Despite only releasing their debut single in 2013, Wolf Alice are excitingly counting down the days until their second album, Visions of a Life, is released for all the world to hear. With their 2015 debut, My Love is Cool, making the ‘Best Albums of the Year’ lists in The Guardian, NME, Q and Rough Trade, and winning them the iTunes ‘Best New Artist/Band’ award of the same year, plus BRIT Award, Grammy nominations among others, I spoke to the group’s Theo Ellis weeks before the second LP release, or twenty-one days as daily countdown on @wolfaliceband’s Instagram page informed me.
Hi Theo, how are you doing? Whereabouts are you right now?
Hiya – I’m actually in my mum’s living room trying to get some stuff together – I’m going to Paris in a minute.
Very nice! So, there’s three weeks until Visions of a Life, how are you all feeling?
Good! I’m just excited for people to hear it to be honest, I really like this album so I really want people to hear it.
That’s really positive – the first two singles, ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ and ‘Yuk Foo’ are quite contrasting pieces, was it a conscious decision to release two very different tracks, or were they just two of your favourites, perhaps?
I think they were the two we wanted to release and show. We’re quite polarised but we’ve always been quite broad, stylistically, so I suppose it shows that aspect of the band. I think when people hear the whole album they’ll start to piece together thematically what it’s about and how it works in cohesion with all of the different songs. We released ‘Yuk Foo’ first because we were really excited about it in the studio and wanted people to hear it, so it was one of those songs we wanted to get into people’s minds as soon as we were going out and playing shows, and then ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ was one we laboured over for quite a long time. I don’t really know why we did it, but they’re both out now!
They certainly made people talk, and for all the right reasons, too. The album was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen who’s worked with Paramore and M83, how did you go about finding him and working with him?
Justin was suggested to us by someone who works at our record label, and it was only then we realised who he was. We realised at Electric Picnic three years or so ago there was one show we all watched. He used to play bass for Beck and still collaborates with him and works as his music director, but we watched this show and were all like ‘who the fuck is that lunatic going mental on stage?!’ and it was Justin playing bass. Through some weird serendipity, we’ve ended up working with him now, and he’s got such a broad spectrum of musical style under his belt, like the new Raveonettes record or something hyper-synthy and polished like M83’s album, so his scope is something that really leant itself to us and our style of working because we’ve got a broad style, and he was a good man to render our creative visions in that sense.
I think our sonic influences are always quite subconscious
It sounds like it really gelled together well. Along those sort of lines, who or what inspired the album, or what were you listening to at the time of its writing and creation?
To be honest, nothing we were listening to at the time directly influenced the album, sonically; I think our sonic influences are always quite subconscious, and we tend to go song by song. In terms of what I was listening to at the time, I was getting back into The Saints and the Sex Pistols, but they by no way influenced what we were creating or putting out at the time. I was reading a book called ‘England’s Dreaming’ by Jon Savage and rediscovering my love for ’77 punk music.
I read in an interview with Q Magazine that you talked about ‘adapting to age’, and after the huge success of My Love is Cool and nominations for the 2015 Mercury Prize and 2016 Ivor Novello Awards, was there a pressure towards your second LP, more than normal, perhaps?
I suppose there is a pressure for us for it to do well because of the things the first one achieved, but in reality those pressures, for instance, nods from the Grammys, those things for us aren’t why we do it at all. It was more of a personal pressure that we worried about, which was progressing as songwriters and musicians and creating something that we were equally as proud of but also surpassed what we could have done at the time with My Love is Cool. Whatever comes now, since we finished it, is out of our hands to an extent; we’re not really too worried about what happens because we know that we’ve made something we’re proud of, which I think is the most important thing for the four of us.
You’ve spoken as a band of the impact of constant touring, and this summer has seen Reading and Leeds, a USA tour, and an intimate UK tour among others, is it good to be back?
It’s amazing to be back. It’s weird when you become a band that tours as much as we do, it’s a constant cycle of gearing up to get ready for tour, and then being on tour, and then recovering from tour, it all ends up being this organism that works around touring, which I think is great because we’re a live guitar band that loves to play shows. It’s really nice to actually be back doing what we do best.
