Interview with Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice had an amazing year on the back of their Creature Songs EP, including nabbing a spot in Happy’s Top 50 of 2014 and Little May’s top 10. After having their fears about a drop bear epidemic alleviated, Joff, Joel, Ellie and Theo from the band spoke to Happy about playing in Straya for the first time, living out of a suitcase and their forthcoming debut full length album.

wolf alice

Photos by Sam McMillan

HAPPY: You guys posted on your Facebook about needing to get rid of old self-taken press photos. Most people wouldn’t think so but how a band presents themselves matters a lot in terms of establishing their identity. Can you tell me about how Wolf Alice tackles this?

ELLIE: That was just a joke cos the photos I had taken of Theo and myself were so unbelievably bad. But yeah it’s really important to be in control of how you want to be seen through the your artwork, press shots etc. That doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t ask for any help. So I guess it’s about going with your gut, not doing anything you feel uncomfortable with and making sure you are surrounded with the right kinda people.

HAPPY: You guys just came off playing Southbound and Falls, how was it ringing in the new year playing those shows?

JOFF: Yeah they were great

THEO: It was amazing to play in those beautiful places. In Tasmania we had the whole view of the beach, so it was beautiful be playing there.

JOEL: It was unique because for festivals we’re used to playing on farms, so these were huge expansive things. We were very lucky to be here

HAPPY: It was your first time playing in Australia, were the shows and crowds what you expected or hoped for?

ELLIE: I think every show was totally different. It’s very heard to say. But all the crowds were good and all the people – the people here are generally very nice and welcoming. Not that they’re horrible back home! But it’s quite refreshing.

JOFF: It’s warm, in every sense (laughs) 

HAPPY: You guys got to ring in the new year playing on the other side of the world, what does that really mean to you in terms of your success as a band after forming four years ago?

ELLIE: Well with the three of us it’s three years…

THEO: There’s four of us (laughs)

ELLIE: It’s just crazy really, you’re playing on the other side of the world. I don’t think I would believe it if I told myself three years ago. It definitely bodes well for 2015.

HAPPY: Now you guys have finished your maiden Australian tour you have one coming up in the States as well at the end of the month.

ELLIE: We have two shows in New York and L.A, we’re just sort of dipping our fingers in just testing the water but hopefully we’ll be back to all these places laster this year. We’re set to have a busy one.

HAPPY: Is that your first time in the U.S as well?

THEO: We’ve done SXSW, but this is the first time we won’t be part of that showcase kind of gig, we’re standing on our own feet for the first time I suppose. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. When you go to a new place or a new country you have to start again. You have to put all the ground work in again. I’m pretty up for it, I’m excited.

JOEL: It’s kind of you have to prove there’s a reason that you’re there. Anyone can fly out to New York and probably book a show, but if you’ve been asked to go over there you need to deliver. We have to get rehearsals in and do things properly.

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HAPPY: It’s funny, a lot of people just think “Oh hey, my favourite band is coming overseas, this is great!”, but you never really think about the amount of work you actually have to put into it to make it worthwhile.

THEO: Absolutely! We have to remember “That’s right, we have a gig to play!

ELLIE: Yeah it’s not a holiday!

JOEL: It can be quite brutal for the first months. For any tour you’ve got to be ready for that same disappointment of when you first started a band that no one might be there. It’s sort of guaranteed, but it’s also half the fun.

HAPPY: You don’t find it disheartening to show up to a show and have no one there?

JOFF: It’s fine.

JOEL: Very used to it, don’t worry.

HAPPY: Do you find it awkward at all in that situation?

ELLIE:  Yeah definitely. It’s a little bit awkward, but sometimes it becomes one of the best shows because you’re like “There’s a few people that’s actually turned out so lets make sure they have the best show“. They’ll tell people, then the next show you play there’s more people there.

HAPPY: You’ve said the rest of the year holds a lot touring for you. Lykke Li just cancelled her Laneway appearance, citing ill health from constant touring as the reason, does that ever concern you guys?

