TGTF will be on a break from 23 November to 5 December. Our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

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Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Album Review: Wolf Gang – Alveron

 
By on Monday, 10th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

If the story of London band Wolf Gang was ever made into a film, it would be one that came out at Christmastime for the whole family. Because as the group stands now, it is a family. And the family that plays together stays together, am I right?

We first wrote about Wolf Gang on TGTF 5 years ago when it was solely a project of Max McElligott, a former student at the London School of Economics who dropped out to do music instead of bean counting. And music he did, did well, and of a stunning, orchestral variety. It took some time for McElligott to find the right members for his live band but as fate would have it, he found the perfect brothers to continue his musical journey with: Gavin Slater on guitar, James Wood on bass and Lasse Petersen on drums, as well as more recent addition Beau Holland to assist on keyboards and guitar on the road. When it came time to record a follow-up to his 2011 debut solo album, McElligott says, “we immediately had this chemistry, so it was a really easy decision to move on from ‘Suego Faults’ to recording this next album together with the four of us, so as a result it sounds really different because of it”.

What was most unexpected about ‘Suego Faults’ was its maturity despite McElligott being in his early 20s. ‘Alveron’, then, can be described as a great next step evolutionarily for the band, showing further maturity, as well as an understanding of how the industry is evolving as well. The evidence begins from the first notes of opening ‘Now I Can Feel It’, whose bluesy, r&b vibe shows an appreciation of what’s popular in America today. Make no mistake though: it’s still clearly Wolf Gang, with a classic pop sensibility that McElligott does so well, but with an edge.

You can feel this edge through most of this album, so much as you’re spinning this record, it feels like you’re Meg Ryan on her bicycle at the end of City of Angels. There is a bit of danger in it all, you accept this, but oh man, you close your eyes and it feels good, you’re loving life. This is the curious juxtaposition of McElligott’s powerful, dramatic lyrics with the uplifting instrumentation of Wolf Gang, now working together as a four-piece full band. The band consciously recorded this album to capture as much of the energy from their live shows as possible, and you can hear this vitality throughout the album.

Previous releases ‘Black River’, ‘Lay Your Love Down’ and ‘Back to Life’ are love songs but not in the traditional sense, and the band should be commended for not falling into the trap of going for the obvious. The message of ‘Back to Life’ in particular is noteworthy: you may have lost all hope from a previous heartbreak, but you will survive from it stronger. You will soon realise that person no longer in your life gave you some keys to life so you can love better the next time, and McElligott’s voice soars to reflect the positivity of the piece.

Numbers ‘Into the Fire’ and ‘Underneath the Night’ are both upbeat in tempo and the lyrics run appropriately buoyant, the former insisting, “your life is what you make it, with reasons to believe”. ‘Last Bayou’ also falls into a similar mould; the song appeared as a standout on the ‘Black River’ EP released in April, with its melodic guitar line and the youthful declaration “these young dreams are all we breathe”. The LP closes out with title track ‘Alveron’, another inspiring tune for you to wave those legendary flags at Glasto to. Oh wait, we’re in winter now, aren’t we…keep forgetting that.

The slower songs on the album feel like when you throw water onto a campfire: you can still see the glowing embers, but the vitality is lacking. Like the disappointment felt seeing a film after reading the book it was based on, the album version of ‘Ghost in My Life’ fails to deliver on record in light of me having the benefit of seeing it performed live with nothing but acoustic guitar accompanying McElligott’s voice, which was absolutely beautiful. The ghostly feeling of the instrumentation is possibly done too well, with the strings disorientating and the trumpet just a tad too loud and gay with McElligott’s otherwise desperate words, “and I want you to know, that I need you to stay / would you try to let go, if I stood in the way? / and I need you to see now, there’s nowhere to hide / if tonight you should leave as the ghost in my life”. A less is more approach probably would have served the otherwise poignant song better. ‘Frozen Lands’ attempts for orchestral epicness, but its breathy echoing dampens the effect they were trying to achieve.

Still, if the band was shooting to make an album with an overall mood of optimism, I’d say they’ve hit the nail on the head with ‘Alveron’. Smart songwriting, catchy and tight instrumentation and wow, a positive message! What more could you ask for?