That’s really good to hear. So, Wolf Alice are among one of Britain’s arguably most exciting and contemporary labels, Dirty Hit Records, you’ve got for example The 1975 among your peers and supporters, have they given you any advice at all over the last few years?
Ah, Dirty Hit Records, the empire! Matty (Healy, The 1975 frontman) is quite good at giving advice. He talks quite broadly and is a good speaker. I can’t remember any advice he’s given but I doubt it’s ever really serious.
(We then talk about Superfood, another of Wolf Alice’s contemporaries, and our admiration for their new record). I definitely think Dirty Hit are onto something great and seem to find amazing artists and have such a strong roster.
Yeah, I’m really proud to be part of Dirty Hit. It’s quite an eclectic label, of what feels like quite misfit bands. It’s great, there are some really great people who work there, it’s a pretty cool label.
Definitely, how did you come about being involved with them?
Loads of A&R people were coming to our shows and flirting with the idea of signing us for a long time, and things sort of peated out over time a little bit. It wasn’t until we were on tour supporting Swim Deep many moons ago, around three years ago, Jamie (Oborne, Dirty Hit Records) came to see us in Cambridge and we went and had a really shit Mexican meal, and he said he’d sign us the next day. We desperately needed a record label and wanted to put out an album. He literally did it, he came to the pub the next day with the contract.
Talking of being up and coming and contemporary, you’ve provided songs for recent film soundtracks such as T2 Trainspotting and Ghostbusters, how did you get involved with that? Both are quite different films so I think it really showcases the diversity of your music and how versatile it is.
The Trainspotting thing was literally overnight. They asked us while I was asleep, I woke up and watched the trailer and we were in it, and I didn’t even know it was going to happen, so they must have spoken to our manager and just asked to use it. So that was pretty amazing, and I think that was their creative team asking if they could use it. It’s also used at the end of the film. The Ghostbusters one, we wrote a song directly for a specific scene in which it would be used on the radio whilst the characters were doing something, and it had to be a song about ghosts. It ended up just on some soundtrack with Fall Out Boy, but it’s out – we have a song about ghosts. We literally wrote it with that scene in mind.
it feels like the young generations are standing up for what they believe in
In other areas of what’s going on at the moment, I’ve noticed you’ve been involved with politics over the last year, for example your involvement with Labour’s General Election campaign, Bands4Refugees – I’d imagine that these must be some of your proudest moments, and cement the idea of youth involvement in politics, what made you get into all that?
Definitely. It’s quite a polarised time, politically. It feels quite black and white. We’ve all, as a band, grown a bit older in the public eye, we’ve gone from being about twenty to twenty-five, and you mature and hone your interests and find out what you really believe in in life. With things such as Brexit happening, such vast, seismic changes to a country, and people not having the right information at the time mean a lot of people look to social media as their news outlets, which is a bizarre concept, but it’s happening. Knowing that you have X amount of people following you on Twitter or Instagram it felt like an important thing to do, talk about something that the four of us believed in. Unfortunately, the Labour Party didn’t win the election but there was a massive shift, and it feels like the young generations are standing up for what they believe in and being truly represented by a pretty good Labour leader, in my opinion.
I think that’s quite a spark which seems to have come out of it, that it seems to have made everyone wake up and realise that young people are definitely on it, and a positive note to end on – to finish off, if I could just quickly ask if there are any releases, other than your own, that you’re excited for?
I’m currently listening to that Superfood album, Bambino, and I’m really excited about a band called the 404guild who are coming out of South London, they’re amazing.
As the interview draws to a close, I wish Theo all best with the album and his trip to Paris, and thank him for his time, to which I am met with an equally thankful response. Wolf Alice are back, maturer and more confident than before, ready to present their second record and calmly enjoy the build-up to one of the year’s most anticipated releases from one of North London’s most energetic groups.
Wolf Alice’s second album, Visions of a Life, is out September 29th.