“He just walks out of the dressing room and just starts singing The Chats’ ‘Smoko’ really loud! We were like, 'Oh my god Iggy Pop is just walking around singing a Chats song!' I thought that was really funny and for the next three days [Queens of the Stone Age’s] Josh Homme would just walk up to me and just start singing ‘Smoko’.”
In the space of six years, Wolf Alice have all but conquered the UK. But these North Londoners have always cast one eye further afield. The four have toured tirelessly throughout The States, Europe and further afield still. In terms of playing Down Under this quartet has occupied enviable slots at 2015’s Splendour In The Grass as well as this year’s Laneway.
Given their reverent local following, news of a headlining tour comes less of a surprise. It seems overdue. But perhaps that just means that the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
When asked if these upcoming September shows carry the heft and feeling of a homecoming, drummer Joel Amey isn’t so sure. But then again, he hopes so. He’s confident the band will deliver something audiences haven’t seen before, a more dynamic set.
Where he really lights up is when conversation shifts to the topic Australian music. Many artists sidestep the question. But Joel doesn’t hold back. Body Type, Good Boy, WAAX and The Chats, these names roll out in quick succession. Without so much as pause, he’s pulled together some of this nation’s brightest, if newly minted, home-grown talents.
It’s that whole fan first and musician second kind of thing. He talks about exploits with Iggy Pop and Queens of the Stone Age. And know what? The idea of Wolf Alice legging it with these rock greats doesn’t feel the least bit out of place.
Rabbit Radio: I was just reading that you had only been playing drums for around a year before joining up with the band! Is that right?
Joel Amey: Actually, I hadn’t really ever played drums before I joined the band! I was a guitarist in another band, Mafia Lights and I’d known Theo [Ellis] for years. He was a guitarist too. So really Wolf Alice was like four guitarists joining into a band.
We all had a mutual friend. When Ellie and Josh’s friend couldn’t play drums anymore he rang me up and asked if I could. I just said yes. I thought it’d be quite fun and I’m still chancing it!
RR: In the space of around six years Wolf Alice has gone from being an up-and-coming group to quite an established act in the UK. Visions of A Life hit number two on in the charts and you’ve played to audiences of 10 thousand on your home turf. How are things travelling right now?
JA: Well I guess in the UK we’re at a point now where we probably couldn’t have dreamt of it. The way we actually did Ally Pally [a glamorous venue known more formally as the Alexandra Palace which the band played last September before their biggest non-festival crowd to date], walking off that stage it was quite a feat for us. We’d been offered to do that show before but turned it out down.
But you know people actually showed up. It was quite good, it was mad! We’ve got some amazing opportunities this summer at festivals we’re headlining the second stages at Redding and Leeds!
It’s just unreal when we play in the UK just because of that reaction. But then we’ve got other places in the world to visit and we’re lucky to visit them. We still want to work really hard.
We want to come over and play in Australia! We’ve just come off seven weeks in the USA. There’s so much more to do and so much more we could be doing. But at the same time, I’m still eternally grateful for the support we’ve had from the crowds so far.
RR: Outside of the UK Australia is home to one of the band’s largest and most fervent followings. You were here as part of Laneway earlier this year and you’re coming back hot on the heels for a headline tour! If I’m not mistaken these shows are the first time you’ve been here as a headliner…
JA: We did a show in Sydney and Melbourne for the last album, but this is actually a tour! We’ve got Brisbane in there as well. It’s more than two shows! You have to have at least three to make it a tour. [Laughs] So this is like four shows!
RR: Does it feel like a bit of a homecoming? You’ve been on the festival circuit here for a few years now but now you’re taking your own show on the road…
JA: I’d love it to feel like a homecoming. I’m so excited. When we did those few shows in Melbourne and Sydney – I don’t know if anyone reading this was there- but they weren’t our best shows. But when we were at Splendour [in 2015]! Coming off that stage! It was one of the most insane feelings I’d ever had. It was like, “This is one of the most insane feelings I’ve ever had. I’m feeling like I’m on all of the drugs!”
When we came to Laneway we were just chomping at the bit to get out there and prove ourselves again. We had so much fun and the crowds were incredible. I think Brisbane was by far my favourite show. It was all highlights on that tour for us, so I can’t wait to get back to play a longer set which and have a bit more dynamics to it.
RR: How do you differentiate the festival set from the live show? What’s in there that we might not have seen at festivals before?
JA: I think when you’ve got your own headline show you can provide a bit more. Sometimes when you play a festival set if you play anything that’s even a slightly bit slower you get this horrible feeling that everyone is going to leave. We’ve always got something to prove at festivals.
