“Misogyny and sexism and the way women are treated in almost all industries didn’t just change after the suffragette movement.”
As Wolf Alice embark on their biggest UK tour to date earlier, we caught up with bassist Theo Ellis to talk about festivals, awards ceremonies, females in the business and how the band have exploded into the mainstream music scene.
Q: Hi Theo! So it’s already been a massive year for the band- a Brit nomination, a Grammy nomination, 6 NME nominations and 2 wins in 2016 SO FAR… that must be an amazing feeling?
A: Yeah it’s been pretty cool! We went to all the ceremonies but the NME Awards were the best, probably because we won! But no, it’s been pretty good so far. We knew we weren’t gonna win most of them; we were up against Jess Glynn and Years and Years. They’re huge these people, they sell hundreds of thousands of records. But we still had so much fun- it would’ve been nice to win, but we’re not massively bothered by it.
Q: Do you think less mainstream music like the style you guys have should be celebrated more at these mainstream ceremonies?
A: I think it should be represented at all the awards but every award ceremony has its purpose within the industry. The Brits are designed to celebrate pop music, the Mercury’s are designed to celebrate the weirder side of things – the clever and artsy side of music, I guess. The only real problem I think is when you don’t get proper representation of people who have had a huge year, which happened with people like Stormzy and Skepta this year. The grime revival has been incredible and those kind of artists have had virtually no recognition, and that’s kind of bullshit.
Q: The band started as a two-piece in 2010. Why do you think that Ellie and Joff felt like they needed to expand Wolf Alice into something bigger?
A: I think Ellie and Joff were writing songs with what they had at the time, and they didn’t have electric guitars and stuff but they were always into that kind of music. So, like any musicians, they got bored of certain styles and wanted a change from what they were already doing, which meant they needed new people too.
Q: As a female-fronted band, I’m sure you know there’s been some controversy within the music business regarding female artists at the moment, with regards to lack of female artists performing at festivals this year. Do you think having a female lead can make success more difficult for acts sometimes?
A: I’m not sure really, it’s never particularly affected us as a band, we’re having quite a nice career so far! I do think it’s something that should be discussed however; there aren’t enough girls playing guitar music generally! The pop world seems pretty female dominated right now. This is kind of the case in everything now though, there’s still disparity over wages in the workplace, and female actresses aren’t paid the same as male actors and things. Misogyny and sexism and the way women are treated in almost all industries didn’t just change after the suffragette movement or whatever, the issue still needs to be addressed and it’s good that people are talking about it! Although when discussing festival line ups and the uneven balance, for festivals such as Reading and Leeds it’s hard to find female acts to fit their quota. I think that maybe stems from an education system were girls are handed different instruments to boys. It’s quite archaic; girls are handed a flute rather than a guitar. Why don’t you give them something else to play, like drums? Maybe then we might see a more even spread of male and females at these kind of festivals.
Q: Your debut album My Love is Cool was released last year and went straight to number two, how does it feel to be talked about within mainstream media?
A: Yeah I guess we’re kind of just acclimatising to it all now, it’s cool. There’s more kind of Radio 1 pop attention on us now, which isn’t what Wolf Alice is but it’s still nice to have that. It’s great that we’re crossing over into that though because there’s nothing wrong with it, and it means we get a wider reach and more guitar music gets played on Radio 1, so it’s win-win! I don’t feel that different really though.
Q: The music you play isn’t particularly what Radio 1 play regularly so it must feel good to be breaking the stereotypical style that’s normally heard on there?
A: Yeah it is! I do think Radio 1 is changing though, I don’t think there’s such a thing as “Radio 1 music” like there used to be. People used to hear a song and say “that’s a radio song,” but you don’t get that as much anymore. ‘Giant Peach’ was our first song on the radio off the album, and that’s essentially a bloody dubstep song if you take the guitar and vocals out, with that massive drop at the end! So I think it’s definitely changed and it’s really cool.
Q: So we’re a few nights into the tour now, how’s the North of the country treating you so far?
A: The North is amazing! It’s been carnage up here, especially in the smaller venues like Liverpool when it gets so hot. I tried to climb up this speaker last night, but there was so much sweat and condensation that I couldn’t even pull myself up without sliding back down.
Q: Anything interesting coming up that you can tell us about? Any exclusives for T’HUD readers?
A: Well we’ve got a gig tonight, one tomorrow… but seriously we’ve got a huge festival season coming up, I won’t name them all because there’s loads! We’re demoing some new songs and making a second record, too. I might get married this year… I mean I don’t have a girlfriend, or any plans to, but who knows what this year holds!