The New York Times published no less than five op-eds on Millennials this past Summer. We, as a cohort, have been branded as both financially beleaguered and privileged to the point of brattiness, Generation Nice, yet also a generation obsessed with instant gratification. Millennials are situated at the axes of several conflicting identities, and the constant stream of op-eds, books, and research studies aimed at assessing our generation only proves how confounding this group of people is.
It’s all of these intersecting ideas and confusions that form the foundation of Wolf Alice’s debut album, 'My Love Is Cool' - and it’s also the base of their audience. Log onto Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, and the same fans who meticulously charted The 1975’s route to success have now honed their focus on this particular group of 20-somethings. Joel Amey, Ellie Rowsell, Joff Odie and Theo Ellis are sometimes a stand-in for a Tumblr aesthetic, other times an aspirational peek into what young adulthood would be really like if the people who listen to their songs could transport their own angst, feistiness, and snark into a career. When we met with the band in Sydney, they asserted that they are slightly older than their online fan-base, and perhaps slightly disconnected. But ask their fans - the same fans who post their lyrics below grainy Instagram shots of Doc Martens and the like - and you would get an entirely different picture.
Calling any band the voice of a generation is pretentious and overblown, but there are acts that seem to best encapsulate the mood of a moment. Wolf Alice is certainly one - a band that revels in extremes; moments both catastrophic and lovely in their quietude. 'You’re A Germ' is an obnoxious roar with feminist undertones, while 'White Leather' captures optimistic new beginnings with its muted strumming. None of the songs on ‘My Love Is Cool’ contribute to a central narrative, and none of the band’s EPs are committed to establishing a specific musical identity either. It’s this full embrace of the spectrum that makes them a perfect match for the Millennial listeners who eagerly cram into their gigs and clamour for photos afterward. Instead of neatly dissecting a particular experience or emotion and revolving a sonic world around it, Wolf Alice have created an enthralling musical presence that is equally suited to angry bedroom headbanging and the anguish that accompanies growing up and never quite feeling understood.
In Maggie Nelson’s book, 'The Art Of Cruelty', American playwright Richard Foreman states, "We abide by cultural directives that urge us: clarify each thought, each experience, so that you can cull from them their single, dominant meaning and, in the process, become a responsible adult." Young adulthood seems to be a rehearsal of this process, forcing us to perform mental and emotional gymnastics in order to fit angst, anger, or dysfunction into a positive light. The in-between stage, where you haven’t tidily situated your experiences into life lessons, is directly where ‘My Love Is Cool’ sits. Labels may anxiously cater to whatever marketers say is today’s Millennial whim, but they could learn a thing or two from a band who isn’t done growing up yet.
COUP DE MAIN: We’re from New Zealand, and although you guys are still a three hour flight away from whence we came - we applaud your close effort. So in celebration, we have bought you some snacks in the form of lolly-leis!
WOLF ALICE: Oooooohhh!
JOEL AMEY: It’s snack-time.
THEO ELLIS: This is the best.
CDM: When are you gonna come and actually visit us in New Zealand?
JOFF: Hopefully, very soon.
THEO: We’re there now - in my mind.
CDM: As bonus incentive/bribe, we’ve adopted you each an animal from Auckland Zoo.
THEO: There are so many things going on in this interview!
JOEL: This is the best interview ever.
JOFF ODDIE: What! Oh, that’s amazing.
JOEL: I’ve adopted a meerkat.
ELLIE ROWSELL: Red panda!
JOEL: That’s my favourite animal!
THEO: They’re amazing; they’re really awesome.
ELLIE: Well, I’ve got one.
THEO: Thank you so much, that’s really sweet of you, that’s really cool.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND…
CDM: Congrats on your album! It's one of our favourites of 2015, and you've certainly been working up to its release over the last few years. Is there a song in particular that really stands out to you as representative of where Wolf Alice is currently at?
THEO: Maybe 'Your Love’s Whore'. It feels like-- we said it the other day, it’s like a good point to listen to if you want to get a taster for the album. It incorporates the heavier sides, the quieter sides, the end.
CDM: Ellie, in ‘Turn To Dust’, you sing, "If fear is in the mind, then my mind lives in fear." Do you think that fear is one of the strongest emotions? It seems to be one that you write about a lot.
