It’s on an unprecedentedly estival afternoon that Wolf Alice and I bare teeth to meet on what has been a long overdue encounter. Amid talk of Glastonbury heat waves and exponentially hotting climes, January thankfully couldn’t feel further removed from this afternoon and indeed it seems an apt time to speak with a band to be bracketed among the hottest properties of an onsetting summer at that acute point at which the season seems to be at last beginning in earnest.
Though a notable element of the nom de plume on which they’ve doubtless been quizzed every last time they’ve deigned to do any form of interview concerns the drastic lack of Alice among the ranks. “I think I did that [derived the moniker from the character of the same name from Angela Carter’s esteemed short fiction compendium, The Bloody Chamber] without really realising” proffers lead singer Ellie Rowsell somewhat reluctantly. Thus although born of bookish circumstance, it’s incidentally a pretty apt name for a band with such feral elements to their widely lionised live show. “I think that’s a cool idea, but I don’t really know how much sense it makes!” she continues, a smirk this time smeared across her themselves faintly lupine features. “It would be cool were we, like, proper foaming at the mouth when we played” extrovert, rake-like bassist Theo Ellis then concurs and they may well bare foamy teeth nightly for all I know.
For although I’ve “seen” the band twice in loosely inverted commas (the third opportunity is later to arise when they’re in fact incidentally visible for a first time), I’ve yet to actually see them. Every room they’ve played to thus far this year has reportedly been absolutely rammed, but have they found so rabid a reaction to be in any way overwhelming? Guitarist and the second of the band’s two founding members along with Rowsell, Joff Oddie, belatedly pipes up: “Not really I wouldn’t say, no. I mean it’s exciting more than anything. It’s not that we’ve got the kind of ‘fuck it’ complex you get with a lot of bands these days, but we just don’t really feel the pressure. Which is a good thing, I guess…”
Quite so, as they’ve been universally heralded everywhere from NME to the Evening Standard. To say they’ve sunk their proverbials deep into the mainstream would be something of an understatement, for they’ve quite unanticipatedly become something of a nationwide obsession. “Well, myself and Ellie have been doing it for so long now that there was an element of relief when we broke through” Oddie openly reveals, his tone palpably relaxing a touch. “I mean we were thinking it ought to have happened ages ago! We’ve had our ups and downs, but I can remember us always having little chats in which we’d tell ourselves we were gonna make it. Deep down, we knew we were good. Not in an arrogant way or anything – I mean you have to, otherwise you might as well give up on the whole thing.”
There’s a couple hundred congregated upstairs a few hours later this evening ready and willing to thank them for refusing to throw in the metaphysical towel too, for although initially blighted by technical hitch, Wolf Alice eventually come through unscathed and to a degree triumphant. It’s an unfortunate turn of fortune, not least as it was beneath the moonlight-like spotlights of the stage that the band first cut their teeth: the traditional transition from studio to stage in their case reversed once fleshed out into a fully fledged four-piece, only once all set within a live context did they relocate to sheltered hibernation for prerequisite studio time – something which awaits them once they’ve polished off this latest jaunt later this week.
“I think it makes it more honest if you’ve not only written, but also played the songs together first – it makes it all a lot more true” Oddie offers, growing in assertion all the while. “That said, I think that every member who’s come in has added something unique.” He’s not wrong. For it’s not merely the garishly glam allure of leopard print-slash-polka dot open-collar shirts that Ellis and drummer Joel Amey bring to the metaphorical table, however reticent they may be while gathered about the considerably more physical one around which we’re sat. Amey’s revered dexterity, stiff and yet simultaneously expressive, brings cataclysmic cymbal and brutish snare workouts to what can otherwise be momentarily tender compositional fare while Ellis loads up the lower end with swagger and so too sturdiness, thus both have become indispensable vertebrae right down the spine of Wolf Alice. “And it’s only been over these past few months that we’ve really begun to notice that” affirms Oddie, only suggesting they’re to evolve further as a live beast.
Though with a week still left on the clock and apparently plenty of reserve still bubbling away in the tank, The Lexington is far and away the closest they’ve yet come to home. It is, therefore, an albeit mildly tenuous homecoming by my watch. Though I wonder as to the internet effect and its idiosyncratic rendering of everything, whereby anything can be accessed immediately and so too internationally at the click of a button, or the prick of an ear. We seem to be moving in a direction dictated by a positioning within the www. as opposed to a more traditional geographical placement. “I guess you still get scenes in certain places” Oddie says somewhat submissively. “I mean for the moment, you’ve only got to look to Birmingham for proof of that.” He’s right, even if I’d struggle to condone what it is that they’re doing just beyond the Watford Gap. “But it’s harder to belong in London, purely because of the number of bands here” Ellis again quite rightly interjects, before going on: “There are so many good, and different bands that it’s incomparable with a place like, say, Coventry.” Regardless of latitude, London’s a city to which personally, if not necessarily collectively all bar Amey feel they belong to. His spiritual home would have to be “a field in Cornwall” he affirms in only semi-jest.
But it’s Oddie who’s most accessible and thus open to connection throughout, and it’s he who chips in with a stern return to the band’s musical integrity: “I think we’d be doing what we’re doing even if no one was listening, anyway! That’s what you have to do, ’cause if you’re reacting to pressure in a different way you’re gonna end up doing things that aren’t honest.” It’s a word he’s obviously taken by for the time being, and it’s thus the tone I assume when discussing what has been, hackneyed as it doubtless sounds, a whirlwind ascent for the band from an at least external perspective. “Maybe, but I wouldn’t say it has felt like a whirlwind effect from within” he resistantly counters, persevering: “When you’re inside, even if things are happening fairly quickly, you don’t necessarily perceive them thus. We’ve usually got our heads down, anyhow.”
And so to take a presumptuous election to deem it a tornadic spin they’re currently caught up in, where would they ideally choose to be dropped off? Well, it’s Swansea Theo sardonically plumps for, while Rowsell seems perplexed. “When do we wanna be dropped?” They’re as one in avowing their aversion to getting dropped, before Ellie pragmatically bears the burden. “We just want to carry on doing what we’re doing” she asserts modestly and when they’re doing that as well as they are currently, few could begrudge them that…
Bros is out now on Chess Club Records.