You know who Wolf Alice are. A staple feature of the UK’s indie landscape since they came kicking and screaming onto the scene in 2012, their short but expansive career has seen them cover huge ground both literally and figuratively. Countless live shows, two phenomenal EPs and one chart topping debut album later, they’re in the midst of their most important tour yet. With a hugely successful awards season under their belts, and four sold out nights at Kentish Town Forum on the horizon, we were desperate to hear some words of wisdom from the kids themselves. Backstage at Norwich UEA, that’s just what bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amey gave us.
Joel Amey: Manchester was amazing. It was the biggest show we’re going to play until our next record capacity wise, because The Forum [Kentish Town] is slightly smaller. We played there a couple of years ago with The 1975 and we were first on, and ironically Swim Deep were second on an they were second on last night, so I can’t believe we went back and sold it out. Big things for little Wolf Alice. The crowd were a beautiful bunch.
Do you remember playing this venue on that tour?
JA: Yeah, that was probably a less successful gig. I do of course remember. It was a mess really wasn’t it? It was fun, but the thing was, it was probably the third time that had happened on that tour. Or maybe it was the first of three times. There’s a video of it online actually. I think I said something like “sorry we were shit” when we went off stage. I hope I don’t have to say that again tonight. I think we’ll be great tonight actually; I walked past the stage earlier and there was a cool light show going on. We’re playing pretty well at the moment, actually. Seeing how we haven’t really rehearsed for a little while, I’ve been really enjoying this tour.
Wolf Alice live at the UEA in 2014
Where are Swim Deep today?
Theo Ellis: They had a double booking. They’re doing some uni ball or something, which was just an obligation that they had before we asked them to play. But there is the incredible Crows who will instantly become your new favourite band. And the BK bad boys.
JA: This tour is just literally us and our best mates. If I’m not playing a show I’m either with James [Cox] from Crows, Sam Conway from Bloody Knees or… just the people we always drink with who happen to all be in amazing bands.
Didn’t you used to be in a band with James Balmont from Swim Deep?
JA: Yeah, and a chap called Cameron Knight who’s in Alt-J now. We were in a band together when we were teenagers.
Are you aware of how much the EPs sell for on vinyl?
JA: Yeah we are. I always get screenshots sent to me of people selling the vinyl for like a grand.
TE: People reselling them can fuck off. It’s bullshit. It’s people who buy limited copies of things as prospective investment in case the band get big and then try to fuck kids over for money. We did limited runs because at the time that was the position we were in and that’s what you have to do. It’s got nothing to do with us.
JA: And the thing is, if we repress it, to those people who did buy it for £500, anything that was special is now lost to that fucking dick on eBay.
TE: I’d rather people illegally download the EP than buy it for £400.
Do you have any vinyl you cherish that much?
JA: I have a copy of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. It’s something my Mum had, and it’s a beautiful bit of kit. I don’t think I’m very good at collecting vinyl. I love it, but I just never get around to doing it. I do buy pieces that I’m really interested in, like certain Fugazi records that I have, Replacements vinyls which I’m really into.
TE: I’ve got shit loads of records that I love and I’m very protective over. I have a Kraftwerk album on translucent vinyl, a really old pressing of Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R, loads of different bits and pieces. I actually have almost every Nick Cave record, except for The Good Son I think. So if anyone out there has a copy, throw it at me.
JA: Apparently at the moment people think throwing shit on stage is cool. People keep throwing demo CDs, which I’m happy to go and grab because we’ll come outside afterward, but it’s just… it’s a disc. I saw one hit Joff yesterday.
Why are none of your EP tracks on the album?
TE: Both of those EPs were bodies of work, which have their own structures, and for us they have a place and a world which they live in, whereas the singles we made earlier when we didn’t have much money or time, so we wanted to give them the best showcase or best outfit to wear in terms of production. So it was just an opportunity to have another go.
JA: I think we might be the only band I know who put out a single and then did a tour for it. We did the Bros tour, which was maybe thirty dates; no one was there, which actually in hindsight probably did us some good.
