Wulfman Fury – Exposed In Session
If you’ve ever walked up Mowbray Street on a rainy November evening, chances are you will have tucked hands deep into pockets, faced your head down and powered onwards until you reached somewhere slightly less, well, clichéd. I did it on an almost daily basis for two years, and it often struck me that this strip of road probably represented Sheffield for a lot of people who’ve never actually lived here. I’d picture reluctant visitors, minds already swayed by repeats of The Full Monty, driving by and nodding knowingly before saying something passé like “It’s grim up north, innit?” Maybe that’s just some mad form of civic paranoia – in fact, it almost definitely is – but this small stretch in Neepsend certainly scores the post-industrial northern hat-trick: haggered old factories, blokes in overalls smoking outside noisy workshops and an abundance of places to buy chips. Throw in the drizzle dampening the scene tonight and the stereotype is nailed down.
However, as so often is the case with this place, scratch away at the surface and you’ll uncover a story or two. Spaces left during the city’s industrial decline are often filled with fresh cases of creativity, and this rundown suburban area now stands as something of a Mecca to the Sheffield music scene. Most weeknight evenings, when the noise of the working day quietens, you’ll hear the muffled din of bands slogging away in the many practice rooms dotted around the area – a particularly famous one being Bruce Works, 69 Mowbray Street, once shared by Arctic Monkeys and Reverend and The Makers in their respective salad days. Just around the corner sits the fabled Yellow Arch Studios, a veritable hub of talent which has seen pretty much every local act worth their salt pass through its doors at some point: Hawley, Jarvis, Christie, Monkeys, Rev, Milburn, Slow Club – the list goes on and on. It’s also worth pointing out that colossal metalcore group While She Sleeps have their studio a few hundred yards further on in the thriving 92 Burton Road development. Basically, if you’re talking about music history, this place has got it – in spades.
Back to this evening, then; and I’m stood outside Fox Den Studios, waiting to meet a new band looking to continue the strong line of heritage around these parts. Garage rock five-piece Wulfman Fury is fronted by George Moran, who also designed and built the studio in question a couple of years back. He’s had a good whet of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle already, through touring worldwide as guitarist with Miles Kane, but as a prolific songwriter himself he’s now looking to start sharing his own material with audiences. George takes me up to the mixing room where the rest of the band – Joe, Steve and Will (David wasn’t available) – are relaxing and watching the pre-release footage for their second single, ‘Draw the Line’. One month following their arrival on the scene with debut release ‘Night Sweats’, it was time to delve a bit deeper into what we could expect from a band with bags of potential.
Tell us a bit about the process leading up to the release of your debut single last month
GM: We’d been writing and recording for about eight months and eventually ended up with about twenty tracks done before we put anything out. We had a bit of a plan to get a few things together and ready – the website, the first track, gig announcements – all that before we started shouting about anything. We’ve got our ammo ready now.
Do you think that’s a bit of an issue nowadays – bands rushing out the first couple of demos before having a solid arsenal of music to fall back on?
GM: Yeah, because we’ve all been in bands before I guess we’ve learnt from mistakes and want to focus on building something here in Sheffield. We don’t want to release one track then leave things to go stagnant while we start working on other; we want that good mixture of track releases and gigs coming together.
Basically, it’s about going to a waterpark with your bird. But a sexy waterpark.
It’s also handy having your own custom-built studio when it comes to that.
GM: The project started with just me and Dave, who also works at Fox Den, putting together a few tracks then I started bringing other musicians in. I had a think who was A) a sound guy; and B) a really good musician. Will was working here and his band was splitting up; my little brother [Joe] and I have similar voices, so I knew he could hit the high notes; Steve was the wildcard, the internet weirdo that got in touch. *Laughs*
As of today, you’re one gig and one single in. How has the reaction been so far?
GM: Good. The first gig was well attended, and also people seem to like the first track. We’re all about focussing on winning over Sheffield at the moment. That’s the aim.
You do see fairly often see bands crack it at a city-wide level, but what do you think holds a lot of young northern bands from making that step up in a national sense?
GM: I guess it gets to a point where you need to get the industry involved, and that’s where it can difficult. Bands can sell out shows in their home cities, but then going down to London and expecting similar turnouts is a different thing.
