I love a band name that involves wolves, mainly from the time me and a few pals (admittedly drunkenly) came up with the pipedream of a band called We Were Wolves many years ago. And on a similar theme, that brings us to London-based rockers Man Shaped Wolf, whose name I love and, luckily, their music is pretty damn good too.
The quartet of James “Sky Wales” Holdsworth (vocals), Aldo Ziranek Wilson (guitar and backing vocals), Alec Albury (drums and backing vocals) and Connor Lempriere (bass) have honed a funky rock sound that’s packed full of energy and crooning vocals.
But to stick with the band name briefly, Aldo told us: “Thanks, yeah we had that name floating around for a while. the original bassist wasn’t that keen because his old band was called Howl. But when he unfortunately had to leave we thought ‘well, the one silver lining is we get to use that name.'”
Our first taste of the band’s funky rockiness is their debut EP, cunningly entitled EP 01, which opens in lively fashion with the energetic God’s Own Junkyard. A cool riff opens up and is soon joined by drums and bass before dropping into fast-paced vocals then a big singalong chorus. Slowly ascending guitars accompany building vocals then end on an impressive high note that gives way to a lively ending.
That drops into the more laid-back Feel Again, but you’re swiftly shocked into listening ears wide open by their edgy debut single Montreal. Cool little bass riffs and high-pitched guitars open under a big squeal from James before dropping into a funky opening verse. It gradually increases in intensity then feeds into a brief little wah-fused solo before another groovy verse. The cool little bass riffs return and continue under a more prolonged, very funky guitar solo that drops into rolling guitars. Check it out below:
They mix things up again with the mellow opening to She Said, with palm muted guitars and light winding vocals. It suddenly bursts into life with guitar chords under James’ Led Zeppelin-esque distant wailing vocals that give way to a guitar solo.
And the EP goes out in style with the delicious Afraid To Die, which opens up with cool little guitar licks that feed into a laid-back opening verse. Wails of “Afraid to die” answer James’ vocals then a mini-guitar solo kicks in before dropping into a more upbeat, adventurous second verse. The pace ramps up as we dive into an awesome guitar solo with guitar chords and repeats of “I’m afraid to die,” then big drum rolls feed into a more Deep Purple feeling rock out that crescendos alongside impressive high-pitched wails from James and an ascending solo. Give it a listen below:
On the Man Shaped Wolf approach, Aldo explains: “I’d say we’re a funk rock band whose roots stem from bands that really get people going. Don’t get me wrong, we like a slower song now and then, but our go-to sounds have always been big live orientated bands like Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin, and I think James would like to add in Jeff Buckley.
“I was never a fan of songs where you strum four chords for the verse then four chords for the chorus, then four chords for the middle 8… blah blah. Don’t get me wrong there are some brilliant songs like that but I’ve always loved that Tenacious D style of changing the song every section. So we really try to mess with tempo, dynamics and whatever we can really to make it as interesting as possible – long live the ADHD generation!”
Aldo summarises the Man Shaped Wolf ethos as passion, freedom and alive – “because I never feel quite like I do when the whole band are playing and it’s all just clicking perfectly.” While the band’s funk rock sound has been honed on their shared but varied musical experiences.
As Aldo puts it: “We’ve all grown up around music in various ways, my Dad was in a band where he set off explosions and angle-grinded gongs so I like to think that’s where I get my energy. James’ parents took him to Deep Purple and Kiss concerts and he’s always been into acting, philosophy and poetry so it would seem that that concoction breeds a singer. Connor is an old-school punk who got told he couldn’t have mohawks at school and Alec only seems to be interested in music if no-one else has heard of them, its really crazy the amount of bands he can list and they’re all great.”
While on what inspires them to write music, he adds: I don’t know if I’d say I was influenced to write, it’s almost more of an addiction. I’ll go on holiday or spend a few days away from a guitar and just get the itch. I just gotta pick up the guitar and play every few hours or I go a bit mad. James is very constructive in the way he approaches lyrics and writing. I know he reads a lot of philosophy and always thinks about what he wants to say before he tries to think of melodies or rhymes or anything like that.
“You always hear musicians saying that music is the only way they can express themselves, and I’ve never felt like that as such. I do however feel I had a lot inside me, musically, that needed to come out, and its the kind of thing that needs to be preached on a big stage in front of a lot of people.”
You can catch Man Shaped Wolf playing two London gigs before the end of the year, at Cafe 1001 on Brick Lane on Friday (30 November) then Spice of Life in Soho on 14 December. And they have big plans for 2019 including a tour, a debut album and getting onto the festival circuit, so watch this space.
As Aldo concludes: “We just love to play. We’re a live band and anyone coming to see us will tell you that. I’d love everyone to download our EP but, more than that, I’d love everyone to come see us play. That’s where the real magic happens!”