“I feel like everyone calls every band with a guitar in it ‘90s’. What did they call everyone that had a guitar in the 90s? 70s fucking wannabes?”
The radiator in their green room may be spraying water everywhere, but it seems Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell (vocals, guitar) and Joff Oddie (guitar) are taking life as a band in stride. They’ve been the ‘next big things’ for some time now, yet only released their debut My Love is Cool earlier this year. That’s down to the strength of the songs from their early EPs and their enthusiastic live shows.
Indeed, Ellie admits that they’ve “not just had instant success. We owe a lot to the bands that have taken us on tour with them,” she says. Nowadays, it seems new bands are required to put out as much material as possible, but Ellie prefers her band’s approach. “We waited quite a long time to release an album,” she says, and only did so “because we wanted to release to an album.” The NME’s rave review of the album called it “easily the debut of the decade so far,” praise that any new band wants to hear, but what do they make of it?
“Never a truer word spoken,” Joff deadpans gamely. “No, it’s very flattering,” he continues. “I don’t know whether it’s true at all.”
“It’s not really our place to say if it’s true or not,” offers Ellie. However, she is adamant that they won’t be intimidated by people’s huge expectations. “It doesn’t change how you perform or how you write,” she affirms. “We’d never change under pressure.” If anything, it’s “a kind of healthy pressure to push you to get even better…an extra nudge.”
The two of them are splendid company and resolutely chilled. Joff is funny and laid back, intermittently dispensing with jokes and absent-mindedly strumming his guitar. Ellie is quietly spoken, curling up on the sofa, and maintains eye contact throughout the interview. They become more animated when talk turns to whether there’s an anti-pop snobbery in indie.
“You should just like what you like, you really shouldn’t feel guilty,” is Joff’s reply. “There’s no place for snobbery in music,” Ellie says. “Absolutely not.” “It is a bit gross, isn’t it?” Joff adds. Ellie delivers a withering aside: “It is a bit sixth-form college.” They obviously take a dim view of musical tribalism, particularly when it comes to dance music.
“I think good dance music is as good as any guitar music or any other type of music,” Joff says. “You look at people like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Squarepusher… that takes a musical genius to do that.”
The conversation segues into comments Ellie made about their album being “100 per cent not a grunge record” that the NME inevitably, ran with. “I should’ve probably said 90 per cent,” says Ellie. “They really have milked that quote,” adds Joff. Perhaps it’s evidence of the music press’ peculiar obsession with the past and new bands that sound vaguely like 90s indie guitar groups.
“I feel like everyone calls every band with a guitar in it ‘nineties’,” Ellie says. “What did they call everyone that had a guitar in the nineties?” Joff laughs. “…70s fucking wannabes? I remember when Oasis first came out and everyone was like, ‘They’re just trying to be the Beatles.’
“I don’t even think we make particularly 90s-sounding music,” Ellie continues, “I don’t even know what 90s-sounding music sounds like. It’s just guitar music. Nirvana sounds nothing like Elastica. The reason why I said that grunge thing was because I didn’t want people who were massive fans of sludgy, fuzzy, Nirvana-esque grunge music to listen to our album and be like, ‘What the fuck? This is shit!’”
“Or ‘This is only 20% grunge!’” quips Joff. “I was trying to prepare people,” Ellie admits. “But I love grunge music. I wish I was 100% grunge.”
Altogether, the band seem content to play things their own way. Ellie has said in interviews before that it might take ten years for them to get where they want to be. It is refreshing to hear a band seriously think about longevity when so many indie bands turn up readymade and fully-formed. “Some bands pre-plan their whole marketing strategy,” Ellie says, “and then come out with an EP with a perfect line of press shots lined up and stuff like that: That’s one way to do it. It’s one way we didn’t do it. And I’m actually really glad that we didn’t, because it gives you a certain charm and a certain human quality to just do things wrong.”
It seems that being in a band is everything they’ve dreamed of. “It’s different,” says Joff, “but it’s definitely good. It’s definitely still as good as you think it would be, but completely different to how you’d imagine it would be as a kid.”
Ellie agrees. “It’s strange how things don’t change in a lot of ways,” she says, before lurching into an anecdote. “You’ll go and play a massive show with all these people singing along to your songs and it’s the most insane experience ever. Then you go home and your mum tells you off for leaving the towel on the floor and you’re like, ‘Wait, what? That shouldn’t still be happening!’ But, it’s nice. I like that.”
The way things are going for Wolf Alice–unforeseen levels of success just on the horizon—you can be sure they’ll be admirably unfazed by it all, taking it all in their stride.