Interview by Philip Moss
George Moran (ex-Miles Kane guitarist, and bassist in former Sheffield indie foursome Mabel Love) is back with his latest project – the 60’s garage rock influenced, Wulfman Fury. We caught up with George in Manchester prior to their first out of town show – a sell out gig at Jimmy’s in the Northern Quarter – to find out where the band are up to in their quest to be Sheffield’s next buzz band.
Secret Meeting: Last time we spoke at your first show in November you suggested you weren’t planning on leaving Sheffield – in terms of gigs – so soon. But suddenly you’re here to play a gig Manchester with upcoming dates in Leeds, London and France. What’s accelerated this decision?
George Moran: Firstly, the promoter (This Feeling) is someone I’ve got a good relationship with. We did a couple of gigs for him with Miles and he’s jumped on board. He offered us these gigs and they felt right – they’re small, well promoted and it’s a good brand, so it felt right to do them. The French shows again came through a promoter I met in Paris – the gigs are aftershows to a film festival and we’re going to headline it. I really didn’t think we’d be going abroad so soon but again, it just felt right. And we can’t stay in our hometown forever – we have to push it. The main thing is being wise with what you do and where you play. Travelling to Preston, for example, on a Wednesday to play to ten people isn’t worthwhile, but these ones are.
SM: Over the last ten or so years, we’ve chatted frequently about the different projects you’ve had planned or been involved with: the studio, the screenplay and film project, going solo under your own name. So after everything you’ve been involved with, what drew you back to your electric guitar and encouraged you decide to pile all your energies into this project?
GM: I think everything that I’ve ever done has, in a way, built up to this moment. It was always in my mind to do something with me at the forefront. Mabel Love always felt like a stepping stone in my mind to work my way into the Sheffield scene and get to know the industry. Obviously after that I got asked to join Miles which took over my life for a few years. Then finishing that I’ve done the studio which took a lot of energy, but now it just feels right – I’ve found the perfect set of lads and I just feel ready to do this.
SM: So, what’s behind the sound?
GM: I think it’s just a combination of things I’ve heard over the years. I’ve mentioned Richard Swift to you before and just hearing him triggered something in me. Peter, Bjorn and John had a similar impact – they’re DIY garage sounding, but with melodic pop songs and it really struck a chord. It’s all self recorded, almost with a 60’s/70’s tinge and that’s what got my brain ticking, thinking I could do something similar.
SM: Is there still the aspiration to record with Richard Swift?
GM: Yeah – he’s big on my mind, but his studio’s over in Canada so logistically it would be difficult. We have just started to work with some other people – I brought in a producer, Dean Honer, and it’s been amazing working with him. But that process has made me realise I’m going to self-produce.
SM: So, are the songs that you’re putting out now demos or are they finished? Is this the lead up to an album?
GM: What you’ve heard so far are demos that we decided were good enough to put out. The new track coming out in April is called Getaway and that’s taken me a week to finish – I put a bit more attention to detail into it, but at the same time it was a very fast process. I think if we were to do a full record, I’d look to get someone else involved and do it outside of Fox Den (George’s studio in Kelham Island, Sheffield).
SM: Would that be building up on the recordings you’ve got, or re-recording stuff?
GM: I think we’d be building up on what we’ve got. The odd tune that’s recorded now might make it onto the record, but we write so fast that if someone paid for us to an album is could end up all fresh stuff.
SM: When you say ‘we write fast’, what do you mean?
GM: The project started with just me and Dave, so a lot of the early tunes were just written by me. But, we’ve got four strong songwriters in the band now so I’m collaborating with each of them. Joe, my brother, is bringing in riffs and ideas and then suddenly things happen. And that works well for me – if someone brings something in or some chords, it triggers it and within ten minutes we’ve got a track. Sometimes I will bring a finished song, but I like everyone chipping in.
SM: Going back to some of your older projects, what are the main lessons and experiences you’ve carried with you from Mabel Love and playing with Miles?
GM: You have to have a plan. It will probably change along the way, but you need one. And you’ve got to be savvy and clever because there are so many bands out there. You can’t just record a couple of demos, put them on Soundcloud and start setting off gigging around the country thinking it’s just going to happen for you. I mean, Alan McGee’s not going to walk in – it just doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to be above the crop and have a game plan. I think if you want to create a genuine fan base you have to keep everything snappy. If you don’t do anything for two or three months then people will just drop off. You’ve got to keep the build going.
SM: British alternative music and bands seems to have been buried a little bit by American groups at the moment – you only had to look at our end of year list to notice that only three of the top 20 were by British artists, and only one of those (King Krule) was a new act. Any ideas on why?
GM: Yeah – wow!
SM: If we went back twenty years…
GM: It would probably be the opposite. But I do feel things are starting to shift. Guitar bands are back – a little bit more flavour of the month. British music is still too focused on posh, female singers from London who’ve had a foot up. If you look at the BBC list it’s nearly all young females who are getting signed and getting money pumped into them.
SM: Labels chasing the Adele phenomenon?
GM: Yeah, probably. We’ve had La Roux, Florence, Adele… Ellie Goulding all going massive, so the industry is chasing that Adele situation. Whoever signs one can retire off them. Bands are tricky. There’s far more craft involved – you can’t just chuck them out there.
SM: Do American bands come across as being more intelligent?
GM: The American artists that come to my mind that have broken in the last three of four years – songwriting wise – are a cut above the British bands: The War on Drugs, Mac DeMarco… When you hear the records, it’s undeniable – they’re great tunes. Maybe the British bands are stuck – stuck in the landfill indie sound.
SM: Those you’ve mentioned have also never given up. The National took three albums to break through and were 35 years old. Maybe in this country there’s a tendency that if it doesn’t happen quickly…
GM: Yeah, like The Heartbreaks! (both laugh)
SM: So, what is making you tick at the moment – say musically?
GM: To be honest, I am so self absorbed in this project. But one band I keep solidly keep working with in my studio is a band from Guildford called King Kuda. They are absolutely shit hot! The best band I’ve ever worked with. And I keep finding myself going back to my old Spotify playlist.
SM: So what’s on the playlist?
GM: Richard Swift! I’m gearing up to start DJ’ing Northern Soul, so I’m listening to a lot of that too.
SM: And I know you’re a bit of a reader, albeit a slow one at that… didn’t it take you about five years to read The Fountainhead? (both laugh) So, what you reading at the moment?
GM: I’m mainly just reading online at the minute. I like to read anything that comes from George Monbiot – he writes for The Guardian, and I’ve read a couple of his books, so I do keep my eye on him. The only thing I’m reading book-wise at the moment is Johnny Marr’s autobiography.
SM: Bands tend to have a six-month, twelve-month and three-year plan. What’s next in the process for you?
GM: We are going to put a track out next week. I’d describe it as a b-side. It’s a song I wrote a long time ago when I first started this project, Blades and Owls. It’s about the rivalry between the two teams in my city. I remember witnessing a derby day about five years ago and my mind was blown by what these grown men were doing to each other in their own city. I wrote the track and then last week me and Steve went to the derby and made a music video. Really quick – DIY. The track’s only one minute fifty seconds, but it’s very centred on the Blades and Owls fighting each other.
SM: So it’s a non-football fan’s take?
GM: Football doesn’t tick my boxes, but I appreciate that it’s big thing for people. I still don’t think you should suddenly, one night of the year, go and batter people. You could be walking past each other any other day of the year, but because you walk out the ground at the same time, why do you start whacking each other in the face?
Separately we’re just trying to pick the perfect date to release the next single. It’s pretty much ready and I think we’ll aim for the end of April. We’re booking our biggest headline show in Sheffield and want to do a proper single release.
SM: Finally, as you know, on the site we do a weekly feature which is a review of an essential Sunday album. And while it’s Sunday today, what would your choice be and why?
GM: I’d say… at the minute I’d go for Timber Timbre. His Hot Dreams album. If I had a Sunday that I was free for lying in bed, that’s what I’d go for. It’s just the tone of his voice and his lyrics – they’d suit me! It’s kinda dark, but in a great way. The video to the single’s amazing too.