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Interview with Wolf Alice: Future plans, ‘Visions of a Life’ & more

January 18th, 2018 | by Jack Gill
Interview with Wolf Alice: Future plans, ‘Visions of a Life’ & more
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The Tour started last week, so it’s a busy time for the band with plans already for Europe in December and America next year- how does it feel to be touring again?

Yeah it feels really good. It’s nice to be playing new tunes and it feels like a long time, like these kinda size shows, anywhere really. So it feels quite monumental, like a real occasion, you know? It’s quite hard to not to feel like you want to celebrate everything.

In discussion of the new album, Visions of a Life, how do you feel performing the new album on the tour, is it different to the last tour?

It’s really nice to have more songs to choose from. You can really tailor your set to how you want it, instead of scraping the barrel for tunes to play. So, yeah, it feels really good. I think we’ll be playing 10 out of the 12 songs from the album.

Yeah and an album which has been met to wide acclaim. I know you had said in the past that you’re grateful to be able to keep doing what you’re doing; would you say it was something you paid attention to, or do you just try and keep proud to yourself more?

Yeah I did pay attention to them because I think it’s interesting to see what people think about it. You can kind of always tell what someone’s not liking it for the sake of not liking it. Maybe it’s a testament to my ego that I can kind of disregard those ones.

A fairly substantial amount of time taken for between the two albums, almost two years. Did it ever feel like you had a break? Or were you constantly thinking of new ideas for the album?

I think we had a bit of a break and then…I think it’s a weird lifestyle when you tour as much as we do as when you’re not, you find yourself with nothing to do. We just spent a lot of time trying to refine all the ideas that we had and making sure we were more than ready when we went into the album because that’s fun for us, so I didn’t want to take too much of a break.

“I didn’t want to take too much of a break”

And of the last year, in particular, it’s been quite a year of collaboration for the band. As such, with the Michael Winterbottom film coming out, ‘On the Road’, and your vocals on Alt-J’s ‘3ww’, as well as Joff’s work with Marshall, recently. Do you think collaborations are an important part for the band growing?

I think it keeps it fresh to be doing things ‘on the side’, and saying yes to fun opportunities and see other directions in which you can take your work. It keeps it interesting.

And in relation to that – a big announcement that you’ll be supporting Queens of the Stone Age next year in America, a really big deal for the band; how did that come about?

We played a festival with Foo Fighters, ‘Cal Jam’ in California, and I think they have the same manager so, hopefully, they saw the band and liked it. I don’t know, I guess they’re looking for…I don’t know, but we feel very lucky and I think especially Joff, because they’re his favourite band.

Was there any collaborations you think the band would prosper from in the future or something you think would be interested in doing?

Well, yeah, I think it’s something we always say we wouldn’t want to force doing. If something really cool comes up then…but we’re not looking for someone to collaborate with, but if you meet someone and the opportunity is there…

I guess in a political sense, one collab was your work with Bands4Refugees and Josie Naughton. How important would you say it is for a band to have a political voice in today’s current climate?

Yeah I think it’s interesting that artists and musicians often have a lot more following and influence than a lot of politicians. It says that people are watching your every move. People who don’t perhaps associate themselves with current affairs might be introduced to that kind of thing through you, so there’s that responsibility there to at least get people to pay attention. If you feel confident enough to use that responsibility wisely then yeah it’s a great thing. I mean, it’s a daunting thing for sure.

“If you feel confident enough to use your responsibility wisely, then yeah, it’s a great thing”

It was a huge project at the time, people being brought in like Olly Alexander, Charli XCX and so on…

Yeah I mean that was easier in the sense that, the type of situation for me… [On the refugee crisis] there was no ‘grey areas’. It was just wrong the way we treated the whole situation, and we were lucky because Josie helped produce this whole charity. Sometimes it’s quite hard to know, when you’re going to raise so much money, where best to put that money. But we knew this was a good place to put it.

So, for any future plans, would you ever consider taking that to a wider festival potentially?

