Emerging from North London in 2010, the four members of Wolf Alice (Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis and Joel Amey) have spent the last decade conquering the British music scene. They are now returning from a four year hiatus, with a new album, Blue Weekend, to be released on June 11th.

“Their music speaks of the joy of finding solace and points of identification in culture”

Wolf Alice’s music most easily falls under the alternative rock genre, but throughout their two albums they span countless moods, frequently transitioning from acoustic dreaminess to actual screaming, and back again. “All over the shop… many phases, much like our music,” Theo Ellis said, nonchalantly describing his style in a 2016 tour video. Nostalgia, death, mental illness, and loss of faith emerge as some of the strongest themes in the lyrics, but their preoccupation with works of literature and cinema is also evident. The band derives its name from a short story by Angela Carter, and there are frequent references to fairy-tales and Alice in Wonderland throughout their discography. Their music speaks of the joy of finding solace and points of identification in culture, and celebrates this by poetically reinterpreting or referencing cult films or obscure fictional characters.

Their first album, My Love Is Cool (2015), is chaotic in the best possible way. Ellie Rowsell’s cultural influences lurk under the surface of each song: “Heavenly Creatures” is based on the 1994 biographical drama of the same name, about obsessive love and dangerous desires, while “Lisbon” is about the enigmatic Lisbon sisters from Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel and Sofia Coppola’s later film, The Virgin Suicides.

One of my favourite songs on the album is “Bros”, written by Ellie about growing up in North London with former bandmate Sadie Cleary. The song is a joyous tribute to youthful friendship, described by Ellie as “an ode to childhood imagination and friendship and all the charm that comes with that.” The lyric “Jump that 43” refers to the number 43 bus, which passes through Holloway to Highbury & Islington; it conjures nostalgic images for me, as someone who grew up in Islington. There is a loving attention to detail in Wolf Alice’s lyrics – one reason why their music is cherished by so many.

“Watching [their BBC Live Later performance] is the closest I’ve felt to being at a gig in over a year.”

In 2017, two years after their debut album, Visions Of A Life appeared. The title is entirely apt, as the tracks come together in a collage of experiences. “Heavenward” is about a friend passing away, while “St Purple & Green” is about the death of Ellie’s grandmother. “Sky Musings” is a claustrophobic chant about anxiety and the sense of being trapped, which constantly builds in intensity until its last moment. “Space & Time”, similarly, focuses on anxiety, this time reflecting on the ability to look back with hindsight and the knowledge that bad things always pass. “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is an anthem for adolescence: missed chances and the evolution of relationships, centring around desire, the fragile euphoria of being in love, and the accompanying sense of powerlessness. This song is on just about everyone’s roadtrip/coming of age playlist – and if it’s not, it should be.

During the hiatus I listened to Visions Of A Life just about every day, and now I can’t stop playing their new single, “The Last Man on Earth”, from the upcoming album. The song muses about self-obsession and the human tendency to relate everything back to ourselves. It doesn’t immediately sound like what one might expect from a Wolf Alice song – Ellie’s ethereal vocals are isolated and semi-whispered, accompanied only by piano until halfway through the song. The emotive vocals hold you captive until the familiar drum and guitar kick in, and the song surges into an orchestral climax. While there are recognisable elements, the song is musically unlike anything they’ve released before, and signifies a reflective evolution and growth from their previous albums.


Mountain View

A Tribute to SOPHIE

The band recently performed the song live on BBC Later… with Jools Holland. The performance was filmed in Alexandra Palace Theatre in North London, with the musicians socially distanced in a huge circle. Watching the video is the closest I’ve felt to being at a gig in over a year. If the new single is anything to go by, we should be very excited about Blue Weekend. I think that Wolf Alice is one of the most unpredictable and exciting British bands today, and I’m waiting with great impatience for the next time the four of them will be able to bring their energy to a live audience.