8/10

‘Alveron’, the second album from London indie pop band Wolf Gang, is out now on Cherrytree / Interscope Records. Watch a behind the scenes making of the album video below, narrated by the band, below.

 

Quickfire Questions #76: Max McElligott of Wolf Gang

 
By on Monday, 22nd September 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Wolf Gang are currently in the midst of an American co-headlining tour with Los Angeles indie electro pop soulsters Sir Sly. Despite being busy with performing and all that travelling around this too darn massive country of ours, frontman Max McElligott was kind enough to answer our TGTF Quickfire Questions. And away we go…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
Mike Oldfield – ‘Moonlight Shadow’.

What was your favourite song as a child?
Grateful Dead – ‘Casey Jones’.

What song makes you laugh?
Haddaway – ‘What is Love’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRVfysTXhNA

What song makes you cry?
Adele – ‘Someone Like You’.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
Granddaddy – ‘AM 180’

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Brian Eno – ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’. Calms me down.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Queen – ‘Under Pressure’.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Kurt Vonnegut.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
A chef. [Wow. So I should be asking Max for cooking lessons? – Ed.]

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be?
Talking Heads – ‘Remain in Light’.

To watch Wolf Gang‘s latest video for ‘Lay Your Love Down’, head this way. Cheers Max for answering these and thank you to Lisa for sorting this for us.

 

Video of the Moment #1633: Wolf Gang

 
By on Saturday, 20th September 2014 at 10:00 am
 

This part action, part performance video for Wolf Gang‘s ‘Lay Your Love Down’, their newest single, is as epic as the sound of the song itself. As someone who is always pining for London, the scenery of both the city and of its prettier, flowery parts is most definitely welcome. The single is also a great taster for the band’s upcoming album ‘Alveron’, which is expected out before the end of 2014. Watch the video below.

I just caught Wolf Gang live here in DC last week co-headlining with LA’s Sir Sly; you can read about that gig experience here.

 

Live Review: Sir Sly and Wolf Gang with Secret Someones at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 8th September 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 10th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

After having seen sold out shows at U Street Music Hall starring the Gaslight Anthem, Kodaline and more recently, Glass Animals 2 months previous to the day, it seems that from here on in I should just expect ridiculous scenes at the place. This past Monday night, the initially dance-orientated but now fully indie-friendly venue played host to a Cherrytree / Interscope Records label tour starring some of the brightest stars in their universe. Interestingly, the three bands chosen for this tour – opener Secret Someones and co-headliners Sir Sly and Wolf Gang – all make pretty different music, but pop is the thread that unites them all.

Like seemingly 90% of all the bands in the United States, Secret Someones hail from Brooklyn. Seeing three girls onstage in a band, I was expecting a Bangles-esque sound to come blaring through the speakers. However, it soon became apparent that whether drummer / multi-instrumentalist Zach Jones’ maleness makes a difference or not is moot. This is a young band with a lot of potential, if they only could decide on the direction they want to take. Given the way the music business is right now, maybe it’d be better if this group continued the way they are going and then be a quadruple threat in indie rock, straight rock, pop and folk? That’s a lot of keep track of. So what happens to them remains to be seen.

Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, and Lelia Broussard are clearly gifted in singing (they take turns taking lead vocals) and in particular their combined harmonies, which are wonderful. If you’d never seen them before, you might think incorrectly that they were actually sisters. That’s how tight their harmonies are, making me think of the pure pop sensibility of Wilson Philips. But such sweet harmonies make more sense in softer pop or folk contexts, don’t they? Those styles seem diametrically opposed to the kick-arse rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Breed’ they unleashed on us, which also makes an appearance on their debut EP ‘I Won’t Follow’. Jones felt it necessary to explain after that they’d just played a Nirvana cover, which should tell you a lot about the average age of punters at the show. The title track of the EP, which Secret Someones used to close out their set, sends the right kind of message not only for young women but for everyone of all ages and genders: be confident in your own strength.

