Wolf Alice (headed by Ellie Rowsell, center) comes to the Bay with a new album “Visions of a Life.” (Courtesy Jono White)

Wolf Alice (headed by Ellie Rowsell, center) comes to the Bay with a new album “Visions of a Life.” (Courtesy Jono White)

Wolf Alice survives silver screen experience

Even though her Brit, Grammy and Mercury-Prize-nominated U.K. quartet Wolf Alice hit big after its 2015 debut “My Love Is Cool,” frontwoman Ellie Rowsell was surprised when her manager informed her she caught the attention of English filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. The director, of “The Trip” and “24 Hour Party People” renown, wanted to shoot the band for 16 concert dates as a backdrop for his movie “On the Road,” a drama starring Leah Harvey and James McArdle as backstage crew members who fall in love on tour.

“He said, ‘Just carry on, doing what you’re doing, and I’ll work around you and do my thing,’” says Rowsell, who brings Wolf Alice to Berkeley this week, promoting the 2017 sophomore album “Visions of a Life” and its latest single “Sadboy.”

She was charmed by Winterbottom’s casual, straightforward pitch and that he wanted an actual tour bus. And that’s what the band agreed to.

But it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. At first, the group was unsettled by being followed by a film crew.

“I guess it’s always weird to have a camera in your face, but if you’re not friends with the person behind it, I don’t think you can ever really be yourself,” Rowsell says. “So the task was to get us to act naturally in front of that camera, and I tried to just ignore the fact that it was there.”

She pauses before hastily adding, “But, uh, not to the point where I would let myself do anything incriminating!”

The vocalist, a whirlwind onstage, didn’t cringe when she attended the movie’s London premiere at the British Film Institute; it offered a telling document of her commanding stage presence and how she’s inspiring aspiring young female musicians across Britain and Europe.

“I just felt like I’d come a long way since writing and recording our first album,” says the guitarist, who started Wolf Alice in 2010 as a pub-circuit acoustic duo with co-axeman Joff Oddie.

The band has evolved since its beginning on the chic indie imprint Dirty Hit.

“Visions” — with the chugging “Yuk Foo,” a gospel-tinged St. Purple and Green,” the R&B-funky “Beautifully Unconventional” and a rap-sung experiment “Sky Musings” — reveals Rowsell to be an envelope-pushing rock star, not just a photogenic face.

She hopes the movie “On the Road” makes that clear: “Wolf Alice is a hard-working band,” she says. “We were a lot braver on this record than ever before, and we channeled all our energy into creating it.”


Wolf Alice
Where: Cornerstone, 2367 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
When: 6:15 and 9:30 p.m. March 16
Tickets: $18 to $20
Contact: (510) 214-8600, www.ticketfly.comEllie RowsellMichael WinterbottomMy Love is CoolOn the RoadPop MusicSadboyVisions of a LifeWolf Alice

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