ELLIE: Yeah, I guess so. I think it is one of the strongest emotions - but, I don’t know. <laughs>
CDM: In 'Giant Peach' and 'Fluffy' you talk about having a tricky relationship with your hometown and sometimes wanting to escape. Do you feel differently about your hometown now that you have traveled so much and you’ve embarked on tours all around the world?
JOEL: I prefer mine, now I’ve been on tour.
ELLIE: It becomes your base, and becomes more of your home, because it’s where you go back to.
JOFF: It becomes a treat when you go back.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT BEING IN AUSTRALIA…
CDM: Do you ever get homesick on the road?
THEO: Not really.
ELLIE: We have our up and down days, but no, for the most part not really.
CDM: Wolf Alice is part of this generation of British bands like The 1975 and Swim Deep that have a big fandom presence on Twitter and Tumblr. Since you are about the same age as your fans, is it a weird experience? Or has being raised with social media and the Internet made it seem normal to you?
THEO: I think we’re a little bit older than most of our fanbase.
ELLIE: Most of the fanbase on social media though
THEO: Sorry, yeah, that’s what I mean. But it’s amazing, I’m actually quite fascinated by that whole culture that’s been brought up. It’s weird to think that there are people who will associate themselves with a band based more on their Instagram than they do their music - which can be a downside, but at the same time you have more access to your fans, and you can bypass the record labels and everyone else. They kind of reach out to people directly, which is really cool.
CDM: 'Swallowtail' features Joel’s vocals, right? Why did you decide to include them?
JOEL: I don’t know really.
JOFF: He locked himself in the control room.
JOEL: I sang it originally on the demo. It’s only one verse that I sing by myself, it’s me and Ellie singing the majority of the song together.
ELLIE: We like albums where there’s different vocals on different tracks, whether that’s a guest-vocal, or numerous people in the band can sing - we should make the most of all the different talents people have.
CDM: Rad. So on the next album, Theo and Joff will be singing?
THEO: Nope, 'cuz we can’t sing. We’re actually letting this team down, we’re the weakest links.
CDM: But that’s what auto-tune is for - T-Pain has made an entire career out of it.
THEO: T-Pain, he did! And...
JOEL: He nearly said it.
THEO: And someone else... <laughs>
CDM: Why do you think Wolf Alice lyrics resonate so much, particularly with Millennials?
THEO: Jesus, that was a good question.
ELLIE: I don’t know... I read this thing today actually, that Courtney Barnett said, which was like, you spend so much time writing songs about feeling confused or like an outsider, and then you go and play them at a show and everyone sings back and you realise that everyone feels like an outsider at some point, and everyone feels confused about growing up. I thought that was a really cool way to put it - that’s how I feel.
CDM: Do you feel like you’re empathetic people?
JOEL: I don’t know what any of these words mean.
THEO: Completely simplified, it’s like when you step in someone’s shoes.
ELLIE: Yeah, I think so.
THEO: It’s quite hard. Empathy, I think, is really difficult to feel unless you’ve actually experienced it yourself. People are quite selfish in that sense. But I think you can relate to some of the content of Ellie’s lyrics from an external perspective - you can relate to them; they’re quite relatable. So in that way, yeah. But it’s hard to feel proper empathy, unless you’ve experienced it.
‘MY LOVE IS’…
CDM: Why isn’t ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ on the album for the UK, New Zealand and Australia?
JOEL: It’s a single in America at the moment. We’re kind of starting from scratch with America this year, if you know what I mean. So it’s on the radio there, it made sense.
CDM: We love your cover of Years & Years' song 'Desire' - why did you pick that one to cover?
THEO: It’s a banger.
ELLIE: I think we knew that we could make our own version of it, and yet still, let-- it’s essentially just a good pop song. So whatever way you choose to interpret it, it was gonna sound good, because it’s a good song. But then the vibe of their music is so different to the vibe of ours, that we could kind of put our own stamp on it in a different way.
WOLF ALICE x CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY…
Wolf Alice’s album ‘My Love Is Cool’ is out now - click here to purchase it via iTunes.
Watch the ‘You’re A Germ’ music video below…