Redbrick Meets: Wolf Alice | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Redbrick Meets: Wolf Alice

Music Editor Thom Dent has a chat with Theo Ellis of Wolf Alice about their upcoming live shows, their new album and the perils of drinking red wine on tour

Inconvenient as ever, I phone Theo just as he’s tucking into his breakfast. For the Wolf Alice superfans out there, his breakfast of choice is a bowl of porridge and a herbal tea. I’m not sure what brand of oats or tea he goes for, but if you too want to emulate the way your favourite indie bassist starts the day, this is as much information as I can provide. Wolf Alice have a busy day of phone interviews and tour rehearsals ahead, so carbs and caffeine are most definitely a wise choice.

‘I can’t wait to get back on tour,' Theo says through a mouthful of porridge. ‘We’ve just come off two different tours, one in America and one in the UK, where we were playing some smaller venues, so it’ll be interesting to go play more of the new material on our album and to also be playing bigger shows, because it’s been a while since we’ve played in rooms this size.’

These are gonna be amongst your biggest shows yet then. Is there any city / venue you’re particularly excited to play?

I think Ally Pally (London’s Alexandra Palace, for readers who are less hip than Theo from Wolf Alice) is gonna be the biggest show we’ve ever done ourselves, our biggest headline show for sure. I’m also looking forward to going back to Ireland, I love playing the Olympia in Dublin. We’ll be playing there again for the third time. I’m excited to play in every city to be honest, but I’ve got good memories of Dublin.

What’s your pre-stage routine? Any weird rituals?

Nah, we’re a pretty low key band, ain’t got too many rituals. We always have a hug, all four of us, before we go onstage, but that’s about it. Nothing too weird.

Nothing particularly diva-ish on the rider then? Besides herbal tea and porridge...

Our rider’s pretty fucking boring at the moment, to be honest. We had red wine on it last tour, but it was the middle of the summer and no one was drinking it. Everyone was just dying from drinking hot red wine onstage. The next tour’s in November though, so we could always bring it back… whip out a couple of glasses of vino for the winter.

What’re you gonna be listening to on tour? What’s the record you’re enjoying most at the moment?

I listen to loads of different stuff really. At the moment I’m listening to a mixtape by 67 called Let’s Lurk, I’ll probably still be playing that. I listened to Relaxer, the new alt-J album, a lot on the last tour. We’re always listening to different stuff though.

That definitely comes across in your music. Particularly in the years leading up to your debut, Wolf Alice seemed to be a band that were constantly evolving. ‘Fluffy’ sounds nothing like ‘Blush’, which sounds nothing like ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, which sounds nothing like ‘Silk’ etc. Is it the same story with the songs you’ve written for Visions of a Life?

We were referencing emotional reactions, which is quite a weird way of trying to create something
I think we’re just doing what we want to do to be honest. It’s what we wanna make and what we think sounds cool, what we like and enjoy, and then hopefully that ends up sounding like a Wolf Alice album. We don’t want the songs to sound completely different to each other and disjointed, but we’ve always wanted to push ourselves stylistically. We’re kind of a product of the internet generation, there’s not really too much genre tribalism any more in what you wanna create, so there’s no reason for us to sit down and say ‘we’re gonna make an indie record’ or ‘we’re gonna write a rock song’. We just wanna make whatever’s best for each song, whether it sounds quite peculiar or not. The song chooses what it sounds like.

That does sound quite similar to the sort of eclecticism that defined your debut record… what relationship is there between My Love Is Cool and the new album?

 I’d say Visions of a Dream is basically like My Love Is Cool but at hyperspeed. Yuk Foo’s a good example of that I think.

The new album does sound like something of a sonic progression from My Love Is Cool still. There doesn’t seem to be any guitar at all on ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’, which is very synth-heavy…

(Theo seems slightly offended at this suggestion.) There is guitar, it’s just hidden.

How does the band go about writing such varying pieces of music? Surely the process is wildly different from track to track…

Yeah, we never really have one set way of writing a song. Maybe someone will come up with an idea on their phone and play it to everyone, we’ll all kick it around in a rehearsal room, or Ellie (Rowsell, frontwoman) will come in with a fully formed idea and we’ll play through it, make it as Wolf Alice as it can be or whatever. It’s ever-changing how we write music to be honest - if we write it together it ends up sounding like our band anyway.

Are there any albums or artists that have particularly inspired Visions of a Life? Any new influences you’ve picked up since the last album?

I think quite a lot of the time with this new record we weren’t directly looking for influences from a musical realm… we weren’t so much saying ‘we want it to sound like Levon Helm on the drums’, or trying to get a Marc Ribot guitar sound. We were talking about experiences and atmospheres and feelings, so like with ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ a lot of the time we were talking about euphoria and that feeling, like chugging momentum, head out of the car window-type stuff. We were referencing emotional reactions, which is quite a weird way of trying to create something, needing it to sound like ‘driving with your head out of the window’, y’know. I think it worked quite well.

We’re kind of a product of the internet generation, there’s not really too much genre tribalism any more in what you wanna create

Kind of a more cinematic way of writing music.

Exactly, yeah.

What’s your favourite song on the new album?

My favourite song is called ‘Sky Musings’. I really love that song. It’s got a weird, almost spoken word thing that happens. Thematically that really ties things together for me.


Visions of a Life is out on September 29th through Dirty Hit Records. Wolf Alice play the Birmingham O2 Academy on November 16th. Read Redbrick's previous interview with the band here.

I like music and writing. You can see why I'm here. (@thomdent)


14th September 2017 at 9:30 am

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Wolf Alice