We recently interviewed Max McElligott, AKA Wolf Gang, about his recent rise to prominance. With his debut album, Suego Faults, set for release this summer, courtesy of Atlantic Records, Max spoke to us about packing in as many influences as possible, working with Dave Fridmann and the London Music Scene.
One Note Forever: Much has been made of your many and varied influences. When approaching the writing of your debut, did you want to include as many influences as possible or do you see the songs as a concise and coherent channelling of a single vision?
Max McElligott: I really wanted the album to be a collection of songs that pushed in different directions. It’s naturally how I write anyway, from day to day the kinds of songs I would write would vary pretty drastically. So I was conscious to pick songs because of their difference to one another. I was never too worried about whether the album would sound coherent, because they all came from the same pen. Lyrically there are overarching themes that sort of glue things together as well I think.
OMB: Many of the songs are fairly polished. Have the songs themselves existed for quite a while already in one form or the other, or did you start from scratch for the new album?
MM: I always had a strong sense of where I wanted to take the songs in terms of their structure and production, my bedroom demos were always fairly complete sounding, but all in low fi context. So going into the recording of the album was a gear shift but not a total departure from what I’d already been doing in my bedroom. Some tracks were written a couple of years ago, some of the more recent ones were being written in the days before a session in America was booked, so the album is a real mixture of old and new.
OMB: Where do you see yourself fitting, if at all, into the London music scene? How important has London been to your rise to prominence?
MM: I’m not at all sure where I fit in to be honest! I just play whichever gigs I can, wherever I can. Because I write and record on my own, I see my music as being just an extension of myself as an individual, and not really part of any particular scene. London has been fantastic though in throwing me opportunities that would have passed me by had I not been there. Just from starting out as a student and plucking up the courage to sing in front of an audience for the first time at open mic nights, to meeting other musicians and producers, to playing in front of record labels. London is a real hot bed of musical activity, both in terms of artists and industry.
OMB: Having toured with Florence, Metric and signed to Atlantic, the industry obviously has big things planned for you. Do you feel a lot of pressure on your shoulders to deliver the goods, or are you approaching the whole situation with a more relaxed, “Que Sera, Sera”, attitude?
MM: I’ve always been a pretty relaxed person; I can’t stand being around people who are stressful. So I’ve always tried to be chilled with the added pressures of doing music professionally. Because it is genuinely a very fun job, this isn’t too hard most of the time. But more recently I’ve noticed myself fretting more and more about all the particulars that involve releasing a debut album, I suppose there is a nerve wracking element to the whole thing, no one wants to be a disappointment!
OMB: Tell us about the writing process for your songs; do you approach writing songs completely alone, or are there people around you who have an input?
MM: I always do this on my own, I feel distracted around other people. I like playing around and coming up with ideas until I’m not thinking about anything else, you almost reach a hypnotic state of concentration. I’ll start at the piano or guitar and mess around and go with anything that I like the sound of. Writing has to come easily and be enjoyable, otherwise I’ll go away and try again another time, I hate trying to force it.
OMB: What was working with a producing legend such as Dave Fridmann like?
MM: I loved working with Dave; I went out to the US four or five times for a week or so at a time over the course of a year, so got to know him and that part of the world quite well. He’s an extremely down to earth and relaxed man, he’s also incredibly opinionated about American politics; there would be routine politics class over a hot dog as he would fill me in on the latest developments while we bounced down the tracks. I learned a lot from recording the album with him, it was an incredibly lucky break for me, and I would be very happy to work with him again.
OMB: With live performances, do you try and reproduce the spirit of the recordings or do the songs live exist in a completely different climate?
MM: Yes I suppose it’s always a good place to start, trying to sound something vaguely similar to the recordings! We exaggerate certain moments here and there just to add to the theatrics of a live performance, and generally the consensus seems to be that the live performance has a bit more swagger to it than perhaps comes across from the recordings. I guess it’s not hard when there are five boys up on stage having fun.
OMB: What does the rest of the year hold for Wolf Gang, what milestones would you like to have achieved by the time 2011 ends and what would be your wildest dream for 2012?
MM: Well we have a pretty full summer of festivals, and with the album coming out in July hopefully the rest of the year will be spent on the road touring. It would be great if the album manages to chart, I would love for as many people as possible to hear it! I would love to get out more to Europe and then America in 2012, it’s where the album was recorded, mixed and mastered, so I feel like the USA is already a sort of second home for the album, it would be incredible to get the chance to spend a good few months out there playing it to people and spreading the Wolf Gang word!