I’ve seen London indie pop band Wolf Gang multiple times now at U Hall, it’s now a running joke with me and the guys, and even frontman Max McElligott himself mentioned it onstage on this night, saying it was practically like their second home. Not a bad thing at all. Now fully a four-piece band comprised of McElligott, guitarist Gavin Slater, bassist James Woods and drummer Lasse Petersen, instead of just McElligott’s vision of grandeur with backing touring members, is readying for the release of the second Wolf Gang album, ‘Alveron’, here in the States.

Early single ‘Lay Your Love Down’ revealed a couple weeks ago has been a clear indication that McElligott intends to continue Wolf Gang with the epic pop songwriting that continues the reign of ‘Lions in Cages’ and ‘The King and All of His Men’ to this day. While McElligott proffered an acoustic version of ‘Ghost in My Life’ in the second half of the set to “change things up a bit”, it was left to the core love and relationships’ type of songs this band is known for to keep things upbeat. The exuberance of spring 2014 single ‘Black River’ grabbed hold of your attention straight out of the gate, while the sweeping yet funky ‘Back to Back’ wowed and proved a definite standout of the night. The sexy, r&b-tinged ‘Now I Can Feel It’ off the new album shows the band isn’t afraid to spread their wings.

The most tender moment of the night was when McElligott dedicated ‘Midnight Dancers’ to a couple they’d met earlier at the meet and greet, who had explained tearfully this was the song they used for their first dance when they married recently. He said they felt so special and honoured to have been a part of their lives. And when a personable band like Wolf Gang does come into your life, you can’t help but feel grateful that as a massive fan of the band, you’re being taken along on the ride while that band works hard for their successes. You feel like family. Having followed their story since 2009, I anticipate with the release of ‘Alveron’, their time will finally have come.

Black River
Stay and Defend
Something Unusual
If You Could Believe (new song)
Suego Faults
Lay Your Love Down
Back to Back
Last Bayou
The King and All of His Men
Ghost in My Life (acoustic)
Now I Can Feel It (new song)
Lions in Cages
Alveron (new song)

Like Wolf Gang, Sir Sly have toured America several times as support for bands I’m not particularly fond of, and I was certain it would not be long before they returned to DC as a headliner. While they are a three-piece on paper, live they are a five-man crew creating a massive wall of sound so magnificent and loud, I had to excuse myself from the pit about 25 minutes in because the beats were so relentless. Watching them further back didn’t diminish their impression at the slightest. When I saw the vertical light strips hung on the back wall of the stage, I knew we were about to be sonically and visually assaulted.

I’ve been watching this band, comprised of frontman / guitarist / keyboardist Landon Jacobs with multi-instrumentalists Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen pretty closely over the last couple of months, primarily because I’ve been beguiled by the intoxicating combination of electronic, r&b, hip hop and pop they’re offering up. Considering the disparate populations of fans we have in the world who like one of two of these genres and might hate the others, Sir Sly does an incredible job putting it all together in a way that’s palatable to all. I thought it was a quite ballsy move to begin with ‘Where I’m Going’, one of their biggest songs to date; it was the gig equivalent of putting your cards out on the table right from the very start. It could have set a terrible tone for the night if it’d gone badly.

Instead, the massive underlying buzzy synths, combined with Jacobs’ oozy yet boy next door vocals, electrified the audience. The buzz from the synths continued with ‘Ghost’, with a super infectious backbeat and Jacobs’ little boy lost vocal delivery. With a rapped intro and heavy-hitting percussion, previous EP title track in minor key ‘Gold’ was a crowd favourite, punters’ hands in the air. But for me, the defining moment was when they brought out ‘You Haunt Me’, their most recent single and coincidentally the title track of their debut album out next week. The song has a bouncy ‘80s style rhythm throughout and features a glittery synth chorus that could have gone into cavity-inducing territory in the wrong hands. But no. Sir Sly brings it back far enough where it sounds fresh and new AND catchy. No mean feat. If I were to pick the next American band to be huge in 2015, no contest. Give Sir Sly the crown now.

 

Live Review: Wolf Gang at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 22nd May 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 27th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

There have been plenty of times I’ve said my hometown of Washington, DC has been slighted by bands when they’re choosing tour itineraries, plenty of moments where we here in this city have felt like the stepchildren of the fan world. Max McElligott and his band Wolf Gang are currently on tour in North America as support to current world beaters Bastille but as Dan Smith’s band weren’t scheduled to stop in our town, McElligott made the conscious decision to gift Washington with a headline show Thursday night, we were definitely feeling like the favourite children in the family to get a special gig all to our own.

