Posted up at an Airbnb during a break from touring last year, Wolf Alice were back to work.
Recording demos with no real plan which – with the help of Bjork and Brian Eno producer Markus Dravs – eventually bloomed into their third studio album which is out today (4 June) via Dirty Hit.
As they began the process of mastering and sequencing, the outline of a story began to take shape. Speaking via Zoom from her North London home, singer and lyricist Ellie Roswell tells us, “This isn’t a concept album. It’s a collection of songs which we put in a particular order which we felt flowed narratively and musically”.
Once that narrative and musical flow was locked, the band enlisted director and photographer Jordan Hemingway to create a vast suite of stills and videos across a gruelling eight day shoot that tell the story of a night out marked with stunning dream sequences – an everyday thrill made fantastical. For bassist Theo Ellis, smuggling moments of magic into familiar scenes is part of discovering and listening to music. “The fantasy within the mundane – the fantasy is your little movie which you create for yourself when you listen to music.”
To walk their listeners through the journey scene-by-scene, the band worked with Spotify on using their Storyline feature to bring each chapter to life. As fans listen to Blue Weekend, they can scroll through a carousel of Hemingway’s work and read exclusive script-style notes written by Roswell. This is a feature normally used for studio anecdotes and songwriting insight. For Blue Weekend, it’s another opportunity to bring fans deeper into the story. “When I listen to music in my headphones, I become a character in the world of the album,” says Roswell, “I guess Spotify is where you’re going to listen to an album – we don’t want you to always be thinking about who wrote what. But how can you be romanticised and be fully immersed?”
Ellie and Theo walked us through the sounds, sights and stories of Blue Weekend one track at a time.
ER: We always spoke about this song as the first song on the album. We were setting the scene, and there’s a level of anxiety to this song. The sound is tense and the words are anxious – we were trying to mirror that with this scene.
TE: I remember Ellie being submerged in the sea in the middle of Hastings for this scene. I just saw Jordan traipsing into the sea with a huge light. Probably the maddest thing to bring into water which I can think of. It would have been so Spinal Tap if we tried to do that and it all went wrong! But it paid off in the end.
ER: This one was harder to fit into a narrative about a night out in London as it’s so obviously Los Angeles. But we knew we wanted one of the videos to be in a cab so Jordan had this idea to bring a bit of Hollywood into the cab as a daydream.
TE: Jordan did a really amazing job of blurring the lines between a normal night out and the fantasies that go with the song.
Lipstick On The Glass
ER: We wanted to bring in these recurring characters who would pop up like a fairytale. Jordan had the idea of a woman in a shop window. I know what I think of as the red-haired woman but it’s each to their own! Sometimes it ruins a bit of the magic to over-explain, it makes it everyone else’s rather than your own. That’s what songs are once they are out in the world.
TE: A lot of this was shot in the Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park. It’s an amazing pub. We were in a period where the pub was a mere memory – it was that strange era where you had to get 17 Yorkshire puddings if you wanted to get a pint.
ER: You can’t really have a 40-minute video about a night out and not have the pub in it!
How Can I Make It OK?
ER: We wanted to have characters [like this karaoke singer] so it’s not just about us. It’s a whole network of people. I remember watching them perform at the shoot and I was so moved! I was literally crying, it was such a special moment.
TE: If you spend enough time in a bar there are always so many characters. We wanted to go into their world for a little moment.
The Last Man on Earth
ER: This song is hard because the title is quite misleading. People think it’s about a relationship which is a shame because it’s not. We decided to do a performance video to not draw attention away from the lyrics themselves. There’s this underlying theme of the beach and nature throughout the album. Jordan really wanted to do a moment where a curtain fell to reveal a beach and this felt like the perfect song for that.
With Beach I and Beach II, one is positive and one is negative. This song is about friendship and nature which are two things you can hold on to when you’re going through something sad or stressful. We saw the footage of us four on the bus and thought ‘let’s just make the whole thing this!’. It was the right feeling – like we’d got to our good place.
To experience the album brought to life with Storylines, listen now on Spotify