Wolf Alice – The Mercury Prize Winners Are Back With New Music

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Wolf Alice's new album is titled 'Blue Weekend'. Wolf Alice's new album is titled 'Blue Weekend'.

If Wolf Alice fans are feeling that the four-year wait for new music has been hard to handle, spare a thought for the band, who spent the end of 2019 focused on writing their third album, 'Blue Weekend', and then slammed on the brakes like the rest of us to wait out COVID-19.

While the coronavirus 'fundamentally screwed up everyone's lives', bassist Theo Ellis says it did allow the band more time to polish their sound.

"The whole album was written and finished, ready to go at beginning of 2020," Theo says, "but, it took us f...ing ages to record; we stayed in Brussels for an extra two months, and used that time to focus really intensely on the 11 songs that ended up on the record."

Wolf Alice's previous album, 'Visions Of A Life', won the 2018 Mercury Prize, garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance, and launched the band into a run of 187 shows worldwide.

On the back of all that action, the band needed a bit of time to take stock and reset before embarking on something new.

"We spent so long doing Wolf Alice in kind of every version of it, from touring to recording it was on and off for about six years of really intense work," Theo says.

"We took about three months to ourselves. I think everyone needed to get their lives together a bit."

When the band was ready to write music, they decided to take a new approach. "It usually starts with us sending demos into a shared Dropbox, which is very millennial, it's not like strumming a guitar on a tour bus," Theo says.

"Then it goes through the Wolf Alice machine, which is us trying to deconstruct that demo and it takes on a bit of a colour.

"But for this record we needed to get back into the swing of writing music together, so we went to a converted church in Somerset, took a computer and some guitars, and shared as many ideas as we could."

The success of 'Visions Of A Life' could easily have set them up to feel a weight of expectation, but Theo says the pressure did't come from outside. "When we had this batch of demos and songs, we were concerned with realising their potential when recording them," he says.

"That was the pressure – to make sure that the songs were done justice, and to also do better by our standards."

With live performance such an important part of the band, Theo says it's tempting to use those moments to influence the song-writing process.

"When we're on tour that conversation comes up, like 'oh man, I want to make that quick fast punk album, stuff that's going to make people jump around'," Theo says, "but I think that's because we spend so much time in that environment that we want to manipulate it, so it's the most fun for us.

"And then, when we get into the studio, we want to make something kind of broad and really amazing sonically, and I think that means that we always end up with a mix match of things."

The 11 songs on 'Blue Weekend' come together to create a ride through moments of quiet reflection juxtaposed against raw power. It's an album Theo says "has more of our DNA" than previous records, and attributes it to time and experience.

"The first record we had no idea what we were doing, we were just kids really," he says. "The second album we toured for so long, had a bit more experience and wanted to push ourselves as musicians, and that took us in slightly abstract directions.

"In fact, we played the song 'Visions Of A Life' the other day and I was like, 'what the f...ing hell is this song? This song is mad.' I love it but was like, 'wow, I don’t know what we were up to at that point'.

"And with this one, with all that experience and time honing your craft, I think we were able to put together the most balanced album from us so far."

For 'Blue Weekend', the band worked with producer Markus Dravs who pushed them to analyse every decision they made. "He's worked with such a cross-section of people, on 'Homogenic' with Bjork and then to work with Coldplay, it's quite a crazy breadth of work," Theo says.

"I think that's one of the things that excited us, that versatility and widescreen hi-fi production that comes with those albums.

"He was really good at making you consider your choices and see the big picture, which is really valuable when sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees."

The result of the collaboration is a seamless record that includes a song Theo says could be his favourite ever recorded by the band, 'How Can I Make It OK?'.

"When I first heard the demo Ellie sent over I was so enamoured with it," Theo says. "I thought it was such a good pop song and I just instantly wanted to hear people sing that chorus back to me.

"It might be to do with the fact that we've been isolated so long that the idea of people communally singing, you know like a football match, really appeals to me. And that song feels like it's got the capability to do that."

As the world starts to open up, Wolf Alice are keen to get onstage and test out their new music with a live audience. "We're desperate to play shows, it's what we do," Theo says.

"We've been doing a whole bunch of sessions, including the Glastonbury live stream, which was really amazing, and a lot of promo for the record.

"We've got Reading Festival coming up in August and a huge tour planned across the UK in January. I pray to God we can get out there and play some gigs."

'Blue Weekend' is available now.



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