Straight out the gate, we knew we were in for something special. The ‘Black River’ EP, which was released at the end of April, came out of what seemed to me left field; while it had been quite some time since the release of McElligott’s debut album ‘Suego Faults’, which came out in July 2011, it seems like most of my favourite bands like to take their time on their successive releases, so I didn’t think anything was amiss. Having signed a deal last year with Interscope’s division Cherrytree Records, the American home of Keane, Wolf Gang now find themselves in the enviable position of being able to tour and promote their band in America with a prominent label behind them. Indeed, McElligott told the DC audience that a new album was on its way and they would be back in due course to promote said album. I’m not sure what songs the band has been playing while opening for Bastille, but I am sure we got a far longer set list in Washington and therefore a far better preview of what is to come, in addition to already released tracks that Wolf Gang fans have already keep close to their hearts.

A nice surprise to begin the evening’s set was not a ‘safe’ choice of a song known to all like a single cut off ‘Suego Faults’ but instead newest EP title track ‘Black River’. I think it says a lot about the collective confidence of a musical group to come out swinging with a relatively new song that some of the audience might not have taken to yet. It could have started the show with a whimper but instead delivered and elicited such an energy from the crowd that the start set the tone (and the bar) for the rest of the set.

A dynamic song with an infectious, bounding rhythm, you can’t help but compare the uplifting, huge-sounding chorus of ‘Black River’ to those from another band Wolf Gang toured stateside with not all that long ago, Coldplay. Seeing that Coldplay’s songwriting has fallen on hard times (if you need evidence, read Martin’s review of ‘Ghost Stories’ and band retrospective), it falls to acts like McElligott’s to bring catchy, not to mention happy pop to the masses once again. (Happy sounding, anyway – if you read the lyrics to the song, it’s pretty dark. But that is an issue for my side project Music in Notes, not TGTF.)

Wolf Gang’s nearly 1-hour set included a nice selection of tracks from ‘Suego Faults’, from the swoony ballads that I was sure the girls next to me were going to faint from, hanging on McElligott’s every uttered note (‘Midnight Dancers’, ‘Suego Faults’) to the cool minimalism of ‘Back to Back’, from the shimmering notes of ‘Something Unusual’ to the sweeping grandeur of set closer ‘Lions in Cages’. The song choices from their upcoming album showed off the more melodic, possibly less dance side of the band. McElligott played a mandolin on ‘Alveron’, the title track from the new album, while on ‘Ghost in My Life’, he traded an electric guitar for an acoustic and provided a gorgeously tender moment in the night. A signal that Wolf Gang is turning more introspective? Might be an interesting development.

However, it was crowd pleasing single ‘The King and All of His Men’ in all of its New Wave glory that proved to be the hit of the night, with punters bouncing with the uber-memorable chorus. When I was stood in the queue to say thank you and goodnight to the band on my way out, there was a youngster and his parents in front of me, and his dad explained that Coldplay at the Verizon Center 2 years ago, with Wolf Gang as support, was his son’s first rock concert and his son was so nervous to meet Max. But as I knew as soon as they stepped up to say hello to the band, the nerves would melt away as soon as he knew just how nice and personable everyone in the band was in person. As I snapped a group photo with the band for them, I thought to myself, why aren’t Wolf Gang bigger? I hope that with this new album ‘Alveron’ and Cherrytree supporting their every move, the success they deserve will be theirs.

After the cut: Wolf Gang’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Wolf Gang at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 22nd May 2014

 

Album Stream: Wolf Gang – Black River EP

 
By on Friday, 25th April 2014 at 11:00 am
 

I’m very pleased to announce that Max McElligott, aka Wolf Gang, is back with a new EP. Called ‘Black River’, the three-track EP sounds grand and sweeping as the best moments of his 2011 debut ‘Suego Faults’. (Remember ‘The King and All of His Men’?) Enjoy the synthtastic EP via stream below. If you like what you hear, get ready to purchase it early next week.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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