During Wolf Alice’s last stop in Chicago, at The Vic Theatre in 2021, the Mercury Prize winners weaved raw punk energy (“Play the Greatest Hits”) between vulnerable silky songs (“Lipstick on the Glass”) and grand opuses (“Last Man on Earth).” Since then, the band members – Ellie Rowsell (vocals, guitar), Joff Oddie (guitar), Theo Ellis (bass), and Joel Amey (drums) – have toured the world incessantly as headliners, festival artists, and even as support for the man, the myth, the legend, Harry Styles.
Chatting over Zoom during a rare week off, Rowsell shared how the band is building upon their already enthralling live show with their current fall tour of North America which is making a stop at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago on Oct. 6. She also talked about how Styles’ shows are fueled by joyous energy, why – as a music fan herself – she loves to create special moments on stage, and when Wolf Alice may be heading into the studio to get started on their fourth album.
“We’re always thinking about new music and talking and staying open to inspiration and being curious, but I think once we finish touring this year, that will probably be the only time we get together to write. Hopefully everyone’s doing their own little thing in their own time and we’ll see where we are at the end of this year,” Rowsell said. “More often than not we’ll send each other demos that we’ve made and once we get into a room with each other we’ll play them and make them into more of a Wolf Alice song rather than that individual person’s song. They normally come fully-formed before we play them all together. For me, I normally start with lyrics because I keep notes in my phone and I’ll build something up from one line and that will kind of give me a foundation.”
While Wolf Alice has a distinct sound, uniquely their own, the band never limits themselves to one genre or style in the studio or on stage.
“It’s about not wanting to confine yourself to doing one thing. If I like different kinds of music, that means I’ll probably try writing different kinds of music. It keeps it fun for myself,” she said adding that more variety helps keep things interesting at shows as well. “I also have a small attention span when it comes to watching other people’s shows. I can’t really watch more than 20 minutes of the same kind of vibe, so if I’m going to see a heavy band that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to play a ballad here and there.”
When touring with Styles, Rowsell found herself inspired by all of the good vibes especially the unconditional love pouring from artist to audience and back again.
“I like a lot of dark music – and obviously there’s light and shade to Harry’s songs – but, regardless, the atmosphere was one of pure positivity and joy,” she said adding that she will carry the memory of that energy with her to Wolf Alice shows. “I would never change my music to create a different kind of show, but there are ways in which to spread that joyous vibe at your own shows.”
She continued, “That’s the beauty of being a support band. You’re never too old or too experienced to be a support band because you learn something new every time. It’s really important. If you’re so lucky to be invited to be one, it’s really great to learn from the way other people do their thing.”
During Wolf Alice’s current tour, they will be joined by two incredible artists serving as support, Crows, “a very heavy, dark sort of rock band,” on the second leg and Luna Li, “an amazing multi-instrumentalist,” will be joining them for the first half including the Chicago stop. They are also adding a larger production with a lighting show inspired by their last run of shows in the UK and keyboardist, Ryan Malcolm is adding to the sonic experience.
“We’ve got a keyboard player now so hopefully it will sound bigger as well. Even though we were in America quite recently, I feel weirdly excited about this tour,” said Rowsell.
Wolf Alice always strives to deliver the best show possible for themselves and more importantly for fans. Whether they are encouraging girls to learn the guitar by inviting audience members up on stage like they used to during “Moaning Lisa Smile” or finding other ways to interact with individual fans in the front row, the group loves connecting with the energy of a good audience. They especially appreciate reuniting with returning fans for another run.
“When you’re out on the road it’s really nice to see familiar faces because you’re without your friends and your family. I love seeing people return to our shows. It’s really comforting and it’s reassuring that you’re doing an okay job because they’ve decided to spend the time and money to come back and see you,” said Rowsell. “It feels nice – like a little family – and I have a lot of gratitude for people who come to our shows. It’s boundless and it’s what makes this experience and career available to me. It’s everything to me really.”