Wolf Alice On The Lack Of Female Fronted Rock Bands And Having A DIY Mentality

It’s been a formidable few years for UK rockers Wolf Alice. After emerging in the early 2010s as yet another neo-folk group in the dust of Bon Iver and the goop of Mumford & Sons, they made the wise decision to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Bob Dylan, throwing away their acoustic guitars, plugging into some big bloody amps and going electric.

Their newly discovered ’90s throwback sound on early singles like Blush, She and Fluffy lead them to quickly brake out as one of the most blogged about bands in Europe and soon become NME and BBC Radio favourites.

A couple of EPs and a few hundred shows later, they now stand at the precipice of their biggest career move to date – releasing their highly anticipated debut album My Love Is Cool on June 19.

We caught up with guitarist Joff Oddie ahead of the release of My Love Is Cool to discuss how everything in the band’s career has been building up to this point, what it’s like to make a big production sounding rock record when so many bands are doubling down on garage rock, why he’s super pumped they’re returning to Australia, and why Wolf Alice still value a DIY aesthetic when it comes to their career.

Music Feeds: How are you guys feeling about the impending release of My Love Is Cool? It’s not every day that you get to release your debut album and I guess everything you’ve been doing in your career up to this point has been building to this moment.

Jeff Odie: Yeah, it’s a kind of strange mix of nerves and excitement I think. I don’t know – a bit of confusion. We’re like do we care about charts and things like that and all the kind of egotistical things with it? – and then no, no, no it’s music. It’s not a competition, rah, rah, rah. But obviously just deep down hoping it’s going to do well and hoping that we get to keep on doing it because at the end of the day if no one buys it it’s very difficult to go on doing it, really.

MF: Well I’ve been listening to it all day and I can tell you that you don’t need to worry about it selling or not. A lot of people will be picking up this record. I was really taken aback by how sonically it’s really all-encompassing and has a lot of lush, full sound scapes. You’ve got a couple singles out already, but are there any other songs on the album that you’re particularly excited for people to hear?

JO: Yeah, I mean I guess there’s kind of songs on the record that are very different to the things that we’ve released. Like Turn To Dust is kind of a different world from anything we’ve released before. Something like ‘Freazy,’ which is probably one of the poppiest, corniest [laughs] songs that we’ve written and recorded, that kind of lies at the other end of the spectrum.

But everyone we’ve had an interview with says they’re surprised by it [the album]. Which has kind of made us a little bit nervous and we’re thinking “Fuck.” But they’ve all added, “In a good way.”

Watch: Wolf Alice – Giant Peach

MF: I think maybe the surprise factor for critics is that the production is so full on and there aren’t a lot of rock records these days that sound like that. So much of what we listen to these days is stripped back and given that “garage” rock tag, where things seem a lot more rough and tumble. But this sounds like a “produced” record and you’ve really worked on it in the studio to give each song as much life as possible.

JO: I mean, we’re kind of fans of big production and we had the budget and the means to enjoy that style of work. If you want things to sound garage or DIY, there’s a certain way you need to go about it and that’s not the kind of root that we decided to take. A lot of the time as well, if you try to do it and try to make something too garage, it can come out a little bit contrived, you know?

Especially if you’re like us in a proper studio and all of a sudden you go, “come on guys let’s make a garage rock record.” If you want to make a garage rock record you make it in a garage, rather than go to some big studio and pay some bloke to make it sound that way. So we like big production.

MF: You’ve got two songs on the album that you’ve previously released – Fluffy and Bros. Bands often abandon earlier singles when they record an album. Why did you guys decide to include them and did you have to rework the songs in a way so that they fit with the record?

JO: A number of different reasons really. I think partly because those two singles weren’t on any EP, so they’re not really available as a body of work with other tunes and partly because the recordings we did were very early on in Wolf Alice and there were a lot of restraints in terms of recording those songs.

They were both kind of one day in a studio, no producer, go in and fucking just do it and just get out of there because we didn’t have the money or the time or the knowledge. We didn’t really know how to make those songs sound as they should have done or more so how we wanted them to sound at that point.

The emphasis on this record was making a record predominantly full of new material. We didn’t want to be one of those bands that just cobbles their old EPs together and maybe records two songs in a studio and goes, “Oh hello, here’s our album” and everyone goes “Fuck it, we’ve got those songs already. Go away.”

Watch: Wolf Alice – Bros

MF: Your guitar playing on the album has a great tone and it really cuts through the mix – which can be hard when you have, as we said, big production. I was wondering, seeing as you have those older tracks on the record that you’ve reworked, when you hear yourself playing on the record now do you hear a noticeable difference in your playing style or sound since you recorded those songs just a couple years ago – now that you’ve got a few more hundred shows under your belt?