I don’t know, I think when I have a little bit more free time I would love to do something else but I literally can’t right now. I mean it’s not my thing, it’s not our thing at all… Anyone can do a ‘Bands4Refugees’, so just take your aims.

That interchangeability as a band, such as bringing a girl on stage to perform with you, how do you like to keep creative like that as a band?

I think it’s great. You have to always remember what it was like to be on the other side, and to be a fan. You kind of forget that you have the power to do that type of stuff and allow someone to have an even better night than they probably would if they just come to the show. But it’s easy to forget that type of thing because I don’t feel any different to when I was watching my favourite bands. She was so good and by the end, I was thinking, ‘get off!’ (laughs). I do think it’s important for girl’s to play the guitar, so I think that’s one small way to get people to think like, ‘shit! I wonder if I could play the guitar I could play on a stage like that’. Maybe for some people, that’s exciting… Maybe, for some people, that’s their worst nightmare. She was so good and she was really cool.

“You have to always remember what it was like to be on the other side, and to be a fan”

And with relation to a woman’s role in the music industry, do you ever think you’re forwarding that type of movement?

I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly, I mean I’m not really, I’m just…My main source of activism is just to do what I’m doing and not let my gender stop me. There are things you can do on top of that, for sure; you can be vocal on what it’s like and sometimes you feel like you have to work a little bit harder, just as anyone would who’s outnumbered in the industry… But no, ‘I don’t know’, would be my answer to the question.

Would you say there were any female icons you were influenced by when you were growing up?

Yeah, I really liked the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so Karen O… Later in life I really started to like PJ Harvey and some really current pop stars like Lana Del Rey. I guess when I was younger I liked Laura Marling as well. So yeah, a few. I’ve never really been like obsessed with someone..

And would you say those type of artists bleed into the band’s playlists when touring or do you just try and mix it up where you can?

I still listen to stuff I did when I was thirteen, that I still have on my playlists. But yeah lots of different things; I think one of the good things though is that it’s really easy to discover new music, and I’ve been enjoying that recently

“I still listen to stuff I did when I was thirteen”

Is there any new artists that you enjoy listening to at the moment?

I think Superfood brought out one of the best albums of the year; they put on a really good show. So yeah if I could recommend one album it would be that. Sunflower Bean have some new tunes out, which are great. But I don’t know what I’ve been listening to recently, just lots of different things recently. I’m trying to visualise it.

Do you feel that’s the main activity you do on tour?

Not really.

Or do you try and take your mind away from musical things?

Yeah I don’t even really listen to music much. I feel sometimes, when everything you do centres around music, it’s quite nice to spend your free time doing something else. But, having said that, I love putting on tunes in the dressing room, and listening to some upbeat stuff. I also like to listen to some ambient, electronic music because it’s so like different from what we do; that’s quite a nice break, and I often find I can do other things. If I listen to rap music or pop music or even rap or hip-hop I feel like I can’t do everything at the same time but like with electronic music. I found a really cool group called ‘The Pachanga Boys’, and they make like really long, cinematic music. It’s really nice to put on while you’re doing something else.

In relation to the band, and the album itself, would you say that you take influences from all sides more on the second album? I think there’s definitely a greater fluctuation in the genres, perhaps, than in ‘My Love is Cool’. Would you say that was something you were looking for intentionally?

Yeah I reckon I kind of widened the scope of music I was listening to. I think all influences on this album are subconscious, we didn’t release it out for one kind of thing but, you know, that’s just part of once you’ve done something once, you seek to broaden the horizons a bit. And growing older, you just become introduced to more things and hang out with more people in the music industry so there’s more stuff introduced to you. But I don’t think anything strayed too much from what we did in the first album really, maybe  ‘mature’, rather than ‘different’.

In relation to perhaps the grander themes of the album, take the story behind the artwork, which I believe is your auntie isn’t it? How does the theme of maturity come through in the album?

