It was only 9 months ago that we saw rising UK rockers Wolf Alice making their LA debut at School Night at Bardot. Their headlining set was one of the more anticipated of the weekly free with RSVP series as patrons packed into the small frat-house-like venue despite some anti-LA weather.
“I remember it like yesterday,” drummer Joel Amey told Grimy Goods in a phone interview earlier this week.
“I remember there was a bit of rain, and everyone was going on about how it doesn’t rain in LA. There was like a roof that would retract in the venue and this guy was like, ‘Yeah it’s like the first time we’ve ever had to close the roof – usually people will be smoking.’ But it’s raining and we were like, ‘can’t believe we’ve come all the way to LA and it’s raining.’ So I remember that being kind of ironic.”
“We got a really good warm reception from the crowd. It really meant the world to us at the time. It always does but I remember thinking then we didn’t know what to expect, it kind of took our breath away a bit.”
A week from now, this four-piece will be making their fourth stop in LA as they headline the Fonda Theatre following stops earlier this year at the Bootleg and The Roxy. They were one of the buzziest bands at SXSW and their debut full-length album My Love is Cool will surely land them on many year-end best of lists.
“It’s taken a moment to realize what is happening and even though our feet are firm on the ground, we do feel like the size of what’s happening in terms of going to a venue like what we’re doing in LA, the Fonda,” said Amey. “Even like tonight in Chicago, it’s sold out. I don’t know what the capacity is here, 800 or something? Which is kind of crazy because it took two years to do that kind of venue in the UK. It’s kind of mad. I can’t really explain it, it’s a bit bonkers.”
Few bands have drummed up the kind of interest in a debut album the way Wolf Alice had prior to the June release of My Love is Cool. Songs like “Bros” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” piqued the interest of music fans across the globe. Though some of their more well-known songs have a rather grungy feel to them, their album showcases just how diverse they can be with quieter tracks like “Swallowtail” and “Turn to Dust.”
Amey admitted that he was a bit curious how the album would be received since it didn’t quite fit the pigeonhole that many critics had packed their band into.
“I get how someone who heard ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, primarily in the US – Moaning Lisa Smile – then some people just want to hear twelve versions of ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’,” said Amey.
“I see it at some shows where they only really come to the shows at the end song. I found that a little bit weird because we’ve never been that kind of band that just writes the same song twelve times and is super happy about it because it makes everyone mosh. There’s a different side to the band and there’s different people in the band. You have four people who are all songwriters, we never do just like fucking playing the same old shit.”
From their date at Bardot until their more recent at the Roxy, it’s been quite clear the band has grown in confidence as performers – vocalist and guitarist Ellie Rowsell in particular. At the Roxy gig, Rowsell went into the crowd during “Moaning Lisa Smile” and put on quite the demonic face while shouting the chorus, almost as if she was about to take the bite out of a bat a la Ozzy Osbourne. Amey has the best seat in the house being behind the drum kit, so he’s gotten a first look at how his bandmates have gotten better as performers.
“I think I’ve probably seen those three progress more than they understand,” agreed Amey. “Theo has always been born to be on the stage in my opinion. He’s like that off stage, he’s just forever in a performing sense. Same with Joff, he just looks like he knows exactly what he’s doing. I can see a lot of dudes watching Joff and wondering how the fuck is he making that sound. I’ve seen that progress. And I think Ellie has just made the biggest transformation I’ve ever seen of someone close to me to see the start to where we are today. It’s great.”
“For me, I can tell when we’re on fire. It’s interesting for me being kind of the conductor but from the back of these gigs. You’re right, I think Ellie, she’s just fucking smashing it. It might be a bad thing to say from someone who is in the band but I’m just basing it on the facts. She’s probably become one of the most engaging female presences in a band that I’ve seen in a long time.”
It would be a massive shock if Wolf Alice weren’t performing at next year’s Coachella – as well as a slew of other music festivals around the States. For Amey and his band, the opportunity would be a dream come true.
“I have actually been to Coachella,” said Amey. “I saved my money when I was 19. I worked at a golf course and the girl I was with at the time, we went out together and we went to Coachella and we had the most fucking ridiculous time. It was a brilliant festival and I said to myself I’ll be playing here in five years and I think I missed the mark by like one.”
“A friend of mine Cameron [Knight], he plays guitar for alt-J, those guys played this year so I asked what it’s like to play it and he says it’s the best. Should we be playing Coachella, I don’t know if we are or not, that would be a dream come true.”
Wolf Alice possesses the kind of sound that suggests they’ll be climbing up festival bills from being an early-day offering to legitimate late-night main courses. They’re well ahead of the curve with one incredible album already to their name, and they’re only getting better as performers with each successful tour. If you haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon it’s probably best to do it now before there isn’t any more room left.
Wolf Alice have a Los Angeles date the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on Tuesday, October 13. Supporting them will be Drenge. Get your tickets!
Words: Mark E. Ortega
WOLF ALICE NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
OCT 9 – Austin City Limits, Austin, TX
OCT 10 – Fed Up Fest, Kansas City, MO
OCT 11 – Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ
OCT 12 – The Irenic, San Diego, CA
OCT 13 – Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
OCT 15 – The Chapel, San Francisco, CA
OCT 17 – Buzzfest, The Woodlands, TX
OCT 18 – Trees, Dallas, TX