“Everything’s a bit more focused on the lyrics and the melody” – An Interview with Wolf Alice

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After their Mercury Prize-winning Visions Of A Life, Wolf Alice are back with their highly anticipated album Blue Weekend. I sat down with Ellie and Joel to chat about the new record.

Blue Weekend signals the band’s full realisation of their sound. While it sounds familiar to their previous records, the new album takes Wolf Alice in a new, more mature, direction.

On these differences in the new album’s sound, Ellie quotes another journalist who described it as “fuller and wider, yet simpler”. “I can’t quite elaborate on it but I feel like she got it right”, she says.

Joel agrees, pointing to the producer of the album, Markus Dravs, for this new simpler sound: “Markus would always talk about the stillness in songs, with things like ‘How Can I Make it OK’ and ‘No Hard Feelings’ […] I think there’s maybe a bit more of those kinds of moments in this record than in previous ones.” This is certainly true; the album is full of much more detailed, careful production that produces both elevated bold songs, and moments of stillness. Joel adds that this means that “everything’s a bit more focused on the lyrics and the melody, and I think that’s a really good thing for this record.”

These moments of stillness manifest in the acoustic songs on the record. “A lot of people’s favourite bands have loads of acoustic songs”, Ellie says. “A lot of sing-a-long-y songs; old songs; traditional songs – often just a voice and a guitar. It’s strange that often you feel like you wanna shy away from that – I guess it’s quite scary because it’s quite naked […] so it’s brave in that way; it’s really your songwriting on show there.”

Blue Weekend has a lot more vulnerability to show – the record is underpinned by a nakedness that seems to have come from newfound confidence, which Ellie says allowed her to finish the more stripped-back songs without overdoing it, and say “yeah, let’s leave it at that then”.

This theme of confidence and self-realisation is a recurring one on the album, particularly in ‘Smile’, where Rowsell sings about being labelled ‘unhinged’ (which she humorously says has been misheard as “I know you all think I’m on Hinge”). I ask her what made her what to delve deeper into people’s expectations of herself and reclaim them in such an unapologetically confident song. Ellie points to the confusing and unique situation of being in the public eye, which exemplifies the act of “questioning ourselves all the time”.

“I mean we all kind of can experience being in the public eye to an extent now with social media and stuff, so I feel like we’re questioning ourselves all the time […] I feel like it’s a really confusing thing to go through all the time.”

She goes on to say that having to constantly talk about yourself in interviews is “a bit of a trip, really”.

Despite this, it seems that Wolf Alice has had enough experience of being in the public eye to be able to talk about whatever they want with confidence. The song that epitomises this is ‘Feeling Myself’, a cinematic track that explores the repression and treatment of female sexuality. Ellie states that “getting older” has given her the confidence to be able to write songs such as this, as well as allowing her to realise “how much society tries to suppress that side of people”.

“It’s not true to say that women in music have never spoken up about that stuff, it’s not always easy to find. […] [I’m] just bouncing off years of feeling like you’re supposed to be one thing and suddenly being like ‘oh, I’m not supposed to be anything!’”

Ellie has been vocal about being a woman in music in the past, and the difficulties that come with it. Considering the controversies surrounding the lack of female headliners at recently announced festivals, I ask the band what their message would be to festival bookers who claim that it’s too hard to find female musicians to book.

“Try harder!”, Ellie retorts.

Joel agrees, saying quite simply that “it’s not [too hard]”. He points out the fact that “the same bands […] play the same festivals, in the same slots, [and]get all the promotion”, stopping newer artists from being discovered.

Having more well-known bands such as Wolf Alice talk about the rife gender inequality and blatant sexism in the music industry is essential to making a change from within; hopefully, conversations such as this will continue, and we will start to see more women being given the spotlight for once.

These conversations are also heard implicitly within Blue Weekend: it is an album full of unforgiveness and self-realisation that does not hold back.

Blue Weekend will be released 11th June 2021. Watch the video for ‘The Last Man On Earth’ here:

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Records Editor 21-22

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