Class Of 2014: Wolf Alice
For Wolf Alice, life’s a horrorshow. Getting pelted with eggs, fending off crazed fans… But this being in a band business has its perks.
Photo: Mike Massaro / DIY
Fancy being in a band like Wolf Alice? Figure it’ll be a laugh, a waltz through rock ‘n roll town, with unlimited booze and major labels bringing out the woo-factor? Think again. Life in Wolf Alice is an assault course of tragedies and near-death experiences.
By Jamie Milton
Posted 9th December 2013, 3:09pm
“I was walking home from a bar in Liverpool, with a cheese-burger in my hand,” begins innocent band bassist Theo Ellis, reminiscing about a life-shattering event during the Swim Deep tour. “Someone passed by in a Ford Focus and threw something. I thought it was a bottle. I was like 'Ah, no mate, now I'm dead'.
“I looked down and was like, 'oh, it's just eggs.'”
Theo seems to be designated anecdote-bringer for Wolf Alice. Getting a member of young, boisterous band Bloody Knees to run headfirst into a McDonalds toilet door is a particular highlight. His face is almost expressionless when he relays these events, like tour’s taken a part of his soul.
But Wolf Alice aren’t exhausted. Not even close. Their past 12 months has been the opposite: Enlivening. Culminating in a sold-out show in proverbial halls of residence Camden, 2013 began with a stuffy, winter blues-curing night in January at London’s Old Blue Last. It was a Neu Presents ‘Hello 2013’ show - days after the release of wide-eyed single ‘Fluffy’, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Joff describes the show as “literally the first gig” where people actually came to see his band. It was a just reward for several months’ hard work. A folky two piece between Joff and Ellie Rowsell expanded into a full-band (“When we started, we wanted to go from cute quiet songs to the funnest music we could play live,” says Ellie), backed by tale-teller Ellis and drummer Joel Amey. “I think we've always expected stuff to happen - not in an arrogant way, but we wouldn't have been doing it if we didn't think there was some merit in it.”
At the time, backstage surrounded by creaking floors and a half-finished rider, none of the band were even half-considering the prospect of a record. But it’s snuck up quicker than they would’ve anticipated. “We've been working [on the album] subconsciously for ages,” says Joel. “When you mentioned that gig, I was thinking, what songs did we even play?”
Post-’Fluffy’ - which in itself was a grizzly game-changer, a thrashing thump of a mission statement - the Wolf began to show its claws even more. Follow-up single ‘Bros’ is an uplifting tale of friendship, but it’s cast in a sharp, pointed frame. ‘She’ - the highlight from a recent EP - could be mistaken for thrash, at times. “'She' always sounds heavier than when I actually listen to it. I think live, again, it goes up a notch,” claims Joel. That’s a slight disservice to the band’s decibel-raising steps forward.
And yet for "we wanted to go from cute quiet songs to the funnest music we could play live." all their raucous stances and unapologetic stabs of noise, the band are beginning to resonate with a different crowd. Kids, who might have previously just asked to be pointed towards Swim Deep’s Cav so that they could get his autograph - these are the people turning up to the four-piece’s shows. Ellie’s face is plastered all over Tumblr. This time last year the band could count hardcore fans on their collective hands. Today they’re on the brink of having to fend off crazed fanatics. That’s how it should be in the risky life of Wolf Alice.
“I think if you're an electronic act, then yeah you haven't got to play Kilford,” says Amey. “You don't have to cut your teeth.”
Theo chips in about the group’s rough ride in 2013. “It's a lot nicer now. Not that it isn't fun, but it was scary. We had our fair share of times when things fell apart. To be fair, we still do have that but we learn how to deal with it.”
“I think I'm more confident now, 100 times more than even halfway through the year,” asserts Joel. “Looking back at that OBL gig. It's so funny.”
In the past 12 months Wolf Alice have sharpened their tools, found their instincts, been pelted with eggs, of all things. This next step awaiting in 2014 looks set to be one similarly full of challenges, but what better band is there to topple them?
Taken from the December-January Class Of 2014 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.