THEO: Well I’m sure that fatigue from changing planes and air conditioning, constantly going through that isn’t easy.

JOEL: I think you’ve got to be careful when you’re on tour. You don’t have to cane it every single day. Otherwise the people you let down are the ones who bought tickets to that show.

THEO: Yeah, don’t drink through the whole tour

HAPPY: Speaking from experience?

Everyone: Ummmmmmm (laughs)

HAPPY: Does it ever cross your mind though? When you look at your hectic schedule do you ever think “Can I handle this mentally and physically”

ELLIE: Yeah definitely. I think it’s hard to be living out of a suitcase. But the weird thing is you have so much free time but you don’t know what to do. You can’t run of anywhere because you’re needed back, but you’re kind of sitting in a room, just sitting. It’s probably best to learn a skill to keep you sane. Like knitting.

THEO: We’ve been saying this for so long! Whenever we go on tour I’m like “I’m learning Spanish“. No, but I’m really good at looking out the window though. I’m really good at sitting still now. (to the band) We need a hobby.

ELLIE: We should probably bring a teacher on tour with us…

THEO: (Pointing to Joff) We’ve got one!

ELLIE: He’s the stupidest teacher I know! (laughs)

HAPPY: You’re a teacher?

JOFF: No, I trained to be a teacher but I never got that far.

HAPPY: You guys can bring a tutor along!

THEO: You know what, that’s not a bad idea…

JOEL: But we’d have to ditch our sound man.

HAPPY: Well since you’re so good at sitting still you can always be one of those people who pretend to be statues by the harbour, then move to freak out small children.

JOFF: Yeah that could be something

THEO: Yeah, maybe I could freak out small children on tour!

wolf alice interview

HAPPY: You guys are also gearing up for your album as well, what was the experience like after previously doing singles and EPs?

JOFF: We’ve finished recording it.

ELLIE: It was probably our most smooth running experience in the recording studio. I think we’ve spent a few years now working our way towards it so we’ve had a fair bit of experience to practice if you will. it seemed to go over without any hiccups. It was hard though, and scary as well because this is the real thing, but it went pretty well. It went better than I expected. (laughs)

JOFF: I think with every decision you make it’s like “That’s it. That’s the decision that will be out there

THEO: And it’s a bit hard to commit to that because we’re quite good at second guessing ourselves. I think it’s just that bravery of moving on so you don’t stagnate over the one thing. That was an interesting learning curve.

HAPPY: The last EP was a little more aggressive, will the album follow in the same vein or will it be something different?

ELLIE: I think it’ll be something different. We were saying it’s more poppy than grungy.

JOFF:  I think all the songs on the Creature Songs EP were fairly short.

THEO: We had about six days to record it as well. I t was a really cool experience though.

HAPPY: It wasn’t stressful at all?

ELLIE: Not as stressful as it should have been.

JOEL: It was very fun. We had an Australian producer called Catherine Marks, she’s amazing. It was a great week actually, it was our first proper band recording. We were signed, it was definitely coming out on a label, it was really cool.

HAPPY: What was it like working with Catherine?

JOFF: We were all really fond of her.

THEO:  There was a lot of mutual respect and a lot of trying new things out.

ELLIE: We didn’t spend that long with her, it was only a couple of days. She really put her heart and soul and fun it. It didn’t really seem like it was another job for her. So that was really nice working with someone like that. And she was willing to let us do whatever we wanted. She just wanted to help us rather than told us what to do. That was really important.

HAPPY: Finally we at Happy always write about stuff that gives us the warm and fuzzies, so what makes you happy?

THEO: Doing this! It’s pretty amazing, and it’s pretty weird. If we were going to tell our 13 year old selves we’d be in Australia…

JOEL: Yeah, it’s quite mad. That and Cartoon Network.

THEO: I stayed up till three in the morning watching Adventure Time last night

JOEL: Traveling the world and cartoons, we’re quite happy (laughs).