JO: It’s a hard one. I don’t think I can hear the difference in terms of technique of playing, I don’t think personally. Especially on those two songs where the guitar work is fairly simple to be honest. There’s nothing really complicated going on.

I only started playing the electric guitar when Wolf Alice decided to go electric, which was about two years ago, so a lot of the stuff I’ve learned in the last couple of years has really been about tones and combinations of guitars and amps and pedals and how making guitars sound good on a record and making them fit in is really fucking tough. Surprisingly tough.

I was really taken aback at how differently things could sound when you’re playing in a room to how it sounds when you’re playing in the speakers and how you compensate for that. It’s a real art that I have nowhere near mastered whatsoever.

MF: You’re headed to Australia next month, which is obviously very exciting for us seeing as the record will still be really fresh…

JO: I fucking love it in Oz. It’s so nice there. We did the Falls festival at the beginning of the year. You’ve got such a beautiful country. We did a little kind of tour thing of the three sites and one in Perth as well and got to go to Byron. It’s a welcome break coming from England to Byron Bay in January.

MF: I can imagine. And then after those gigs in Oz you’re headed to the US and then finally back to the UK for what will be your biggest ever shows in your own country, including a huge gig at the O2 Academy. Is it a little bit daunting knowing that these massive shows are on the horizon? Or are you excited by the prospect of building up to them?

JO: Kind of a bit of both. There is in all honestly a certain level nervousness. Especially that London show, it’s a fucking huge venue. It’s maybe two and a half times what our last London show, which was big at the time at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, but to be honest there’s so much lined up.

I think we’re really going to start honing in on that once the album’s out. Once we’ve got the first couple of festivals under our belt and we’re feeling comfortable I think then we’ll start panicking a bit more [laughs] because it’s beyond exciting.

MF: I watched the mini doco video of your recent US tour and it seems like a lot of your travels at the moment are a bit of a whirlwind of shows, meeting fans and just having an amazing time. But do you have any standout moments from the last couple of years that really shine as a surreal experience for you or the band?

JO: I think the last couple of years have been a lot of firsts. The first time we went to Australia was genuinely a big deal for us because not a lot of bands get the chance to be asked to come to Australia to come and play half way across the world. Our first time coming to America and to SXSW. Playing Glastonbury for the first time was a boyhood dream.

Seeing the whole thing grow over a two year period has been pretty nice, to be fair, and seems like it’s been going nice and steady. There hasn’t been any points where we’ve been banging our heads against the wall saying, “Why won’t people come to our shows?” It’s seems to have been growing really naturally.

Watch: Wolf Alice’s US Tour Diary

MF: I’m kind of obsessed with female fronted rock bands at the moment, particularly with a lot of bands coming out of Philadelphia in the US. Do you think that there’s been something of a void in the last decade or so of female fronted rock bands – the kind of bands we may have taken for granted in the 1990s – and that acts like you guys are amongst somewhat of a renaissance of great, female lead groups?

JO: I don’t know. It’s a really difficult question to be honest. I would hope that good music is good music and if it’s good enough and is popular enough, which sometimes arguably isn’t really the case, but I’d like to think to a certain degree, especially in the indie circuit and the underground kind of scene, it would happen. We always get asked this.

My answer would be I hope so and if there’s not there’s problems somewhere down the line. I think more of the problem is getting young girls at a younger age involved in music. I think that should be more of a focus in society and school education and that kind of thing and if Ellie can be a poster girl for that then then that would be amazing.

MF: You’ve got a little fanzine going around that’s accompanying the press of the record that includes tabs, lyrics, stories and song recommendations. What gave you guys the idea to do that and is it important to you guys as a band that, although you maybe becoming really successful, you still get to have those little creative outlets and expressions that are more common to a DIY level artist?

JO: Yeah we’ve been talking a lot about DIY recently because as we kind of get bigger and play on bills with slightly bigger bands, I don’t think I’ve met a band that isn’t DIY in that respect, you know? I can only talk from our world of rock and alternative kind of stuff.

I’m sure Justin Bieber may not be involved every step of the way but he’s running a bajillion pound empire. But I think generally most bands are involved in pitching for their music videos and what the artwork looks like and I think people should give bands a little bit more credit in that respect because I think there’s an assumption that if you sign to a label it’s commercialised and they get all control and you do this and you do that, but most of the time the labels they’re marketers, really.

All of the artwork comes from us, all of the music videos and we write all the fucking music, which is the main thing because we’re musicians.

‘My Love Is Cool’ is out June 19 and you can pre-order here. Wolf Alice will be in Australia for Splendour in the Grass next month and a few sideshows, grab the deets below!

Watch: Wolf Alice – Moaning Lisa Smile

Wolf Alice – Splendour In The Grass 2015 Sideshow Dates

On sale now

Thursday, July 23rd

Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Tickets: Secret Sounds

Friday, Jul 24th

Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Tickets: Secret Sounds

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