Wolf Alice confess to having “a little more experience and a little more courage” on Visions of a Life
Having returned from touring in the States only days before our phone call, drummer Joel Amey’s mum picks up the phone before passing it over. “We’re in a kind of limbo period,” he exhales, “where we’ve made the record, but people haven’t really heard it”. “It’s not a living thing yet. It’s almost a surprise when people turn round and say they’ve heard it.”
But that Frankenstein moment’s coming soon. Visions of a Life drops 29 September and Wolf Alice are throwing all of their considerable energy behind the record, thirty-seven shows taking them across Europe, back to the States, and even to Japan before the year’s out.
Earlier this year the band spent three months in Los Angeles with “super-talent” Justin Meldal-Johnsen who has produced recent efforts from Paramore and M83. “It was such a different experience”, Amey remarks, “I think it’s favourable. It’s not good to do everything the same otherwise you’re in fear of making the same record again and again”.
Or, perhaps, of being the same band again and again, but it’s clear Wolf Alice have grown a great deal since 2015’s My Love is Cool. “We were a lot braver with each other. I guess that’s what’s changed – a little more experience and a little more courage to go places we might not have gone on the first record.”
“You only really regret the things you don’t try,” he continues, “this time everyone kind of threw themselves into it and if your idea turns out to be completely shit, you know, it’s better that you tried it out”.
Wolf Alice dealt in moods and atmospheres, taking aim at the fantastical
Perhaps it’s this approach to songwriting that’s responsible for the diversity in Vision of a Life’s sound. “The songs just came out differently and we never felt any pressure to force them together,” Amey confirms, continuing “I feel like this record has much more of our DNA flowing through it from start to finish, it probably sounds more like us than our first record did”.
He tells me that rather than passing around other people’s records while writing, Wolf Alice dealt in moods and atmospheres, taking aim at the fantastical (“as wanky as that sounds”). “There was an excitement and a euphoria, and you realise that’s what you’re tapping into. You’re not looking to fit a genre, you’re looking for the certain feelings a genre just happens to give you, more than thinking you need to sound more like Jack White or something”.
This kind of authenticity is evident again when Amey talks about coming to drumming. “I started playing drums as a means to an end,” he laughs, “so the band could play gigs. And then realised that, if you actually wanna be defined by something of quality, you gotta put the hours in. As someone who always said he was a guitarist it took me a while to think ‘oh shit, I’ve probably gotta learn how to do a triplet’”.
I never get tired – touch wood – of going to the States, it’s such a romantic notion for an English band to go play sold-out shows in the States
It’s clear that, behind the self-deprecating humour, Wolf Alice take great pains to make the most of each song and of their musical unit. But despite growing in both confidence and skill, Amey still describes a feeling of “sensory overload”. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking, being in a big fucking studio in LA with like the Foo Fighters recording in the room over, Lana Del Ray in the next, and John Legend in the other one. You’re just walking around, all this crazy shit’s going on and you’re like ‘what happened to Wolf Alice? Why are we here?’”.
Spoiler: the answer’s because this band are loved, something that was very obvious to Amey on their recent American tour. He described playing new music as “a thrill,” going onto tell me that they were “opening with ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ and all these girls had worked out the words and these dance routines. I was looking at these people like ‘shit, you know everything about this song, it’s been out for like a day’”.
If this record turns out to be something that people come to love and enjoy like I do my favourite records I’ll be chuffed
“I never get tired – touch wood – of going to the States, it’s such a romantic notion for an English band to go play sold-out shows in the States. The kids travel around the country with you. Like you’ll wake up in a different city and see the same people queuing up in Seattle that were with you in Portland before that”.
I joked that Wolf Alice could be the next Grateful Dead and we talked a little about those subcultures that grow up around bands. “Such a weird thing to have so deeply ingrained in their music history. What’s the English Grateful Dead? The Cure maybe, or if The Smiths had kept playing shows”.
Amey’s ambitions aren’t as lofty as having their own cult, but instead point to the band-members’ dedication to Wolf Alice and to their fans. “If this record turns out to be something that people come to love and enjoy like I do my favourite records I’ll be chuffed. I think for us to get to play shows around the world and have people genuinely enjoy them, like, Wolf Alice has never been the cool name to drop, what we do, we do well, and people seem to connect to it. If we can just keep playing shows, we’ll all be chuffed”.