WS: I think, as with a lot of things, it’s all about just being a bit savvy. It’s important to have a bit of a plan and run with it.
GM: Getting radio play is the major thing when it comes to bands stepping up a level.
And that system seems a bit rigged in itself.
GM: Totally. A lot of it is completely rigged. I had it with a previous band, Mabel Love, when we met this radio plugger who said he’d get us onto Zane Lowe. To be fair, he got us on there – then a bill for £500 turned up not long afterwards.
WS: But your music’s got to be good enough as well, obviously.
Now ‘Night Sweats’ has been released, how is the schedule shaping up?
GM: We’ve got the second single and video finished, and we’ll be releasing towards the end of November, which I imagine will be before this issue gets printed. We’ll have a December single out on Friday 15th December, plus two extra tracks and an EP in January. Hopefully that’ll give people the chance to hear enough of what we’re about.
What made you choose that track as the first single, the one to “announce yourself” to people?
GM: I guess just because it’s a kind of catch, upbeat track. It’s quite difficult because there are a lot of different coming out of the track we’ve recorded so far, and we didn’t know which one to pick. I think ‘Night Sweats’ is probably a good snapshot though.
That song’s about sleep paralysis. Is that something any of you have personally experienced?
GM: Me and Joe.
JM: It might be hereditary because I think pretty much all the men in our family have suffered from it.
GM: I’ve had it about six times, and it is just terrifying. I think it can be triggered by feeling tired and a bit worn down, because the first two times was when touring and staying up all night. We were about to play on Alan Carr, and I had this dream in the dressing room that the keyboard had fallen on my back and completely paralysed me. Some people see gremlins and mad creatures.
SH: I’ve had it a couple of times and it’s been someone on the end of my bed, leaning on my chest. It’s horrible.
You’ll be treating us to two tracks in the session on Thursday. The second one, ‘Waterslide’, is one of the upcoming releases. Tell us about that one.
GM: A lot of our tracks are very specific to a subject, but ‘Waterslide’ is more of a psychedelic, dreamy sort of tune. It’s a bit hard to explain what it’s about in that sense.
If you’re into bands like The Strokes and Black Keys, it might be the sort of gig you’d enjoy.
As a songwriter, is it nice sometimes to just write a tune which doesn’t necessarily have to hold true to a certain subject or idea? To just have a bit of fun and run with something?
GM: Yeah, the lyrics came to me quite quickly. It’s more like a trippy vision in my head.
WS: It doesn’t necessarily have a direct context, but when you listen to it you can really get into the groove and enjoy it.
GM: Basically, it’s about going to a waterpark with your bird. But a sexy waterpark.
For people in Sheffield picking up this magazine thinking ‘Ah, sexy waterparks and sleep paralysis … interesting. But shall I go see them live?’ What would you say to entice them down to a gig?
GM: If you’re into bands like The Strokes and Black Keys, it might be the sort of gig you’d enjoy. We’ve got catch, well-written songs that don’t go on forever and you can have a good dance to. Production-wise, we’ll be going to town on things as well.
Foxes are a bit of a running theme I see; the whole studio’s centred around them and you’ve got one slung over your shoulders in a couple of band pics. What’s the link there?
GM: I’ve just got a weird obsession with them. It probably dates back from where we me and Joe grew up, Darley Dale out in Derbyshire. We would regularly see them about in the quarries and stuff, so that probably initially triggered it. For that photoshoot we actually had to switch foxes because the first one was a nightmare; I had to walk it for two hours beforehand and it still literally wouldn’t come anywhere near me. The second one loved it though.
It’s the Christmas issue, lads, so let’s get festive for a sec. Favourite tune?
WS: I’m going to have to go with the Mike Hughes track, ‘It’s Xmas Time (But I Don’t Mind)’, just because I actually played on that one.
GM: Oh yeah, I did too. Slade’s always a good shout though.
JM: The Pogues. I like how you can sing along without knowing any of the words – you just need to make a weird ‘nerrh’ sort of noise and you’ve done the Shane MacGowan impression.
SH: It’s gotta be John Lennon for me. Or The Darkness.
Would you ever have a pop at one?
GM: The money is massive if you get it right, but I’m a bit of a Scrooge so it’d be a bit anti-Christmas. So nah, probably not.
And on that festive note, we’ll round things up. Thanks for your time, chaps!