We talked to Ellie Roswell and Theo Ellis from alt-rock band Wolf Alice about their highly-anticipated third LP, Blue Weekend, out June 11.
In September 2018, Wolf Alice took home the prize at the 27th Mercury Prize music awards for their highly-praised second LP, Visions of a Life, beating out nominees that included Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base + Casino, Florence + the Machine’s High As Hope, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ Who Built the Moon?
It was a monumental achievement for the four-member alt-rock band whose career spans over a decade, first forming as a duo back in 2010.
The band were previously nominated for Best Rock Performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards for their hard-hitting 2014 single ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ from their debut LP, My Love Is Cool.
Visions of a Life, released in September 2017, gained massive acclaim for the record’s vibrancy and its ability to take a variety of influences and music genres. The album charted at #2 in the UK Albums chart when it debuted, and was regarded as one of the best records of that year, appearing in numerous end-of year lists from publications including NME’s Albums of the Year (#2) and Drowned in Sound’s top favorite album of the year.
The album included the chaotic lead single ‘Yuk Foo’, the anthemic opener ‘Beautifully Unconventional’, and most notably, ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ – a standout tune that is cinematic and euphoric, cementing itself as becoming one of the band’s surefire classics.
On their way to becoming one of the UK’s biggest bands ever, the group are now finalizing the release of their third LP, Blue Weekend, which is due June 11 via Dirty Hit. In March, they’ve given fans their first single from the record, ‘The Last Man on Earth’, an emotionally-driven, anthemic ballad that continues to display’s the band highly adept skill at tackling various style of genres.
Today, they’ve continued to show their musical versatility with their follow-up single ‘Smile’. In line with their constant nature to experiment with sounds, the track evokes nostalgia-laden 90s rock vibes with vocalist Ellie Roswell’s soaring vocals and the band’s fuzzy guitars.
We had a chat with frontwoman Ellie Roswell and bassist Theo Ellis on their forthcoming album release.
AL365: Hi Ellie! Hi Theo! Nice to meet you both. How are you all doing under lockdown?
Theo Ellis: Yeah, it’s okay. Can’t complain. We’re coming a little bit out of a lockdown now, so that’s exciting. It’s been a long time.
AL365: It’s amazing that you guys have been around for about a decade now. You’re currently working on your third studio album, Blue Weekend, out this coming June. Has anything changed for you guys throughout the years as a band? How do you feel about being one of the most successful, or even biggest, bands right now?
Theo: We’ve been the luckiest people in the world in the past 10 years of being the best ever, to be honest. I feel like in this lockdown I started to think about it more, how lucky we were, and how privileged we were. Of course, you know it at the time, but it was so amazing traveling the world and playing songs. And now that we haven’t got it, I miss that aspect so much.
AL365: Your second album, Visions of a Life, won the coveted Mercury Prize in 2018. How did it feel to win such a prize and was there any added difficulty to create a great follow-up afterwards?
Ellie Roswell: Yeah, it felt amazing, to be honest. It felt like a celebration for us personally, of just the hard work we’ve put into everything that we’ve put into that album and everything that came before it. I do think it probably added pressure to create something that followed it, that would not be worse (laughs). But we would have that pressure anyway, it just kind of emphasized it a bit. Maybe kind of pushed you to work hard. Sometimes when something good happens to you, you get lazy. It’s hard to say, but it was definitely a fun experience to go to the awards and be around other musicians.
AL365: Now you’re back in the studio hard at work in releasing Blue Weekend. Why choose this as the title, is there a unifying theme or concept in the record?
Theo: We came up with the name when we were in Brussels, and Ellie said, ‘Next blue weekend, we should go see that forest’ that was near where we were recording. And Joel said, ‘Wow, that’s such a great name for the record”. I think we like the idea that the color blue has so many emotional shades to it. It’s got sadness, it’s got blue skies, and I think this album’s got blue skies and sadness. So we felt like it encapsulated how broad the themes of the album are, and it sounds really nice to say. Also, I realized Ellie only drank blue drinks backstage for a long time before we made this album, so subconsciously that has something to do with it.
