Wolf Alice had been a touring band dedicated to the grind for three years before they finally released their first LP in 2015. My Love Is Cool is filled with gritty energy that straddles grunge and rock while maintaining its affair with pop melodies. The dynamic juxtaposition of in-your-face fuzzed out guitars and pounding drums with sudden sonic drops into sparse instrumentation and enticing vocals makes for an album that demands you crank the hell out of it. With its simultaneous diversity and continuity in sound, My Love Is Cool is sure to be one of the most standout albums of 2015.
Stories Behind The Songs first spoke with Wolf Alice four months ago directly after the release of My Love Is Cool. Now, before their sold-out show at Adelaide Hall in Toronto, SBTS caught up with founding member and guitarist Joff Oddie on a rooftop to dive into the stories behind Wolf Alice’s evolution as a band and the creation of their sound.
Congratulations on your sold-out show tonight! 2015 has been a great year for Wolf Alice; you’ve received strong reviews for your album My Love Is Cool and you’ve played to sold-out crowds and festivals. How does that all feel?
Joff: It feels really good but, I mean, it’s almost really hard because you don’t really take stock of it. We haven’t really had a chance to sort of sit back and go, “Oh wow.” I was speaking to one of the guys of The 1975 about it and he said that the only time he got to kind of sit back and realize [it all] is when they stopped touring their first album and then he kind just went, “Fuck! We’ve done so much!” It’s kind of bizarre. I guess we’re still in the eye of the storm.
When we spoke last spring you mentioned that “Fluffy” was the first song that the four of you wrote together. What’s the story behind that song?
J: It’s the first song that kind of came together in a rehearsal room. The first skeleton of it was from when I was living in a flat in Hammersmith in West London and this was just on the cusp of when Joel and Theo joined. Ellie came ’round for a little writing sesh and I think we were listening to a lot of, I think, Brian Jonestown Massacre kind of stuff. We liked those kind of shoe-gazy chords they were using so we thought about trying to do something in that vein. It was a lot more chilled out, it was probably half the tempo and a lot floatier but then we got into the rehearsal studio and we got a little bit overexcited I think and we just turned everything up a little bit more than we should have done and it went away from being a kind of shoe-gaze, nice, floaty thing to a kind of garage-rock kind of thing.
J: Well, we kind of started the process before the guys arrived, really. We had a different bass player and a drummer and we were just a little bit bored with doing stuff acoustically. It just didn’t really feel right, if you know what I mean. And then we got into a rehearsal studio with these guys and started trying to work out how you make four instruments sound like a band and it just kind of went from there. A lot, a lot of time in rehearsal spending hours and hours and hours just rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing.
J: Yeah, I remember I was at Ellie’s sitting on her bed just listening to some stuff and we were just kind of going like, “I would like to do that. I would like to give it a go.”
J: A dude called Gross Magic, he’s from London. I don’t really know how to explain his music… a bit dark and heavy. And you know, stuff like The Breeders. There was a lot of, kind of, groping around in the dark. We didn’t really know how to use electric instruments, we didn’t really know how drums and bass properly worked and stuff like that so that took quite a while to figure out.
J: (laughs) Yeah, that video was supposed to be a kind of parody of that. I don’t think a lot of people caught on, so well done!
The last time we spoke we talked about writing on the road and how the band was trying to navigate how to do that. With the new release of “Baby Ain’t Made of China”, is it safe to say that you’ve found a process that works?
J: Agh… ish. I mean, “Baby Ain’t Made of China” was an old song. It was an album contender tune. We kind of finished the album literally on the last hour of the last day of our allotted time so the ones that were recorded became the record and a couple of things were left behind.
J: We actually did it in L.A. in J.J. Abraham’s studio where they’re doing all of the fucking Star Wars stuff! It was pretty cool.
J: Well, they reached out and said that they wanted to get in touch with musicians. It was a very informal kind of hello, meet and greet kind of thing. It was a bit of serendipity there you know. The label was saying that we needed a B side recorded and we were like, “Oh fuck, we’re on the road. How do we find a studio?” And then we heard from them and they were like, “We’ve got this recording studio here…” and we were just like, (laughs) “Is it available next week?”
J: Well, “Baby Ain’t Made of China” was something that Ellie knocked together, the skeleton of it, a long time ago actually. Probably two years ago maybe? We just kind of played it in the rehearsal room, liked it, and had it in the set for a little bit. It kind of came in and out and in and out.
J: Um, I don’t know about any old songs as singles, I mean, we’ve got a lot of old songs that didn’t end up on the record that are potential B sides but we want to be moving on now and starting fresh.
J: We’ve talked about stuff but we’re a little bit wary about saying what it might be like before anything’s tracked and recorded. I think we’d like to focus a little on the heavier side because we enjoy playing live and we kind of get a buzz out of playing the loud ones. I mean, I say that, but it will probably be the complete opposite.
J: Yeah, we’ve been writing individually. We haven’t had time to show each other what we’ve been doing. We’ve got some time pencilled in in early November to do some demos and stuff like that.
J: A go-to at the moment is a guy called John Fahey. He does kind of just guitar instrumentals. He’d been making records all of his life – he died a couple of years ago. He was making his best stuff in the ’60s I think, just kind of folk instrumentals, really. It’s a very kind of old-school American folky blues, bluegrassy kind of thing. Um, I like Woodie Guthrie. A guy called John Jacob Niles is pretty cool. Mississippi John Hurt, I like him. Some of the English folk revivalists like Bert Jansch, David Graham, Michael Chapman… Yeah, I’m into that. If you’re a guitar nerd they’re kind of cool. I like that style of playing.
Wolf Alice hail from North London, England and is comprised of Ellie Rowsell (guitar/vocals), Joff Oddie (guitar), Theo Ellis (bass) and Joel Amey (drums/vocals).
Follow Wolf Alice:
Twitter: @wolfalicemusic Instagram: wolfaliceband
Wolf Alice was featured on the first ever playlist in the Stories Behind The Songs Playlist Series. Listen to more Wolf Alice in Songs of Summer: Presented by Style Calling & Stories Behind The Songs: