 years. ‘Bros’ [single from 2013] was recorded in 16 hours, but more time was spent on sound and stuff with the new record, which was really cool”.
Theo spoke up to support this too – “it’s the longest time we’ve had to do anything”. He also appeared to recognise the importance of the studio process. “In the studio you can be very meticulous and go over things piece by piece. [Recording and performing] are very different mediums. It’s an instantaneous thing playing live, like people are there and there’s a more emotional response”.
Be that as it may, Wolf Alice are undeniably proud of their newest release. Theo pointed out the love of the others for ‘We’re Not the Same’, the final track on the E.P. “I do like it”, Joel justified, “I remember when we wrote it and stuff…idk, I just thought it was different, a nostalgic love bit. ‘Heavenly Creatures’ is one of the most mature stuff we’ve done. I think all the songs work together, the melody, the way it all sits together. When we play live I have a different love for the songs because you see what they do to other people and that”.
Ellie appears to be the lyrical mastermind behind most of the tracks, with Joff naming her immediately as the lyricist. Even so, she finds it difficult to pick a favourite track: “I like them all, I really do”. It’s ‘She’, from Blush, which Ellie really notes as one of her favourites. “I think its really funny. I think I understand it more than other people can get from it”, she conceded, “but I really enjoyed writing that.”
With the E.P. dropping just prior to the end of the May tour, Wolf Alice used the time to debut some of the tracks. Travelling the country with Superfood and Gengahr as support acts was also appreciated by Wolf Alice. “They’re amazing”, Theo gushed, “We’re all really happy with the line-up on the tour, they’re strong bands, great at their craft”. Joff was also a fan – “Gengahr, the Oxford gig was maybe their 12th or 13th show they’ve played as that line up. They’re just incredible”.
Superfood was especially a great addition to their line-up. “They’re smashing it. We’re really lucky, we didn’t think they’d want to come with us with their album coming out soon and that. It’s helping us as much as its helping them”, Joff noted to agreements from the others. “We don’t have that much more of a fanbase than them”, Ellie admitted.
The summer is looking good for Wolf Alice, with Glastonbury, T in the Park and Reading/Leeds amongst the festivals they’ve confirmed. “We’re definitely excited”, Ellie said, “It’s a big moment – well, it will be if we get there, but it’ll be a big moment for us”. “In your teens you dream of getting that”, Joel accurately pointed out. The process was not easy, however – Ellie reminisced about the time she’d previously spent applying to play at festivals after appearing in NME Magazine’s ‘Buzz’ section. Other festivals required Wolf Alice fans to vote for their place. “My dad made fake Facebooks to vote for us”, Ellie confessed to laughter. “Just like members of the family who are dead and stuff!”. However, the band are equally excited for Ireland’s Electric Picnic Festival, which boasts Beck, Lily Allen and Foals on its lineup.
Looking past the summer, the band are intent on recording their debut album in September. “We were up against time last year. The privilege of our label means we’ve had time to breathe and consolidate ideas”, Theo explained in his calm manner, “We’re not gonna be a band who doesn’t record an album”. “It is happening”, Joel also declared.