Listening to the tidal wave in “Giant Peach,” the riotous “Moaning Lisa Smile,” or the punked-up “Play the Greatest Hits,” it’s hard to imagine Wolf Alice as an acoustic duo. Then talk to Joff Oddie about his integral use of effects—“These pedals can do such crazy things; to not do crazy things with things that can do crazy things seems odd”—and the band’s origin story becomes even more improbable. But it’s true: Wolf Alice started with guitarist/singer Ellie Rowsell and guitarist Oddie playing acoustic-folk music during open-mic nights in North London pubs.
After self-releasing an EP, they expanded and electrified their sound with the help of Theo Ellis (bass/synths) and Joel Amey (drums/synths). Now sure, plenty of the band’s repertoire from their four official releases stays in the quieter, softer settings—creating maximum drama—but Joff and the gang give some animation to nearly every note played. (To give further cred to the group’s juxtaposition of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, in a 2015 PG interview Oddie cited John Fahey and Sonic Youth as two of his biggest influences.)
“On Blue Weekend, we leaned into our past quite a bit, where we layered up sounds with acoustic instruments. We used loads of 12-strings, banjos, resonators, and tenor guitars,” Oddie says about the band’s recent release. “We’re even performing an acoustic fingerstyle number—‘Safe From Heartbreak (if you never fall in love)’—each night, so it’s nice to get back there.”
Before Wolf Alice’s sold-out show at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom, guitarist Oddie shared an hour with PG’s Chris Kies. The resulting conversation covered the cathartic process of building his first guitar during lockdown (a Jaguar-Jazzmaster hybrid) and why he switched to a pair of Fenders that are “a big sheet of paper that you can paint on.” Plus, he illustrates how every moment in a Wolf Alice set has a pedal, and those moments are unique and not repeated.