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Wolf Gang’s Max McElligott abandoned his degree to pursue his career in music. We nabbed him for a cheeky chat at Leopallooza festival to tell us about his how he got to create his very own wolf pack.

I guess you could say you are the brain child behind the whole operation?
Yeah I guess, I write the songs and stuff.

So before you got the band together you did solo work?

Yeah, I mean I’m a solo artist but I set up the band to help me play my songs live, so I still do all the writing, and I recorded the album by myself. But I have a band with me, the same band who help me play live.

Do you find that when you are the one who is writing that you are the one taking the lead? Giving all the direction? Or is it a matter of team work?

I guess I have a fairly clear idea of how I want things to be in my head, but at the same time, I let the guys come up with ideas and it very much feels like a band, especially when we’re in the bus together.

Did I hear correctly that you are a self-taught musician? Was that, not easy, but was it something that came to you fairly naturally?
Yeah I always loved picking up instruments and playing with them, I was always hearing things and then reproducing what I heard, on the piano or guitar and it was a very natural way of doing it. I guess I’ve grown up in a very musical household, my mum is a musician, she is a violinist, and everyone in family plays something. It was very easy, almost like a process of osmosis that I picked it up.

Would your family of been almost disappointed if you were not a musician?

No actually, I think they always liked me doing it as a kind of fun thing. When I told them I wanted to do it seriously, I think they were actually a bit worried. It’s a very hard thing to do and make a living from it, so they were kind of against it funnily enough, but now that they see that I am serious about it, they enjoy it.

Obviously you’ve done well so far is it as it’s quite difficult for new musicians to break through. How long have you been performing now?
I guess I’ve been doing this for about two and bit years. I was doing a degree and reached the finals of my last year and dropped out last minute. I just wanted to something completely different; I had a sudden change of heart.

Your album was quite DIY, in that it was fairly self-produced, but you worked with David Friedman (Worked with MGNT), what was that like?
Amazing, yeah I went over to New York to record it, and it was really cool. It was in the middle of no-where in these woods, in upstate New York, so not in the city. I went out there four or five times over the course of last year just recording with him, and it was amazing.

How did you meet him in the first place?
I really wanted to work with him, so I asked someone at my label to put me in touch with him and send him one of my bedroom demos just to see what he thought.

So one of those ‘your people in tough with my people’ kinds of things?

Yeah, well it was a total stab in the dark, but he got back and was like ‘oh I really like this song and y’know would love to work with you’ and so invited me out there to try this track. It worked really well so he was like let’s just do the whole album. I was really lucky.

Was it weird having someone helping you that closely with your music with there being a lot more control in someone else’s hands? Was it quite a harsh process?
No no, we co-produced it and I guess I had a really clear idea of how I hear each sound being anyway. So my bedroom demos before I took them to him, were already all the parts pretty much and arrangements pretty much together. So with Dave it was just a case of him choosing the good ones, knocking the bad ones on the head and adding a few more things. Just catching a sound really perfectly so it was a really good team effort. We weren’t treading on each other’s toes too much.

Did you play at all when you were out in New York?
Yeah we played two shows in New York, we played a show in LA, and we played down in Texas a couple of months ago for South by Southwest. It’s crazy, it’s like a town that gets completely taken over by thousands of musicians, and it’s really cool and fun.

What are American audiences like? Do you find that international audiences react differently?

I love American audiences; they always seem to be really positive. In Australia that’s the best audience, and in New Zealand are actually the beast audience we’ve ever had, just the most enthusiastic. Even in Norway a couple of weeks ago we played a festival and they were just all dancing around. I think once you leave Britain actually the audiences seem to get better.

So we’re tougher to please over here, a bit more critical?
Not always. You play some great crowds in Britain too, but maybe just in London. I guess people are kind of spoiled in Britain for so many bands. Y’know you can go see a band every night of the week but in a place like New Zealand an international band is not that often, so they really enjoy themselves.

Had they heard a lot of Wolf Gang music before?
I think a song or two had been played over the radio a bit so there was awareness out there. I think at one point we were sort of better known in Australia than we were known here. We were playing to bigger audiences out there than here.

What do you think of Leopallooza?
It’s great, we’ve only just rocked up so I haven’t really had time to look around but it seems like you say I nice DIY kind of feel to it and quite chilled out. Which I totally like, because the last few festivals have been like T in the Park and Glastonbury, have been super organised. Even just getting into the festivals, you get taken to like five different gates and told by other people and ringing up other people but here you just rock up and you’re there.

You’ve performed with some really big names like the Naked and Famous and Florence and the Machine, and they have become some really big household names. Do you think Wolf Gang with be the same in five years’ time?
I’d hope so, obviously that’s what I’d like but you don’t know what’d going to happen. It’s nice when you’re supporting a big band you’re put in front of a massive audience. Like a couple weeks ago we supported The Killers at Hyde Park. That was literally to about 20,000 people. It’s such an amazing feeling, you get such a rush that nothing compares to. I would love to be playing to those audiences in my own right that would be the best thing in the world. I’m looking to release another album this time next year, so I just want to keep going at it and keep working hard.

Have you got any crazy stories of what you and the band have been up to this summer?

What can I actually talk about, I got stung quite badly by jellyfish when we went skinny dipping after a big night out in Norway after we played a festival, with all these naked Norwegian girls and a few guys. All of a sudden I was swimming; it was about four or five in the morning, I started getting stung everywhere. It was like a nightmare, it was horrible.

Words: Charlotte Gay
Photo: Hannah Wheeler (Daisyrock Photography)