Text: Lucy Tessier
Photos: Jordan Hemingway
As fans await desperately for the release of Wolf Alice’s breath-taking third studio album, CHAOS had the pleasure of speaking to guitarist Joff Oddie and bassist Theo Ellis of the four-piece. After teasing listeners with the release of three singles ahead of their new record, Ellis and Oddie discuss the inspiration behind the album, and divulge the wistful and mysterious world of ‘Blue Weekend’.
It has been three years too long for fans of Wolf Alice, as the London grunge quartet finally grace their followers with the countdown to their third record ‘Blue Weekend’. Written and produced during the turbulent confines of a worldwide pandemic, their latest release is a triumph for British music, and once unleashed will undoubtedly be met with glorious adoration by fans across the globe. It goes without saying that a three year wait since the release of their Mercury Prize winning record ‘Visions of A Life’ will have certainly paid off! ‘ However, what inspired this stunning new collection of songs and what exactly is a ‘blue weekend’ in the eyes of Wolf Alice?
“We recorded the album in Brussels at the beginning of last year,” begins Theo Ellis sporting an effortlessly cool and iconic blue buzzcut hairstyle, “I remember Ellie said, ‘the next blue weekend’ we should go and visit this forest that we somewhat had Googled and figured out that it was near where we were recording the album.” From that moment, frontwoman Ellie Roswell’s words gave birth to what would be the name for their next record as it resonated with the band and the sonic direction that the album would take. “It has multiple meanings – like the notion of blue being you know sad but also happy,” explains Ellis, “I think it’s really difficult to come up with things like album names, and this one felt quite natural, so it just stuck around.”
A process that took around eight months to produce the finished article, Joff Oddie the guitarist of the band explores the record’s creation explaining: “In terms of production, it was pretty traditional. Markus Dravs (producer of the likes of Arcade Fire, Florence + The Machine and Kings of Leon) came over to London where we were working for a week and we went over the music…then we went into a studio in Brussels called ICP…and it was all very kind of standard traditional until Coronavirus hit.” Having recorded their first EP ‘Creature Songs’ over in Brussels, the band were familiar with the studio’s setup – perhaps this was a blessing as the band would remain here until the album was finished due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic. “We were locked in the studio,” Oddie elaborates, “which you kind of always are after a certain extent but never to that extent! There was nothing else to do and no escape from it so in that case everything was hyper focused.”
Everybody is aware of the chaotic and strange narratives of Twin Peaks, and though some may disagree, the band concur that their record would be the perfect soundtrack for the TV series. In fact, to measure the record’s atmospheric ambiance the quartet replaced the original trailer music for classic movies with their own material as Ellis explains: “We’ve done that technique so much I feel like I’m giving it too much gravitas (laughs) even since we were making demos for ‘My Love Is Cool’. I remember playing our songs over the advert for a film called ‘Electric Children’…and it’s just a kind of nice litmus test in a way of figuring out whether the song is conveying the right emotion.” An unusual but ingenious way of listening back to initial recordings, Oddie adds: “I think when you have a visual prompt in front of you, it’s kind of almost a way to be able to listen to the music more subjectively, I think because you’re not purely focusing on the music…that way you’re not listening out for all the tiny details and you can see the bigger picture.”
Having recently unveiled the track ‘No Hard Feelings’ earlier this month, and its delicate, melancholy quality presents the duality of Wolf Alice brilliantly; though they may be renowned for their brash and electrifying, fiery sound on songs like ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ and ‘Yuk Foo’, they can also produce soothing and glittery numbers like this single and many others. “’No Hard Feelings’ emotionally for me, is one of the most intimate songs on the record and it’s just concise,” admits Ellis, “it says what it needs to say in a really amazing amount of time, and I think it’s very universal in the way that you react to it.” Like most captivating ballads, the song went through many changes before its final version as Oddie details: “So at one point it was kind of like a chipper piano tune – kind of like an East end kind of bouncy weird thing – then it was almost like a Beatles number. We were always thinking, ‘what do we do with it’? All the other versions had been so upbeat! So, I started playing this kind of bass pattern and we sang it a bit down tempo and it seemed to push the right emotional button.” The boys even mention a house version of the song, but let’s not get into that…
A band that has continued to grow with every single snippet of material, Oddie and Ellis reflect on the journey of their career like proud parents. “I think you can hear the confidence…I think we’ve definitely changed massively,” begins Ellis, “we’ve literally honed our craft and learnt all of the skills that took us to where we are now…we’ve got like a toolbox – like a Wolf Alice toolbox – of skills that we know that we can rely on, not to make it sound monotonous but it’s just the tools in which you need to create something.” Ellis later agrees that with the band’s achievements and growth in maturity, their perspectives on the industry and success have altered significantly from making music to pay their rent to making music to satisfy emotional needs: “I think success means being able to satisfy yourself in an artistic way and in an emotional way. Keeping that kind of artistic integrity too.”As if three music videos for each of their singles were not enough for fans, Wolf Alice has constructed and directed a total of eleven music videos to accompany each of the songs on the album – now that is commitment! “We worked with a director called Jordan Hemingway and an amazing production company,” says Oddie, “and we’ve kind of made this whole ‘Blue Weekend’ world which we will hopefully be slowly drip fed out in chapters.” One thing is for certain, the band are never short of intriguing and refreshing new promotional ideas to keep their fanbase hooked! With a tour planned for next year and the album released on the 4th of June via Dirty Hit, this is surely the band’s year. Having already stunned their listeners with some incredible new singles, Wolf Alice are the living proof that grunge is not dead and will never die.