Paris – February 2015
When the four silhouettes timidly enter the huge Paris’ Zenith under a round of applause, we’re not aware yet we’re about to witness something absolutely wonderful. Tonight, Wolf Alice are supporting Alt-J and showed us that they fully deserved the spot, with a performance that exceeded all of our expectations.
There’s some kind of a vintage sound coming out from the stage. It’s grungy, but by no means dusty. If the crowd appears shy at first glance, Wolf Alice manages to catch the attention. Front woman Ellie Rowsell brings delicacy to the performance which contrasts beautifully with the electrifying harmonies provided by Theo Ellis and Joff Oddie’s strings. The atmosphere slowly heats up as the set unfolds, between the spirited Moaning Lisa Smile and Fluffy, Ellie’s yells for You’re A Gem and Bros‘ frenetic drum beats that enhance Joel Amey’s essential presence. If most of the songs performed tonight have something explosive, let’s not forget that lovely melodies, accompanying Ellie’s bashful smirk, are also Wolf Alice‘s sweet spot, just as in Blush, for instance. Most of all, we can’t help but notice this smoothness within the band, that makes all the energy feel natural and floating. By the end of its 35-minute slot, Wolf Alice has bewitched Paris.
Who are Wolf Alice? These Londoners haven’t been around for too long, but the least we can say is that they’ve been buzzing ever since they started releasing music, drawing more and more attention around them. Wolf Alice‘s “Creature Songs” EP was released in May 2014 though Dirty Hit Records and the band is now getting ready to release a debut album later this year.We sat and discussed with Ellie (vocals/guitar), Theo (bass) and Joel (drums), later joined by Joff (guitar), moments before they jumped on stage in Paris…
Your first European tour is this huge run with Alt-J, but you’ve also been relentlessly touring over the past year, how do you deal with your pace of touring?
Ellie : It’s a huge privilege for us, to pick up fans and stuff on this level of tour, play such amazing venues. We’re very grateful for Alt-J for taking us with them.
Theo : Our personal lives are probably disintegrated, but we got quite used to touring so much, but I think this year is another step up of how much we’re going out…the whole thing of being away is a bit daunting. We’ve been to America and stuff, so yes it’s a weird one to digest in your mind but I think, that’s just what we do. Not seeing anyone you like…because we hate each other (laughs).
Joel : We have a big bus now it isn’t cool.
Why not? Is it cold?
Joel : Not really but I kinda miss Travelodge now (laughs). No it’s cool!
[Loud noises / Joff joins]
Joel : And this is Joff.
You must be used to the stage now, but still, you are playing to huge crowds, such as the 6000 people in this venue today, do you still get nervous before going on stage?
Ellie : Yeah I do but not creeping nervous, but just…quite nervous.
Theo : I think it depends on the occasion. There’s always adrenaline rush, like when you play to 10,000 people that may potentially hate you is more scary than exciting. But I got really nervous when we played a show the other day in America. It was only to a few hundred people, but you know how much it’s gonna mean to you.
You just rounded off a busy year, what’s your outcome on 2014 as Wolf Alice?
Joff : I think we learned how to play live in 2014.
Ellie : Yes. We’ve matured in our live set. We stopped thinking it was okay to make loads of mistakes and not care, we learned how to be more professional. And we recorded our album, we toured our EP and we went to a few different countries that we’ve never been to before. So it was quite a successful year.
Joff : It’s pretty much like the making of year, in a way. It’s where we built up our foundations for what’s coming up hopefully this year.
Speaking of your full length, which is set to be released later this year, how did you approach its writing?
Ellie : We had some songs that we’d already had for years, some songs that we only had for a short while and we made quite a few mistakes in our recording career so, we’ve kinda have learnt from those and knew what not to do while working with our producer. It was a new experience for us and a great one as well. But it’s hard to see and compare when it’s your first album. It’s hard to know how well it went. It felt smooth.
Ever since you started putting out music, there’s been a lot of anticipation regarding the release of an album, did you have any pressure while making this one?
Theo : There definitely was pressure while we were recording, I think. Because from the day we put stuff online we’ve been asked when our debut album was coming out. But I think, like Ellie said, it went smooth and it didn’t get to us too much. It is a good thing I think having pressure, because it helps motivate you and you work harder. So I think the pressure we’ve had has been positive.
