Wolf Alice are no strangers to the big time. My Love Is Cool catapulted them in to being one the most critically-acclaimed bands the UK has produced in recent years, and they arguably became the band our generation needed. The angst, the antagonistic behaviour and the grunge-fuelled melodies spoke to thousands upon thousands.
Visions Of A Life brings something new. Proving that they’re more than what we thought, there’s more sound, more experimentation and more statements than ever before. The likes of ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ see Wolf Alice shine brighter than ever before and are now gearing up for the chance to become Britain’s most beloved band. Whether you want fired up bluesy music or the sounds you heard on the debut record, this album has it. We spoke to drummer Joel about the album, the accompanying documentary and their upcoming tour.
At what point after the first album did you decide it was time to move on and start making the second one?
“We had so much stuff that was being written while we were touring, and we came to London and you obviously have a couple of weeks to decompress but we just had a momentum. We got a new rehearsal space too and it just became ours rather than constantly renting somewhere. We started to go in there a lot over the summer and then it suddenly just got serious. Five days a week, long days just bashing through ideas and just decided that we should start making the record sooner than later.
You toured the last album a lot. Was there ever a worry that you were spending too much time together?
“I think there’s days where you think, “damn, I could do with being at home right now.” It’s bizarre because you have one life which is a tour bus life and then there’s the reality which is running parallel and you’re trying to keep your place in that too and keep up with it. It’s always this thing where you hear bands moaning about travelling and touring the world and then you see it written down and you just want them to shut up. Touring is the best thing ever.”
It’s probably a good time to touch on the Michael Winterbottom documentary film ‘On The Road’ which comes out at the same time as the album, what made you agree to that because it’s not just about you. There’s actors involved too. What pulled you in?
“It was an interesting idea and was something that was going to run at the same time as our tour so it seemed like the right thing to do. We’re all into movies as well but it’s not something we went out and actively searched for, it was brought to us. It just sounded like a really cool idea. Also, when we’re older and we can look back on it, having all that footage of the shows and our own personal life and the way it was shot is going to be amazing for us to keep and reflect back on.
“I think it shows another side to the touring cycle that doesn’t get shown that much and it’s important. It’s really important. It’s a very repetitive lifestyle at times, as much as the evenings are different, the days are always the same. You wake up, you sit down and do nothing and then you do the gig. You learn to take out the irresponsible stuff you do during the early tours because it’s not worth it, getting hammered all the time and so on. It’s a completely different period for us now.”
So after the tour in the film and rehearsals, you were ready to make the second album so you headed over to Los Angeles to work with producer Justin Meldal-Johnson [Paramore, Nine Inch Nails, Tegan and Sara]. Why him?
“His name was mentioned to us quite a few times and he’s just got a very broad pallet. He can do some really hi-fi stuff and some really lo-fi stuff and that’s the two worlds Wolf Alice like to sit in. He’s a really talented musician and we just knew he could bring something to the table that we couldn’t do ourselves. That’s what you need in a producer.”
It seems like being in America might have slightly influenced your music, especially on tracks like ‘Formidable Cool’. Would you say there’s any truth in that?
“If there was any influence, it was probably subconscious. The album was pretty much sculptured and put together in London, but also on the road. ‘Yuk Foo’ was written in Ohio or something so there probably is elements of places seeping in but not as strong as it may seem. Obviously when the sun is shining in Los Angeles, it makes you feel pretty damn good but looking back at the album, it’s still quite a dark record.”
You’ve said that this time around if you had an idea, you tried and tested it rather than putting it to one side. How much of that actually got on to Visions Of A Life and did that change things for you?
“Definitely. Don’t Delete The Kisses had about nine different versions throughout our time in the studio. At one point, I made it this horrible EDM song because it has to go through major face lifts for you to reach a point where you’re happy with the song and know it’s the best product it can be. These songs had to grow up very quickly to our satisfaction while we’re in the studio, which we hadn’t done before.
“I can hear stuff in My Love Is Cool where we could have taken it to a whole different level and done it slightly differently. Not talking shit on that record at all, but you progress and begin to realise these things when you look back. This time we were definitely able to do weirder stuff.”
Some of these songs are very experimental and complicated, it must have presented some challenges for you to play live?
“Always. We always do this thing where we say to each other “remember we have to play this live!” When we get in to the studio, we don’t really think about it as much. If a song needs one hundred layers of something when it’s recording then we’re going to have to do it and will have to work it out later on when we are rehearsing for the shows. We’ve literally just started rehearsals for the November tour. We want to be able to play the whole record so that’s what we’re getting ready for.”
As you said, there is a massive tour coming up including dates at the likes of Alexandra Palace. At what point do you decide that you have to step it up even more?
“Well that’s what we think just before every tour, we always want it to be better than the last. Playing live is a massive part of what Wolf Alice does and it’s part of our reputation. The only way to upset a member of Wolf Alice is by saying you didn’t enjoy one of our gigs because it’s what we care about. The rooms are so big which means we have to try and work out how it’s going to translate, especially after coming off the back of a smaller venues tour. We need to get our thinking caps on and just amp everything up to another level.”
Do you think playing small venues is something you will go back to or will it get to a point where it’s impossible to do that?
“I literally don’t have a reason for why we wouldn’t and couldn’t do it at any point. I don’t know why any band can’t do it. The Rolling Stones could probably go back and play a pub if they wanted to. It just comes down to whether you actually want to do it. There will hopefully always be venues that will want to accommodate bigger bands and I do feel like larger acts have a responsibility to not just play the same seven cities every tour and the same venues. I get it because touring after a while could be hard if you’re more of an album band and you want to be recording more but we like playing live and we would consider the chances to come back and play smaller venues.”