Wolf Alice: “Girls should be encouraged to get involved”

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the story of Wolf Alice blossom into one which has set the bar high for young, upcoming bands. Originally forming in 2010, the Ellie Rowsell-fronted quartet have slowly gone from strength to strength, with 2015 climaxing in a UK #1 record. Whilst busy touring Europe, Rowsell found time to speak to All Things Loud about debut album My Love is Cool, the representation of women in music and what we can expect next year. Read on for a full round-up of our chat.

With debut album My Love is Cool being hyped up for quite some time, it meant that the London-based Wolf Alice had a lot of expectations to live up to. The album was recorded in London, together with famed producer Mike Crossey at the Livingstone Studios. Crossey has worked with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Catfish & the Bottlemen in the past, meaning that the choice to work with 2014’s biggest hype, Wolf Alice, looked extremely promising for both the band and their fans. “We went in with around 18 songs, before we chose the ones which we were most excited about” says Rowsell, telling us that they tried not to limit their creative freedom. Of the 18 songs the band recorded, a handful didn’t make it. Instead of chucking them in the bin, though, Rowsell has other ideas as to what to do with them. Although plans aren’t concrete, it seems as though the cut-outs might “re-emerge as demo’s, or parts of other new songs”. Whether or not the band (completed by drummer Joel Amey, bassist Theo Ellis and guitarist Joff Oddie) will have time to even record these songs remains the big question, as Rowsell at first seems unsure whether or not they’ll “be allowed time to go and work on new music”. Being in Wolf Alice is extremely hectic, and it only looks set to get crazier as the band get bigger.

Wolf Alice didn’t become big overnight, though. Ahead of My Love is Cool’s summer release, the band left fans waiting three years as hype built up. Although many people believe that they spent all this time working on their debut, Rowsell clearly tells us that they’d only worked on it throughout the preceding year. “We didn’t have the knowledge, funds or experience to make it
until we did
”, reminding us that there was a difference between building hype and working on new music. On My Love is Cool, there are two songs which stand out head and shoulders above the rest, namely the infectious You’re a Germ, and the sprawling Giant Peach. Speaking of the former, Ellie tells us that it was always the intention to make it a “fun song”. The lyrics, described by Rowsell as “tongue-in-cheek” and “jokey”, refer to someone being “some kind of massive dickhead”. As the track slowly builds up, it explodes into a manic chorus which almost sounds like a personal attack on said dickhead, with references to heaven and hell appearing in passing. You’re a Germ is a quintessentially catchy Wolf Alice track, whereas Giant Peach was the result of experimentation. “We wanted something longer and jammy” explains Rowsell, adding that Giant Peach is “an amalgamation of lots of different ideas”. Lyrically, it refers to how someone may feel about the place they live in, with this effervescent story underpinned by near-metal riffs, anthemic melodies and drowsy vocals. Giant Peach is the ultimate Wolf Alice track, even being accompanied by an almost blockbuster-esque video. The concept behind the video was to portray a “nasty, pretentious manager”, forcing cliché’s onto his character as the video continually demonstrated the dickhead behaviour which most manages pull out of the bag once fame starts to get to their heads. The video itself was essentially a joke, yet the message which it subliminally sends out definitely bears hints of truth (we’re looking at you, unnamed American indie pop band from the West Coast).

Over the course of our 15-minute chat, Rowsell often finds herself hitting a brick wall. More often than not, she doesn’t know how to answer our questions, before following it up with a whole explanation. On the subject of their musical and lyrical inspirations, Rowsell tells us that “it’s really hard to answer this question” because the band didn’t enter the studio with any inspiration. If anything, they’re inspired by their surroundings and what goes on in their lives. “We found a niche, and we’ve let it go in its own direction” concludes the frontwoman. This niche has (and still is) been a long time in the making, dating back as far as at least 2012. In a similar way to how the niche is still growing, Wolf Alice themselves are also still progressing and changing. If there’s one thing which is different about the band now, as opposed to when they formed, Rowsell believes that it’s the “ability to let go a little bit and chill out”. This, as she tells us, is very key for an extremely creative band like Wolf Alice. “If you have an idea, you don’t necessarily have to make a song out of it” she explains, adding that the last few years
have also taught the band how to become more experienced at their own instruments, whilst still learning to experiment. “There are no requirements to sound a certain way, ever” says Rowsell, adding that the next five years make her want to be “better, bolder and bigger”. Rowsell herself didn’t get very involved in playing music until her late teens, claiming that she wanted to play music, yet didn’t know anyone who also wanted to. This drive for creativity led her to the rest of her band, before she found people who she really wanted to make music with.

As a frontwoman, Rowsell is one of the very few female musicians leading popular bands in 2015. It’s a much-talked about debate, particularly when festivals unveil line-ups which are for the most part male-dominated. Rowsell believes that “girls should be encouraged from a young age to get involved in learning instruments”, adding that the field can be “quite male-heavy and intimidating”. This isn’t much of a surprise, though. Wherever you look, there’s bound to be a man in charge. Festival organizers, leading promoters and 95% of British rock bands are all male-centric. There’s a way to get around that, though, and Rowsell believes that this is simply through encouragement. Encouragement is what got Rowsell to find herself in her current position, which is fronting one of 2015’s hottest bands. Having released their debut album in the midst of a busy festival season, it meant that the band were flying all over the world to promote, play, sleep and repeat. “We went to Los Angeles and spent the whole together watching people respond to the album” she tells us, pointing out that it was her personal highlight of the year. “It was a real rollercoaster ride” she adds, concluding that she doesn’t really know what the future will behold for Wolf Alice. If they’re allowed to, they’ll be recording new music in their spare time. If they’re not, then we can expect either one of two things from Rowsell and co.: huge tours (including a massive date at the Paradiso in Amsterdam) and an even huger build-up of hype. Just like the years which preceded Wolf Alice’s explosion, the band sound ready to start from scratch and relive the hype all over again. The only difference this time, though, is that the bar will have been raised very, very high. This
shouldn’t be a problem, though, because hype is the stuff that Wolf Alice are made of.

Wolf Alice return to the Paradiso next February. Listen to Giant Peach below.