London-based Wolf Alice fears no genre. As the repressive need for boundaries evaporates, the four piece has jumped into the fray with an array of songs that casually parades their mastery of the free range. From pop to garage, grunge to folk, the band stamps every song with their inventive energy, like on their first official EP, Blush. Songs like “White Leather” scored them comparisons with The xx. No surprise that right from the start, the band has been one to watch. Now Wolf Alice is due to release their first album, titled My Love Is Cool, on June 23 through Dirty Hit/RCA, and the latest single, “Giant Peach,” was one of Zane Lowe’s hottest records in the world. They’ve been on tour in the US and UK, and are now gearing up for festival season, which gave Northern Transmissions a chance to hear from the hard-working band. Ellie Rowsell, the front woman of Wolf Alice, talked about creativity, challenges, and cute pets with Alice Severin.
Northern Transmissions: How are you and where are you?
Ellie Rowsell: Hi, I’m good I’m on a train to Finsbury Park at the moment.
NT: Was there a certain moment when you decided to start writing songs together? Have you always performed?
ER: Each song we write seems to have a different way it was put together, so there was no point where we decided to write together, we just do if we are in the right moment. I have always performed in some form or the other, I think all of us have, but this is my first band.
NT: The band name comes from the Angela Carter story about that uses fairy and folk tale images to subvert traditional roles when describing the journey of a young woman finding her own self. Is that why you chose it? She was a really fascinating writer.
ER: I like the themes running through Carter’s work and they struck a chord as a young woman, but more subconsciously I think. I just like fairy tales, dark ones especially, for their imagery and I liked the juxtaposing name Wolf Alice.
NT: Your new single, Giant Peach, off the forthcoming debut album, My Love is Cool – is the title taken from the Roald Dahl book? A lot of people are wondering. And – it’s a phenomenal track. Was this the most obvious first song to take off the album?
ER: Yes, it’s sort of taken from the story, I wanted a name that was some way of saying “home” and that sprung to mind as the Giant Peach is James’ home. We chose it as our first single off the album as it wasn’t too dissimilar to Moaning Lisa Smile in terms of style, but still a progression for us and also we love playing it live – so wanted people to get familiar with it for shows.
NT: Have you found that there were particular hurdles or challenges as a woman fronting a band?
ER: There are challenges that come with being a front-woman of a band. I don’t compare my experiences to that of a man’s that much, so I’m not sure if the hurdles I have taken are specific to my gender. I know a lot of girls who speak of horrible experiences as a woman in the music industry and they need to be addressed but in my short time in a band I have yet to experience anything of this nature luckily.
NT: This new album sounds crisper, more definite compared to a song like Moaning Lisa Smile. Did you aim for a different tone on this one?
ER: We wanted a big crisp sound yes, not completely polished, but I guess more so than our previous work.
NT: How did you choose to work with Mike Crossey as the producer? What were the sessions like?
ER: We were suggested him by our label. He has a vast experience with guitar sounds which was something we needed and wanted help in. He knows how to realise the sounds and ideas we could only describe.
NT: When you think about writing the songs, do you have a certain idea in mind? Or does some of the writing come from improvisation?
ER: For me personally I will play off a lyric I have in my head, or play off a riff Joff has written for example. But again we don’t really have a set way, we are always experimenting with writing.
NT: Drenge said about you that your songwriting covers a wide range, and that your sound is incredibly varied. Would you agree, and what is important to you about that approach?
ER: We just have a lot of influences and we all have a hand in writing, so it makes sense that our sound is quite varied. It’s important to us as we don’t want to be pigeonholed, and we like the freedom of being able to take our music to different realms.
NT: Did you enjoy taking risks and being adventurous on the new album?
ER: Yes! It was something we hadn’t been brave enough to do previously, as we were still getting to grips with studio and hadn’t been afforded much time to experiment. It has made me super excited to go back in to the studio and see what happens next.
NT: Do you think that genres are becoming less important? It seems like there is more of a trend to get away from strict categories.
ER: Yeah I guess because of the nature of streaming people are listening to a lot of playlists rather than albums, which is giving more importance to the quality of a song, rather than an album which allows you to be more open in what kind of genre you are.
NT: You’ve got an incredible touring schedule ahead of you including T in the Park, Summer Sonic in Japan, and Reading and Leeds, and over here a lineup of dates through the US starting at the end of April. How are you preparing? Do you have a routine as a band or individually before a show as a warm up?
ER: We practice all the time when we are free, it’s incredibly important to us to progress as a live band. I prepare by buying lots of books and TV series box sets to keep myself amused on long drives. As a band we sing lots of songs before stage time, Scissor Sisters first album is a fave of ours. Bring back the Scissor Sisters!!
NT: Do you get special band riders, and is there anything you miss when you’re touring?
ER: In America I miss English food, I don’t know what English food is but it seems to be a bit more green than American. Our rider is pretty boring at the moment, I asked for a cute pet but got denied, we have hummus though.
NT: And five albums that inspire you.
Jeff Buckley Grace
The Strokes Is This It
Kings of Leon Aha Shake Heartbreak
Outkast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Sia 1000 Forms of Fear
Iceage Plowing Into the Field of Love