Max McElligott made music in his bedroom, as a hobby, and fully intended to continue studying social anthropology and politics at the London School of Economics.
But life had different plans.
McElligott dropped out of school and focused on music full-time, calling his project Wolf Gang. In 2011, he released 'Suego Faults,' an album rich with symphonic power pop that NME compared to David Bowie and David Byrne.
While McElligott, wrote and played all the instruments on 'Suego Faults,' he has since recruited musicians to fill out the band, which has already toured with Coldplay. Coming off their first North American headlining tour over the summer, Wolf Gang will next hit the road with Keane later this month (dates here).
We caught up with McElligott and Wolf Gang guitarist Gavin Slater when they rolled through Los Angeles to dish on Coldplay, Keane and making music in bedrooms.
Max, I heard that Wolf Gang happened by accident. You didn’t intend to form a band... you were just making music in your bedroom?
Max: Yeah, it was a pretty accidental start. I didn’t expect much from it. I just put some songs up online for my friends, and then came a manager and people who were telling me to take it more seriously, which I then did. It was completely by accident. I had always done it for fun, and then I thought that maybe it could be something more. I deferred from school to give it a shot. I figured I could come back after a year, if it all went horribly wrong.
You played a song on stage at the L.A. show that Alisa from The Naked and Famous jumped on stage for. Is that going to be a new single?
Max: We haven't really thought about singles, actually. We're just trying to write as much as we can. Alisa just came up on stage for that. It was kind of a one-off. We didn't write that voice with a female in mind; the demo just has our voices, but it worked really well. We could give it a go to have her record on it. The Naked and Famous are really good mates, so hopefully we can find the right song and the right moment.
You also mentioned that your keyboard player was detained for a bit at customs and taken into the back room and rather quiet afterwards. What was that all about?
Max: His name is Jamie Jones and there is someone with that name that is blacklisted. We asked what he did, but they couldn't tell us. It was something very serious though, if you're blacklisted. He got pulled up in Mexico a month ago and the same thing happened and the same thing happened this time, but his fingerprints didn't match his own fingerprints from last time or something. So he probably is the real criminal that we're dealing with.
Gavin: We had to smuggle me from Germany into the UK once. I hid under a pile of coats.
Max: They stopped us and looked around in our car. It was so exciting though. It was like being in a film and we drove fast and were like, “Guys I think we've done it!”
You recently toured with Coldplay and are getting ready to open for Keane. Does it get any better than that?
Max: Keane is in England and something to look forward to. With a headlining tour, there is a certain amount of pressure and you have to be completely on the ball. It will be nice to come back and it will almost be like a holiday supporting Keane. We can go set up our stuff, with 20,000 people in each arena, and it will be nice. There won't be much pressure.
Gavin: Coldplay was great. It was a whole other experience. It was pretty scary sometimes. There were a lot of people watching you.
Max: I wasn't scared. I felt like it was more detached because the audience was so far away.
Gavin: Well, I cut down on drinking lately so that’s probably why I was more aware of the size of the crowd.
Are you working on a new album? Do you still record in Max’s bedroom and piss off the next-door neighbors?
Max: Yeah, we are. We're hoping we can start recording the new stuff next year.
Gavin: There's a lady downstairs that's starting to like it. Every time we show up in the morning at Max's for our coffee, she's like, “Oh, it sounded good last night... it was very melodic. I like the lyrics in that one.”
Max: That's how we know we're onto something.