Published on Mous. Magazine, August 2016.
London grunge rockers talk Tinder, Laurence Fishburne and crushing on their high school English teachers.
A few days ago, Wolf Alice were pumping their brand of brash guitar rock to a mud-soaked Splendour in the Grass Amphitheatre amongst the likes of Blur and Tame Impala. Now it’s Monday afternoon and the London natives are nursing hangovers in a sleepy Brisbane pub. I’m fully prepared to give them the nonchalant rock star free pass – who would blame them? – but the band sitting before me are the most accommodating, attentive and humble bunch I’ve met.
Striking front-woman Ellie Rowsell is a daytime version of her savage onstage persona, shrouded in mystery and oversized denim. Bassist Theo Ellis is all bleach-blond spikes and spirited guffaws, while guitarist Joff Oddie is the first to thoughtfully answer my every question. Leather-clad drummer Joel Amey keeps complimenting my band shirt (their tour buddies, Drenge) in-between wisecracks and sips of cappuccino. It’s like sitting at the misfits’ table at lunch as they take me under their wing and teach me to how to be cool.
Wolf Alice are experts at cool. Their debut album My Love Is Cool is a genre-hopping affair – a sonic lucky dip of deadpan whispers and diabolical cackles, vulnerable lilts and melting riffs. “Feral”, “muzzled”, “pack leaders” – music journalists will soon be out of wolf metaphors to describe the band’s exhilarating presence in the indie rock scene.
Pre-release, the four-piece were pegged as a grunge-folk hybrid with the styling of a female-fronted ‘90s outfit, à la Hole or Veruca Salt. They’ve been on record to state the contrary, but to no avail. So, when I ask them to describe the album with a word each, they reply with a smirk – Grunge, Folk, Love and Cool.
Legend has it that Ellie found Joff on an online music forum, before recruiting Theo and Joel through mutual friends (watch their ‘Fluffy’ music video for a truly accurate reenactment). But today, they jokingly give me the inside scoop – Joff and Ellie met on Tinder, Joel and Theo on Grindr. Their Tinder profiles? “Ellie: Blonde. Really nice,” Joel laughs.
With songs about coming of age and reckless teenage abandon, I probe their pre-Wolf Alice lives, even down to the forbidden high school crush. “I was head over heels in love with my English teacher,” Theo says. “If I ever see her again, I’ll probably just… look at her from a distance. She’s got a son and I have him on Facebook, so it’s a bit weird. He’s my age and he’s a big lad. But I fancy his mum.”
“Shout out to all the lovely English teachers out there,” Joff adds.
After being gifted with an Australiana swagman hat (which they proudly flaunt on Instagram), I continue with my line of really serious musicianship questions, i.e. time travel and emoji. “This is such a nice hangover cure,” Ellie says. The pleasure is ours.
Wolf Alice are named after Angela Carter’s short story about a girl raised by wolves. If you were raised by an animal, considering your current habits and personality traits, what would it be?
Joff: Cows. They’re docile and eat grass.
Ellie: I’d probably be raised by monkeys. Chimps.
Joel: I’d be raised by cats.
Theo: I’d quite like to be a dog. A Dalmatian.
Ellie: You’d be a Whippet.
Joel: No, you’d be raised by sharks.
Theo: Oh fuck yeah, sharks! Sharkboy. I’d be raised by sharks.
If you had a superpower:
Ellie: I’d like to morph into other people, like, what’s her name? Morpheus?
Theo: You’d like to morph like Morpheus? You’d like to morph like Laurence Fishburne? [All laugh.] I’d like invisibility combined with flying, to do weird shit.
Joff: Teleporting. I’d play all the gigs, all the time.
Theo: It’d help with the jet lag.
Joel: Strength, I guess? So I could just pummel stuff… Pummel people.
Joff: We’d be villains.
If you could travel backwards or forwards to any time:
Ellie: I’d say ‘60s New York.
Joel: Tomorrow. A whole day ahead.
Joff: I’d maybe go back and hang out with Jesus for a bit.
Theo: There’d be so much disease.
Joff: Yeah, but I’d teleport away from it.
Theo: I’d say ‘70s London.
Joff: Forty years ago? If you could go back to any time and place at all, you’d go to the place you live forty years ago?
Theo: Yes! I stand by it.
Define yourself via emoji:
Ellie: The dancing red dress, definitely.
Joff: The smiling pile of poo.
Joel: Black Santa.
Theo: Wait, there you go. The nose. ♦