The accolades for U.K. rock band Wolf Alice are rolling in — but they’re not letting it get to their heads

Wolf Alice performs at Saint Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday

Sep 28, 2022 at 4:00 am
click to enlarge Hungry like the wolf: Wolf Alice. - Jordan Hemingway
Jordan Hemingway
Hungry like the wolf: Wolf Alice.

In February, Wolf Alice took the BRIT Award for Group of the Year.

A couple months earlier, the indie rock band was named Best Festival Headliner by the NME Awards.

In June 2021, it released its third album, Blue Weekend, to universal acclaim, garnering a Mercury Prize nomination. It didn’t win that prestigious award given to the best album released in England or Ireland, but the band’s 2018 second album, Visions of Life, did.

So it’s no surprise that the group — formed in 2010 as an acoustic duo by singer Ellie Rowsell and guitarist Joff Oddie, who were joined two years later by bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amey — is getting tagged with accolades like “the U.K.’s best band.”

In late March, Wolf Alice came to the U.S. for the first leg of the band’s North American “Blue Weekend” tour, which continues with a second leg this fall. Ellis recently talked with music writer L. Kent Wolgamott about the band, Blue Weekend, and the tour via Zoom.

So what’s it feel like to be called England’s best band?

I think you probably don't believe in it. Or think about it too much because you've probably become a bit of a wanker if you’re saying you are the best band in Britain.

It's very nice for people to say things like that, really cool. But we are a band in Britain. And we're having a good time being a band in Britain at the moment. I don't think there's any best or worse. There's some great, great other bands knocking around at the moment. There's some fantastic ones. So we're one of many.

The thing that I love about your band and especially this record — which is great — is you can’t just pigeonhole your music. Is this a dream pop band or shoegaze band or a grunge band or a punk band? All those things come in. So how did those pieces come together?

I think because we like a lot of different types of music between the four of us. … We’re on the precipice of a generation where we started consuming music in a non-genre-based way. ... Just because you listened to guitar music now doesn't mean that you can't listen to rap or listen to punk. I listen to pop and can admire aspects of folk.

There's such a cross pollination, that we're inspired by a lot of different things. I think there's a danger of it sounding a little bit confusing when we do it, if we go between genres too abrasively, but I think the new record (shows) maturity (in) learning how to touch on all those things that we like without it sounding like chaos. And just being inspired, isn't it, you know?

Did I read somewhere that you really didn't play bass when you joined the band?

Yeah, but that's kind of romantic because I played guitar. I didn't play the bass, but I played the guitar. Joel is the way more extreme case as he did not play the drums and he just started playing the drums.

You two seem to lock in pretty well together. Do you feel like that, like this is a real section?

I think we're more of a section than we are individuals in a way because of that fact that we picked up our instruments together at a similar time. And neither of us have really played with anyone else. It'd probably be interesting to see what it's like playing with other people. But I've only ever recorded and played with Joel. So we're kind of joined at the hip musically in that sense. It's a shame we hate each other so much.

From the band that I saw at SXSW six, seven years ago, what do you think is the biggest change, the biggest development?

We've gotten older, I don't mean that like the fact that we do look older but like, you know, we've all learned while doing this as a career, which has enabled us to grow as musicians and songwriters and performers. So I think we've honed the tools that we needed to get the ideas out of our heads effectively, if that makes sense.

We've kind of better equipped ourselves, whether that's putting a live show together or whether that's kind of knowing how to say something in a song supported by the right instrumentation … So in a way of saying, we've gotten better at what we do … I am a better bass player than I was years ago. I just think we've grown in confidence in that way. And I think we're feeling really strong as a band where we are right now. It’s really fun to be in this band.

How does the musical mix work live? Can you do a show without it being ‘where the hell are they going now?’ Or is that part of the show?

I’m really proud of the set we're playing at the moment. I wish you could come tonight and get a taste of what the show’s like. We’ve got an amazing extra member on stage, called Ryan Malcolm … He is doing a lot of extra support with keys and vocals and a lot of other stuff. So we kind of got a little bit of extra muscle from him. We kind of carved the set list out based on a similar way you would flow with a track list, to kind of take you on a bit of an emotional journey or at least that's what we're thinking or trying to achieve.

Between the two legs of your tours this year, you have played a lot of cities in the states, more than some British acts play.

I think it's important to us to be able to go to as many different places as possible and, you know, play places that we haven't been before because I think you can get stale doing that. And, yes, America is a big-ass place. So if you want to go everywhere, you've got to go everywhere. It takes a lot of time. And it's really fun, being able to go and still discover new places where we've been touring on and off for seven years or something.

Wolf Alice performs at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at Saint Andrew’s Hall; 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8961; Tickets are $30.

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