Wolf Alice are about to bring their live show to Australian shores, and it turns out, they’re just as excited for the tour as we are.
It’s fair to say that 2021 was a huge year for Wolf Alice. The London four-piece released their acclaimed third record Blue Weekend, loved by existing fans, new fans, and critics alike.
To take you back to 2012, Wolf Alice traded in their two-piece acoustic origins for two new band members and a much louder, punk set-up, shredding possessing riffs and performing unforgettable vocals.
That’s when the band’s drummer, Joel Amey became a fully-fledged member of the London outfit, and it’s also when Wolf Alice became a staple of British punk music, skyrocketing to fame with the release of the irresistibly buoyant Don’t Delete The Kisses.
Wolf Alice are preparing for a run of Australian shows in the major cities, including a headliner spot at this year’s Groovin The Moo festival.
Before they reach our shores, we caught up with Joel to chat about the whirlwind that was the last year, making fun of drummers, and his adoration for Australian music.
HAPPY: Hey Joel. How are you going?
JOEL: Good, man. How are you?
HAPPY: I’m doing great. Nice to meet you.
JOEL: Nice to meet you too.
HAPPY: Whereabouts are you? Are you in Cleveland at the moment?
JOEL: I’m in Cleveland at the Beachland Ballroom. I’m sitting in front of the bins.
HAPPY: That sounds like an amazing background *laughs*.
JOEL: *laughs* It’s really not.
HAPPY: You’re playing a show in a few hours, aren’t you?
JOEL: Yeah! We are.
JOEL: Yeah, playing here tonight. We’ve just come from Toronto.
HAPPY: Oh, lovely. How’s the rest of the tour been so far?
JOEL: It’s been amazing, man. We’ve been going to some places that we’ve not been to in a really long time, and some places we’ve never been to. And the reaction has been really wonderful and you’re never really sure what to expect on tours like this. And it wasn’t that long ago that we were in America, only about four or five months ago, something like that. So yeah, I really couldn’t have asked for much more on this tour so far.
HAPPY: Have there been any cities that you’ve liked more than you expected initially?
JOEL: I’ve been hoping to like all of them, but I’ve been blown away with the reaction in Montreal, and I really loved this tiny little show we played in Hampton, in Connecticut. It was a real, like bar show. There was a show in New Jersey that was just fucking hectic. I think like six people got thrown out for being… just too much. It’s actually a bit dark, that wasn’t my vibe. But there’s definitely been some surprises, yeah.
HAPPY: I saw on Instagram that you got a young fan up on the stage to play Tambourine the other night in Hampton. What was the story behind that?
JOEL: *laughs* She was there at the front with her mum and her dad! I was like, ‘fucking hell’. She had earplugs in bless her, and Ellie just got her up on stage and she was like, ‘Do you want to play tambourine?’ I don’t know if she wanted to, but she ended up doing it and she was great. She was more in time than me, so…
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HAPPY: *laughs* That’s so cute. Was that a wolf costume she was wearing?
JOEL: You know what? I’ve just clocked that she was wearing wolf ears, now you said that. It’s a bit of a trend over here, but I just forgot about the reason why they’re wearing wolf ears, I thought it was just a new kid thing. Very little ears. And her parents also gave us quite a cool box full of sweets and just nice things, which was very sweet. So yeah, it was cool.
HAPPY: Yeah it sounds like a win-win for everyone. So what’s it like playing the new album live, now that the world has opened up a bit more?
JOEL: Oh, it’s a joy. It’s definitely what we always hoped we could do and at one point was looking like maybe we won’t. Yeah, it’s very strange to be making something in a lockdown situation with such uncertainty, knowing that a majority of the life of a record, as much as it is a recording, there’s a physical entity to it as well, which is the live show. And I guess I always say this, but it’s so important for a band like us, it’s not like we do the gigging because it’s part of the parcel of being a band.
We do it because we adore doing it. And the reaction you get after a couple of years of hard work on a record, the gratification… it’s obviously really lovely to read comments or reviews or have your friends and family tell you what they think. But when you actually see a physical reaction to it in a live setting, there’s nothing else really like it. So yeah, I think it’s filled a hole that you forget you have. Especially in a lockdown situation where everything that was quite easy access to you was taken away, the whole experience kind of changes.
HAPPY: Yeah, nice. I’m not sure if you hold this view personally, but it’s been expressed by the band that Blue Weekend is your ‘best stuff yet’. What is it about that album that takes it to the top of the list?
JOEL: I like all our records, because they sound like us at different times of our lives, I guess. I have a different love affair with them for different reasons. But this one, the process was harder to get to the end result, maybe because we pushed ourselves more by doing less sometimes. Blue Weekend in some ways was a bit of a lesson in restraint for us in the studio, not necessarily needing to fill every single second with a flurry of ideas and letting the songs speak for themselves. And I think actually that was a bit of a leap of faith in some ways for us, well at least it was for me I think. Like, at one point because of how involved we were for so long, I really couldn’t see the wood between the trees kind of thing.
So I think ultimately it’s just because the songs are speaking for themselves and it’s less about the sonics or whatever… I don’t know what I’m even trying to say. I think it’s just a pure, distilled form of what the four of us like to do in the studio and what each one of the members bring to the table. And there’s quite a lot of experimenting on Visions of a Life, and in My Love Is Cool, you know, it was done in four weeks and it’s your first time in the studio, so you’re just excited to play every fucking synthesiser you can get your hands on. You know what I mean? So this time it’s almost like, I don’t know, you rely on the experience of times before, and I think that’s what this is kind of an example of. It’s almost like a sonic version of us hearing how far we’ve come, I think.
HAPPY: Do you think that you found a sound that you’ll kind of lean into as a band in the future? Or do you think you’ll continue to evolve and explore different styles?
JOEL: I don’t know, but we’ve been playing with one of our best buddies, Ryan, on stage with the keys, and that’s been really fun and really freeing to have another person to jam with for ideas. So that could be a really fun thing to explore. I think ultimately we’ve just remembered that we love songs and songwriting and that in itself is almost a sound to me. So I think it’d be nice to just maintain the attitude that if it works on an acoustic guitar and still holds up, then that’s pretty killer. So maybe slightly less would be quite a fun thing. But that’s not a statement of intent. That’s just me waffling on because we just did one thing in soundcheck *laughs*.
I think ultimately with the reaction of Blue Weekend, it’s probably going to let us do whatever we want next, which we’ve always kind of felt, but when we won the Mercury and stuff like that, after the second one, I was like, ‘Right, everyone’s going to want us to fucking fail now, like 100%.’ But you have that imposter syndrome of like, ‘Oh God’, and then it doesn’t matter, we could have released the best album of all time, but people kind of like to watch bands fall, I think. But after Blue Weekend, maybe it’d be quite nice for us to just spread our wings in different ways and do different kinds of projects maybe as well. It’d be nice to experiment.
HAPPY: So with Ryan playing keys with you now, how does that affect the songwriting process of the band?
JOEL: I mean, I don’t know. We write at home as much as we do together. Together it’s usually fleshing out the ideas people have. We’ve never really been much of a jammy band. But that’s because none of us knew how to play our instruments when we started apart from Joff. Well, no, to be fair, everyone was okay. I always regret what I’ve said when I read it written down *laughs*. I think ultimately, we’re getting the itch to write more music as we speak. And playing the shows, you kind of feel like ‘this kind of thing could be quite fun if we did this here’. And so I think our brains are starting to work again, which is really fun. But ultimately there’s no goalposts for me. I’d like to think we can do whatever we like.
HAPPY: Oh nice, and so you’re heading to Australia after you finish up in America, and you’re kicking things off with the regional festival Groovin The Moo. Do you notice a difference between regional crowds and city crowds at all?
JOEL: Well, Australia’s maybe the only place that I would say defines it like that. Like we don’t exactly play in like villages in the UK, do you know what I mean? I think, you know, different countries have different vibes and festivals as the nature of a festival, it’s different to how you treat a room where most people have paid to be in that room. Whereas a festival they could be that to see everyone but you.
So they’re kind of different battle mentalities. I’m just really thrilled that we’re getting to go back to Australia, it’s one of my favourite places in the world and it’s been really good to us. We’ve got some great shows in Sydney and Melbourne, I think Melbourne’s sold out and hopefully everyone’s okay in Brisbane in that part of the world, I know the flooding is really bad. So I’m hoping we just get to go there and Groovin The Moo is really fun. I’m just stoked to go to places we’ve never been.
HAPPY: Nice, would you say you’re more of a city person or a country person?
JOEL: Well, I currently live by the seaside, so I don’t know what that is. I love the city, but I grew up more in the country, very much the countryside. So I’m like more of a Jekyll and Hyde with a bit of the seaside thrown in.
HAPPY: *laughs* So is it nice to play in smaller towns after hitting pretty much every major city in the US and the UK?
JOEL: Yeah, circling back to the last question, I grew up in a small town where no one came. You know, I had to go to London to see bands, so any band that ever came to the little town, which wasn’t even where I lived, it was just the closest thing I could get to, you’d love that band. You’d be like ‘Thank you fucking very much’. Also I just think one of the great blessings of being in a band is being allowed to travel and meet people. And it’s always the places you kind of… not least expect, because you respect everywhere. But sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh, I wonder what this is going to be like?’ and it will just blow you away. And you go and play in London and you’re like, ‘ah, okay’. *laughs* You know, geography doesn’t necessarily define experience.
HAPPY: Yeah, speaking of. I feel like UK artists seem to get a lot of traction in Australia and vice versa. Like yourself, the Wombats, and Catfish, you’re all huge here, and then DMA’S and Confidence Man are massive over there too. Why do you think there’s such a big crossover between Australian and English music?
JOEL: Probably alcohol.
JOEL: I reckon we treat drinking in exactly the same way *laughs*. Yeah, I don’t know. I love DMA’S and I fucking love Confidence Man. But there’s some nostalgically English sounds that are involved in those two bands’ sounds, I think. And we’ve always been blown away by the music that’s come from Australia. And obviously Tame Impala, they were coming out when we were starting and their stuff was kind of the benchmark for musicianship and song writing. Absolutely adore Pond, King Gizzard, you know, so many great Australian bands. I fucking love Radio Birdman, they’re a fucking old school Australian band. So I don’t know. I think one of those things… we’re so far away, but not really. It just seems to be an unwritten thing that, like, the appreciation is universal, you know, it’s not really defined geographically, which is super cool.
HAPPY: Yeah there’s so much incredible music coming out of both places, so it’s great to see. And quite unfairly, drummers cop the most shit from other musicians. Do you happen to have a favourite drummer joke that someone’s hit you with over the years?
JOEL: I think I’m the biggest drummer joke.
JOEL: But I don’t know. Nah, not really. I don’t really think of myself as a drummer, so I’m kind of down with slagging them off to be fair *laughs*.
HAPPY: Well, thanks so much for jumping on the call, Joel. It’s been so nice chatting with you.
JOEL: Nice one, dude. I’ve literally got you on a bin and I’m sitting on the floor, so it’s also been a nice experience for me *laughs*.
HAPPY: It sounds like it *laughs*. So what time are you on tonight?
JOEL: I have no idea. I think… what’s it now? It’s quarter past five. I think we’re on in about 4 hours.
JOEL: So I’m going to do my usual, have some tacos and then go on stage.
HAPPY: Sounds like a great plan.
JOEL: Thanks very much for your time, Lochie. I’ll see you in Australia.
HAPPY: Thank you! I’ll see you then. Good luck with the show tonight.
JOEL: Nice one, mate. See you in a bit.
Listen to more from Wolf Alice below.
Interview by Lochie Schuster