English rock band Wolf Alice has been at it for over 10 years and the foursome headline The Wiltern on October 19 in support of their third album Blue Weekend released in 2021. The Mercury Prize-nominated band is one of the only bands to receive a nod for every album they have released and their last title Visions of a Life won Album of the Year. Wolf Alice appeared on various top albums of 2021 lists from U.S. media last year and their busy touring schedule in 2022 included joining Harry Styles on European summer dates as well as opening for Halsey and Bleachers earlier in the year in the U.S. Wolf Alice will also be among numerous rock acts at the inaugural When We Were Young fest in Las Vegas later this month.
In the span of 10-12 years, which these days is a lot in the music industry, Wolf Alice formed when electronic music was starting to boom and rock music was fading. But they held their ground, with lead singer Ellie Roswell and guitarist Joff Oddie taking on bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amey in 2012. It seems with real instrumentation on the rise, an appreciation for songwriting and the return of rock music (finally in the U.S.), Wolf Alice are hitting a hot streak with sounds swinging back toward guitar-led hits, technology evolving rapidly and fashions cycling back. PassTheAux.co spoke with Amey ahead of the band’s Wiltern date about the changing industry, Wolf Alice’s days living and recording in Los Angeles and their red hot record label shaking up music in the UK and globally.
“The thing I have always seen growing up is the death of the genre of music that I usually find interesting,” said Amey. “The guitar thing is forever falling away. When’s it going to come back? There’s always a healthy undercurrent though. When we started it was becoming, like fashionable within journalism to suddenly sit back. Laptops were becoming big. Swim Deep and Temples were coming up when we did. It kind of goes in its cycles. You look at the VMAs from the 90s —90s pop-punk is having a resurgence. The things that were my youth are like coming back around and it’s like shit, it’s kind of ironic but it’s making me feel old. I think guitars are having a nice comeback moment. Everything does happen in cycles, right now we seem to be more in organic sounds. When you go to a live show now, I want something that’s happening in real time. We just had a tour with Harry Styles this summer and on paper it’s such a thing to do a show with the biggest pop star, he’s the nicest guy in the world and he gave us an amazing opportunity. What the fans react to are guitar solos and really flamboyant rock and roll moments”.
The band also celebrated their 10-year anniversary as a foursome the day they played Detroit’s St. Andrews Hall, on October 4. Ellie and Joff had been playing music together for a while and Theo and Joel had known one another since they were about 15, with the guys’ friend introducing them to Wolf Alice. They played Sebright Arms in London for their first gig together and the rest is history. Third album Blue Weekend has been performed live for the better part of the year and the response has been especially thrilling for Wolf Alice, who are relishing in the reality of being back on stage.
“I think when you get to your third album or at least have enough of a body of work, it’s really fun taking the dynamics off what you’re doing with a set”, shared Amey. “With your first record you kind of have to play everything. It’s kind of fun this run, we have a set we like, representing the changes our band goes through, each track and record and I love piecing that puzzle together and then seeing how the crowd reacts. You can’t second guess what people will react to. “Delicious Things”, people react to so much more than I was expecting. It’s a romantic pleasure to return to the U.S. Yesterday we were driving through Salt Lake to a show, like that’s fucking sick. Every time we do it we are so lucky to be doing it. I always love watching people react to people supporting Crows. They are just so good, it’s been amazing. I love watching the response from real music fans, like experiencing that in real time”.
In addition to Los Angeles, Wolf Alice are gearing up for When We Were Young on October 22 and 23 in Las Vegas. The fest celebrates early 2000s punk-pop primarily with artists like My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon, Avril Lavigne, A Day To Remember, Bright Eyes, Jimmy Eat World, AFI, The Used, Taking Back Sunday, while also welcoming some other talented rock and alternative acts ranging from Wolf Alice, Palaye Royale, Royal & The Serpent, PVRIS, The Linda Lindas and jxdn.
“I was on my phone when that festival lineup came out and then I looked and I was like what the fuck, we’re on it”, recalled Amey. “[To management] I was like, are we on this festival?. I was literally like, I’d go to that festival. I grew up listening to a lot of those bands, bands like Paramore, they are vibrant and fresh and still going at it. All of us are kind of like, in a very nice way, baffled, like where do we fit in? ‘Cause to me I still feel quite new in the USA and there’s a lot of nostalgia to this”.
It will certainly be a rite of passage of sorts for Wolf Alice and most certainly a massive opportunity to grow their act in the states. Los Angeles is another such spot where Wolf Alice has already grown a considerable amount of roots as creatives not to mention a hungry fanbase.
“We’re going to have a really nice time in Los Angeles”, said Amey. “We lived there when we made our second album. When I’m older, I will look back at that and think I can’t even believe that happened. It was just an amazingly fun time. It’s a red flag when an English band goes to LA to make a second record, it’s the recipe for disaster but it really wasn’t. We also made an album we are really proud of and I left that experience a better musician and feeling more confident in what we were doing. It was a huge stepping stone for the band and what we are doing. I don’t know if everyone in the band would agree but I think where you are influences the way you sound and work. We lived in Echo Park and every day we opened the door and were like what the fuck?” When we worked with Justin (Meldal-Johnsen), he’s the kind of producer that anything is kind of possible. It’s really freeing to write with Wolf Alice, it’s amazing being in Wolf Alice ’cause we feel quite brave about our ideas and putting our stamp on it. If it’s a good song then it doesn’t matter what genre it is. Are we representing the feeling of the song, how can we help bring it to life with Ellie? Working on music is really fun.
Nothing Wolf Alice writes or records is particularly calculated, even though the band’s sound has included many styles like grunge, shoegaze, indie rock and even folk. In an era where fans (and artists) rarely care about labels, it’s notable to mention the band’s longtime label Dirty Hit continues to be a gamechanger in the business, developing artists that range from The 1975, The Japanese House, Rina Sawayama, beabadoobee, BLACKSTARKIDS and so many more.
“When we first started WolfAlice, we had a lot of labels that were always buzzing around after shows, saying let’s have a drink, let’s have a chat”, recalled Amey. “It was kind of a joke, but then Dirty Hit out of nowhere was small and they offered us a record deal the next day. Jamie Obourne. They have been amazing to us over the three albums we have done with them, they have an eclectic roster and I’m excited to see what they do next. They literally are the reason that we made our first, second and third album. I went to The Great Escape music conference in Brighton because I wanted to see some new stuff and the post-punk cycle is coming back. It really reminded me of that, like I was in that band when I was 16 —urgent, angular, kind of spoken word stuff coming out right now, it’s quite visceral. I think the underground scene which is kind of coming back a bit more in South London is coming back”.
Wolf Alice plays The Wiltern on Wednesday, October 19 with support from Crows and Luna Li. All Ages, 7:00 pm, tickets range from $29.00 – $60.00.