Sheffield Union’s Fusion is a hive of activity. Bits of equipment are spread through the room and people are locked in vibrant discussion. Propped against a wall, phone in hand, is Max McElligott who is waiting patiently for his chance to sound check.
23 years old, multi-instrumentalist and social anthropology drop-out, McElligott is the man behind the synth pop music of Wolf Gang, who has been finding increasing success following the release of the single ‘Lions in Cages’ and in the run up to the release of debut album Suego Faults. Tonight will be his second time playing in Fusion as he continues his first ever headline tour.
All smiles, he springs into life as I’m introduced to him and like any musician worth their salt, he is eager to talk music.
McElligott took to music early in his life, learning the piano at a very young age. “My mum used to prop me up on her lap when I was very small and make me play along with her and I just kind of kept going,” he tells me.
Although mostly self taught, his love of jazz got him to grade six in trumpet. “I wanted to be like Miles Davis” he reveals. Critics have been quick to pick up on many of Wolf Gang’s influences; Bowie, Kate Bush, Duran Duran, the Killers – the list continues, but in reality, there’s a lot more going on.
Alongside his childhood love of art-rock, inspired by his parents’ tastes, and his early desire to be Miles Davis, he is also a lover of world and classical music. “Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music and stuff, just on the tour bus to chill me out. A break from the loud noise; [Frédéric] Chopin or something.”
Wolf Gang is a somewhat confusing act; he plays with a five other musicians on stage and his pseudonym hardly connotes solidarity, yet the music is all the product of one man.
“I started off by just writing these songs before I even had my record deal or thought I’d be doing this as a career. I got picked up off the back of these demos that I’d written and because I’m a multi-instrumentalist there were parts written, basically, for a band so to realise that live I had to get guys around me to play with me on stage.
“I didn’t want to just be a solo artist by myself with an acoustic guitar. I like the big bombastic kind of thing, so even though I recorded [Suego Faults] by myself in America I put this band together over the last year or so.”
The curiously titled debut, Suego Faults, is due for release in early July; the name though has perplexed countless people.
“I had one of those nostaligic dreams you get and this name was in my head. I wrote a little song which is on the album, called ‘Suego Faults’, and I thought it would be a nice theme for the album as a whole; A slightly dreamlike, fantastical, romantic place and I guess that’s the theme that runs through the album. It sounds intriguing,” he tells me flickering a thoughtful smile.
McElligott is overtly passionate about his music and is eager to sing the praises of any act he loves. As the conversation turns to current favourites he tells me about a great American band he heard whilst at Dot to Dot festival. He blanks on the name. “What are they called? Fuck. I NEED to know!” and disappears from our table to ask anyone who might be able to provide the answer.
Jogging back into the room he shouts “Cults!” with satisfied enthusiasm. “They’re fucking good live. I’d love to see them now actually, like right now. Just sit and watch them.”
Even though Suego Faults hasn’t even made its way onto the shelves, Wolf Gang is already being pushed for a follow up. “I’m just really taking my time and not rushing it, I haven’t really had the time to sit down and write but I can feel the creativity brewing up. I have some vague ideas and I’m not sure yet which direction I want to go down for the next one in terms of production; whether I want to keep it similar, quite big and bombastic, or maybe make it more classic sounding. It could be anything.”
McElligott comes across as a purist: “I’m going to set myself the task of writing the next album either purely on guitar or piano and then taking it from there,” he says. “I think a lot of people when they write songs, particularly modern bands, as they write the song they’re already producing it along the way and then the songwriting can suffer because they’re hiding behind the fancy production.
“I love doing acoustic sessions. It strips everything down and you can really get the emotion across sometimes better; they both have their bonuses.”
I leave the slightly hungover Wolf Gang, who’d spent the night before on the snakebite – “Not highbrow… It’s good though, it gets you fucked”, to his sound check and to soothe his voice with the cup of tea he’d been craving ahead of what results, by the end, in a fantastic gig.