Ellie: That’s why I got no teeth anymore.
Theo: Yeah, blue dentures.
AL365: We’ve had a taste of this blue with your first new single, ‘The Last Man On Earth’. I love it, it grows on you with repeated listens. It has a sort of sad tone to it. If I’m not mistaken, it’s about one’s arrogance and sense of narcissism. There’s a verse in the beginning that references the book Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Why choose this particular aspect for your lead single?
Ellie: I didn’t decide, really. If I’m being honest, I don’t remember. It was a long time ago when I wrote this song. I always write songs built from notes in my phone, or anything I’ve read or heard that I like. It was literally that one quote from that book. It’s all amusing on why, myself included, we place ourselves inside the main characters in the movie of our lives. At once it’s romantic and cool, while other times it’s a bit narcissist. We were just thinking about those things, but it’s not just about that. It’s about a lot of things. I already feel like every time I explain it, it really ruins it. Whatever you take from it, it’s correct.
AL365: What else can we expect from this new album?
Theo: You can expect lots of things that you probably familiar with if you’ve been a fan of the band before. Lots of heavy riffs and fun, mosh pit moments. Lots of spectacular guitar sounds that have been pulled out of space and put into a pedal board. Probably the most choruses we’ve ever had, which is something I love about with those sing along moments. Probably just an all-around good time.
AL365: I think one of the strongest abilities that fans love about you as a band are your ability to deftly jump between many music styles. What other music styles can we expect here?
Theo: I would say there is a varying degree of stuff that share the DNA. There will be more country, folk style aspect of things. We’ve got ‘Safe From Heartbreak’ with close harmonies and finger-picking guitar. Then we’ve got generic rock which is the probably the worst thing you could say. We’ve got more pop side of things, ‘How Can I Make It OK?’ is very kind of syncopated, groovy, fun Christine and the Queens-inspired pop song. I suppose Ellie’s rapping on ‘Smile’. There’s something for everyone.
AL365: Any artists you’ve been listening to in preparation for this album?
Ellie: Again, it’s much as saying for the last two albums. It was more like individual songs that inspired us. There was a song that I listen to by a band called The Roches called ‘Hammond Song’. It sounds like the 70s. That particular song was like ‘I wanna write a song like that’, and then it inspired me to start writing ‘Safe From Heartbreak’. For me personally, I don’t know if there was like a particular artist that inspired the whole album as a whole. If there was, we would only know in hindsight.
AL365: Let’s talk about your music video for ‘The Last Man on Earth’.
Theo: It’s gonna be part of 11 different music videos. We’ve made a music video for each song in the album we created collaboratively with George Hemingway called ‘Blue Weekend World’. He took the lead with ‘Last Man on Earth’, and it touches on different themes that come up in different videos that you will see. It’s got a visual representation of all of the theatrical nature of the screens and stuff with the burning red curtain. Ellie’s beautiful mush is on it in various forms. You can’t really go wrong with fire and her face.
AL365: We can see in the beginning that the music video is ‘CHAPTER IX’. Are you guys presenting the series of videos in a non-linear form?
Theo: Non-linear form until the album comes out, and then potentially there might be a linear format.
AL365: What has been the strangest thing you have experienced in lockdown?
Theo: Existential crisis (laughs). What’s weird is how ‘normal’ is such a weird shared experience it has become, and how we’ve become used to it. I find that it’s crazy that I am so used to things, and adapt to, so easily which makes me concerned that maybe I am stupid, and I’m also sheep.
AL365: What’s in the pipeline for you guys?
Ellie: We’ve got a tour in the UK in January. We are really just hoping that the world would open up a bit, so that we can come to different countries and play this album. I think the one good thing that we can take from would be that we would have more time to write, and it won’t be another four years until we put out the next album.
AL365: It’s hard to believe it has already been four years since your last record!
Ellie: Same I couldn’t believe that, it sounds wrong! I’m sure that’s wrong.
AL365: Great art takes time right?
Ellie: (Laughs). Or maybe we’re all just lazy.