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Interview: Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell on their debut album, 'My Love Is Cool'.

Interview: Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell on their debut album, 'My Love Is Cool'.

Wolf Alice's frontwoman Ellie Rowsell spoke with us just a bit before crowd-surfing her way through the band’s raucous Glastonbury set. Within the span of a few short weeks, Rowsell and her bandmates Joel Amey, Theo Ellis, and Joff Oddie released ‘My Love Is Cool’ to appreciative reviews, finished up a U.S. tour circuit, and hopped back across the Atlantic to begin a marathon of festival dates.

‘My Love Is Cool’ is an amalgam of the band’s past material and present aesthetic, but also an coy warning that the band will only continue to explode as the album circulates through indie and pop airwaves alike. ‘My Love Is Cool’ transforms the band’s original garage rock sound into something spookier, sleeker, and well, just cooler.

"I thought that there was a sentiment running through - that our love is not a typical romance-song love. It’s different than that."

COUP DE MAIN: We’re all really obsessed with this album. It includes a few songs from your past EPs. How did you decide what would make the cut?
ELLIE ROWSELL: We went into the studio with eighteen or so songs. We had kind of a list of definites, maybes, and back-ups, and we had sorted it out before we went in there. When we were in there, we started with what we were most excited about and then finished when we had run out of time. That’s all we did, really.

CDM: The band is named after an Angela Carter story that’s sort of fairytale-ish, and there’s this theme of dark fantasy running through the album, especially in songs like ‘Turn To Dust’. You talk about really normal topics like love or friendship in really fantastical ways. Have you always been inspired by that type of writing?
ELLIE: Yeah, I guess so. It’s not that I like fantasy writing in literature or anything. I’m not like the Arctic Monkeys, where it’s very literal and grounded. I don’t really know how to explain... I don’t really like it for myself, but I like it for other people. For me, when I write songs, I always feel too self-conscious to be like, [sings] ‘I’m walking down the street’ like Blur or things like that. The only way I feel comfortable is if it’s got an ambiguous or poetical or romantic fantasy side. ‘Cuz literal lyrics I find quite... I dunno... awkward? They don’t really suit us.

CDM: Does working through that poetic lens make it easier to talk about really personal topics?
ELLIE: Yeah, I think so. The lyrics should be quite poetical. It’s like a different spin on things. You wouldn’t just read out your diary of what you did today. You would read out your diary of how your day made you feel, if you know what I mean. Or that’s how it is for me personally.

CDM: Why did you choose the lyric from ‘Freazy’ for the title of the album? To me, it seemed like a cool commentary on the love between you four as friends and bandmates. 
ELLIE: Actually the lyric didn’t come from ‘Freazy’, the lyric came from a different song on the album that’s actually like the secret track. And the lyric for ‘Freazy’ came from that song. The fact that it pops up twice made us knew it was a phrase that was sticking in our heads that we liked. Most of the songs on the album aren’t love songs, yet I say this phrase twice. I guess some of the songs on the album are love songs, but not in a typical way. They’re not about a girl who loves a boy or a boy who loves a girl or whatever. ‘Freazy’, for example, is kind of about sticking together with your gang. I thought that there was a sentiment running through - that our love is not a typical romance-song love. It’s different than that.

CDM: ‘Bros’ is one of my favourite songs ever, and it’s also about a different kind of love, specifically a love between best friends. I feel like I never hear songs about positive friendships between women. It’s usually about fighting or betrayal. Did you write the song with that in mind?
ELLIE: I didn’t write it thinking, 'I need to write a song to subvert the normal way women write,' or anything like that. I think I’ve always been quite obsessed with how crazy your imagination is when you’re a kid. I know I definitely spent most of my childhood living inside my head. I had one friend where we kind of did it together, so I guess I just thought that was kind of a cool thing to do. It’s kind of a poetical thing to write about because you can use your imagination.

CDM: How did that friend react when she heard it for the first time?
ELLIE: It wasn’t really specifically about one person, because I was writing it about those experiences of growing up as a kid and how much it was just in my head. I was never like, 'Oh I wrote a song about you!'

CDM: You re-recorded it for the album, and it has a really different vibe. It has a bit more distortion and some other things going on. Did you decide to do that to fit the overall sound of the album?
ELLIE: Yeah, I think it wouldn’t have fit aesthetically if we just plopped the old one on, so we re-recorded it. Also, we wanted to put this chorus in because we felt it needed it. We wanted it, so we felt like it was our last chance to do that. We liked the old version, but we felt like it was quite straight. It wouldn’t have fit with the rest of the songs.

CDM: There were definitely a lot of songs from the EPs that were amazing but wouldn’t have fit. Do you ever think ‘White Leather’ will make it onto one of your albums? It’s my jam. 
ELLIE: Yeah! I think you can never say never. I know there’s this band who are big now who always put B sides on their fifth album, or put old EP songs on their fourth album. They always come back. Sometimes songs on EPs don’t really get the light that they deserve. You have to reintroduce them years down the road.

CDM: You’ve been a band for about five years now, and it was a long process of touring and gathering acclaim over a series of EPs. Did you always want to do it that way? Was there ever an impulse to put out an album a year or two into being a band?
ELLIE: Oh yeah. I mean, we really wanted to put out an album almost as soon as we had enough songs. But we knew we wanted to make an album in a studio and have a big production value. We didn’t want to make a lo-fi album - that was something we were sure of. That kind of meant we had to wait and meet the right person and have sufficient funds to pay for it. We didn’t want to have a bedroom sound. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it just wasn’t something we wanted to do. We had to wait for someone to help us and to have enough money, and that just took longer than we expected. We were advised by labels that we weren’t ready. We were like, ‘YES WE FUCKING ARE!’ Now, when I look back, I’m like, 'Thank god!' Because we really weren’t ready. We could’ve put out an album two years ago or a year ago, but I really don’t think it would’ve been half as good as what we put out now. There’s no right or wrong way to do anything, but I’m really happy that circumstance made us wait.

CDM: I’m really happy you did it that way because it feels like a reflection of growing up and many different stages of life. Is there one song that you feel like encapsulates being a teenager? Are there ones that feel like they particularly resonate with where you are in life now?
ELLIE: I think ‘The Wonderwhy’ is something I wrote when I was younger and a bit more teenager-y - when I was really struggling with life. Not in a serious way, but in a way where I was just thinking about things too much. I guess now I don’t do that so much. ‘Turn To Dust’ was kind of the same thing, but a few years later. You can see how my head has changed.

You can read our review of 'My Love Is Cool' here and watch Wolf Alice's Glastonbury performance of 'Bros' below...

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