Music Interview: Wolf Alice

Impact caught up with two members of smash-hit band Wolf Alice to talk about their new album, Nottingham, and important issues affecting the music industry today...

Wolf Alice are back. With the rapid success of their new album, Visions of a Life, the indie rockers were quick to get back on tour and make their mark. Despite their busy schedule, I caught up with drummer Joel Amey and bassist Theo Ellis to discuss the new album, their love for Rock City, and the issues in the music industry.

Debuting at number two on the UK Album Charts, Visions of a Life achieved the impressive feat of selling over 19,000 copies in the first week. With its prevailing success, I ask the band whether they were worried about the reception of their new album.

Joel admits they were; “I think we always have put quite a lot of pressure on ourselves, even when we were doing our first EP” he tells me. While he suspects the self-added pressure isn’t likely to change, Joel acknowledges the pressure the band receives from what people expect from Wolf Alice.

“If your first album goes well it is quite easy for the music press in England to build a band up and just send them on their way. I think we did have a quiet confidence in what we made and we were very proud of what we made and we learned a little while ago to never put out unless we really love it or you end up regretting it. We love the songs on the record.”

“Emotion and sound go hand in hand”

The album holds such a unique composition, I’m curious to know whether it intentionally explored the different sounds of Wolf Alice. According to Theo, “the band enjoys a lot of different musical styles which may have influenced the band’s output”, but he’d like to think it “all sounds like Wolf Alice”. After a short pause, he elaborates: “we never say we need to write an indie song or a metal song. It’s always whatever is best for the song. I think we just let that take us naturally, it’s always quite natural.”

From musical composition to meaning, Wolf Alice’s album carries quite the narrative. I ask whether the album’s sound was influenced by any personal events or music. For Theo, “the sound was influenced … by what emotion we were trying to achieve with the song, if something is very abrasive like ‘Yuk Foo’ then it’s going to be reflected in the sonics.”

Theo’s passion for the band’s music is clear as he continues to explain his belief in emotion and sound going “hand in hand” rather than being driven by an “an external factor”.

“Yeah, the whole album is influenced by a snapshot of everything that was happening between Everything Is Cool, our first album, and between where we are now in this room back in Rock City.”

After touching on a popular song ‘Yuk Foo’, I ask whether Wolf Alice were worried about being defined by fan favourites like ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’.

“I think people have done that, actually” Joel says. While reading YouTube comments, he says he saw fans “couldn’t get their head around that we did ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ or ‘You’re A Germ’ on one album and miss a ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ song, or like this isn’t the same.”

He admits he found it “strange” since he “never had those boundaries with music. It’d be worse, for me, if my favourite band kept releasing the same song over, and over again. It’s madness, it’s absolutely crazy! I’d rather they release a song I didn’t like that was at least pushing something forward rather than re-tread old ground. We don’t sound anything like the bands on Dirty Hit and that’s the joy of Dirty Hit – pretty much most of the bands sound very different from each other.”

“We just couldn’t get our heads around it”

Wolf Alice’s new album has been the talk of the town these past few months, and they haven’t exactly been keeping a low profile. Last year the band had quite the experience, being nominated for both a Brit Award and Grammy. With such critical acclaim, I ask the band what it felt like to be on the other side of it all.

Drawing upon some inspiration he received from an article he’d read earlier on, Joel paraphrases the idea that “English bands aren’t really good at celebrating themselves, [because] it seems bizarre.” While Wolf Alice appreciate the nominations, Joel admits “we just couldn’t get our heads around it. At the same time, we don’t aim for accolades, so it is just like a very flattering thing to happen.”

He laughs at a memory; “I associate the Grammys with Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Prince. Even the category we were in, sitting next to Lady Gaga, Janelle Mo?ae, and Beck. It was just weird. It is absolutely mind-blowing to say Wolf Alice were nominated for a Grammy when you do get your head around it.”

From the Grammys to Rock City. Wolf Alice are no strangers to the venue, having played here in 2014, 2016 and, obviously, this year. I ask Theo and Joel what their favourite thing about playing in Nottingham is.

“I love this venue to be fair. It’s always a good atmosphere” Theo tells me. “I actually came here last night to watch J Hus, different shows, different genres but [the crowd] seemed equally enthusiastic about music.”

Joel follows up with a nostalgic account of Wolf Alice’s first ever mosh pit at The Bodega. “It was 1am and we were all like “oh no, nobody is going to be there”. We’d never had a mosh pit and it happened! We all kind of went like oh sh-!” he laughs. “We were over the moon, so yeah, I always have that very special memory about Nottingham.”

“I’m buzzing!”

As the interview draws to a close, I use the opportunity to discuss an important issue in music industry. After hearing the news about Brand New, I ask the band what they make of the sexual abuse allegations angled towards certain bands.

It turns out Joel and Theo were talking about this earlier. “It’s people abusing their position of power,” Theo puts plainly. “In terms of people sleeping with underage fans, it’s not good and it’s an archaic aspect of the music industry and it seems to permeate rock music for a while. Hopefully, this will be the draining of the swamp that I thought was already drained.”

I note that it seems bands, especially in the pop punk scene, seem to be having allegations drawn against them. Joel swiftly picks up on this and agrees; “Even with Brand New, I’m so saddened that … people you respect growing up have these horrible facets to their personalities. It then has to take for 10 years for this girl to be taken seriously because she doesn’t want to be deemed as slanderous. With our gigs we try and make them the safest space as it can be and that is what every gig should be.”

Ending the interview on a more uplifting note, I ask what we can expect from Wolf Alice in the future. It seems the band have a few plans up their sleeve – Theo confirms they’ll be “touring throughout the whole of next year”, and Joel adds “We’re going to be doing festivals and I want everyone to be buzzing because I definitely feel we missed out that chunk of last year and we’ve got a brief plan, so I’m buzzing!”

Zoya Raza-Sheikh

Featured image courtesy of Eric de Redelijkheid via flickr.

Article images courtesy of Paul Hudson via flickr.

Image use license here.

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