So, WU LYF's debut album is out this week. It's been a funny old journey for the secretive Manchester band, and one I've probably – through fluke, perseverance and band generosity more than anything – been afforded more of an insight into than most other hacks.
I've blogged shitloads on them before, and written a fair bit in the mag too (including last week's interview feature). This mainly stemmed from the first two times I saw them live, early last year. They totally blew me away, and it's weird/nice to see how things have twisted and changed since then.
The point of this blog, then, is to debunk a few of the myths that persistently get written about the band. Why? Well, it just seems timely now that they're openly talking about their plans a bit more.
So without further ado…
Myth: They sold their first demo for £50 a pop and limited it to 14 copies.
In reality: Absolute bullshit. As the band told me in their interview, they put the £50 price tag on their MySpace as a joke, back when they thought they were totally unknown. Then the emails from A&R men came in. 'Hey, I'll take one please'. Cue a genuine 'WTF?' moment from the band, who replied to every message saying they'd already sold out and only ever made 14 copies anyway. Cue this particular rumour gaining momentum. In truth, there never was a demo tape for sale.
Myth: They used to play in all-white with bandanas on their faces and destroy their Christ-like 'cross' (which their mate Ryan used to walk onstage) mid-set.
In reality: Bullshit. Hands up – this one's probably our fault, stemming from an article written by yours truly in May last year. In my defence, I didn't actually write the offending bits – they were put in at the editing stage by someone who'd heard a load of stuff via Chinese whispers and got the wrong end of the stick. What can I say? It's our bad. Sorry WU Bros.
Myth: Their manager made all this happen
In reality: In a way, there's probably an element of truth in this. I mean, that is kind of the job of a band's manager innit? To get a band noticed and kick up some fuss about them. WU LYF never made a it secret that they were managed by Warren Bramley, and their Facebook page made it clear he worked for Four23. From there, it didn't take a detective (despite some bloggers and newspapers suggesting otherwise) to work out what Four23 was: an advertising agency that worked with brands including adidas and Reebok. You know, Warren's email was up there for all and sundry to see. Still is.
But to say he orchestrated this whole thing is wide of the mark. He's a manager in the same way Malcolm McLaren, Kit Lambert, Bernie Rhodes, Brian Epstein, Alan McGee, Banny Poostchi and Ryan Gentles were managers – ie. He's on the front line rather than in the shadows. Before Four23 he worked with Tony Wilson at Factory and the In The City festival (and wouldn't it have been interesting to see what Wilson would have made of all this? Sadly he died a few months before Warren first heard the band, otherwise he says he's sure he'd have run them under his old bosses nose).
What he did do with WU LYF, though, was sort out a rehearsal space, give them time to work on their songs, mull over their ideas about websites/artwork/pictures/songs/signing and let them play a monthly residency in his small, boho café An Outlet (pictured above, situated in the same building as Four23's offices – they don't have a license for gigs now which is partly why the band don't play there anymore). In short: he did the same as any decent manager would and used his know-how to make them better. But he didn't buy them all this coverage, or get other people to write the songs, or make the websites, or come up with treatments for the videos. Speaking of which…
Myth: There's no way they made the above video themselves.
In reality: Bullshit. Singer Ellory Roberts' school mate Jamie Allan directed it as part of his film course while studying in Australia. And well done to him too, because it's brilliant.
Myth: They used to cancel gigs at the last minute.
In reality: To the best of my knowledge (and the band backed this up too the other week), this never actually happened. There were a few times last year when they were rumoured to be playing places, though this wasn't ever confirmed (indeed if it was I'd have probably been there, disappointed when they didn't show...)
Myth: The band were called 'V▲GINA WOLF' and put out these songs.
In reality: Not true – it's two totally different band's and V▲GINA WOLF have nothing to do with WU LYF (though they were once called Vagina Wolf). It's safe to say WU LYF really hate those other songs. In fairness, they are pretty shit.
Myth: They hate doing press
In reality: Kinda. I had to wait a year before they finally agreed to sit down and speak to me (although by this point we had met a couple of times). As interviewees go, they're interesting – they have loads to say, they're not afraid of saying what they think and they've got a knack of saying clever things that you just don't get with The Courteeners et al. But they're also quite prickly characters. I still have no idea where I stand with them, and to be honest I quite like it that way.
Myth: Every label in the country wanted to sign them
In reality: True. I'm guessing true, anyway. I certainly haven't seen as much industry interest about a new band in the three years I've been at NME.
Myth: They're PR-ed to the hilt.
In reality: Bullshit… kinda. They're not PR-ed at all, although ironically they actually ended up playing the PR game to perfection by not playing it. As I said back in the new band's issue of NME in January, what they've ended up doing is similar to what The xx did (ie. locking themselves away for years until your product is totally ready, then announcing yourselves fully-formed to the world), but pushed it on a few furlongs and been way more inventive about it. Was all this part of their grand plan all along? Personally, I don't think so. I don't think even they had the foresight to see how much impact the above photo, this demo and the 'Spitting Blood' video would have for them. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there simply has to be an element of winging it for this sort of thing to really work.
Myth: They're all rich kids who've paid their way into all this.
In reality: True. Ellory's parents are millionaires and their bassist Tom's dad works for the treasury alongside David Cameron.
OK, that last one's bullshit. So what do you think of WU LYF? Into it or not? I think the next six months will be make or break for them. Now that the cat's out of the bag (along with the album, which is excellent, if you were wondering), can they maintain the huge amount of interest? And can they build on it? Let's see…