For much of the past year, Manchester, UK band WU LYF remained shrouded in mystery, with only a handful of singles to inspire excitement and intrigue. Now, with their debut album, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain, available in their native UK and set for a North American release next month, the band recently played select shows here in the States. The performances finally lifted their veil of secrecy—and so, too, the mystique—only to reveal a potent foursome of talented technicians of their now commonly dubbed “heavy pop,” a lush, gospel-tinged punk sound. Documenting their set at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn last month, Life + Times also caught up with lead vocalist Ellery Roberts and bassist Tom McClung for a long chat backstage between gigs. Mature beyond their respective twenty and twenty-one years, the duo discuss their craft and sound (and soccer, too) with both a youthful earnestness and veteran indifference—the inevitable harmony of a young band out to divorce respect for their art from the accompanying hype.
Life+Times: How do you guys feel about the fact that as a new band, you sometimes play in front of more critics than actual fans?
Tom McClung: It fucking sucks.
Ellery Roberts: Yeah, that’s why we used to play a monthly residency. The first three of them were like parties—our friends came down. It was pretty fun. And then, as slightly the bullshit bubble of hype started forming around us, there was sort of a mass exodus from London to Manchester. On the train every Saturday would be all these record guys and all these press guys.
TM: And the worst part was that people expected us to be impressed that they were there. Someone would come up to me and go like, ‘That’s Geoff Travis from Rough Trade over there. That’s the guy who signed The Smiths. And it’s just like… he didn’t move during the gig. He just stood there like *folds arms*, ‘Fantastic.’ He didn’t like it, did he?
L+T: In general, what do you think people take away from you guys? Fans do “WU” chants at your shows. Not to mention, you’re a pretty young band to be traveling around the world.
TM: I think the one thing I’ve found in common with all of the fans I’ve spoken to is that they all feel like they have a sense of belonging to what we do. I don’t know if that’s exclusive to us, but it just feels like a different kind of thing. And I like meeting all of these people. It’s good—I don’t want to be a total dick.
L+T: Another thing I noticed about seeing you perform at The Mercury Lounge is that you guys seem to genuinely enjoy playing. For instance, after the shoegazing scene, a lot of bands seemed almost indifferent to play. So, it was like, ‘Why the fuck did I pay to go see you?’
ER: Well, I think the reason we do it is because we enjoy making music, we enjoy playing.
TM: It feels good to prove yourself every time. It feels like you have to prove yourself to these people. If you don’t play well, they’re gonna go, ‘Well, that was a shit show.’ And not a good kind of shit show. Making yourself wanna play better as well so you can go back and write better stuff—some bands don’t want to be bands.
ER: It’s like the “letting go” stage. You can play to a point, but then there’s a wall and if you just let go, it becomes more than just about playing a song. And that’s the bit that excites me.