You’d be forgiven for thinking that after winning two NME Awards, receiving a BRIT nomination and a second place charting album, Wolf Alice have reason to start getting ahead of themselves. But this is definitely not the case. Talking to the band’s drummer Joel Amey, it’s quite clear that he’s not letting any of the success get to him, and displayed a hunger to keep going and bettering everything that’s come before.
Nestled away in a back room of Manchester Academy, where the band are preparing to perform one of the numerous sold-out dates on their spring tour, Amey is at ease. Hair tied back, donned in joggers and a Young Lovers Club sweater (Laurie Vincent of Slaves’ brand), the drummer remains animated throughout the conversation, gesticulating and never shying aware from heavier topics. Early on, the band’s choice to play a four night residency at London’s O2 Forum, rather than a bigger venue, is broached. He’s candid and self-aware, explaining that the timing just wasn’t right. “We got asked to play Alexandra Palace, but personally, and the rest of the guys agree, we’d rather gain a bit more experience and maybe have another few albums under our belt before we tackle something bigger – we want to command the venue. Anyway, four sweaty shows sounds like a lot of fun,” says Amey. With three dates already sold out and only a few tickets left for the final night at the Forum, their decision seems justified.
It’s worth noting that there aren’t many bands who are capable of delivering such emphatic live shows as the London quartet and Amey is quick to point out that this is largely down to the fans, and the band’s appreciation of the support they receive doesn’t go unnoticed. “We get the same excitement now as when we played our first gig. We sold one hundred tickets and we were all like “Fuck, we sold a hundred fucking tickets!”,” he says laughing. That isn’t to say they don’t like playing the big venues and Amey states that’s when they can be really theatrical. “I like to think I can channel my inner Elton John and go mental,” he says. He laughs to himself before saying: “In my head I think I’m a punk, but obviously not, I’m a pussy.”
The subject of current issues within music is particularly prevalent, and it doesn’t take long before we come onto the subject of the Girls Against scheme and the awareness they’re raising, over an issue that has too long been swept into a corner. “I don’t like all that misogynist shit,” he says, “and guys thinking it’s alright to shove their hands down a girl’s skirt at a gig. It doesn’t matter where it’s happening, it’s not alright anywhere. I’ve got no fucking time for that”.
One of the big questions that the band are now faced with concerns which musical avenue they choose to venture down next. With their critically acclaimed debut album being widely seen as a ‘coming of age’ album, Amey points out that many of the things he wrote about when he was 22 just don’t effect him anymore. “Natural progression means artists change. Alex Turner can’t write about arguments he had in the pub because he probably doesn’t do that anymore – he’s living an elaborate lifestyle,” he says. When quizzed on the progress made with recording new material, Amey says that he can see the new stuff being “a shit lot heavier and a shit lot softer at the same time”. “We aren’t going to run out of ideas, and anyway, who says successful music has to be built upon a foundation of emotion. Quote Rihanna – Work.”
The band has had to endure the media storm which has engulfed them ever since the release of ‘Fluffy’ back in 2013. Such high levels of scrutiny can often results in up and coming bands losing their way amidst all the interest, but Amey states this has never been the case for them. “When we first started making music it all came quite thick and fast,” he says. “NME did a ‘ones to watch’ piece on and us and were like “oh shit, we’re in the NME, and it just all seemed so surreal at the time. I guess all the hype and unrelenting interest in you does result in a lot of pressure upon yourself, but that’s what I’ve always wanted. Having the hype drives you knowing that you have an audience.”
Being put on a pedestal has not only allowed their music to reach far and wide, but it’s a platform for their opinions to be heard on current hot topics. Just last month the BRIT awards were tarnished by the absence of any black recording artists who’d stormed the music scene in 2015 across a spectrum of genres and the issue certainly didn’t go unnoticed, with a whole host of star names, including Wolf Alice, speaking out against the problem. BRITs bosses were forced to issue a statement concerning the nominations with the explanation for the omission of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) nominations still lacking in substance as organisers stated that they award those who’ve achieved ‘the highest chart success’ and that they’re hoping to find ways to incorporate different genres. Amey’s dissatisfaction is evident when we discuss the issue, as he says: “The thing they’re not understanding is that you’re not meant to have a separate category just because they’re black – race shouldn’t even come into it. If Stormzy is the best solo artist, then he should be the best solo artist, not the best black solo artist. That’s just segregation and the BRITs are completely missing the fucking point.”
When responding to the BRITs’ organisers’ comments over honouring those who’ve achieved “the very highest levels of chart success”, Amey truly vents his frustrations. “JME and Skepta shouldn’t be mentioned because what they’re producing is grime, they should be mentioned because they’re fucking smashing the UK music scene right now. Everything they touch turns to gold. They got in the charts, I think they charted above us and we ended up getting a BRIT nomination, God knows how.”
Amey talks openly about attending the awards and describes how it lacks any feel of being orientated towards music and instead is more of a corporate function. “We went to this year’s event and we sat right at the back of the room. The place is an absolute celeb fest. Don’t bullshit me and say it’s about the music when there’s great music out there which just isn’t getting recognised,” he says.
He reiterates that making a statement and ensuring all forms of music are recognised fairly is far more important than any award. When asked if they’ll attend future ceremonies, he says: “If we don’t get asked back to the BRITs for our comments then fair enough. At least we’ve raised the point and we’ve done our best to make sure people are aware of the issue. Music is meant to unite people and if you’re doing a music ceremony then get your fucking shit together. It’s meant to be gratuitous.”
It’s very refreshing to meet someone so open and honest about their experiences and it’s these qualities that will undoubtedly see Wolf Alice continue to rapidly grow, in terms of their musical progression and as people. If they can maintain the exceedingly high levels of showmanship and ability then the sky is the limit for the glitter-coated rockers.
Photos by Ethan Weatherby.
See our photos of the gig here.