Wolf Alice

by Harvey Pine

We Are Hardwired to Tell Stories to Bash in Cro-Magnon Skulls and Steal Their Fresh-Caught Fish, and Occasionally Recruit Californian Master Cleansers
Here’s a hard problem for all you out there: how do four-piece alt rock bands like Wolf Alice catapult to stadium-worshipped status out of fucking nowhere? The elegant answer: this North London-based quartet incorporated a stadium-worth of contrapposto influence. Comprised of Ellie Rowsell (vocals, guitar), Joff Oddie (guitars, vocals), Theo Ellis (bass), and Joel Amey (drums). There’s Wolf Alice’s musical prowess, pulling off Stone Roses-ish chillness on “Bros,” then a stop for a second before jumping right into overdrive on “Moaning Lisa Smile.” And Rowsell’s vocal delivery—at once, hazed over with barbiturate sheen (think Last Splash-era Breeders), and other times enrapturing, longingly seraphic. Rowsell can scream, she can play disenfranchised, and she can sincerely sing. More importantly, she leads a band that understands the import of songwriting. Wolf Alice is more than a rock band, they are successfully rocking out, no fool’s errand in this oversaturated, over stimulated age of irony and mass-replication.

This summer, Wolf Alice released My Love Is Cool, with the single “Moaning Lisa Smile” charting on the top 10 of the Billboard Alternative Songs. Ellie Rowsell joins Flaunt in CALIFUK for a chit chat about headier things—stage fright, privacy—revealing the sagacity of not knowing what the fuck is really going on.

How much of Wolf Alice is fiction and how much comes from repressed parts of the real you?

Repression of some things is important, I think, because you shouldn’t let everyone know everything about yourself—you have to be tactical. I think repression sometimes brings out creativity in a lot of people, from people who feel like they have to suppress themselves or they just keep something hidden, it often comes out in art form.

When you’re touring, do you ever find yourself getting attached to people or places?

Yeah, definitely, we’re lucky. When you go on tour you start to get a little glimpse of each place, and you feel lucky if you go there every now and then and that’s the same for the UK and starting to [get that way for us] in the U.S. Even if you didn’t know these people before, there are people who come out to your shows every time you’re here. It’s really nice to see a crowd spotted with your friends.

Do you think any part of being in a group like this has limited your self-reliance—managers and publicists and people sort of organizing your schedules—do you feel less self-reliant?

I think bands feel like they’re being babysat all the time. We spent a good two years basically launching [Wolf Alice] without a record label and without a publicist or any of that kind of shit, you know? All we had was a guy who, very kindly, would drive us to different cities around the UK because none of us could drive, and we’ve set up our own tour and we’ve had to do everything DIY for a long time. We definitely appreciate all the help now, but we didn’t step into this big industry fucking straight away. We did this ourselves and that made us appreciate the help that came after that, not take it for granted.

Any guilty pleasures?

I don’t watch those reality TV things ’cause I know I would love them and I don’t want to get addicted to them. I don’t think any music should be a guilty pleasure. If you like it, you like it, but yeah, I like big pop music. I’m interested in seeing kids on Twitter and how there’s almost this new language and everything they’re using, all these memes and stuff like that. I’m into it. I like it.

What’s it like when you tour CALIFUK?

I don’t know, it just seems more chilled out. I know that’s cliché but I don’t know, people, it’s really fun and everyone’s exciting, but at the same time, it’s like, chill. I don’t know, when we spend time in London and New York and other places I feel a kind of urgency to get something done and be somebody or whatever but in L.A. people seem to be wanting to do that, but in less of a rush and a more chilled out kind of way. Maybe it’s to do with the weather, I don’t know, ’cause it’s just nice.

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BEHOLD! CALIFUK NIGHTS!

The Internet wonders, “Is CALIFUK Nights music??”

In case you missed it, the Alana Haim/Wolf Alice super noise group has pushed the threshold of aural/cerebral unity—and made a janitor in CALIFUK throw up

Londangeles Wharf, CALIFUK – Thanks to the cerebral gestation of black noise infinite-tet CALIFUK Nights, music has passed the Turing Test. Like the entire concept of music itself, is literally, self aware, wondering (wandering?) amidst a self-propagated, self-reflexive, self-correcting journey towards Buddhashishistic histrionicism (wait, are those real words? Are words real? Ah!). CALIFUK Nights mimics its own inner (innards) inquiry to the nature of sound itself. No singular entity can classify this Java-based aural-experiential collage. It may or may not be a side project with Alana Haim of pop rock sister-sweethearts Haim (rhymes with “time”) and buzzy Brit rockers Wolf Alice (rhymes with gulf malice). It may be a song. It may be an album. It may be an art installation. It may challenge the definition of whether a happening can happen outside the boundaries of experience. Discussing the “single” is the single most challenging aspect of trying to promote the band. Their only song has no name—and no one knows where the fuck it is precisely.

Critics are calling the logic rock composition, [“ “], The Null Vector.” Much like early 20th century physicists articulating quantum theory, CALIFUK Nights’ music raises a CALIFUK ton of questions, and answers none. Where was [“ “] recorded? No one knows. Who recorded [“ “]? Again, no one knows. Where did the sounds heard on [“ “] originate? Who are the actual personnel? Are there samples? If so, are they legal to share? Who published the song? Did someone just program a computer to play the entire Internet over itself and then blast that through 96 Silverface Super Reverbs set up in a Bucky Fuller-esque geodesic configuration inside an enclosed stadium, but with the tremolo and reverb both cranked to 10, AND THEN record that on 156 Neumann mics strung to rest at various heights, as if this were some inverted “sound installation piece?”

If not, then were [“ “]’s stems generated via disparate sources, e.g. is that a garage door ripping open an elephant-sized accordion or is that a chunnel of live hornets tied in a concrete knot? Nothing is defined. The publicists are kind but they have no fucking clue how to describe the project. No one can listen to the entire song. A janitor in a northern municipality puked last month after an errant computer began blasting [“ “] through the school’s PA system. It was a code-savvy prankster’s riff on what’s commonly known as “Rick Rolling.” In this case, the janitor could not evacuate the cacophony before evacuating his guts. Afterwards he told the Weekly, “I’ve never experienced such catharsis—and I tried Bikram yoga once.”

But even the noise group’s alleged title raises questions—did a machine invent its own band, and band name? Or is CALIFUK Nights just some reason to coax a local disc jockey to curse on the air? The line between cosmic humor and grave post-humanist future is open to interpretation, closed to any logical reasoning.

And then there’s the live show (or not)

The CALIFUK Nights website (also the source of the inexplicably protean song) explains that the SUMMER OF SOUND SUPPORT TOUR is “always-already sold out.” The site offers no buy links. The phone number on the site belongs to a public disposal service. The Twitter link leads to Twitter’s own @Twitter page. There are coordinates (literally lines of latitude and longitude) along with set times. And people have been showing up. But no one has been able to get in.

An ex-pat author tossed out the word post-semiotic rock in his coverage of their No Non Vector performance last month. But things go full on Heisenberg Uncertainty here. The writer observed “96 Fender Silverface Super Reverb tube amps hauled, each singlehandedly by gender fluid druid beings, into the shoebox-sized DIY gallery space.” NNV, as the venue is commonly known, is crammed between an opiate den and a plant-conscious mud bathhouse. The writer attests to “23 electric guitars, 96 tube amps, an unknown quantity of road cases (likely with pedals and cables), and 47 bass drums” entering the space. From his calculation, there was no way that a single person was even in the space for the performance. About two hours after the first piece of equipment was loaded in, the druid fairies stood arm in arm, obstructing the entrance. Fans murmered, some throwing out loose heckles, others just folding their arms or twiddling their hair. And then a terrible sound engulfed the neighborhood. Something like a skyscraper-sized robot committing hari kari with a Schwarzschild Radius, or if the entire 19th century of forks were to repeatedly stab every ceramic plate to ever exist. The sound, akin to CALIFUK’s four 65,000-person stadiums each playing all four tracks of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music simultaneously caused pretentious art purveyors to writhe like “hormone-injected suids clomping for the last remaining sustenance, the source of sound itself.” The police couldn’t even close down the event; the noise cancelled out all cellular signals and shortwave radios, stealthing the event from today’s satellite-interpreted metropolitan space.

So is CALIFUK Nights music? Is it art? Is art music? Who defines the limit of a concept? Spotify might have an answer—since August, the enigmatic collaboration [“ “] between Haim, Wolf Alice, and an indeterminable number of Internet personas has been played 243,999 times on Spotify. P. Forque considered the atonal blitzkrieg to an “MIT Creative Sandbox experiment” and “a Turing Test success story” but also maybe “Lou Reed’s remnant spirit oscillating in the farty resonance of who the fuck cares.”

Photographer: Ben Cope for 7artist mgmt.com.

Stylist for Alana Haim: Sean Knight for Jedroot.com.

Stylist for Wolf Alice: Monty Jackson for Theonly.agency.

Hair for Alana Haim: Candice Birns for Theonly.agency.

Makeup for Alana Haim: Amber Dreadon for Cloutierremix.com.

Location: Farmer’s Daughter, Los Angeles at Farmersdaughterhotel.com.