Dollars to Pounds: Wolf Gang

August 04, 2011

I met up with Wolf Gang aka 24-year-old Max McElligott the day his album Suego Faults was released in the UK. Produced by Dave Fridmann—who's worked with the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and MGMT—McElligott’s debut is a near perfect compendium of synth-spangled baroque pop. Meanwhile, the album’s title came to McElligott in a dream about a running away with a girl to an imaginary utopia of the same name. Sweet dreams indeed. The record isn’t out in America for a while, so if you don’t fancy shelling out for an import, he’s got a digital EP and limited edition vinyl for sale.

I’m impressed with McElligott for several reasons. First, he dropped out of the London School of Economics where he was studying Social Anthropology in his final term to pursue music. It probably helped that one of his tutor’s encouraged his plan of action. And that McElligott conveniently failed to tell his parents for some time. On Suego Faults, he plays all the instruments—drums, strings, synths and guitars—himself. He now plays with a band that includes former Rakes drummer Lasse Peterson. A few days after I spoke with McElligott I ran into him at a bar. A wasted chap from Yorkshire was hassling my friends and me and when we eventually rebuffed the interloper’s cock thrusting, attempts to rap and poor conversational gambits he got got very annoyed indeed and was ready for a fight. McElligott stepped up and talked the drunk idiot down to the point the guy ended up patting the singer on the ass. Later that evening I heard from another friend that he intercepted and talked down two knife-wielding ne’er do wells. Now I’m pretty much convinced McElligott is a violence quelling super dude disguised as a frontman. Seems plausible. Take in a mixtape of McElligott's favorites and read our chat, below.

Download: Wolf Gang's Dollars to Pounds Mixtape

See tracklist at the bottom of the page.

The most personal song on the album is— “Back to Back.” It’s certainly one of the most autobiographical. Some of the songs are quite imaginative or based on a dream. I’m not sure if the girl it’s about has heard it. I haven’t talked to her about it. She’s really off the radar, she’s not on Facebook. She’s one of those elusive types, I don’t have her number. Last I heard she’d opened up some space for artists somewhere.

The last time I was scared I— Was recording the album in a studio in the middle of a deserted wood in upstate New York [Dave Fridmann’s Tarbox Road Studios]. I would have to sleep over at night by myself. It was pretty hard trying not to think of Deliverance, Blair Witch, or Signs at any one time. I slept with an air rifle by the bed but it didn't do much to ease my crippling fear.

The best thing about the internet— Is the voice it gives people who otherwise wouldn't have one, I suppose.

And the worst thing is— How totally reliant upon it I am these days. My parents live in the Republic of Ireland in the depths of the countryside, and they choose not to have internet or TV. There is also no phone signal which doesn't help but every time I go there I have internet cold turkey for a day or two and then I rediscover things like walking, playing board games and listening to the radio, the piano, that sort of thing. It's very liberating not having much technology around.

If I could take over anyone’s body for the day it would be—Someone with a Siamese twin, because I could play duets on the piano by myself. How incredible would that be?

When I was a teenager I— Lived such a healthy life. I played sport every day and breathed the fresh Scottish seaside air. I ate three meals a day. Now I'm a London bum.

When I’m 85 I’ll be— Surrounded by hundreds of grandchildren whom I shall make perform plays for me so I can fall asleep and snore really loudly and dribble.

I wish I wouldn’t allow myself to— Be so disorganized sometimes. I had to fill out a form earlier today and I actually had to stop to work out whether it was 2010 or 2011.

The artist or piece of music that made me want to be a musician was Miles Davis and Smokey Robinson. I had trumpet lessons because I wanted to be like Miles. And I was in love with “Tracks of my Tears” by Smokey Robinson. I would drum along to it in my bedroom when I was twelve and sing at the top of my voice. As soon as the song finished, I would scramble off the kit, rush around to rewind the tape, then I would play along to it again. Over, and over, and over again.

Besides music my special skill is— Cooking a mean bolognese. I perfect it every time and seeing as it's the only thing I can make, it's in a good place right now.

Wolf Gang's Dollars to Pounds Mixtape Tracklist:
Echo and the Bunnymen, "Show of Strength"
Womack and Womack, "Teardrops"
Roy Orbison, "Love Hurts"
Jeff Buckley, "Everybody Here Wants You"
Bon Iver, "Calgary"
Blue Nile, "Tinseltown in the Rain"
Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
Flaming Lips, "Race for the Prize"
David Bowie, "Word on a Wing"
Beach House, "Zebra"
Chromatics, "I'm on Fire" (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine"

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: Wolf Gang