In the 12 months since Wolf Alice made their debut Reading And Leeds performances, things have changed dramatically for them. Debut album ‘My Love Is Cool’ soared straight into the charts at Number Two, only kept off the top spot by Florence + The Machine’s post-Glastonbury sales surge, and by a mere 528 sales at that. Their biggest tour to date (following festival season in September) is almost entirely sold out, including a massive hometown date at London’s Brixton Academy.
“I really enjoyed the week of album release – that was just the funnest week ever,” recalls frontwoman Ellie Rowsell, in the middle of a rare day off. “Everyone was in really high spirits and really giddy. I felt like a kid! That was one of my favourite weeks ever. You can’t really trump that, but we’ve done lots of fun things this year.”
Where once Wolf Alice – and especially Ellie – were the timid opposites to their roaring songs, now they’re an entirely different, more confident beast. Playing nearly every festival under the sun at disparate locations across the world will do that to you. But, Ellie says, the nerves aren’t gone completely.
“I think I always get a little bit nervous,” she explains down the phone. “But it’s healthy nerves that push you. It’s that adrenaline rush, which you kind of need. We feel like we’re a bit more rehearsed now. I don’t have the fear of ‘argh, what if I can’t remember…’” She pauses to reconsider what she’s saying. “Actually, I do still get scared I’ll forget how to play something, which is a bit worrying. But compared to last year, I do feel a lot more confident.”
Where other bands describe Reading And Leeds as a homecoming of sorts, Ellie doesn’t quite feel the same. “I only went a couple of times and when I was a little bit older,” she says. “Joel [Amey, drummer] has been going since he was 13, but me personally, I didn’t do that.”
Despite not having that same connection with the festivals, Ellie still feels strongly about having the opportunity to play on stages there. She describes it as having “a real beautiful buzz” and as “a big [deal], something to tick off.” In the past, when she did make it down to Richfield Avenue, Radiohead and Deftones were two standout performances, the latter marking a first in her gig-going adventures. “That was one of the first moshpits I was brave enough to go into, and definitely wasn’t even remotely strong enough and quickly left with two bleeding knees,” she laughs.
For their own set this year, Wolf Alice are keeping things spontaneous. “We don’t like to precalculate anything, and I don’t think now is the right time for a cover or a special guest,” Ellie reasons. “We’re still trying to rope in new fans and want to show a true representation of ourselves and what our shows are like. If something random happens then we haven’t planned it.”
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Their performance on the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage, sandwiched between Everything Everything and Circa Waves, is bound to be just as joyous and liberating an experience as their previous shows. Songs like the punk squall of ‘Fluffy’ and the metamorphosing sludge of ‘Giant Peach’ have fast become anthems in their own right, inciting waves of crowd surfers, moshpits and shoutalongs wherever they’re played. With a fervently passionate and loyal fanbase swelling all the time, theirs will likely be one of the busiest sets of the weekend on both sites – don’t be surprised if you find you can’t get near the tent, especially as the one thing they have planned out is simply to deliver a “vibe-y” set, with “all our high energy, fast and loud songs.” That’s what everyone wants from a festival set, isn’t it? “That’s what I want, anyway!” Ellie laughs in agreement.
For the band, one of the surprising things they’ve noticed in crowds throughout the summer is how they’ve taken to the less anthemic songs on ‘My Love Is Cool’. “I wasn’t really expecting people to sing along to ‘The Wonderwhy’ and things that are, one, new and I don’t really expect to have heard, and, two, aren’t those chanty songs,” Ellie says. “We’d kind of got used to people singing along to ‘Bros’ and ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, but that one’s strange. It’s a real compliment if you see people have taken the time to learn those songs that aren’t as easy to learn or don’t have a recurring hook.”
As their fans are packing up their wellies and tents and getting ready for a wild weekend, Wolf Alice are also gearing up to get fully stuck in. Where last year they co-ordinated wardrobes and dressed in all white, this year they’re opting for something a bit more mud-friendly. “We haven’t talked about [what to wear yet] so maybe I’ll do a group call now and we’ll decide something,” says Ellie. “I don’t think the white’s doing it again – I want to get nice and muddy this year.”