“Hopefully it cements us as a band” – An interview with Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice

We talk Visions Of A Life, DJing dodgems, and gigs 9,800 attendees apart.

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Originally published in The Edge

The way Ellie Rowsell speaks of her recent jaunt to DJ on the Brighton Pier dodgems at SlavesGreat Escape gig isn’t brimming with enthusiasm – imagine a miserable, rainy Thursday night with decks that don’t entirely work properly. Yet, although it was her only billing during her band’s first summer in five years without a festival tally in the double digits, things aren’t as relaxing as they might seem. Barely nine months on from concluding the run for 2015’s acclaimed debut My Love Is Cool with their first festival headline spot, Wolf Alice has five tour legs in as many months, reaching from Los Angeles to Osaka, lined up around the release of “personal” new record Visions Of A Life.

So, what’s it all about? “Take what you will from it, really – it’s not really for me to say, but I think hopefully it kind of cements us as a band. You know, I think it’s quite hard to form an opinion on a band when they only have one album out,” emphasises Rowsell. “It’s just about the ups and downs of life, I suppose… Two years doesn’t sound like a long time, but we were touring so long before that as well, so it was more that we were kind of really eager to play new tunes live.”

Like My Love Is Cool before it, where Visions Of A Life shows Wolf Alice at their strongest is through contrasting styles and Rowsell’s versatile vocal. Although polar opposites ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ becoming the first two upfront releases came per requests from labels either side of the Atlantic, she says the band would be happy regardless. Whether through explicit, thundering punk or the effect of rousing choral majesty, she has fun with every bit of it. “I’m interested in how you can use your voice and I don’t like one particular style so I want to try them all, and you know if one particular style is better suited to one song then I’m going to do that. I don’t think about it too much – it’s more that it keeps it more fun for me. I’m always trying to make the song itself the best song it can be rather than thinking ‘Oh, I can’t do that because I’ve never done that before and it won’t match the rest of the album.’ Matching the rest of the album will come in different ways, hopefully, by the fact that you’re the same person.”

As we speak, the band is fresh from three weeks playing new material across America and has just sold out eight small venues at home within two minutes. Opening on ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses,’ so far the set typically features album cuts like the titular eight-minute closer, the swaggering ‘Formidable Cool,’ and the Heathers-inspired ‘Beautifully Unconventional,’ Rowsell’s current favourite. “It feels nice to go back, road test the new tunes, and see some familiar faces,” she says. “We tried a few songs and switched them around on a couple of the nights to see what felt best and what worked best in the set and what got the best reaction from the crowd. Those are the ones we settled on.”

By the end of the year, Alexandra Palace beckons for their first London dates in 18 months, but Rowsell doesn’t appear at all fazed by such variety. “I think we’re going to try and play the same show. You know, we’ll have more… Well, we’ll have a production at the bigger shows at Ally Pally and on that tour in November, but we try and retain that kind of sense of intimacy and fun and energy and stuff in whatever size venue.” Now two albums in and with no sign of relenting, that confidence feels sure to serve well with their imminent leap to the next stage.

Author: Xavier Voigt-Hill

I write words.

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