Singer Ellie Rowsell and drummer Joel Amey on Wolf Alice’s third album, Blue Weekend, and the impact of the lockdowns

Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell and Joel Amey are waxing lyrical about the last concerts they were able to attend.

Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell performing at the annual Clockenflap music festival in Hong Kong in 2018. (Picture: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images).
Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell performing at the annual Clockenflap music festival in Hong Kong in 2018. (Picture: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images).

For the former, frontwoman-guitarist of the eclectic London four-piece, it has been considerably less time than her bandmate, having squeezed in a show between lockdowns last autumn.

“I went to see Crows play a socially distanced gig last October in East London,” she recalls. “You were sitting down, because you had to, and I was just able to watch it in a way I don’t normally see rock bands. Normally I’m jumping around or at the bar, but I really enjoyed it.” She cracks a grin. “Your drinks came to you. I like sitting down now, in my old age.”

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Drummer Amey wishes he had been so lucky. “I’d love to sit,” he laughs. “I think it was in Hastings, and it was Hot Wax. It was definitely before…” He makes a half-gesticulation that proves easily interpretable over the screen of a Zoom conversation.

Theo Ellis, Joel Amey, Ellie Rowsell and Joff Oddie of Wolf Alice attend the 2018 Q Awards. (Photo: Getty Images).

Half-gesticulations do pretty well sum up what it has been like for many artists trapped in the limbo of a once-in-a-century pandemic, but Wolf Alice are not like many artists. A duo in their early days with folksier aspirations, they’ve evolved into one of the more thrillingly uncaged British outfits of their generation, built around what can frequently feel like a singular sound identifiable only as their own.

That the pandemic has robbed them of their most stirring outlet in live performances does not appear to have waylaid them seriously however. This week, they release their third full-length album, the aptly named Blue Weekend, a record whose genesis sprung up in the pre-pandemic era and has made its way slowly towards shelves over the subsequent year-and-a-half.

“It’s been ups and downs, peaks and troughs,” Rowsell notes when asked how that time has changed the group, which also consists of bassist Theo Ellis and guitarist Joff Oddie.

Amey provides a little more context: “Our last album changed us one way, and this has changed us in another. I guess we’re lucky to come out this side and have an album to be talking about.”

Throughout this call, a similar pattern emerges. Rowsell brings a philosophical, more reserved air to her answers; Amey adds colour commentary. The two are well-matched, likeably straight to the chase, a quality that serves them as well in the studio and on stage as it does in interviews.

Though several singles have already trailed their latest offering, it finds new touchstones in the way it revisits and reinterprets old themes throughout. Take The Beach and The Beach II for example, bookend tracks that, in their conception, bring to mind the old Pink Floyd trick of segueing the final notes of a record back into the first.

“It feels serendipitous, that it ends where it starts,” Rowsell muses. “It makes it feel like a journey, an ongoing journey at that, which felt right. You know, the weekend always returns. A blue weekend – well, you don’t know if it’s going to be blue in a nice way or blue in a sad way. I like the circularity of it. It’s the little things you can find when you listen to an album more than once.”

Musically, it represents an upward shift in gear, Amey adds – but not necessarily with the view of simply gunning it down the musical motorway.

“I think with this one, there is an element of learning when to hold back for the benefit of your song. On your first record, you’re a bit younger and you shove in all the stuff you can do. But now you can focus on what the key elements are. We have strings on this album, with Owen Pallet, which is a first for us. It’s making sure you’re just chasing the feel of each song, for what is appropriate.”

Despite their strong indie credentials, the band have gone close to bagging a No1 album with both their debut, My Love is Cool, and sophomore record, Visions of a Life, falling short at number two each time. Do they think they’ll be third time lucky – and more to the point, do they actually care? Rowsell is effusively straightforward that they do.

“The charts probably mean less that they used to but they still matter. It means people are buying your record, people are taking notice of you. Because this is hard work and you’re proud of it and you want people to hear it.”

Wolf Alice play at Sheffield Academy on January 14, 2022.