It’s not like every single person at a festival has come to see you. But as a performer, you want to get everyone on your side. So we do fine tune the festival set to have as much ‘up’ as possible. When you’ve got your own headline show you can do stuff like ‘Silk’, you can take those dynamics into the space. That’s really fun as well. They’ve been two different entities in our experience.
RR: Wolf Alice have been outspoken in their political views. It’s something people really love about the band. Are you looking at tackling any issues while you’re here?
JA: Hmm, we’re probably just going to focus on our music this time. I don’t know too much about Australian politics I have to say, but my girlfriend is from Brisbane! So, I’ll go ask her and do something radical when I get there. But this is a massive opportunity for us. We get to play most of our two albums at our own shows. We’re going to be very focused on that.
RR: I didn’t know you had that Australian connection! Do you have any favourite Australian acts you’re digging at the moment?
JA: Oh man! You know what? I’m quite lucky in that I’ve got a lot of friends who always send me good Australian acts. I literally think that most of my playlists are Australian bands.
I’m good friends with Johann [Ponniah] who runs a label called I Oh You. I’ve been friends with him for years and he’s just like the coolest dude I’ve probably ever met. Everything he touches I’m interested in.
I really like Body Type. They’re a great band! Good Boy are really cool too and my girlfriend recently sent me a band called WAAX. Amyl & The Sniffers are one of my favourite bands right now.
RR: Mate! You’re across it! You’re on top of it all.
JA: I know! It’s funny also - and this is sort of going off tangent a bit - we were just on tour with Queens of the Stone Age. We were in Miami and Iggy Pop was there. He came to watch the show and he was in their change rooms. They were all just backstage.
We were kind just keeping to ourselves. We didn’t want to intrude on Iggy Pop. And he just walks out of the dressing room and just starts singing The Chats’ ‘Smoko’ really loud! We were like, “Oh my god Iggy Pop is just walking around singing a Chats song!” I thought that was really funny and for the next three days Josh Homme would just walk up to me and just start singing ‘Smoko’.
And now I think they’re going on tour with them! It’s got quite big that one too! Iggy Pop does a really good version of it, a really good Chats impression.
RR: What did you pick up playing with a band like Queens of the Stone Age?
JA: I think just being there with them has been the most inspiring week I’ve had in years. I thought that we would go on tour with them and they would sort of just pass us in the corridor and be like, “Oh hey. What’s up?” But it wasn’t like that.
The first day they bundled into our dressing room with like two bottles of George Clooney’s tequila and it just went on like that for the next nine days. They’re just the nicest. Their crew’s incredible and the band are the nicest guys. The humblest guys, every night.
For a band which seems to just like off straight tequila, I’ve never seen anyone to be able to play like they were playing. It genuinely was inspiring. I came off that and was like, “Okay, I kinda just want to write loads of music now.”
RR: Could you see Wolf Alice getting to a point similar to the one Queens of the Stone Age are at? Is it something you think about?
JA: I’d love to in many respects. Lots of what they do really kills me. It’s just the five of them on stage, there’s no backing tracks. They do all things live just like we do. Everything is just so- you want to dance to it. But also, it’s all really tight and orchestral. The theatricality of what they do! I was just at the stage watching [Queen’s drummer] Jon Theodore every day being like, “Oh god. They’re really good.”
RR: Is there anywhere you would like to take your music next? Are you working on a follow up to Visions?
JA: I feel like with the album cycle for My Love Is Cool, it felt like it was so continuous, but we found ourselves having lots of time to write. With this one, it’s been pretty full on from the get-go. We’ve been touring the album since before it came out. Because we haven’t lived with these songs for quite as long I’ve felt like they’re still quite new and quite fresh for us.
With My Love Is Cool it kind of got to the point where most of those songs were three or four years old by the time we got to finishing off the album cycle. We were so keen to write new music. But there’s still things I’m loving and discovering playing this record. We kind of meld it a little bit different live.
I’ve been writing. I think we’ve all been writing. But we’ll see how we feel when this album cycle winds down and maybe we’ll go home then for a couple of days.
RR: Before you get down here is there anything else you want to throw out to the Australian fans?
JA: I guess this is The Big One for us - Australia and this album. We’re going to give it a hundred and fifty thousand percent or something like that? We couldn’t be more excited to come over and play. We had such a great time with Laneway so if it’s anything like that it’ll be a dream come true.
Wolf Alice 2018 Australian Tour Dates
Saturday, 22nd September
The Tivoli, Brisbane
Sunday, 23rd September
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tuesday, 25th September
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Words by Riley Fitzgerald