How does touring now compare to then?
TE: Obviously it’s a lot easier. It’s really difficult for young bands to fulfil their touring commitments when they’re working as well and it can really put a strain on you. If you’re able to balance the two then the touring side eventually takes off and becomes your world, and that’s really lucky. We’re so grateful for it. And now we’ve got a TV mounted to the side of the wall in the tour bus. We have video games, I don’t think I’ve actually watched anything on it yet. But it is so difficult sometimes, even if you’re studying, it’s not just work. And then you also need to eat and you probably need to pay rent because you’re an adult. Life! What’s that all about?
What’s your relationship like with Dirty Hit?
TE: We have to contractually stick with them! Dirty Hit were the only record label to show up after our show in Cambridge supporting Swim Deep and they said “we want to sign you, we’ll do it tomorrow”. They’re, in my opinion, the best record label in terms of the things they’re putting out. They’re so ambitious and creative and they give creative license to their artists properly.
JA: They got a number 1 in the UK and the US with a guitar band [the 1975], who Jamie [Oborne] was told would never amount to anything in ten years. Other bands who have done that are like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Adele, Radiohead with Kid A. Five people work there. It’s amazing, we’re so proud of what Jamie’s achieved.
TE: They let us make the record, which we wanted to make, which is amazing.
The name Wolf Alice comes from an Angela Carter story. How did that come about?
JA: I didn’t study it but everyone in London seemed to have studied it at school. I did Wise Children.
TE: Ellie needed a name for a MySpace profile for a band, and her Mum suggested it. And also it’s quite fitting. Have you read it? It’s only two or three pages.
You did a lot of awards ceremonies lately too. Which was your favourite?
TE:The NMEs. Because we won.
JA: NME is just a really wicked party and all our friends were there. The Grammys is something I’ll be able to tell [TE: someone else’s grandkids!] about because it is a massive thing. It’s kind of mad. If, when you’d seen us the last time we played this venue, you said “one day they’ll be nominated for a Grammy” I’d be like “fuck off they are”. So that’s crazy. And we were the only band on an independent label at the Brits –
TE: No, you’ve got Courtney Barnett.
JA: Fuck! Only band.
TE: Tame Impala.
JA: No, they’re on Fiction.
TE: Is that not a major?
JA: Anyway. Basically, whatever we are we were there. Grammys and NMEs for me were great because I was in Los Angeles and we won, Brits are at the bottom.
Which bands made you want to play music?
TE: Queens of the Stone Age, Nick Cave.
JA: The Horrors when I was younger. That was the first gig I ever went to by myself, when I was 15. It was in a venue called The Coronet, which is closing down, in Elephant and Castle. It was in the top room at a gig put on by a young lad called Sam Kilcoyne who started a night with his dad called Underage Club, where you could only get in if you were under 18 [which became a festival running from 2007-2011]. I went with James Balmont from Swim Deep, it was our first gig by ourselves, and it changed me because for me it was one of the most punk things I could see, because it was just three chords and a bunch of kids in a fucking room and it felt like something was happening. It was the first time I felt like I was involved in something that could change my life, and it did actually.
Do you think that you guys have done the same for people going to Wolf Alice gigs?
TE: I don’t think we could assume. Fingers crossed that it’s done that.
JA: People have definitely said stuff to us that has been incredibly warming and flattering.
Tour manager Piet signals it’s time to wrap things up.
Final question is, have you got new material in the works?
TE: If you watch the show this evening, at the beginning there’s a weird thing that happens and we’re not really sure if it’s a song or what. We are trying to write some new songs because all we’re thinking about is how we want to write a second record really fucking quickly. We don’t want to disappear, we don’t want to go away, we want to keep doing this because we’re really enjoying it and we can’t afford to miss it. Also, we have to pay this guy to stay on the road with us!
Portraits are taken and Wolf Alice head off to do whatever it is rockstars do before a show.
Words: Alex Cabré
Photos: Poppy Marriott
Photos: Poppy Marriott