Oscar And The Wolf is the alter ego, cause cĂ©lĂšbre and raison dâĂȘtre 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, Maxâs 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. âIâm not someone who studies something - I donât like going to school,â he admits. âI prefer to discover things myself. So I figured out how to play and make chords, even though I canât read music to this day.â
He went to study painting four years ago in Ghent, where he started the band.
âItâs a very musical city,â he says. âFive 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.â
He decided to down-size after realising that collaborating on a record was âlike painting on the same canvas where one person wants to put in a blue stripe, and another wants a green stripeâ. Doing it all means not just autonomy but a greater possibility in his work for total honesty.
But why Oscar And The Wolf?
âOscar is a name I really like - itâs poetic and light,â he explains. âAnd wolf is the dark animal that comes out at night and howls to the full moon, and moon stands for solitude and coldness. Itâs bright and dark together, because thatâs how I see my music - as a balance between light and dark.â
More than other music, Entity is influenced by artists and film directors, from Francis Bacon to Roman Polanski.
âBacon is good at taking comfortable, easy-going colours like pink and orange, and then adding really dark morbid and mournful creatures to them. Thatâs the sort of combination Iâm attracted to.â
Polanski, Bacon - what do his favourite people have in common? Do they confront the frightening in a visceral way?
âBasically, fear and sex come together in their work,â he decides. He furthers that, if Entity were a movie, it would be âpretty dramaticâ, full of âsex and death and bloodâ.
Oscar And The Wolfâs 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.
âItâs unavoidable when you appear in public places and become a figure, you end up in this world automatically,â he says.
When asked to sum up his style, he replies, enigmatically: ââMarried/sophisticatedâ! Thatâs my term for my style when Iâm 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 butâŠ A prince of the ocean, because the underwater sound is key. I want the music to sound as though it comes from underwater, because thatâs where I feel most comfortable: in the ocean, crystal clear, with all the corals and rocks, my eyes open and sunlight shining through. Thatâs my biggest natural inspiration.â
He confesses that, of all his peers, heâd most like Lana Del Rey to hear his album. Why? âBecause I think she would understand what Iâm doing. She is one of the only artists who makes music for the same reasons as me.â
Max details the motivations and meanings behind the songs on Entity.
âJoaquin is the name of a character - I see him as myself in another personality. Heâs a pretty dark character going a little bit out of control. Heâs a metaphor for doing all the stuff thatâs destructive and fun. Bloom is a love song for someone I canât 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; itâs more like a dream. AstriĂč 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 âswagâ 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 Korineâs Spring Breakers - I projected characters from my life into the movie. Somebody Wants You is about wanting someone when theyâre dancing. Thatâs 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.â
âItâs about wanting someone, as are all of these songs,â he continues. âDesire hurts, but pain isn't necessarily a bad thingâŠâ
All the songs on Entity are, Max explains, âabout 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 themâ. He adds: âI 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 donât want to be in some grey happy zone. Iâm into extremes.â
Entity is an album of aching slow jams resulting from Max âgoing to nightclubs back in Brussels where I was surrounded by a lot of slow beats and people dancing together - itâs really emotional dance music.â
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.
âMusic is a pretty strong drug,â he considers. But itâs a drug with beneficial properties. âI 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. Iâm not saying I can raise people from comas, but maybe, with my music, I can help people a little bit.â