instagram/ulysses_wells

When the world spins in unparalleled uncertainty, where does a musician find inspiration? Ulysses Wells, first-rate music artist and live performer, has proved to be an unstoppable, creative force during even the toughest months of lockdown. Drawing on past experience and the artwork of a close friend, Wells has created a breathtaking, genre-bending masterpiece in the form of his debut EP - Can’t Take It Much Longer.

A whirlwind of lyrical and sonic power, Can’t Take It Much Longer storms through four original songs in an explosion of styles, combining elements of rock, blues, psychedelia, punk and even hip-hop. “I try to create a very varied soundscape,” says Wells, “I tend not to focus too much on genre, so my music ends up being an eclectic mix”. And eclectic it is - not only musically, but emotionally. The EP takes us on a journey, deeply introspecting into Wells’ mania and resultant crawl back to serenity.

“I tend not to focus too much on genre, so my music ends up being an eclectic mix”

We talk about how his project came to life; Wells spent much of last year establishing a strong reputation within the live music scene, sharing festival stages with the likes of George Ezra and Barns Courtney. A particular highlight was his tour with Bastille, from which band member Woody (Chris Wood) formed a record label, “Du Monde Records” with the express intent of signing Wells.

Released in late September, Wells’ EP has been an unquestionable success - having been added to Amazon music’s Best New Bands and selected for Apple Music’s Breaking Rock playlist. Last year, the singer’s previous singles were streamed across 76 countries via Spotify - this is set only to increase with his new release.

Can’t Take It Much Longer is based around the theme of “contemplation”, showing a more nuanced side to Wells’ previously intense soundscape. Channelling soaring atmospheric guitars and distinctive gritty vocals, his music possesses a strong yet soulful quality, conveying a vast spectrum of emotion: frustration, tranquility, conflict, endurance. There’s a striking realism and reflective maturity underpinning the lyrics as Wells sings of heartbreak and deception, finally surfacing in acceptance.

“Channelling soaring atmospheric guitars and distinctive gritty vocals, his music possesses a strong yet soulful quality”

I ask what the key messages of the EP are, but Wells leaves it up to personal interpretation: “One could look into it as you choose. Too much guidance is a bit dangerous- how I listen to or write my music might be very different to how other people understand it. Sometimes, I listen to songs and read up on things, and it’s totally different to how I imagined it- it almost ruins it for me, the magic doesn’t seem as real. So from that point of view, I’ll keep it open and say that the idea behind the EP, contemplation, says it all”.

The first track of the EP, Fooled, launches into a dynamic and electrifying sonic scene, boasting a killer bass line and hair-raising guitar solo. The song spins on a web of deceit - the feeling of taking someone at face-value and building a distorted perception of their identity. A blend of passion and confusion shape Wells’ vocal part, as he sings of falling blindly into the trap of love: “I’ve been locked in your lust / lost in your dust / I have been fooled, fooled by you”.

You Walked Out strikes a sensational balance between echoey vocals and formidable instrumentation. Smashing cymbals combine with extended guitar techniques as Wells emotes his feelings of disorientation and incomprehension. “The initial idea of the project was simply to recreate the crazy, almost electronic sounds that you hear in a nightclub through a guitar, and make it sound other-wordly”, says Wells. “With pedals and plug-ins on the computer, I manipulate the guitar in a lot of weird and unconventional ways - I’ll put it through things like string reverbs and modern-day plug-ins that aren’t designed for guitars at all. When I rang up companies that made these plug-ins, they said it wasn’t possible, but I told them I’ll try to make it possible, and I did”.

Artwork for Wells’ debut EPInstagram/Ulysses_Wells

The title track, Can’t Take It Much Longer, introduces Wells’ more mollified style. Starting with a lilting accordion, played as if on a vinyl record, it quickly fizzles out to a guitar melody. Wells’ gentle vocals and haunting harmonic interjections complement the softer tone of the track, which eventually spirals into an explosion of emotion. This is Wells at his most vulnerable, expressing the frustration of being caged in and projecting personal turmoil. Could this be broadly reflective of how a nation felt during lockdown?

As a peaceful and contrasted conclusion to the EP, Drift On Out of Sight is the calm after the storm. The exposed sound of an acoustic guitar accompanies Wells’ ethereal vocals, effortless and at peace. It’s beautifully nostalgic and comforting, marking a touching end to a captivating EP.

What was it like to produce an EP entirely online? Wells spent months reworking old melodies and experimenting with guitar techniques in his shed, and he shares how quarantine has shaped his music: “It was a real challenge because we did it all in lockdown. It’s the first project I’ve produced myself, and it’s been the most rewarding piece of music I’ve created,” he says, “Though lockdown was a very difficult time, it actually benefited me- it meant I could focus solely on writing music and I didn’t have to teach or do anything else.”


READ MORE

Mountain View

Lockdown Rockdown!

To conclude the interview, I ask Wells what his plans for the future are. He reveals that he will release three EPs in total, while returning in full force to the live music scene. He also discloses a new musical direction he’s exploring: “With lockdown, I’ve had to do my own thing without the band because we can’t all get together” says Wells, “so I’ve been doing a lot more acoustic guitar on my own, which is nice because I’ve never done that before. Being part of a band was never my intention at the beginning, it was always to play the guitar, but singing with an acoustic seems to be becoming something I do more frequently, I enjoy it.”

And though no one can ever be sure what the future holds, one thing is for certain: in light of his spellbinding EP and with new releases brimming on the horizon, Wells is not an artist to be missed.

Can’t Take It Much Longer is accessible on major streaming services.