Wolf Alice were one of the biggest breakthroughs of 2015. With a stunning new album and their biggest show ever on the horizon at Alexandra Palace on November 24, Georgia Evans caught up with them ahead of their return to Kingston.
The band’s debut album My Love Is Cool gained Grammy nominations, NME Awards, and was nominated for 2015’s Mercury Prize. With the release of their second album, Visions of a Life being hailed by critics, the four-piece are back on the road and recently came home to play Kingston’s Hippodrome. We spoke to drummer Joel Amey about the band’s phenomenal success, his early influences and coming home to play in a club he used to hang out in himself.
Having played guitar since he was a kid, Joel stepped out of his comfort zone and agreed to play drums for a band called Wolf Alice. “I couldn’t really play drums at the time but I said yes,” he says. He then struck up a relationship with frontwoman Ellie Rowsell and guitarist, Joff Oddie. “It was just really fun so I stuck around,” he says.
“I have always wanted to be a musician and I can’t think of anything other in my life that I’d want to do.” Joel’s love of rock and roll music started at a young age, at about 10 or 11 when he bought Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory. He remembers: “It was just the best album I had ever heard.”
He recalls how he sat on his mother’s sofa and poured through the lyric sheet. In homage to frontman Chester Bennington, he considered dyeing his hair red, and getting flame tattoos.
Eighteen years later, he reveals: “I can still probably sing every single word to Hybrid Theory.”
Recording with the band can vary in its style, the Blush EP was recorded in just three days he says, but then My Love Is Cool was the most serious recording session they had done with hours of hard work leading to its completion in just four weeks. Their newest, took three months, with the band trying everything they wanted and making stuff up as they went along.
The band’s debut, My Love Is Cool was met with overwhelming success. The band were nominated for a Mercury Prize, Brit awards and a Grammy, which was may more than Joel could’ve ever have really expected. “The way that it went was just amazing really.”
Following up, they’ve had to face the ever-so-slightly daunting stereotype of the second album not living up to the first. “When I realised we had the songs that we had, and we had loads more, I was like ‘this is gonna be fun if anything, it’s gonna be fun making this record’ and you can’t really argue with that.
“It’s us maturing in different forms of songwriting and I’m not saying it’s wildly different from My Love Is Cool because the DNA of our band is flowing stronger in that album than ever.
It’s more like our songwriting has progressed and the playing has progressed. We aren’t relying on any tricks or wildly adventures, we’re just exploring whatever we want to.”
And Joel’s favourite song from the new album? “I do love St. Purple and Green in a certain way, I love where it came from and where it ended up. “The way it’s been arranged, all the layers of vocals and the velatron, all of the guitar layers and the way the beat builds, I’m happy with it and that’s a highlight for me.”
The band has also been known for being quite political on their social platforms. They have been involved in setting up Bands 4 Refugees and were particularly vocal about getting young people to vote in the recent election. Joel reflects on how old punk bands influenced his own personal politics, and how he’s learnt that by voting you can actually make a change. It’s this sentiment that the band actively conveys to their young fanbase.
He reveals that he was “fucking tired” last time he visited Kingston as they had reached the end of a two-week long stretch of in-stores and performances. He then says that he even used to go to Hippodrome himself as a teen, “I was born in Epsom, and went to school in Dorking so I know Kingston. I saw some mates who played in a band there that had supported Metronomy. I used to go to Banquet records.”
“Oh, no way,” he says when he hears that Hippodrome is closing. He says: “I saw Darwin Deez at Hippodrome, blast from the past.” While reflecting on his upcoming show here, “It’s a bit intense doing two shows before the biggest show of our lives.” He adds: “They’re shorter shows and they’re gonna be really fun.”
Their newest album, Visions Of A Life is on sale now. Listen to our top picks playlist on Spotify.