“Well hello! This is very scary… if we break down in tears it’s because this is a dream come true and we’re very nervous!”
Almost moaning to the crowd seconds before launching into the opening four chords to Glastonbury set opener, it’s clear Ellie Rowsell, lead singer of the wildly popular Wolf Alice, has stage fright. Her voice cracking and unstable, “Moaning Lisa Smile,” the lead single off of 2014’s Creature Songs EP, gets off to a rough start. A tad ahead of an already sped up beat, it was clear how nervous the quartet really was.
“I actually found it quite unpleasant because I was so scared. Normally, once I’m on the stage, I feel alright, but for that gig, I was so scared that it never really faded away,” explained Rowsell. Guitarist Joff Oddie added, “It’s weird because usually as soon as you start, the nerves go, but that kind of didn’t go… It was proper nerve-wracking.”
But this is Glastonbury, the most important music festival on Earth. It’s every band’s dream to play in those muddy fields in Somerset.
Once Wolf Alice got around to “Storms,” the fourth song on the setlist, something had changed; the sun had finally come out for the first time all weekend.
Then, everything clicked. From the ringing guitar solo in “Blush” to the glorious primal scream in the bridge of “Giant Peach,” it was clear that the band had fully arrived. The back-to-back knockout punch of “Bros” and “Fluffy” led to mass chaos and crowd surfing. “It sounds weird, but I don’t remember it,” said bassist Theo Ellis. The band was so in the zone that afternoon that nothing could stop them.
Hot off of their most important show yet, the British press ate them up; the Guardian labeled them as “guitar rock’s new hope” while DIY Mag proclaimed, “if there’s any way to ‘win’ at Glastonbury, they’d better hand the prize over now.” Not bad for a band without an LP to their name…
Fast-forward about seven months to a dark and gloomy post-“blizzard” Brooklyn night. Huddling for warmth in a surprisingly spacious Airbnb off of the Bedford L stop, Wolf Alice is preparing for the first of two sold out New York shows, some of the first American shows the band has ever played.
“So, I’m assuming Glastonbury was the biggest show you guys have played so far, right?” I ask.
“No, we supported alt-J the other day and that was just shy of 20,000,” Joff responds with a confident smirk.
That support show, only five nights prior, was held at the O2 Arena in London, the second largest venue in the United Kingdom. Tonight’s show was at Baby’s All Right with a capacity of 280.
Such is life, however, for a rising British band. Contemporary huge British acts frequently find themselves in the same situation as they first begin to tour the United States. Last October, Royal Blood played the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, a venue about a third of the size of the Grand Ballroom upstairs. After playing for over ten thousand each night opening for The Libertines, Liverpool’s Circa Waves played to a packed show of maybe 100 at Pianos during CMJ.
So is it surprising that some bands don’t make the leap across the pond right away? Bombay Bicycle Club had already dropped three records before they toured America. After all, this is the country that forgot who Blur and the Stone Roses were at Coachella.
Wolf Alice, however, showed no fear ahead of their first ever New York shows.
“We don’t want to break America, we want to snap it in half!” exclaimed Theo. “We’re planning on coming here quite a lot this year. It’s going to be hard work, but the prospect of a fresh start is really exciting. I think it’s always an aspiration for an English band to come to America. It’s pinnacle really.”
“The US can make you have longevity,” added drummer Joel Oddie. “You definitely want to be one of those bands to come over here because, in a sense, it becomes a career.”
Since the interview prior to the sold out Baby’s All Right show, Wolf Alice has finally announced the details of their upcoming debut album. Titled My Love is Cool, the record will drop on June 23rd via Dirty Hit/RCA.
While, at the time, the band couldn’t talk too much about their debut LP, they did give out quite a few hints.
“There’s quite a few surprises,” explained Joel. “I’m proud we did stuff that’s so different. It’s kind of nerve-wracking to think that if people are just wanting an album full of ‘Moaning Lisa Smile,’ we haven’t done that, but there are elements of that so it should be satisfying for everyone.”
When asked if there are previously released songs on the new album, Theo said, “Yes, there’s going to be a couple maybe, but nothing’s finalized yet. There’s quite a lot of new material and quite a lot of stuff we haven’t played live yet.” Whatever older tracks included in the final tracklist will have been rerecorded.
When asked about the sound of the new album, Joel explained, “I feel like all of the heavy stuff is ten times heavier and all of the pop stuff is ten times poppier. We’ve really pushed everything to the extremes.”
“It’s got elements of ‘Giant Peach’ and the heaviness of ‘Moaning Lisa Smile,’ but it’s also got the ‘Wednesday’ DNA, but it definitely has a cohesive sound to it. It probably leans towards ‘Wednesday’ though,” Theo added.
Prior to the show, Theo talked about how great it was “to have the opportunity to go to a new place and play small venues and be rehearsed.” Rehearsed is an understatement; all of the stage fright and nerves present at their Glastonbury set is long behind them as they put on one of the most self-assured and confident sets I’ve seen since The Vaccines’ first North American tour. With the tunes and swagger on display at Baby’s, it seems as if Wolf Alice is destined for stardom not only in the UK, but in America as well.
Wolf Alice plays U Street Music Hall this Friday, February 27th in DC and a free show at Brooklyn Night Bazaar on Saturday, February 28th. My Love is Cool, the debut LP from Wolf Alice, will be released on June 23rd via Dirty Hit/RCA. Stream new single “Giant Peach” here.