Wolf Alice is ready to reclaim rock.
The North London four-piece made quite a splash with their 2015 debut, My Love is Cool, a brash but vulnerable album that probes the pains of adolescence and makes no apologies along the way. Since the band’s inception in 2012, they’ve refuted efforts to tie them to a genre.
Grunge ignores the fragile, melodic way singer Ellie Roswell coils her vocals around a song just before she strikes. Indie dismisses just how loud and chaotic guitarist Joff Oddie can be on a track like “Yuk Foo”—the lead single off Wolf Alice’s forthcoming sophomore record, Visions of Life. Folk is an influence, certainly, but it’s just one flavor for a band whose palate continues to expand.
“I think we were saying the other day that ‘rock’ is kind of like a dirty word,” says drummer Joel Amey.
Pausing his search for a birthday present for Roswell before a gig in Pittsburgh, Amey shares that his band believes it’s time for rock to return.
“You think of rock, and you think of Aerosmith or something, or just like cock-rock and misogyny. It’s just not a nice phrase,” Amey says. “I think we want to take that phrase back, because it does describe us. Yeah, maybe there’s that old bullshit that everyone’s sick and tired of — fucking Mötley Crüe crap — but it could be something so much better and more positive and creative.”
Amey and his bandmates were given a firsthand view of music and action in motion when they landed in Los Angeles to record Visions of Life in January. When he wasn’t in the studio, Amey was seeing all the shows he could handle.
“I went to so many gigs, dude,” he says. “It’s my thing — like, I have to see as many shows as possible. One thing I did pick up on is that the musicianship in America just far exceeds that of the U.K. I just can’t believe the talent of the people playing in these local places. They’re like fucking session musicians. It’s really something to behold, I think.”
Those concerts weren’t the only thing that left an impression. Wolf Alice arrived in L.A. just in time to see the Women’s March take over the city.
“It was very, very inspiring and strange at the same time,” he says. “To see so many people be galvanized in the way that they were while we were here, in the face of what you guys are facing over here, it was amazing. The whole of Los Angeles was just shut down by people marching.”
While Wolf Alice has never posited itself as a political band, its members have been quite willing to lend their voices to a number of causes. Roswell and bassist Theo Ellis put together the Bands 4 Refugees charity event in London last year.
Despite this, Amey doesn’t feel the recent spate of political upheaval in both the U.S. and U.K bled into the group’s new music.
“The short answer is no, it didn’t,” he says. “We’re very inward writers, and it’s a personal record. That’s not to say that something like ‘Yuk Foo’ would not suit the mood of what a lot of people are feeling now.”
He does, however, suggest that when done right, music doesn’t have to overtly embody the thing it may mean for the listener.
“There are a lot of songs on the record that are not linear in their meanings. There are many songs out there in the world that weren’t written about the things that they affect me most with,” Amey says, adding, “This is an inward album, a personal album, but one that I think will hopefully mean a lot to people, even if they don’t know what the songs mean. They’ll find their own meaning. That’s an important thing for music, to carry on for longer and longer. It’s not locked into a certain timeline. I also don’t think it feels alien to what’s happening around us as well.”
Asked to compare Visions of Life with their debut, Amey calls My Love is Cool “our coming of age album” while the band’s new record is “more finding your feet at the age you’re at.”
He points to how young he and his bandmates were when they made their first album.
“We were in our early 20s, and now Ellie is turning 25 in a few days,” he says. “So it’s a different age, and I think the music reflects that. [The songs] are like diary entries from the past couple of years, and the experiences you have in this whirlwind of being on tour. We could only have made this record now. We couldn’t have made it as our first album.”
Wolf Alice, plays with Slow Bloom at the Rickshaw Stop on Monday, July 24, at 8 p.m. $16-$18; rickshawstop.com