It’s the Friday of Glastonbury and there’s a storm thrashing around in the Park. Wolf Alice have taken advantage of the downpour and thundered through their set, culminating (for me, at least) in singer Ellie Rowsell racing down, standing atop the barrier to immerse herself in the crowd, and in turn holding my hand and telling me she loves me. Three months later, we’re (my co-editor Stephen, the band, and myself) sitting backstage in the band’s dressing room at the O2 ABC in Glasgow, and Ellie confirms, “I wasn’t lying!” Who says you shouldn’t meet your idols?
Wolf Alice have been on the tip of everyone’s tongue for a good few years now, but they never expected to achieve a number two album with My Love Is Cool – let alone in the same week as a pair of spectacular Glastonbury sets. “At one point we didn’t think we’d have an album at all,” Theo Ellis, their excitable bleach-blond bassist, tells us. “This tour is our first chance to play the album out in full,” he says, because they’ve had the busiest festival schedule this summer – so busy, in fact, that their downtime between festivals has merely been spent travelling to the next. And yet, it seems as though that doesn’t faze the band; you can see in the energy of their performances that they love the different personality each festival has, and, when asked what their favourite show as Wolf Alice has been so far, guitarist Joff Oddie reels off a whole list of festivals. There’s something in the spirit of this band that makes it so clear they’re just itching to be onstage.
Joff recalls that their stand-out worst gig was at Coventry’s infamous Kasbah
However, it’s bad news for us when it comes to whether Wolf Alice will be close to Warwick anytime soon. Joff recalls that their stand-out worst gig was at Coventry’s infamous Kasbah, where they played to the support, production, and a one-man crowd – despite being double booked with another band at the same time. They had a few gigs like that at the start, though: “You kind of have to – every band is shit when they’ve just started out.”
Luckily, they’ve had some form of mentoring through supporting the likes of Manic Street Preachers and The 1975: Joel Amey, the band’s drummer, tells us, “It definitely helps to have friends in other bands – all bands learn from more experienced ones.” And (despite Theo’s most famous friend being “my mate Bobby from Camden!”), learn they have; Wolf Alice changed dramatically from that shy band on the prestigious John Peel stage in 2014 to a wild riot in the Park one year on. “It’s just confidence from playing there more than once,” explains Theo. “It’s always scary playing somewhere for the first time.”
“Arcade Fire would make a great backing band”
This isn’t their first time in Glasgow though, and Wolf Alice have started to recognise their most dedicated fans. “I know some of them by name now,” says Theo. “They all met on Twitter and come to the gigs together.” I saw this for myself at their gig that evening (which the die-hards had been queueing for since the early afternoon), when people started shouting each other’s Twitter handles in greeting, and someone asked me if he recognised me from Instagram (definitely not). A bit surreal, but perhaps that’s where fanbases are headed while social media takes over the world.
Ahead of that evening’s gig, knowing that all four band members are avid crowdsurfers, we probe their onstage plans, noting that Florence Welch recently told her own Glasgow crowd to get naked – something they most certainly did. “Just imagine if a guy said that!” Theo exclaims, before Joff butts in: “Get yer willies out!” It was at this point that I mentioned my previous encounter with Wolf Alice, with Ellie stating, “Well, one of those phrases leads to the other…”, and sparking a debate with Theo as to whether “Get naked, I love you!” or “I love you, get naked!” was more complimentary. It’s not a conversation we thought we’d ever be having in Wolf Alice’s dressing room.
Conversation quickly turned towards more musical affairs, discussing collaborations the band would love to experience, with Joff pondering that “Arcade Fire would make a great backing band,” and Ellie confirming “they’d take that as a massive compliment.” Theo, however, had other ideas, stating “I’m obsessed with Miley Cyrus right now.” It’s not a surprise that Wolf Alice’s members have such divergent tastes – My Love Is Cool is unpredictable and full of wildly varying influences, from Willy Mason to Outkast. Ellie’s vocals alone sound like they could be different people on each track, going from sweet harmonies to screaming, and a blood-curdling cackle. It’s this that makes them so interesting to listen to.
Despite their differences (they’re also completely divided over Kanye West’s Glastonbury performance, with Joff finding it entirely boring whilst Theo thought the crane was particularly genius), they’re still just four best friends having the time of their lives. “We don’t really have any rituals,” Theo says. “But we do always have a hug before going onstage.” It’s the love between them that you can feel in their presence, and that’s what makes Wolf Alice so much fun. “I feel like we’re best friends now, I’m gonna get you each a beer,” Theo declares, before bounding to the fridge and handing us each a Grolsch to send us on our way.
My Love Is Cool is unpredictable and full of wildly varying influences, from Willy Mason to Outkast
Wolf Alice open their gig that night with a somewhat brave choice in their album’s namesake: the gentle, hidden track ‘My Love Is Cool’. It’s a chance to bond with their fans over an intimate demo, before stepping their dancing up a gear during ‘Your Loves Whore’ and ‘Freazy’.
The crowd explodes into a cloud of glitter during ‘Bros’ that’s so thick you can’t breathe for the sparkling air, and everyone in the room becomes best friends. The twinkling lights, airy synths and floaty vocals of ‘Soapy Water’ do nothing to wash the glitter away, but act as the calm before ‘Lisbon’’s chaotic storm. ‘Silk’ and ‘The Wonderwhy’ follow, swirling around the room, and cleansing the crowd before the madness of ‘Storms’: a full-on riot of headbanging punctured by verses of sweet singing between the cries of “who are your friends?!”
The cries of “Here we, here we, here we fucking go!” that follow every song (it was Glasgow, after all) are suddenly interrupted by darkness, and a spotlight trickles down to illuminate Joel and his drum kit. It’s almost as though he’s the only other person in the room, singing ‘Swallowtail’ alone with just Ellie’s delicate strumming behind his soft voice – the crowd even quietens in what seems like a sign of respect, and it’s the most peaceful moment all night.
Oldie ‘Fluffy’ brings the dancing back up to speed, while crowd-favourite ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ encourages all the headbanging you could wish for, and Theo finds his first perfect crowdsurfing moment of the night. Wolf Alice leave the stage following Ellie’s cackle that concludes their most recent single: the frantic ‘You’re A Germ’.
The twinkling lights, airy synths and floaty vocals of ‘Soapy Water’ do nothing to wash the glitter away, but act as the calm before ‘Lisbon’’s chaotic storm.
They creep back out to an atmospheric encore with ‘Turn To Dust’ hypnotising everyone in the room, before the whole crowd tries (and unsurprisingly fails) to hit the high notes of 2013’s ‘Blush’. Theo and Ellie have a dance themselves during ‘Giant Peach’, closing the set the way they know best: jumping around the stage while the crowd headbangs, and Theo surfs above them.
It’s a rollercoaster of a gig, full of wild peaks and peaceful troughs contrasting the happiest and saddest moments of the band’s debut album. Alas, no crane to please Theo, but, as he optimistically put, “we have lights!” On behalf of all the fanboys and fangirls congregated on the perimeter of the barrier, we were left starry-eyed regardless.