Wolf Alice’s Joel Amey talks about the band’s forthcoming album, film and their relationship with Slaves.
Many fans may find it hard to believe that Wolf Alice have only released one album to date, having conquered the USA and climbed tirelessly up festival rosters in the years since debut record My Love Is Cool – typified with a slot on Glastonbury’s world famous Pyramid Stage. The group from North London have also conquered the United States, with a now legendary performance on James Corden’s Late Late Show pathing the way for a nationwide tour and a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Rock Performance’ for the song ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’.
So where next for a band that seemingly have everything to lose?
“I’m just in a train on the way to a rehearsal”, drummer Joel explains apologetically over an inconsistent phone signal. The band’s UK tour commences early November and their previous interviewers had been cut off due to phone issues. I ask Joel is he feels relieved that Wolf Alice’s sophomore album, Visions of a Life, has finally been completed, after what can only be described as an excruciating wait for many fans. But five years in a successful band has taught Joel not to rest on his Laurels, “Every time something like that finishes, another thing starts; once the album is done, the rehearsals start and then the tour starts, so the mountain is always there to be climbed… And so it should be. It’s still all to play for.”
Those five years have also seen the group moving stateside; from recording sessions in their hometown of London for the debut album and early EPs, to swankier settings in Los Angeles. “This album was written in London [before relocating to LA to record]. We worked with a guy called Justin Meldal Johnsen, he’s an incredible person to play off of and a really amazing musician, he became like another member of the band really.” Commissioning producer Justin Meldal Johnsen – of Paramore, Beck and Nine Inch Nails fame – may seem like an obvious choice, with a CV that just about covers the three corners of Wolf Alice’s style, but it is certainly a choice that has paid off, allowing the band to expand upon the sound from the debut album and delve into more punky and psychedelic avenues.
All of these progressions in sound and style feel organic, and stand as testament to the creative unit that the group represent. In a landscape where many other acts sound like a singer with a backing band, each of Wolf Alice’s four members leave a firm mark on the band’s releases; contributing lyrics and allowing each instrument to compete for a starring role.
Joel feels that this is due to the synergetic fashion in which the record was created: “A lot of the things came from a Dropbox folder that we made with 2 years worth of material. Obviously there’s a focus on Ellie because she’s an incredible lyricist and such a striking frontwoman, whilst we’re just the ugly dudes at the back, but Joff’s always written way more riffs than we’ve cared to count, Theo is an amazing bassist and I’ve written songs that we’ve used as ideas… There were 4 Beatles remember, each was pretty sick in their own right.”
Many fans will be quick to assume that Visions of a Life took a punkier direction as a result of Wolf Alice’s close relationship with the band ‘Slaves’ – with whom the group have been seen socialising regularly, but Joel is quick the dispel any rumours of cross-band inspiration. “Our influences have been there for a long time, our first record wasn’t a full expression of everything that we’re into, we have always been into hardcore punk,” the drummer explains, “we don’t really get influenced by people that we hang out with, it’s more of the case that these people are just fun to drink with and share the stage with – we’re just lucky that our mates are in amazing bands; Slaves are amazing, Peace are amazing, but I think our influences are things that we find ourselves.”
Immediately coinciding with the release of the new record, Wolf Alice are set to feature in a new film by Michael Winterbottom; director of 24hr Party People & Russell Brand’s political documentary The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the film, entitled Wolf Alice: On The Road, a camera crew follow the band on their UK tour and intertwine this rockumentary with a romantic narrative played out by two of Wolf Alice’s entourage – an original take on the traditional touring video.
“He [Winterbottom] approached us, saying he basically wanted to make a movie and we were just going to be the backdrop, focusing on these two members of staff that were going to be the central characters, but there is quite a lot of Wolf Alice in the movie now.” Joel continues, modestly; “It’s not really ‘our film’, it’s Michael Winterbottom’s movie that we just happen to be in, but it’s cool, in a few years’ time we will be really thankful that we have such beautiful footage of us playing these gigs, because in the future we can show our grandkids, and all that jazz.”
Early reviews of both the album and the film suggest that this tandem of artistic outputs is set to not only maintain, but propel the group’s position as indie superstars. Having already broken America and graced Glastonbury’s Pyramid in the aftermath of the debut record, the stage is set for Wolf Alice to be the biggest band of 2018; and all the while not only preserving their artistic direction, but actually expanding it with this emotive, punky and dreamy record, Visions of a Life.
Wolf Alice’s Visions of a Life is released on September 29th, and is available to pre-order now.
Words by Matt Ganfield