A ragtag bunch of 20-somethings from London via Camden Town have ripped, roared and raged their way onto the world’s music scene with aspirations to be the next band you can’t wait to tell your friends about. Making their US debut on Conan this week, the band hopes to cause as much ruckus in New York as they did earlier this year at SXSW.
Pancakes & Whiskey sat down with bassist Theo Ellis to find out what’s in store for New York City when Wolf Alice hits the scene later this week.
P&W: How did Wolf Alice form and where did the name come from?
Theo: The name of the band is actually from a collection of stories which are basically about a girl who was raped by wolves. The band has had a few incarnations but it was really Ellie and Joel who started at open mics around North London and essentially, when they wanted to go a bit louder, Joff and I showed up and that’s when Wolf Alice really came about. We just played as many gigs, as many shows as we could and we were probably pretty terrible, but loud.
P&W: So hailing from the London music scene, what influences have you tried to incorporate into the band and which clichés have you avoided?
Theo: The London music scene has been formed by a lot of different people coming from a lot of different areas. The scene is really a melting pot of a lot of influences but we were never directly influenced by The Who or Oasis or bands like that; that’s really part of a different generation. We took a lot of our influences from a wider appeal. Kind of like that London old hat thing, that mod kind of thing. I mean, we don’t have bowl haircuts or anything but that’s part of our sound.
P&W: What’s the difference between Wolf Alice on your debut album, “My Love is Cool” and the Wolf Alice live show?
Theo: I think we try to keep things as energetic as possible live. We always try to make our shows as fun as possible. So energy is kind of like the key element. And we have had a lot of time to learn where the live set needs to be. I would say energy is our biggest thing. We gear the set towards that more than anything. We like to rattle through the songs live, but the stuff on the album is a bit softer and more affected, but there’s lots of jumping around in and out of the crowd when we’re live.
P&W: What was it like being in the studio with Mike Crossey (producer Arctic Monkeys, Black Keys) to create your debut album?
Theo: It was great. He helped us get a clear idea of the songs and what they needed to be. With Mike, what the amazing thing is about him, is that when you play the guitar he hears it as this sonic stuff, like a mathematical equation, and he has a science of it in his mind to make it sound bigger. He is really talented and he can gets the best performance out of you. Really amazing.
P&W: When you were recording the album was there any discussion about making it not sound too digital in an effort to capture the live energy of the music? Did everything have to be perfect?
Theo: No, not at all. I think each song is a different case. There’s some songs that needed to be crafted and have multi-tracks to give them a point of view and then there are some songs like, “You’re a Germ” that we just got on the internet today which is just one track and that has the energy. Whatever the song needs we will record it in that manner. You kind of know which ones need to be recorded rough.
P&W: So, you’ve had two EPs before this and time to develop the Wolf Alice sound. What has been the evolution of the band?
Theo: I think some songs we don’t even know how to play anymore. We were afforded a lot of time before we recorded something with 12 songs. Not many bands have that opportunity. We almost cheated in a way because we had so much material to choose from. Hopefully you can hear that on the record that we have a more defined idea of who we are. It’s important to be given a bit of time to experiment to find that.
P&W: You’re biggest hit thus far has been “Moaning Lisa Smile” but what is your favorite song to play from the album?
Theo: We all have different ones probably but my favorite is a song called “Silk.” It’s quite a theatrical sounding song, it’s got different vocal characters creeping in and out and I probably like it because we have been playing “Moaning Lisa Smile” so much. And the first track on the album, “Turn to Dust,” has a very different feel than the other songs. I like that one as well.
P&W: Anything going on in the world that you’ve decided to incorporate into your music to define a position or opinion?
Theo: Well, first of all we don’t really have political opinions on things going on in terms of our music. We write things that have to deal with fictional themes and personal feelings. It’s pretty difficult to be uniquely sad all the time or overtly happy so we take things from literature like, “The Virgin Suicides” or films like “Heavenly Creatures.” We like stories about people going through things and then we can write a piece of music that is more introspective. It’s tricky trying to write music that sums up everyone’s unanimous opinion on something so we don’t really try.
P&W: What do you want people to know about Wolf Alice?
Theo: I think that we are just trying to get people to know us and with the album we’d just like people to still have the album on their shelf at the end of the year. We aren’t trying to change the world. We just want people to enjoy the record. Oh, and to make millions and millions of pounds.
Catch Wolf Alice this Thursday at Le Poisson Rouge.
Article: Hannah Soule
Cover Photo: Jordan Curtis Hughes