In The Middle with Wolf Alice

With four years gone since last releasing a full LP, and nearly two years without touring, Wolf Alice are eager to leave lockdown – and to launch their new album, Blue Weekend. “An empathetic endeavor”, is how Wolf Alice’s guitarist Joff Oddie wants fans to see the album (releasing 4th June 2021). Prior to its release, the band performed at the livestream-only Glastonbury event on 22nd May, which bassist Theo Ellis expected to be “quite special and fun”. Joff added that performing here this year would give them “a bit of a flavour of what could have been, maybe” if the pandemic hadn’t impacted the gig and festival industry over the last year. It still looks like Glastonbury will be the band’s only live performance in 2021. However, tickets for their 2022 UK and Ireland tour were on sale this March, with the majority of their original and extra added dates selling out within the hour. “It was absolutely mad”, confesses Theo – that people are buying tickets for “something that’s next year” is “so alien”.

The new album’s title comes from a band trip to Belgium – which, seeking good weather, they had planned for “the next blue weekend”. “Me, Ellie and Joel were in an Uber somewhere in Brussels and it had one of those skylines, with a really big open top to the car, not a convertible but you could just see the sky and it was completely blue, and Joel said that and we were all like oh my God, ‘blue weekend’, that sounds so good“, Theo recounts. He added that the band liked the abstract and subjective title as “it could be something bad, it could be something good” – either “mega” or “depressing”. 

In past albums, Wolf Alice have experimented, and at times switched genres from song to song; Blue Weekend is no different. Theo admits to preferring to play pop songs as he gets older, naming ‘How Can I Make It Ok?’ as the song he is most excited to play off the new album. Joff, on the other hand prefers to play rock songs. “Playing rock songs is always gonna be the most fun for me… just jumping around making noise is never gonna get old – I hope”. He discloses that he is most excited to play ‘Play the Greatest Hits’ off the new album, which is apparently “a headbanger”. He also adds that “there is something a bit more measured about trying to make a pop song that I think is really interesting. It’s not just a kind of throw everything against a wall and try and make it as vibey as possible, which is kind of some of the times the approach with a rock song, so it acquires a lot more thought and care and attention… making a really good, succinct pop song”.

Joff particularly experimented with guitar sounds on Blue Weekend. “A lot of my experimenting in the past has always been with effects units and kind of creating non-guitar sounds out of guitars… a lot of that is still on this record. But, I kind of started fiddling around with how we can layer up acoustic instruments in a way that is a little bit left of center and that maybe would not live in this typical kind of song space”. He questioned “how we can get banjo’s and resonator guitars and things inside pop songs and inside rock songs to kind of add different layers and textures”. 

Wolf Alice. Credit: Jordan Hemingway.

Back in February, Wolf Alice released the music video for their single ‘The Last Man on Earth,’ a title that could evidence the recent, common feeling of isolation. I asked whether the music video would differ in any way if lockdown had ended. “Do you know what, I don’t know if it would be that different if it wasn’t for lockdown,” Theo stated, with Joff adding, “We were really lucky. We could pretty much do what we were going to do anyway.” On this topic, the pair also hint at more music videos: “There will be more visual stuff coming”.

On the topic of releasing an album during lockdown, Theo speaks: “Having grown up as a band… doing so much live stuff, that you kind of, you put it out into the internet’s ether, and see what happens, but you don’t get any of that physical, kind of emotional connection with people and watching people react to songs and stuff like that”. Joff adds that it will be “odd and frustrating” to release the album and not be able to perform it for over half a year. “Hopefully people can enjoy the album and be patient”.

Wolf Alice – Smile (Live) via Wolf Alice on YouTube.

Due to the successes of their past two albums, both having reached the Number 2 spot on UK album charts and Visions of a Life scoring the band a Mercury Prize in 2018, there will be much weighing on this album’s success. “I think there’s obviously going to be subconscious pressure when something like that has happened, but I think the four of us have a kind of unwritten pressure to surpass our expectations of what we have musically achieved before, and that’s usually the kind of healthy and daunting pressure we have when we’re writing and figuring out”, says Theo. Joff joked about always being the runner up in the UK album charts: “Fingers crossed for another number two” and hoping for a “a runner’s up hat trick”. That would be “very Wolf Alice”, says Theo.

As the interview was coming to a close, I asked them to describe what they think the next year will look like for Wolf Alice in two words. “Restricted joy”, “delayed gratification” and “measured excitement” all came to the pair’s mind. Although the release of Blue Weekend is new and different for the band, it’s definitely worth the wait.

Blue Weekend is out today. The accompanying short film premieres at Picturehouse Central in Soho, London on Thursday 10 June, with the band performing a special acoustic set before each screening. You can also catch Wolf Alice on tour in 2022 at the dates below:

Wolf Alice – Tour Poster.

Header image: Wolf Alice. Credit: Jordan Hemingway.