“We didn’t reaaaally direct it,” Ellie Rowsell says slowly from her position on the arm of a leather sofa backstage at Brooklyn Bowl. Wolf Alice have just come off stage from their last show in America for “a long while”, where they’ve spent much of the last year, either side of the release of their stunning second album, ‘Visions Of A Life‘. A few days beforehand, the video for ‘Space And Time’, one of that record’s highlights, made its way online. A press release described it as being directed by the singer and guitarist – a point she’s now contesting. “She did,” mouths bassist Theo Ellis, exaggerating the formation of each word and their accompanying nods. “It was just such a simple idea,” Ellie continues. “To hand it over when you’ve plotted out an idea sometimes feels quite annoying. But none of us know anything about cameras.”
Regardless of who directed it, it’s a beautiful video. In it, Ellie runs through the woods and streets of Portland, Maine in a veil, wedding dress, lace gloves, and – less traditionally – a pair of Doc Martens. It’s the most cinematic, breathtaking thing the band have done visually so far, ending with runaway bride Ellie hitching a ride on the back of a truck, taking in the passing scenery with a sense of relief, before ending up staring out to sea. We sat down with Wolf Alice to discuss the making of the video, Childish Gambino, and wanting to work with Edgar Wright.
The concept behind the ‘Space And Time’ video is about someone making a big decision. Why was a wedding the best thing to represent that?
Ellie: “Mainly just because you know what the dress is – you know what it means when you see the dress, but you don’t necessarily know the back story. You know there was gonna be a wedding, or there was one. You can build your own story around it. You’ve suggested something, but you haven’t told them everything. And also it just looks nice, doesn’t it?”
How many takes did you have to do running around like that?
Ellie: “We just did a couple of takes in different locations. How many hours did we do? Six? Nah, it was more than that. It was definitely our shortest music video, though.”
Theo: “It was, and also one where Ellie took the reins quite a bit. Having a concise idea and a small crew – there were two people doing it – was a really good experience. I had nothing to do with it, I just hung out in the woods.”
I was going to ask what the rest of you were up to while Ellie was doing all the hard work…
Joel Amey (drums): “We invented this game called Wild Boys with Peter, our manager, where we hit him with sticks for about four-and-a-half hours. He lost.”
Theo: “It was amazing watching Ellie doing the video, though, cos it was in these locations that were so absent of any human life at some points. And then just a woman – Ellie, the woman – running towards us in a fucking wedding dress. It was like, ‘This is trippy.’ It was really cool.”
Did you almost forget that it was her when you were watching it being filmed?
Theo: “To be fair, yeah. It’s quite weird seeing someone in a wedding dress. Obviously, it’s so symbolic, but when you see your best mate in a wedding dress… It’s quite nice, but weird.”
Ellie: “It’s quite tragic, in a way, to wear a wedding dress without getting married. Isn’t it really bad luck?”
Theo: “Yeah, it definitely is. You can’t get married for 50 years now.”
Ellie: “That’s not going to happen anyway.”
Ellie, you take photos on tour and of your friends. Do you have any aspirations to become a filmmaker?
Ellie: “No, no. I like film and I just like any form of storytelling. Music videos can be really horrible and yet, if someone presented you with this opportunity to make a small film, you’d be quite excited. For some reason, they’re just really difficult.”
Theo: “Everyone on earth has probably said this, but when I watched that Childish Gambino video [‘This Is America’] the other day it made me think, ‘I want to use this format to the best of its ability.’ When you see someone saying so much in three minutes, it’s almost a masterpiece. I remember watching that and thinking, ‘Wow, there’s so much potential to affect people in a really different way.'”
Ellie: “I always thought of [making music videos] as an opportunity to make a short film, but it’s not. They’re so different. You have to really take them as their own thing. I think we’re only just learning that.”
Do you have any concepts for videos you’d like to make for songs that you haven’t had the chance to?
Ellie: “It’s hard because you always make videos for singles and they’re not always the ones you visualised imagery for. I always wanted to make a video for ‘Sky Musings’ cos it would be quite easy. It’s got such a narrative already. But that didn’t happen and now it’s too late.”
Theo: “I’d like to make a short film to ‘Visions Of A Life’.”
Joel: “If we found someone truly collaborative for something, ‘Visions Of A Life’ would be so fun because it’s so cinematic.”
Theo: “And expensive because it’s so long.”
Joel: “It would ruin the band by doing it.”
Theo: “I’m still angling for Edgar Wright to make a video for us.”
Ellie: “He messaged me about the music video! He said, ‘I really like the music video’, and I said, ‘Shut the f-…!’ No, I said, ‘Thank you so much.’ I was buzzing about that.”
Theo: “Basically, we’re gonna make a music video with Edgar Wright.”
Joel: “Well, we asked him to and he said he would have if we could have got to LA to do it. Hopefully [one day]. He’s super nice and seems to be a fan of the band.”
Theo: “I’m more saying this so you put it in the article and he reads it, and it reinforces the idea. Imagine that album three comeback. Baby Driver 2. Wolf Al… no, maybe not. More like Hot Fuzz.”
You’re flying home tomorrow for a summer of festivals. What comes after that?
Ellie: “After festivals, it’ll be… what comes after September? Nov… no, October! I think maybe a little breaky-poos.”
Theo: “A couple of months off so we can hopefully put a bit more cash back into the Hawley, ruin a couple of close relationships we’ve got, live a little, and then write all about that month.”
Ellie: “We’ve got to do some life experiences.”
Theo: “Everyone’s been saying, ‘OK, so what happens with album three?’ We’ve got to do some living. Do you really want to hear an album about sitting?!”