Regardless of where it lands on the charts, WOLF ALICE’s My Love Is Cool will stand as one of 2015’s most inventive records. The North London four-piece have had to face expectations and skepticism for months, if not years, but their debut full-length (out now via Dirty Hit/RCA) has respectfully become “the flag waving spearhead for a whole wave of young British bands”. Why? Because it bites back.
My Love Is Cool could have easily turned into another wannabe misprint of Nirvana and Queens Of The Stone Age, and yet it’s a calculated jump from their Blush and Creature Songs EPs. It stands with its own intentions, finessing a sense of youthful ambition and a mess of indie, psych, folk, and alternative to be a project you can’t pin down. With Wolf Alice gearing up for an eventful summer, we chatted with vocalist/guitarist Ellie Rowsell about the road to their debut, the unique relationships they’ve built with their fans, and why the band is entirely comfortable with being different.
What was the biggest challenge you guys faced while working on this record?
I think the biggest challenge was working within time constraints while trying to give ourselves enough freedom to explore and experiment. You don’t want to just get everything done and then call it a day, but you also don’t want to be messin’ about.
There is some interesting experimentation on My Love Is Cool, that ranges from grungier pop to lighter folk ballads. What influenced you guys to create an album that’s more of a collection of songs rather than a record with a clear concept?
I guess because it’s our debut album. A lot of the time – especially if it’s your first band and your first album – you just write as many songs as you can all of the time and then you handpick your favourites for your debut. We didn’t allow ourselves to take six weeks to go away and write something – these songs are all different in age as some are quite old and some are quite new. It is a collection, sort of like a greatest hits of what we’ve written up to this day.
Was experimenting with different styles something you’ve always wanted to do?
No, not really. We have influences from all over the place so that just reflects on our work. We don’t just listen to grunge music so we didn’t just make a grunge record and we don’t just listen to punk music so we didn’t just make a punk record. We listen to all kinds of things and I think the record’s a reflection of how open-minded we are and that we actually do like to listen to different genres.
Were you surprised by anything when you were finally in the studio and recording?
We were really surprised by how well it went. We’ve had a couple of bad experiences in the past where things weren’t coming together or we couldn’t make decisions, but we’ve sort of learned from those mistakes and they didn’t really happen this time. We were nervous because everything had built up to this moment for a long time and you know, you only get one baby album. But yeah, we were surprised by how that pressure never really did any harm as it was just healthy. We worked at the best of our ability and just pulled out all the stops.
What was it like working with Mike Crossey?
It was good. It was quite interesting because we’ve worked with producers before but never with a producer like Mike who has a very confident idea of what he wants. It takes getting used it as it’s almost like having a fifth member in the band. We went into the album process with a clear of idea what we wanted the songs to sound like so it wasn’t like he was trying to change us – he was just trying to help us realize what we wanted. With his experience and his knowledge of sound and sonics, he really helped us re-imagine what we had in our heads.
Are there any mediums you would like to experiment with outside of music?
Yeah, I’d always like to be able to do other stuff. When I was in school, my subjects were Art, Music, and Drama and English, so I don’t know… I’d like to maybe write for other things like film or theatre or maybe even try my hand at acting. I think acting would be very scary and I don’t really know much about it so I’d have to be older and wiser before I try it out (laughs).
It seems like a lot of people pigeonhole you guys into being a band that solely likes grunge, but as you’ve noted publicly, you are a fan of more current bands like Iceage and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. What have you found yourself listening to lately?
There are some really cool bands that we’ve been on tour with recently. There’s this band from London called Crows and they’re really cool, but they’re a band you have to see live to really understand them. We also toured with The Magic Gang who write trapp-y kind of bro songs (laughs). I recently found this new album by a band called Wand and they’re kind of like Tame Impala. It’s pretty cool as it’s really good guitar music. I don’t know… I need to read more blogs or something and find some new bands.
Are there any older artists you wish you could have seen perform live?
Probably Nirvana (laughs). I’m not doing much in terms of us being pigeonholed as a grunge band, but I can’t imagine what it’d be like to see them live. I don’t know… I guess it’s weird being a big fan of a band that you’ll never get to see. I would have loved to been able to see James Brown during his heyday and obviously other artists like The Beatles (laughs).
During your performance of “Moaning Lisa Smile” at The Roxy in L.A., you jumped off the stage, gave your guitar to a fan and decided to join in on the crowd’s own sing-along of your song. Is interacting with fans on a personal level important to you guys?
I think so. When I was growing up, I was a a kid that was a big fan of bands and I was excited for my life when I got to interact with those bands. Whether they replied to my message on MySpace or came out after a show to sign an autograph. No little gesture gets overlooked by fans and since I know what that feels like, it’s become important for us to know that ourselves. It’s not really necessary to interact with people when you’re performing, but coming out after the show and saying hello and taking pictures is a really nice thing to do. It’s not always possible, but you should if you can.
What’s one thing you hope fans take away from My Love Is Cool?
I hope people… um, enjoy it, and I hope it will evoke different emotions as the record goes on. It’s not an angry record, it’s not a sad record, it’s not a happy record – it’s a little different. It’s different so people can take what they want from it and still listen to it for years to come. I hope it stands the test of time, but also I hope people appreciate it as much as we appreciate them buying it.
With the “first big goal” out of the picture, what’s next for Wolf Alice?
I think it’s touring behind the album for as long as we can (laughs). Just playing big stages and bigger festivals, but also maintaining the small, sweaty aspect of our live shows and hopefully being allowed enough time to write and record a second album that can come out as soon as possible. I don’t know. We’ve got so much to give and we just want to be allowed to do so.