Cool vision

Wolf Alice have a new album coming out and head to Leeds O2 Academy in November. Andrew Steel caught up with them.

LUPINE: Wolf Alice will be appearing at Leeds O2 Academy in the autumn.

Joff Oddie is not the kind of man who can be so easily pigeonholed in his creative output. The primary guitarist of North London quartet Wolf Alice, he could be readily identified as alternative rock, at the broadest of brushstrokes. But he is not someone for whom genre dictates when it comes to his craft; as musicians, he and his bandmates rather feel that the mood fuels the tune, instead of aiming towards melodic preconceptions.

“It’s always driven by the songwriting, and how the music should be a reflection of the emotion within,” he notes with an affable, self-analytical interest. “When you hear material in its raw form, you have to go and work out what the song deserves in a sense, what musicality does it need to reach its emotional potential. The textures and soundscapes are heavily dependent on the songwriting really; there’s never an initial intention of genre at the start. It’s something we’ve always tried to do, though I don’t know how successful we’ve always been at it.”

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There’s a warm modesty to Oddie that laces his occasional words of self-deprecation, softening any real sense of artistic discomfort. Wolf Alice are gearing up to release their album Visions of a Life this month, the follow-up to 2015’s fizzing debut My Love Is Cool. A deserved commercial and critical smash for the band, it littered end-of-year lists and received a Grammy nomination to boot. Expectations, understandably, are high for album number two.

“We only finished touring behind the first record last August and we gave ourselves until January to really try and get the album written,” says Oddie. “We had been touring non-stop for 21 months or so, and we only gave ourselves less than half a year before we had to head back to the studio. You can’t help but feeling a little bit of pressure. In a sense, you’ve got forever to write your first album – it took us 23 years. But with this one, we’ve had two-and-a-half years, except most of that was on the road. It was an intimidating prospect.”

Was there ever external pressure to replicate the immediate success of their first outing? Oddie refutes such interference, praising the band’s label for their relatively hands-off approach, but acknowledges forlornly that others aren’t as fortunate. “I’ve seen it happen with to other musical projects other bands we know, and it’s always a shame when there’s external factors, when the record label or management is putting bands under pressure to do something they’re not comfortable with.” A pause. “Art is art, y’know, and you really shouldn’t have too many people saying to do it like this or that. We’re super, super lucky that we have a record label, Dirty Hit, and a management team that completely trust us, almost, and will allow us to do…” He breaks off to consider himself. “Not whatever we want, but will trust in the music we make and trust us to know what is best for us.” Such artistic freedom has meant that Wolf Alice are able to formulate a follow-up that is a veritable smorgasbord of musical influences, from the gauzy wash of My Bloody Valentine, to the industrial blister of Nine Inch Nails, via the Cocteau Twins and Grandaddy. The arrival of former Beck sideman Justin Meldal-Johnsen as producer, the guitarist feels, complimented the band’s eclectic stylings in the studio.

2017 has been a relatively under-the-radar year with the group, barring an appearance on the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack (“Bizzare!” Oddie exclaims) and a warm-up tour across America. But with their new album arriving imminently, they are gearing up for a late autumn tour that takes in Leeds’s O2 Academy – a show that will be “bigger, better, faster, louder”, he promises.

Are the upper echelons of major festival line-ups the next step? “Yes,” Oddie says bluntly, before laughing. “That’s the simple answer. Completely. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll get there sooner rather the later.” If their second long-player incites the same reactions of their first, it seems a safe bet that Wolf Alice will topping the bills before the decade is out.

Wolf Alice play at O2 Academy, Leeds on November 18. www.seetickets.com

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For a band whose output is tinged with political rage, questions linger over whether Visions of a Life would address the harshly divided landscape around them; Brexit, Trump, May and the DUP to name a few. Oddie is hesitant however to say the album is a direct reaction; less confrontational, more confessional seems to be the vibe. “I think that the political culture and climate now is more an emotional undercurrent than something overt,” he says. “You can’t help the society you live in influence the songs you write; that’s a foregone conclusion. But I would say it is a very personal record rather than a response.”