This band might not be around in five years.
“Cryptic.” “Anonymous.” “Mysterious.” This was how Manchester, England’s WU LYF—World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation—was described when they emerged online in late-2010. Their website read like an anarchist communique: “To bring fuel to the fires started by kids no longer blinded by spectacle glare,” went the quasi-Situationist tract. Film director Michel Gondry called. They didn’t respond. If music press wanted a demo, they had to pay 50 pounds. A mystique spread like an epidemic, but they remained silent until they grew bored of the self-imposed myths.
“There wasn’t much imagination happening,” says gravel-throated frontman Ellery Roberts about the early buzz. “People copied and pasted what they read on blogs rather than think for themselves. What was important was that we had music ... not a press release, a picture and blah, blah, blah.”
WU LYF self-produced their debut album, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain, in an abandoned church. Taking sonic cues from the epic crescendos of post-rockers like Explosions in the Sky, the band crams all the tragedy and glory into compact, heroic pop songs. Roberts’ lyrics are often inarticulate—he howls and yelps about love, his bros, fire, liberation and alienation.
“It was about finding a place where we felt comfortable,” Roberts says about WU LYF’s formation. “There wasn’t a scene we wanted to belong to, so WU LYF became our scene. We were eight disgruntled 19-year-olds who wanted to entertain ourselves and not go to a bullshit nightclub like idiots. Lots of boring little indie bands trying to make a buck by going 'blah blah blah.'”
They weren’t content with merely reliving Manchester’s rock heritage. Bands like The Smiths, Joy Division and the Stone Roses didn’t speak to them, nor did the contemporary scene. “Many bands wanted to be some dead, forgotten thing like Oasis,” observes Roberts. “Others wanted to be some hipster band in London. There was nothing for us to affiliate with.”
They felt more aligned with U.S. bands like SST punks like Black Flag and Minutemen, especially their unwavering DIY philosophies. Also, there was The Wu-Tang Manual written by rapper/producer RZA. “If you haven’t read it, you should,” advises Roberts. “There’s a lot of wisdom there. These are the two pinpoints on our spectrum.”
Though it’s been just over a year since their first concert, and they’ve already been praised by Pitchfork, NME, Spin and countless others, Roberts predicts they’ll disappear within five years.
“Everything in life should be a progression,” he says. “Rather than milk it, and sell crap to fans, we’ll do something different. Once we peak, it’s time to move onto something else, but everyone in the band’s different. For me, it’s about living in a way so I can create things that serve a wider social purpose than just making money. We’re four people trying to make a life out of doing something we love, and we’re open handed with everyone who wants to follow the same dream.”
WU LYF play Sat., Nov. 5, 8pm. $10. With the Drums. Voyeur, 1221 St. James St. 215.735.5772. voyeurnightclub.com