Just before their SOLD-OUT show at Guildford’s The Boileroom, I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting to Wolf Alice about what music means to them… and bins.
In this interview, AJ stands for Aaron Jackson, JA stands for Joel Amey and ER stands for Ellie Rowsell.
AJ: Hello, I’m here with Joel from Wolf Alice, it is an absolute pleasure and an honour. I never thought that when we met it would be next to a bin.
JA: Yep and err a small box of coconut from Waitrose, which is very Guildford.
AJ: Do you fancy some?
JA: No I don’t. No.
AJ: (I fondle with the packet) Oh, it’s been opened.
JA: Oh, it’s been opened, and now I’d like some.
AJ: Alright, well now we’ve had the setting described (Joel laughs), how are you feeling?
JA: I’m feeling good man! I grew up like 15 minutes away from here so this is a hometown show for me. More so than the other ones.
AJ: Is this the first time you’ve played here?
JA: No. I played here when I was like 16 and I’ve done a few things here in my time and then we also played here a couple of years ago to like 10 people, 2 of which are actually in the support band tonight.
AJ: Woah, that’s insane.
JA: Yeah and then we played here, I think when we released our first… when we released Creature Songs and it was a sold out show and it was banging.
AJ: Yeah well it’s gonna be banging again tonight isn’t it?
JA: I hope so!
AJ: How quickly did it sell out?
JA: I think in like minus 30 seconds. The whole tour was just like ridiculous it was like 2 minutes and err you’re from Tunbridge Wells right is it? Or you were going to meet us in Tunbridge Wells?
AJ: (I explain the catastrophe with my train scheduling that led me to be late for this interview).
JA: That was the quickest selling out, Tunbridge Wells, it was like 30 seconds.
AJ: I had some friends there and they said it was incredible.
JA: It was very warm.
AJ: Ah yeah it’s sweaty isn’t it?
JA: Yeah it was a bit too hot and I err I stupidly walked on stage wearing a long-sleeved sort of thing and as soon as I stepped out I knew I’d made an awful mistake.
AJ: (Laughs) well I mean I saw a band there, Basement and Dinosaur Pile-Up.
JA: Yeah yeah two great bands, good to see both of them back on the… well back and doing stuff.
AJ: Well I got out of the show and peeled my shirt off and there was literally steam coming off my body. That’s how hot it was.
JA: Yeah its mad.
AJ: So yeah, tonight’s gonna be sold out, it’s gonna be crazy. What was the motivation behind doing this intimate tour? Because this is the last night isn’t it?
JA: Yeah it is and then we’re playing Reading & Leeds this weekend, doing two secret (not-so-secret) sets.
AJ: Yeah I had heard about that.
JA: I think the main motivation was just, you know, not only did we have a great time and great memories playing a few of these venues in previous years on previous tours, it’s also so, in some ways a responsibility of bands, to not neglect other markets. It shouldn’t always just be Manchester, London blah blah blah. You can play those again and err yeah, it’s just nice to come back and do things like that.
AJ: Well obviously there’s going to be a big jump up, you guys are playing Ally Pally, and a bunch of big venues. Do you expect them to be as raucous as here?
JA: I hope so but to be honest with you, 10,000 people compared to 300, there’s only so much raucous that it can get do you know what I mean? You just have to be, they’re just two very different beasts and two different entities and we really love these kind of shows and the fact we get to do them is great! The venues have been accommodating and… what’s the word? Not nostalgic but just to go back and do things, like you’ve played to half empty to make them actually packed now is like a double thrill. It’s nice to be back and it’s nice to see the rooms as they’re intended.
AJ: Do you reckon you’ll approach both shows the same?
JA: No (laughs). When we get to Ally Pally we’ve got to up our game dramatically, it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done as a band, it’s our biggest headline show to date and we are gonna treat it with the grandeur that it’s gonna need. We’re not going to take it lightly, we’re not going to like suddenly become Coldplay or something and have loads of frills. We just want to beef up what we really enjoy doing and what we connect with the audience and see how we can bring in a bit of production, nothing crazy, but it’s just gonna be really fun to just have that opportunity to do that. I like the visual shows and I also like shows when you can just see the band performing, so we’ve got work out a way of how we’re going to do that on a stage in front of 10,000.
AJ: So to get the balance between both then?
JA: Exactly! Yeah, we’re kind of not really up for like suddenly becoming like… no one is gonna be on wires you know what I mean?
AJ: (Laughs). So it’s not gonna be like a Muse show…
JA: Nothing against those shows! It would just look ridiculous if we tried to do that. We just want to highlight what we think are our strengths.
AJ: Yeah definitely, because, for me, the most remarkable thing about your band is this switch that you’ve managed to have. There’s such a juxtaposition between these sort of pop-rock sensibilities, the nice melodic stuff, and then there’s something which will just bitchslap you in the face.
JA: (Laughs). Well yeah, like we all have different tastes and live music tastes but I think something we can all agree on is, when we walk away from a show and we feel like it’s been something you know? I can quite happily go and watch someone with just a piano and be just as moved as I can at like a hardcore punk show. I think all of us feel the same, we love all those attributes of playing live and with the new album as well we’ve accommodated more of those tastes in the new record and, I think we’re gonna be able to do things live that we simply couldn’t have done with the first record.
AJ: Well that’s perfect because I think you’ve answered one of my (next) questions. I mean, there’s no point me asking you who influences you because there’s going to be so many right?
JA: Yeah, and it’s not just musical, obviously like lyrically Ellie has her own touchpoints and there’s things we agree on like every now and then, a song will come on the radio or whatever, we’re in the van and everyone just sort of knows like this is a good piece of music. Then there’s other things that I love that Theo hates or that Theo loves that Joff hates or that Ellie likes that I can’t stand, it’s just the way it is.
AJ: Any examples of those?
JA: I can’t think of anything to be honest. Like, you know, it’s just, we’re very individual people but also there are things that tie us together and we are ultimately, even subconsciously influenced by the things around us whether it’s literature or films.
AJ: So, it’s any kind of art that you guys draw inspiration from?
JA: Yeah, I mean, there’s loads of different things that we like. I like to hear albums that strike me as things that I can imagine watching something to, you know, albums that you can imagine like a video or whatever to the song. That’s always really cool and I think that’s always sometimes an influence, just like, emotions and feelings and rather than being like “let’s sound like The White Stripes” do you know what I mean? It’s more like, you know that thing where you’re like rushing from one stage to the other stage and you can hear that song starting and its just like… I know what I’m talking about but…
AJ: I get you. I’m following you.
JA: They’re the things that sort of, probably on this record explored more of, it sounds naff but it’s the way songs make you feel that should be the most important thing.
AJ: Nah, I understand that completely. If you haven’t got that emotional attachment to it then what’s the point, right?
JA: Yeah, exactly.
AJ: You’re just making empty music.
JA: Yeah, exactly. No matter how good it is or how like many touchpoints it reaches on or how great the distortion pedals are, if it makes you feel nothing then it’s pretty empty.
AJ: I just want to leave you with one question. When all is said and done, how would you guys like to be remembered?
JA: Err, personally, as a man with quite nice hair. (Laughs) No, I don’t know. We really care about Wolf Alice and we take a lot of pride in it and even though we’re very self-deprecating, me especially to the point where it’s just annoying, we take it really seriously and we do love doing it, and hopefully we’ve made another record that, for us, we want to see on people’s shelves for a long time.
AJ: For sure, I mean the first record was incredible.
JA: Thank you! We can hear limitations on the first record, like any band probably will say they can and, for us, it’s just gonna be seeing and exploring and exploring and exploring and we’re still very excited to be in a room together and very excited to be playing together. It’s been quite an intense couple of years but none of us feel jaded enough to be like “ah we can’t be bothered anymore, we had a good time lets quit” so, hopefully, after this second album thinking ahead, when the second album is done, we’ll feel the same.
AJ: Sweet. Oh, hi! This is Ellie right? (Ellie approaches the bins).
JA: This is Ellie.
AJ: Ellie is here.
ER: Hi, nice to meet you.
AJ: (Laughs) You’ve come right as Joel is about to leave.
JA: (Laughs) Yeah sorry, that’s probably really confusing right?
AJ: Nah its cool! It’s just nice to have Ellie’s voice here too!
ER: (Laughs) Helloooooo.
AJ: She’s joined us by the bins.
ER: Yeah, where I belong.
AJ: Oh, she’s bought a sombre tone (Laughs)
JA: Well thank you man!
AJ: Thank you so much guys.
Wolf Alice then went on to play to a sold-out Boileroom, unfortunately due to train scheduling, I was unable to stay for the show. Hopefully, I can make it to Ally Pally.
I just wanted to say a massive thank you to the band and their management for making this interview happen – it really was a pleasure and an honour.