It sounds like a sinister cult — Manchester’s ominously-dubbed WU LYF, or World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation.
People who enlisted after its inception last year were issued bandit masks and a statement of intent, while early press shots of the founders were deliberately vague, showing what appeared to be a gang of face-shrouded criminals, apparently under arrest.
Compound this with an aerial-shaped logo — which showed up on jacket patches and tattoos — plus a 12-inch single, “Concrete Gold” backed with “Heavy Pop” — and a genuine mystery unfolded: Who, or what, was WU LYF?
But WU LYF — who play The Independent in San Francisco today — is actually four kids, managed by ex-Factory Records alum Warren Bramley, who are sick of following traditional music-biz rules.
“I don’t know if we run so harshly on principles as, say, Fugazi did, but we definitely want to do things our own way,” says band bassist Thomas McClung, 21, whose Cure-thick riffs drive WU LYF’s self-produced, self-released debut disc “Go Tell Fire To the Mountain.”
“The original Lucifer Youth Foundation was set up for just us, so we could function as a unit without having any external input, so we could make music without anybody sticking their nose in trying to make it more radio-friendly,” he says.
WU LYF’s sound is unique; songs on “Fire” — like “Dirt,” “We Bros” and “Spitting Blood” — boast Modern English-textured guitar tones set to twitchy rhythms and the Gothic organ and raspy vocals of frontman Ellery Roberts.
The album has nothing to do with McClung’s favorite artists — it’s tapping into the grandeur of Bruce Springsteen, even Nirvana, he says. “Bands that have a real power to their music, that run heavy on emotion. It’s not like there’s some secret pedal we’re using — we’re actually feeling these things.”
For McClung, the anti-corporate concept coalesced in college. He was working toward a graduation — and subsequent 9-to-5 job — that he was beginning to dread.
“I was still studying when the blog machines went nuts over one of our first songs, and talked about us like we were the next big thing,” he says. “And I thought, ‘really? I don’t feel like the next big thing, sitting here with this stupid test!’”
He dropped out, went full-time with WU LYF, and turned down every major and indie imprint offering them a contract.
McClung never imagined actual WU LYF tattoos. “I don’t promote that,” he says. “But it’s cool that people feel so strongly about our band that they get permanent ink. But hey — anyone who feels like they’re part of our group already is.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 771-1421; www.ticketfly.com