Easy, Freazy Wolf Alice
UK alt-rockers Wolf Alice released their debut My Love Is Cool to much acclaim earlier this summer. Selected for the Mercury Prize shortlist, the album features dreamy vocals and noisy guitars that suggest the band has updated ’80s alternative rock for a new generation. In addition, the group recently revealed the music video for “Freazy,” the latest UK single from My Love Is Cool. The band worked with up-and-coming directors Youth Hymns to create the trippy video set in a psychedelic forest. Singer Ellie Rowsell spoke to us as the band drove to a tour stop in Columbia, Missouri.
Talk about your background. How’d you gravitate toward singing and songwriting?
I don’t remember to be honest. I always tried to sing with different groups. I was a trier-outer. I can’t do sports. I can’t dance. I just listened to music. I couldn’t do anything else. That was the only thing I got quite good at it. It was trial and error when I was growing up. By the time I was 12 years old, I listened to whatever my parents listened to or whatever was on the charts, that kind of thing. And then, I started listening to the Strokes, Kings of Leon and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. From there, I mainly listened to guitar music. I was always interested in pop music and other styles of music as well.
When the band first formed, it was an acoustic duo. Talk about how you and guitarist Joff Oddie first met.
I wouldn’t say it started then. That was the first time we played music in front of people. It all started when the four of us came together and started playing shows as Wolf Alice. That was more like late 2012 or even 2013.
What prompted the decision to expand the band and plug in?
It’s just about plucking up the courage really. If you want to play music live and in front of an audience, it’s easy to pick up an acoustic guitar and do that in front of a group of strangers. You don’t have to tell anyone what your name is. To go out and buy equipment or to go to promoters and ask to be put on bills is much more difficult. I didn’t have friends who did that. I didn’t know how to go about doing it. We had to work up a bit of confidence. And we got bored with what we were doing.
Talk about that first EP, Blush. What were you going for in terms of a sound?
It was fine. We worked hard. We didn’t have much experience in the studio. We were under a lot of pressure. We put out two singles that caught more attention than we anticipated. We didn’t have much time. It was fun, but I don’t think we knew what we were doing. It was good for the time. We had an idea in our heads that it needed to be professional but we weren’t ready.
And how about the second EP, Creature Songs? Were you better prepared?
Yeah, a lot more prepared. We had learned a lot. We learned from the mistakes we made so by the time we made the second EP we were more rehearsed. We were working with a producer and we hadn’t done that before.
You worked with Mike Crossey on the album. What was that experience like?
He had a clear idea in his head, but so did we. He’s been doing this for so long now. It was interesting to learn from his experiences.
“Moaning Lisa Smile” is one of the denser songs on the album. Talk about what you were going for with that song.
We don’t set out to do anything. We don’t think about songs too much. I guess we just had this riff that Justin was mucking around with. It was pretty heavy. We thought we could make a song that was built around that riff. It was direct and angry and heavy. There’s not much to it.
What inspired the lyrics in “You’re a Germ”?
I didn’t think about it too much. I did have one incident in my head. It’s just a cliché about a not nice guy during school. It has that youthful teenage imagery in it.
What was it like making the video for “Freazy”?
It was okay. We had made so many jokey videos we wanted something a bit more cool. It ended up jokey again. Maybe that’s just a running thing. Maybe we’ll never escape that.
The band’s music has been described as “the lovechild of folk and grunge.” Is that accurate?
Maybe if someone explained it to me, I’d understand it. I think folk music is melody focused and I think that’s something we are as well, particularly with this album. We like distortion so pop music over loud guitars might be more accurate. Maybe for Creature Songs that would have been more applicable. I don’t know what that is. It’s hard to describe what we are because we don’t listen to one genre of music. We don’t write one genre of music. Maybe you could call us alternative guitar music or even indie music. Everyone calls us that as well. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just think it’s very weird.
Do you consider shoegazer bands like Ride, Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine to be an influence?
I love the guitars and the vocals and playing that type of stuff. I listen to shoegazer music and then I want something else. I like other things as well. I love the vibe, but I don’t think we take inspiration from shoegazer.
What direction will you go in for the next album?
I don’t know. I think we’ll still approach everything in the same way. We just want to make sure we have the best songs regardless of what genre or what direction we want to go in. If we want to go in a hardcore punk direction but all the best songs are folk, we’ll make a folk album. I think we’re leaning toward making an album that will be fun to play live. That’s the vibe we want. I would still want slow ballads and pop songs too.
Upcoming 2015 – 2016 Shows
Covington, KY – Madison Live
Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
New York, NY – Irving Plaza
Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
Hamden, CT – Space
Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
Columbus, OH – A & R Bar
Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe @ Old National Center
Denver, CO – The Bluebird
Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex