Manchester quartet WU LYF, maestros of mystery, were one of the most exciting British prospects in recent years. However, almost as soon as they were becoming as large as their reverb-drowned sound, they disbanded. I had a chat with ex-WU LYF bassist Tom McClung about his solo project alter-ego ‘Francis Lung’. We had a rather enthralling discussion on monochrome white suits, turning down interviews and ghosts.
The Manchester quartet WU LYF were pioneers in “heavy pop”; creating mystery about themselves by declining requests for interviews, photo shoots and even gigs resulting in everyone trying to figure them out. In a sad turn of events, the quartet burned fast and split after their debut album Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, with frontman Ellery Roberts announcing rather dramatically, at the same time as their Facebook Page disappearing, “WU LYF is dead to me”. Their legacy continued after the Manchester quartet were buried, with even their Wikipedia page being deleted numerous times.
Anyway, along came Tom McClung with Francis Lung, rising rather triumphantly from the ashes. Debut EP Faeher’s Son Vol 1 was released November on his own Songs Records label. It sounds like an estranged cousin to WU LYF’s Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, it too has epic walls of reverb yet is far more melodic than its predecessor.I asked questions on his new release…
FAEHER’S SONG VOL 1
Yes, that’s not a word. Pronounced like Fa-her, like you, McClung hadn’t seen in written down either. McClung relished the way it sounds, it’s supposed to be Scottish dialect.
“Initially, the EP was written for my Dad. Faeher’s Son is supposed to be one side of the personality, Mother’s Son is the other. Maybe genes that you’d inherent from your mother’s side, not necessarily masculine or feminine. Just balance”.
Such a balance paves the way for quite a musical contrast on his two EP’s. Second EP Mother’s Son is released this summer.
“The first one is traditional singer song-writer. The second one is much more pop orientated, the songs are longer, like extended pop symphonies. There more accessible if you like but they’re longer. Just like my ambitious attempt to put all the things I like from the 70’s and 80’s into five songs, with a little bit of jazz influence”.
When questioned on his ambition for Mother’s Son,“I’m not trying to be a movement. I’m trying to make sense. I just want to communicate with my songs”.
The first single from Faeher’s Son is Age Limits, featuring a Bowie Scary Monster-esque bass line, over unintelligible vocals. The music video is equally as obscure, feature McClung in his “late fifties, early sixties” all white monochrome suit, yelling “Age limits, but I’ve been lucky” behind Chinese subtitles.
“The lyrics are obtuse, they’d mean something to me but they would not instantly make sense to the average listener. The idea was to kind of have subtitles on the video because they are kind of fashionable. But it’s kind of ironic or funny even that you can’t read them, as this would further the unintelligibility of them. If you transfer them back to google translate, they’d be a cut out version of David Bowie’s Heroes”.
I question him on whether the late ‘Starman’ was an influence on the record.
“Yes definitely, the entire second half of the song was inspired by a bass line on Scary Monsters, a song called Teenage Wildlife. It’s got this kind of groove in the bridge that kind of swept me away. Singing in a high register and chest voice is something that I always enjoyed singing to, or trying to”.
The former WU LYF man adds, “I’m trying to make something 3D. If you make a folk song about a tsunami being the only serving you’re writing about one thing. Well, I’m interest in the standard thing, but making a twist. It needs to be something more, not just straight up”.
DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER
Despite the demise of WU LYF, it doesn’t phase McClung. In fact, he quite enjoys writing for himself, “It is nice that the direction is just left to one person. You only have to please yourself, don’t have to please three other people”.
I decide to question him on WU LYF’s theatrics, alluding to the possibility of treating his Francis Lung project with the same depth of mystery by turning down future interviews and gigs. He didn’t seem to very impressed with the idea…
“I guess it’s just different, you treat each project differently. I guess we were just rebellious, although I’d like to think I still I am. I feel like it would be contrived just to turn things down. It’s better to be open minded, do these standard music industry things like social media. Be creative and embrace it rather than treating it as invalid. These days it has to be much as part of the art, otherwise you’ll just die and don’t keep with the times.”
McClung even suggests to the extent that WU LYF, “were very very lucky to be able to be that rebellious”.
However, you’d have to think McClungs’ sentiment is fallible, with WU LYF’s manager being Warren Bramley, founder of a creative agency who boasts clients Adidas, Reebok and Virgin. Although, WU LYF did claim that their inexperience did work to their advantage in not knowing what they were doing.
IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS
It’s definitely McClungs’s. He’s started his own label ‘Songs Records’ to release his own music.
However, he is ambitious about the future of Songs Records, “I don’t want to be a cottage industry forever. It would be great to expand and perhaps be a subsidiary of another label. Just so I don’t have to go the post office, to get into more shops”.
He’s open putting more music out on his label, “I’ll make all the mistakes on my own records, and then perhaps I’ll get it write for something else”.
IN THE MAGICAL BALL
As you peer into your magical ball, you’ll realise you can and should catch Franics Lung on tour in March and April. With suits so sharp, and the promise of new “poppier” material, the show really is a must see.
You can catch Francis Lung at the following dates: