Wolf Alice: “We had to literally destroy our arms and legs recording Yuk Foo”
Two years on from the success of My Love is Cool, Tasha Gregson gets the lowdown on how Wolf Alice are seeking to live up to expectations with their second album.
You know it’s going to be an entertaining interview when the subject opens with the line: “I’m just watching Bargain Hunt at my mum’s house.” Despite the decidedly un-rock ‘n’ roll setting, coupled with a post-LA jet lag hangover, when I caught up with Joel Amey, Wolf Alice’s drummer and vocalist, he was understandably excited about the band’s new album.
“It was amazing to get back in the studio. We’d been planning and readying ourselves for it in the month that preceded,” Joel tells me. The bulk of the album was written in a “very gloomy, very wet London” and later recorded in sunny LA. “When we came off the road we had loads of music. Everyone had written loads of stuff. We basically went through and beachcombed all the ideas we liked and we stuck them together, trying everything out while we had our own rehearsal space.”
We spoke about that rush and euphoria of hearing a song in a tent at a festival and being like, ‘fuck! It’s already started. We’ve got to run and get to it.
And thus, Visions of a Life was born – and what a vision it is. A beautiful follow-up to 2015’s ‘My Love is Cool’, the band have continued their trend of creating dreamy guitar songs accompanied by punchy lyrics seething with attitude. “We didn’t say any names in particular of pre-existing bands [as influences behind the album]. We definitely did talk about certain moments and feelings and things that we were trying to get across with the songs. We spoke about that rush and euphoria of hearing a song in a tent at a festival and being like, ‘fuck! It’s already started. We’ve got to run and get to it.’”
The first release – ‘Yuk Foo’ – is a punk-infused anthem of sheer rebellion screaming ‘You bore me to death/No, I don’t give a shit’, supplemented by a video that is an equally riotous affair. “It was something Ellie [Rowsell – lead vocals] had made backstage when we were in Columbus in Ohio. I remember hearing it and being like ‘this is sick’. When it came round to recording it was just up to Joff [Oddie – guitarist], Theo [Ellis – bassist] and I to get into it and facilitate that feeling of a pure explosion of anger. We had to literally destroy our arms and legs recording it to give it the right amount of energy and, I keep talking about anger, but it added to the ferociousness of the track.”
The next release from the band was quite a contrast; ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ is an atmospheric, synth-based song that has a touch of the ethereal to it. It’s quite a departure from the fierceness of ‘Yuk Foo’ but manages to be just as impactful. “But nothing’s ever that overly contrived with us,” he responds when I ask whether it was a deliberate decision to juxtapose the two. “It’s just another song off the album that seemed to fit with being the second single. There wasn’t like any grand evil scheme to do a nasty song and a nice song.”
The recording process of Visions of a Life differed somewhat from the first album, with the band enjoying a bit more time to experiment with their sound. “Mike Crossey [producer] managed to get us to do ‘My Love is Cold’ in like four weeks, which was amazing because we hadn’t ever had an experience in the studio before so it was all new and exciting. This time around we had three months of actually tracking, which meant Joff actually had the freedom to do what he wanted to do on the guitar and try to find the exact sound. There were no corners cut and things were able to breathe.
In 2015, after two well received EPs, the band released ‘My Love is Cool’ amidst a staggering amount of hype and expectation. “We’re one of those bands that had a lot of pressure put on us from a very early stage. There were expectations for every EP and for the first album in particular because it seemed like it had been a while since people had first heard the name Wolf Alice when the album came out.” Did that pressure increase when recording a second album, considering the sophomore slump that some artists fall victim to after a stellar debut? “Yeah, it’s weird. I feel pressure in everything we do because I know how much you have to put into it, how much it means to us and how much you want it to mean to other people. In terms of our the label breathing down our necks, well, it really wasn’t like that. It’s been very fortuitous that we’ve been given the freedom to kind of do whatever we please. If anything, this time we felt we could be a bit freer and braver and maybe even more true to ourselves.”
Along with the release of the album, Wolf Alice are playing a series of small venue shows in the UK this August. “Playing in the states and the UK does differ, you know?” Joel says, on returning to the stage in their home country after a stint performing in the US. “I think it actually differs wherever you go but I think cities are completely different to each other in the UK and that’s the joy of it. You’re never going to have the same thing happening every night otherwise it would fucking suck. It would be like the worst thing to do in the world. Seeing the other three perform in front of me every night, I can see how much they’ve changed and grown as performers without even knowing it. It’s very exciting to watch.”
This month will finally see the release of the highly-anticipated ‘Visions of a Life’, but what’s next for the band? Put it this way: they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. “We’ll do more and more gigs I guess. Hopefully the album will be received the way we’d love it to: people will enjoy it, care for it and that in couple years’ time they’ll still be listening to it. We’ve got things planned for next year that we’re super excited about and we’re hearing rumours of what we’re going to get up to over summertime. It’s going to be great.” Summer plans, you say? Watch this space, people.
Visions of a Life is released 29 September.