Wolf Alice: hard to pigeonhole

Wolf Alice are, in bassist Theo Ellis’ own words, “a bit hard to pigeonhole”. Despite this, they’ve garnered critical acclaim from around the globe off the back of their two EPs, Blush and Creature Songs, booking festivals as established as Glastonbury and, of course, Australia’s very own Falls/Southbound circuit at the end of 2014. Just over half a year later, the London four piece are set to return for Splendour in the Grass and two sideshows with Adelaide’s finest Bad//Dreems – but not before their very first LP, My Love Is Cool, drops.

Ellis spoke to Liz Ansley about their upcoming shows, why their album will surprise their fans and critics, and the decision-making process behind crafting the band’s unique sound.

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Wolf Alice have played headline shows extensively in their home country, and in the US, but our geographic isolation has once again meant that we’ve missed out – until now.

“Our sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne will be a chance for us to play more album tracks, rather than the stuff that people have already got to grips with over the two EPs. I think it will be a bit more of a well-rounded set. At things like Splendour in the Grass, we want to keep the energy high because there’s not much room for introspective acoustic moments at festivals. Well, not in my books – I’d rather get pissed and have a sing-a-long!”

After years of near-constant critical positivity and a rapidly growing fanbase, Wolf Alice have recently faced some light controversy over two re-recorded singles that had been firm favourites for some time now. “We re-recorded both Bros and Fluffy to lots of people’sdismay, as I keep seeing on the internet. It’s understandable, people get pissed off when you change a song. My argument was that it’s been available for people to buy for three years, so they wouldn’t be bothered if they’d bought it [laughs].”

“When we originally recorded them, we didn’t have enough money to get ourselves set up in a proper studio. We did Bros in maybe fourteen hours. This was an opportunity to explore the songs more, to give them a new lease on life. That was our logic, we wanted them to go on the album so they had to fit in the same landscape as the other songs, to have the same DNA – it’d be weird if we just stuck them on there.”

It’s clear that Wolf Alice are determined not to be pinned down to any assumptions music critics and punters alike might make – not just yet, anyway. And the DNA that Ellis speaks of that will run through the veins of My Love Is Cool, is something other than what we might expect of Wolf Alice. “I think it’s got elements of grunge music, we’re all big fans of certain bands from that era, but I think that people have judged us mainly on singles. We’ve got stuff like Heavenly Creatures, which is so obviously not a grunge-related song. I think this will be the first time that people can actually compare us to something. It’s been quite difficult to have people make up their minds that we’re like, Hole or something.

We didn’t really reference many other bands or influences; the only time we’d reference a band was when we’d be like, ‘Listen to this Deftones track, I want the snare to sound like that’, rather than the atmosphere of the track to sound like that. I figure it’s always been a bit hard to pigeonhole us. When the album comes out, maybe someone can find a good comparison and then it’ll be easier to write about. But I’m as lost to tell people what Wolf Alice sounds like as anyone else.”

Wolf Alice take to the stage at Splendour in the Grass, which runs at North Byron Parklands from 24 – 26 July. Details at splendourinthegrass.com.au.

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