GUITARIST Joff Oddie, who formed Wolf Alice with singer Ellie Rowsell in 2010, tells EDWIN GILSON about the “love” that keeps the band together and being followed around on tour by film-maker Michael Winterbottom

FIFTEEN years ago, Michael Winterbottom finished work on 24 Hour Party People, a comedy film that looked back at the debauchery of the “Madchester” music movement of the 80s and 90s. In one scene, record label owner Tony Wilson – played by Steve Coogan – reveals he has spent £30,000 on a table for business meetings. It summed up the wealth and ineptitude that partly defined the era.

Winterbottom’s new film, On the Road, couldn’t be further removed from such excess. It stars Wolf Alice, an indie rock band who have found chart success (both their albums have reached number two) and an everexpanding fan base but exist at a time when the music business is suffering financially. Winterbottom’s idea stemmed from a conversation he had with Northern Irish band Ash, who described their touring lifestyle to the filmmaker in all its mundane detail.

“It seemed quite romantic, but in other ways completely horrific,” Winterbottom said. “An enclosed world where there was a huge amount of repetition.” When it came time to choose a modern group to follow around on tour and capture on film, Winterbottom was astute in picking Wolf Alice, a notoriously busy group.

“I think we fitted the bill,” says guitarist Joff Oddie of Wolf Alice’s role in On the Road – which sees intimate scenes from the group’s travelling life interspersed with sexual scenes featuring two professional actors. “He [Winterbottom] wanted a young band that were travelling a lot, living on a bus, and it’s no secret that we do that all the time. That’s a big part of Wolf Alice.”

Oddie describes Winterbottom as a “guitar music enthusiast”, but says he didn’t “hang out that much” with the director, who is also behind popular television series The Trip. “I think he was keen to keep the film fairly fluid and be reactive to situations that were happening,” says Oddie of Winterbottom’s technique. “He’s very improvisational and it wasn’t scripted in any sense. It was as natural as you could get without having secret cameras.”

The documentary is also notable for the adulation shown to the group’s singer Ellie Rowsell, who has become a certified role model, particularly for young girls. Is it heartwarming for Oddie to see such a response to his longtime friend? “For sure, she’s a role model. She’s inspiring people and that’s fantastic. My heart is warmed.” Does that put extra pressure on the frontwoman, though? “She’s very chilled – she’s got this.”

For all that Winterbottom wanted to capture the typical nature of a modern band, Wolf Alice actually aren’t representative of the average indie act – at least not any more. For example, I speak to Oddie the day before he and the band travel to Los Angeles. After the US, they will go to Japan, then mainland Europe, then back to the UK.

From their roots as an acoustic duo, playing off-kilter folk songs, Wolf Alice have grown into a band of great breadth and songcraft. Their recently released record, Visions of a Life, has been praised for its jumble of genres, from synth-pop to ballads to snarling punk, like Yuk Foo, which came from Wolf Alice wondering what “an outburst of anger would sound like”.

Was that diversity of style a deliberate decision by Oddie and co? “Nobody writes the same song all the time – that’s just boring isn’t it?” says Oddie. In a deeper, social sense, the range displayed by Wolf Alice is also a reflection of modern listening habits. At a time when young people tend to listen to their music on streaming sites rather than physical albums, it’s inevitable that their tastes will be more random.

“To some extent, I’d say our music is reflective of playlist culture,” says Oddie. “Why would you want to just listen to one thing? It’s dull. A long time ago, when kids could save up to buy a record per month, that tribalism was more pronounced. You defined yourself as a punk, say, and bought punk records.”

One positive result of the decline in record sales – and the severe financial impact that has on the music industry – is that bands have to be savvy about parts of the business that would, in bygone eras, have seemed alien to the artists themselves. You just have to watch 24 Hour Party People to understand that. Oddie is one of many modern musicians who are, out of necessity, forced to consider the nuts and bolts of their profession. “We’re still trying to work out how people can get paid fairly. It’s a rocky road. On the other hand, there’s an argument to say people shouldn’t have earned the kind of money they did back in the day.”

Just as Wolf Alice are familiar with the ins and outs of the music business, they are no strangers to its pitfalls. In another interview, they bemoaned the record label executive who castigated them for their lack of a “look”, citing Kings of Leon or hip British band The Horrors as examples of what a strong aesthetic can do for a band. “You can’t force that kind of stuff,” says Oddie. “The Horrors can get away with being The Horrors because they come as that visual package. You can’t expect everyone to do that.”

The guitarist points out that this experience is not necessarily representative of the whole industry, though. “That was just one isolated incident with someone who is just an idiot. There are people in all industries who are idiots.” The executive’s criticism clearly hasn’t harmed Wolf Alice, at any rate.

While inventive songwriting is one key element to the band’s success, another is togetherness. “You spend more time with people in your band than your loved ones, and you get tremendously, tremendously close,” says Oddie. “When we got to the end of our last tour, our tour manager, who has been in the game for a very long time, said he’d never seen a band still talking to each other after such a long campaign.”

So what’s Wolf Alice’s secret?

“The secret, my friend,” says Oddie, “is love”.

Wolf Alice, Brighton Dome, November 20, 7pm. For more information call 01273 709709 or visit