So it kinda had an influence on your work.
Joel : I think we would have even if no one was waiting for our release…
Theo : Yeah, it’s just the sense of self-achievement.
Joel : We wouldn’t have wanted to do something that anyone gave out of being, like, blasé, no one wants that, especially when we spend a lot of time doing it and caring about it. Even if no one outside cares, we still want it to be amazing.
Ellie, as a young woman, have you encountered any issues in this industry because of that?
Ellie : Maybe one or two, but not really. Or at least less than I have in my everyday life. I mean, I’m surrounded by really nice people so, it doesn’t really affect me…Well at least nice to my face (laughs).
Theo : Actually girls experience worse things by walking into a club on a Friday night than just checking out a gig or stuff like that. Sometimes I’m astounded about the way some men treat women on a friday night out.
Joel : Or in front of us at our own gigs, like when you see people pushing people over these young girls in the front, just because some drunk guys want to get on stage and just jump on the front row of girls. That, to me is a violation what you want to do at a gig. You can all argue that it’s okay but it’s not. It’s bad, you see that but you just shut the fuck up.
Ellie : Maybe I haven’t been here long enough to know what it’s like. So far it’s been fine for me.
Which is a good thing
Ellie : Of course!
What is your most memorable memory as a band?
Joff : My personal one is…We played this show at Old Blue last, which is a venue in east London, and it was a place – I think – we all frequented a lot at the time. So we played a show and there was a queue around the block and I remember seeing (Theo) on stage and being like ‘Haaa I’m gonna shit myself, I’m so scared’. It was massive.
Ellie : I loved making all our videos they’ve all been always hilarious days!
Joel : Fluffy, especially!
Ellie : And I loved when we recorded our EP in Brussels it felt really…glam. at ICP studios. That was a really pleasant experience. I think these two were my favorite. And always when we play – well recently when we played London, our headline show, you see the crowd like what you’ve done…So yeah it’s all good moments. But we also had bad moments (laughs).
How would you define your music to someone who has never heard of Wolf Alice?
Theo : I don’t think we’d be able to describe our own music and I don’t think anyone else is gonna be able to until our album comes out. Because there’s sort of a theme covered up and we totally understand it, but it is hard to comprehend what it is when you haven’t done it. So I think we’re just gonna wait until our feature length comes out…Not a film, but the album! (laughs)
Joel : Feature length?
Theo : Our feature length film that we did and it’s about finding the sound of Wolf Alice and record it. But yeah basically we don’t know, no one knows and no one’s ever gonna know, it’s a nightmare!
So your advice would be just to listen to it and then make up your own mind.
Joel : I think that’s the thing with music, just listen to it and decide…We should explain to each other what we think our sound is. That would be funny!
Theo : We go by what the song needs rather than what the genre wants.
How would you like to evolve as artists and music makers in the future?
Joel : I’d like to be a producer one day. I’d like to do something with this. They work as us, but not when too close. You learn so much from being in the studio.
[Gengahr’s set starts in the background]
I’d like to get bigger than Gengahr eventually and then I’ll be happy (laughs).
Ellie : Producing would be cool, would be cool not to have someone else around, be able to bring your ideas, not have anyone to do it for you…Not sure I’m allowed to say that!
Joel : No but it’s true, a producer would say you don’t want to be an engineer your whole life, you’re eventually the person who’s manning the ship.
I think it would be fun for all of us to write songs in disguise for other acts and stuff. I know we’re all capable writers, but sometimes you think ‘we can’t put this out’ because everyone wants us to be this thing. You shoudn’t give a shit but it does influence you. It would be nice to have someone put you in a room and be like ‘alright Beyoncé is here for the next 24 hours, let’s make a banger’. There are endless possibilities for us.
So what is next for Wolf Alice then?
Theo : We are basically going on the road pretty much until we kill each other.
Joff : Our album is gonna be out later this year so we’re gonna be focusing on promoting this album.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Ellie : To the people in Paris, we’re sorry we had to cancel the Inrocks festival earlier, but if we didn’t, we couldn’t have recorded our album and wouldn’t have been able to come back another time!
Everyone : And thank you!
Special thanks to Chris F., Anya S.,
Mark S. and of course Wolf Alice