I liked the cover 1.) Purely aesthetically but 2.) I liked the idea that she was seemingly playing pretend or having some idea. I have no idea what she was doing, why she was in that frock, and why she was dancing around that skull. Where it was, on one hand, quite fantastical and unbelievable, she became a dancer when she was older. It was like this kind of fantasy playing out in her head. That was quite apt to the kind of themes of the album, making reality quite fantastical, because it is. You don’t need to make things up for them to be interesting. I find interesting things among mundane things in life.

“You don’t need to make things up for them to be interesting”

It was interesting as well because I’ve seen that you’ve said that even as a child you felt older. It’s definitely something I feel aware of, constantly ‘looking ahead’. Do you feel you get that as a band, as a collective, you’re always looking ahead? Or do you just try and enjoy the here and now?

I do think we have a bit of both and I think that’s the way to go, isn’t it? It’s just not nice to be looking for the next thing, you should enjoy what you have. But yeah I think we’re quite ambitious and it’s fun to be planning things to do, but yeah should also learn how to take a ‘chill pill’ and enjoy yourself.

Yeah you’re obviously really busy for the next three months, and the year. So in between those periods, what would you say the band had planned – some unwinding time?

Yeah I think so. When you’re always on the road, the things you found boring when you were younger are now the things I look forward to like literally TV.

Binge watching?

Yeah, definitely. That’s what I’m most looking forward to.

How would you say the band is going to mature from here? Not to dwell on the future too much.

Er, I don’t know. We kind of work best in a way where we don’t ‘pre-plan’ things like that. We don’t look for influences or inspiration we kind of wait for it to happen because the only thing I’ve regretted in my life is when I’ve tried to be something and do something that’s very unnatural and just be someone I’m not. The best songs are the ones that you store up, and just vomit out, instead of really forcing to write about something. So I don’t know what will happen, we’ll have to just wait and see. But I do feel like it’s very hard to write upbeat, happy music, so for me, that’s quite a challenge perhaps that I want to conquer.

“The only thing I’ve regretted in my life is when I’ve tried to be something and do something that’s very unnatural”

Yeah, I think definitely in singles like ‘Yuk Foo’ there’s that element of ‘fun’ like a band who isn’t taking themselves too seriously and quite willing to indulge in a wilder side.

It’s harder to write those fun, upbeat, and jolly songs and take them seriously… So kudos to anyone who can do that. That’s why I enjoy Superfood because it’s such a fun set. You can dance to it, but it’s still such a musical set, and clever. That’s hard to do, and something that I haven’t really tried or mastered very well. I usually just write boring, long, mid-paced rock tunes…about death.

I had heard an anecdote about when you were writing ‘Yuk Foo’, about Foals being in the room next door while you’re writing these really crude lyrics. How has the songwriting process changed, or has it changed, over the past two years?

You’re not always in the environment that you would work best in, so you have to make do with what you’ve got, whether that is just making a tune and finding fifteen minutes on your own in the dressing room. Other than that, it’s not really changed much. When I was writing stuff for the first album I was living at home, in my parent’s house. I was trying to write ‘loud’ songs really quietly.

In relation to the production of the album, it was produced by an L.A. producer (Justin Meldal-Johnsen) who had previously worked with ‘Paramore’ and other bands, where Joel had mentioned he’d learnt to ‘play his instrument properly’. How was it different working somewhere like that?

It was great, yeah. He’s a really incredible musician, as well as a producer so I guess you don’t want to make him wait for you to learn something or get there.

So, to ‘fine tune’?

Yeah, and I think when you start a band it’s all so exciting and you’re really like…you’ve got so much to refine. When you have a moment, you just need to decompress and be like “right, I’ve got to this level, now I need to get better”. I think that’s what we all did because it’s your job; you can’t get away with just being ‘okay’, not that any of us were. You want to get better at your instrument, but it was great working with Justin; he was really good. His palette is broad, which was good for us because we didn’t want to make an album of twelve song.

 

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