Best Albums of 2021: Wolf Alice on Blue Weekend
30 December 2021, 11:00 | Updated: 31 December 2021, 15:24
Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie, Joel Amey and Theo Ellis take John Kennedy through their third album.
The follow-up to 2017’s, Mercury-prize winning Visions Of A Life, Blue Weekend is the result of the four members of Wolf Alice working together to refine their relationship and communal sound.
Having decamped to an Airbnb in Somerset to work on songs together, the group then created some demos in a converted church, before collaborating with producer Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Björk, Florence + The Machine) to create the third Wolf Alice album.
The four members of Wolf Alice - Ellie Rowsell (vocals, guitar), Joff Oddie (guitar, vocals), Theo Ellis (bass) and Joel Amey (drums, vocals) - called into the Radio X studio. (three from their respective homes in London, Joel from Hastings) to take John Kennedy through the album track by track.
Why is the album called Blue Weekend? According to Theo Ellis: "Originally Ellie said it in Brussels, when we'd gone out there recording. We were looking for things to do around where the studio was and she said: 'Next blue weekend, why don't we go and see this forest?' - that was apparently round there.
"But no-one's seen this mystical forest that's responsible for all this. I'm sure it probably doesn't exist."
Rowsell explains the meaning of the title further, noting that it came from a positive place: "I meant it literally, like a clear blue sky, it was really sunny. I meant it like that, nothing poignant."
Here are some of the highlights of Wolf Alice's chat with John Kennedy.
Ellie Rowsell: "Beginning and ending the album with the theme of nature, that was especially a nice way to end it. Both those songs are exploring similar themes of friendship and nature. It felt like you'd been on a journey, starting with one that was anxious and a bit tense, and then end with the same thing, but positive and uplifting. Your journey is complete."
Ellie Rowsell:: "We always said it sounded like the opening credits, I always imagined it as the start of a big TV programme."
Lipstick On The Glass
Ellie Rowsell:"It's about the moment before you have to make a decision, that kind of tense moment, being pulled in both directions."
Joel Amey: "Lipstick On The Glass was one of the more difficult ones to record. We had one version that was very electronic and one that was very band-y. And we were kind of caught between those two extremes, really. We met somewhere in the middle, but finding that middle ground took a lot of time, throwing a lot of stuff at the wall. Not everything stuck."
Ellie Rowsell: "I'd originally wrote it for another track so I'd already had them. Once you've got your first line, you roll with that and fill in the gaps. It's one of those songs where you don't realise you've got something to say until you've said it. Obviously I must have had some kind of chip on my shoulder!"
Safe From Heartbreak (If You Never Fall In Love)
Joff Oddie: "The whole MO with the guitars was that we wanted them to sound mechanical and rhythmical. So it was a case of really really being ultra precise and getting the perfect takes down. So it took us a long time. And then we all came into the studio one day and someone said, it doesn't sound like the right key. So we had to do it all again!"
How Can I Make It OK?
Ellie Rowsell: "I remember playing this one in our rehearsal room and it was just building and building... and we were like, When do we stop? Eventually we said, OK this is getting ridiculous. The name Fleetwood Mac was bandied about just because when you want to write pop songs, you don't want to completely take it down that programmed route, you still want to play guitar and for it to sound organic. They're a great reference point."
Play The Greatest Hits
Ellie Rowsell:"It's so funny that people think it's a dig at people who tell us to play the hits - as if that's ever happened to us!"
Joff Oddie: "You need a greatest hits to be able to play!"
Ellie Rowsell: "It's more like us putting on a Greatest Hits when we're dancing in the kitchen at the weekend."
Joff Oddie: "It's more an homage to the less admirable parts of going out."
Joff Oddie: "That kind of folk playing pre-dates my membership of Wolf Alice. It's kind of my first love in terms of instruments and music. There were several times when people said: Just go and fiddle around with that weird looking guitar over there. It felt like bringing something new to the table... that was old."
The Last Man On Earth
Joff Oddie: "I spent a couple of days doing solos and I sent the guys a list of about 20 [choices]. A friend of mine said to me, Oh I love you guys because you have a wicked song like Last Man On Earth and then you just put that bit in that kind of like ruins the song, but it's interesting! Is that a compliment?"
No Hard Feelings
Ellie Rowsell: "No Hard Feelings went through a few different variations, after I wrote Safe From Heartbreak, I really enjoyed that process so I wanted something the same. I did very minimal music, then stacked vocal harmonies, quick and short. We messed around playing it as a band, it was kind of like a joke song. But it was catchy."
The Beach II
Ellie Rowsell: "A lot of it is Joff, with the old pedal board... You can make so many amazing sounds, so it feels a shame not to use them. We like ethereal sounding stuff. I love shoegaze, but I don't want to listen to 11 shoegaze songs in a row. This is more taking the bits that we like from that, which gives it a wide, cinematic feeling."