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Oscar And The Wolf is the alter ego, cause célèbre and raison d’être of one Max Colombie, a 23-year-old from Belgium whose distinctive tremulous drawl lends an air of exquisite ravishment to his lush synth-phonies and downtempo lovebeats.

There have been two EPs released as Oscar And The Wolf, recorded when they were a four-piece band, but really the story starts with Entity, Max’s solo debut album, whose beautiful music he wrote, performed and co-produced.

He grew up listening to and loving The Fugees, No Doubt and Sade. He taught himself to play piano. “I’m not someone who studies something - I don’t like going to school,” he admits. “I prefer to discover things myself. So I figured out how to play and make chords, even though I can’t read music to this day.”

He went to study painting four years ago in Ghent, where he started the band.

“It’s a very musical city,” he says. “Five our of every 10 people can play an instrument. There are so many different cultures there, including Arabic music. It all had an influence on my album.”

He decided to down-size after realising that collaborating on a record was “like painting on the same canvas where one person wants to put in a blue stripe, and another wants a green stripe”. Doing it all means not just autonomy but a greater possibility in his work for total honesty.

But why Oscar And The Wolf?

“Oscar is a name I really like - it’s poetic and light,” he explains. “And wolf is the dark animal that comes out at night and howls to the full moon, and moon stands for solitude and coldness. It’s bright and dark together, because that’s how I see my music - as a balance between light and dark.”

More than other music, Entity is influenced by artists and film directors, from Francis Bacon to Roman Polanski.

“Bacon is good at taking comfortable, easy-going colours like pink and orange, and then adding really dark morbid and mournful creatures to them. That’s the sort of combination I’m attracted to.”

Polanski, Bacon - what do his favourite people have in common? Do they confront the frightening in a visceral way?

“Basically, fear and sex come together in their work,” he decides. He furthers that, if Entity were a movie, it would be “pretty dramatic”, full of “sex and death and blood”.

Oscar And The Wolf’s sonic aesthetic is fully realised, as is the visual one, probably why the likes of fashion photographer Mario Testino have been courting him. With Entity already a big hit in Belgium - only behind Coldplay and Stromae in the charts - it is perhaps inevitable that Max is creating a sensation across various media, including style bibles.

“It’s unavoidable when you appear in public places and become a figure, you end up in this world automatically,” he says.

When asked to sum up his style, he replies, enigmatically: “‘Married/sophisticated’! That’s my term for my style when I’m walking down the street. But my Oscar And The Wolf personality is more like a gypsy royal with lots of gold and silver. Not royal as in rich but… A prince of the ocean, because the underwater sound is key. I want the music to sound as though it comes from underwater, because that’s where I feel most comfortable: in the ocean, crystal clear, with all the corals and rocks, my eyes open and sunlight shining through. That’s my biggest natural inspiration.”

He confesses that, of all his peers, he’d most like Lana Del Rey to hear his album. Why? “Because I think she would understand what I’m doing. She is one of the only artists who makes music for the same reasons as me.”

Max details the motivations and meanings behind the songs on Entity.

“Joaquin is the name of a character - I see him as myself in another personality. He’s a pretty dark character going a little bit out of control. He’s a metaphor for doing all the stuff that’s destructive and fun. Bloom is a love song for someone I can’t reach. Where Are You? is about not being able to handle not knowing where a person is. Strange Entity is about asking to be loved even when the other person is gone. Undress is just me imagining something that never happened - I never had intimate contact with this person; it’s more like a dream. Astriù is an Irish word; a synonym for change - my feelings just went, in a flash, from one person to another. It was the weirdest thing ever, so I wrote a sad song about it. Princes is the ‘swag’ name I had for myself and the boys in my live backing band. Nora is an ode to the character from the TV series True Blood. Under The Skin is my way of interpreting death - death can be scary but comforting at the same time. I wrote Killer You after seeing Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers - I projected characters from my life into the movie. Somebody Wants You is about wanting someone when they’re dancing. That’s a night song. Dream Car Ocean Drive is a day song - I see myself driving along the shores of the west coast of America in a Mustang or Lamborghini without a roof.”

“It’s about wanting someone, as are all of these songs,” he continues. “Desire hurts, but pain isn't necessarily a bad thing…”

All the songs on Entity are, Max explains, “about reaching out for this person that I was in love with but was too scared to contact in the normal way - this is my way of contacting them”. He adds: “I think I saw this person maybe four times in my life. I can be obsessed with someone just by looking into their eyes. Entity is about the dark side of desire, but there is joy, too. I just don’t want to be in some grey happy zone. I’m into extremes.”

Entity is an album of aching slow jams resulting from Max “going to nightclubs back in Brussels where I was surrounded by a lot of slow beats and people dancing together - it’s really emotional dance music.”

His ambition for the album - full of hypnotic, sensual yet sombre grooves and haunting melodies - is for it to take him to America, and for it to have a potent effect.

“Music is a pretty strong drug,” he considers. But it’s a drug with beneficial properties. “I heard this really strange story about a woman in Amsterdam who was in a coma, and the doctors said they couldn't do anything to get her out of it. The whole family were in the hospital room when they put on my track Bloom. Suddenly, the woman opened her eyes and started laughing and crying! Because of my song. Now everybody from the family is thankful to me for my music. I’m not saying I can raise people from comas, but maybe, with my music, I can help people a little bit.”

Paul Lester
August 2014
PROCHAINES DATES
Extrait musical :  (3,6 Mo)
Oscar and the Wolf - Strange Entity.mp3