Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell: “We Don’t Sound Like Punk”

Is Wolf Alice punk? Ellie Rowsell doesn’t think so. How did her band become famous? She doesn’t know. Does she collect records? No. Rowsell’s frank answers to the questions I ask suggest little patience for life’s abstract and unanswerable questions. Instead, she gives the impression of an artist who focuses chiefly on her work. That being Wolf Alice’s mission to write songs, record albums and perform for fans. No frills.

And in a celebrity and brand-driven culture such as ours, this simple approach to music feels odd. As if being less than half a century old and in a guitar band has now become a subversive act within itself. Punk, even.

MUSIC FEEDS: Good morning from Australia. Where are you right now?

ELLIE ROWSELL: Thanks. I’m in Cleveland, Ohio.

MF: Wow! So you are on tour? You guys play so many live shows. I don’t know where you are half the time…

ER: I don’t know where I am.

MF: I don’t know if you’ve ever Googled your band. But there are search questions that pop up. Things your fans want to know. And I think that if I have the opportunity to talk to you why not ask them? The first question is this. “Is Wolf Alice punk?”

ER: I don’t know. I don’t think I consider myself punk. I would quite like to be punk but I don’t know. I really don’t really know. What defines punk? I don’t feel like I am. We don’t sound like punk. I certainly don’t look punk either!

MF: Question two. “How did wolf Alice become famous?”

ER: I think it’s not really for me to say. I have no idea. I think it would be weird if I had the answer to that really. I think we’ve played a lot of shows. That’s probably it, I think. Getting yourself in front of a crowd is a great way to connect with an audience. And we’ve been doing that for a long time in a lot of different places. It’s been key to our success in many ways. You learn your craft on tour. And I think that we were never too precious about what shows we did. We just did them all really. And I think that made us who we are.

MF: The third question is this. “Who is on the cover of Wolf Alice’s ‘Blush’ EP?” Is there a story behind the photo?

ER: Not really. I think while I was – when we were starting off – you don’t have much budget for cool things like artwork and stuff. So we used to try and do everything ourselves. I always use my friends as, you know, my inspiration and models and stuff. And I had a friend. I was like, “Can I take some pictures of you?” And she was up for it. It worked with the title and nature of the song. And I thought it was really beautiful. When you start off you don’t think too much about those things. Because you don’t really think anyone is going to see them. Or hear them or whatever. That’s great. All right, there we go. Done.

MF: The vinyl version of Blush has become a sought after collector’s item. Do you collect records yourself?

ER: I don’t actually, no.

MF: Wow! Really?

ER: When I was growing up it was more like CDs we bought. I wasn’t really in that vinyl collecting generation I don’t think. So it wasn’t ever in my head. That wasn’t a thing that I was interested in. And I really love vinyl. I do. I like people who put a lot of effort into their artwork and packaging and stuff. I really respect them. It’s really cool. But I don’t collect vinyl! I don’t really have the space for it.

MF: What CDs did you have growing up? Do you still have any?

ER: I think they might be at my dad’s house now. I’m sure he’s kept a lot of my CDs. I always had lots of compilation CDs. I remember buying like, an already mattifying P!nk Misunderstood CD.

MF: Wolf Alice is coming to Australia. What can fans expect to see live?

ER: Well, we’ve got a really good set-up at the moment. I think it’s the best set we have ever played. You know it’s kind of “no-frills”. We want people to watch us not being like, disguised by, I don’t know, like, too many frills! So it’s a very performance-based set. We just try and keep it as engaging as possible. We’ve got three albums of songs to choose from now. So we have kind of tailored it to how we wanted it. We’ve really enjoyed doing that. There’s a dynamic to it. Maybe it used to be a bit too much all over the place. It feels like it flows very, very well.

MF: It has been a long time since you have been to Australia. So is there anything you’d like to share with your fans here?

ER: Well, thank you for buying tickets to our shows. As you said, it’s been a while since we’ve been there and I wasn’t sure if we’d maybe lost interest on that level. But the tickets have been selling and that’s good. I am really appreciative of that.

We love coming to Australia. The music scene down there has always been a source of inspiration for us. Especially as a guitar band, you know? I can’t wait to come and see everyone again, eat some good food and swim in the ocean.

Tickets to Wolf Alice’s headline shows in Sydney and Brisbane are on sale now (Melbourne show sold out) via Frontier touring. They’re also playing Groovin The Moo.

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