Written By Nick Hopton
Photos taken by Andy DeLuca and Jordan Hemingway
For over a decade, the English rock band Wolf Alice has been hypnotizing listeners and audiences alike with their combination of beautiful melodies and rousing musicianship. I have been listening to them for the better part of those years, and their effect on the mind and soul never ceases to feel absolutely electric. So when I had the chance to sit down with them during one of the biggest music festivals in America, Firefly Music Festival, it was an opportunity I had to immediately jump on. It’s not often you get to sit down with a band that won the Mercury Prize (beating out Arctic Monkeys, Florence + The Machine, and Noel Gallagher in 2018). Needless to say…this one felt a bit different.
The band had just flown into the States for the beginning of a roughly five-week tour, and a mid-day slot on the main stage (Firefly) was a perfect way to kick things off. I had the pleasure of sitting down with founding member and guitarist Joff Oddie and drummer extraordinaire Joel Amey for a quick chat before they kicked off. As a brief introduction to those unfamiliar with Wolf Alice and their story, I felt the question of “how did the band get together?” needed to be asked to Joff. “I met Ellie (lead singer) on the internet. I responded to an ad from someone else on a ‘Find A Bandmate’, and she responded to my reply. That was back in 2010; we started writing together and playing together…and at that point, it was fairly obvious that it was a good fit. Ellie is an incredible songwriter. We did a few open mics and whatnot, and later on, we were joined by Joel and Theo.”
That “fit” that Joff mentioned became one of the most exciting sounds of the last decade. And while it began with simple, acoustic based tunes…it quickly evolved into much more. “There was some really exciting music coming out around that time. There was Gross Magic and a bunch of other people that were working with this grunge revival kind of stuff. So we rented a rehearsal space and some instruments to just see what would happen. And immediately, we were like, ‘this works.’ And then when the four of us got together and played, it’s like, ‘wow.’ It felt super good, and it’s just what we’ve been doing ever since.”
Creative processes in a band can sometimes be a power struggle. Especially if there are members that have been around longer than others. Sometimes it’s one person’s say over everyone else. But as Joel explained, this band collectively creates together, making them so effective in writing. “We’re all involved in these songs. We all listen to each other’s ideas and use what we all feel most excited about, the strongest about. Usually, right before we go into the studio, we’ll have a period where we’re working both on our own and together, sending things back and forth with email. Then when we’re buzzing about it, we find a producer we’ve decided to work with for these specific songs. Each time it’s unique in that way too.”
Unique is a common theme with Wolf Alice as well. Their latest EP, Blue Lullaby, is reimagining their last full-length album, Blue Weekend. Striping down the layers of their wall of sound, Wolf Alice turned their previous creations into something entirely new. “It was pretty spontaneous; let’s just try a couple of different ideas and see what happens,” Joff explains. “And it was super fun, like with ‘Feeling Myself,’ here’s this kind of weird, electronic song that turned into a kind of country, cowboy, Westward theme tune. But that’s the thing with a good song, you can render it a million different ways, but it will always be good.” While the band focuses on touring at the moment, there is nothing in the works regarding new music. But once the road ends, that usual yet unique process begins again. “We’ll lock ourselves in a room until an album falls out, and then we’ll go back out again.”
Speaking of touring, there’s a certain mystique that follows it. What goes on? What does a typical day look like for a band of their caliber? Indeed it has to be just like all the stories we’ve heard from legends, right? “I stare at a wall for 10 hours…play a show…then go back and stare at another wall for about 4 more.” Joff jokes, to which we all laugh our asses off at the thought. “It would be criminal to just sit around and do nothing.” Joel immediately responds back with. “You have rest days, of course, but it’s just so much fun touring. It depends on where you are, but even in the UK, it’s still that much fun. I think everything is back to the same excitement from when we first started touring because of everything. Yes, we will sit around and do fuck all as well, and some days it is more relaxing. But each experience is so unique.”
I always quite personally enjoy the time toward the end of interviews. By then, you have broken down the walls of the initial meeting and can just chat rather than ask/answer questions. We began talking about the shared love of Philadelphia and how they have not played it in quite some time (but very much want to). The now non-existent Trocadero was a favorite venue of theirs. And how a local Philly area contemporary artist named Alex G has become one of their favorite musicians in the world (I’m not kidding; we probably talked about Alex G more than anything else). I also have to mention two other artists…English composer Edward Elgar, who is Joff’s current musical obsession (whom he very much wants to collaborate with, even if he passed in 1934), and Joel’s friends back home in Kid Kapichi, who just recently released a new album as well.
The band went on soon after our meet-up and did what they always do. They got on that main stage and punched a hole in the sky. And after witnessing that in person, I can assure you…they won’t be stopping anytime soon.