When Ellery Roberts and his bandmates posted a track called "Heavy Pop" to their website WULYF.org last year, they thought 10 friends -- maybe 20, if they were lucky -- would hear it.
"We didn't need to give [listeners] some pretentious write-up about who we were, because they already knew who we were," Roberts says. "So we just didn't."
But interest in "Heavy Pop" soon extended far beyond Roberts, his band -- the haunting Manchester, England, quartet WU LYF -- and their friends, a loose collection of creative compatriots in their late teens and early 20s dubbed the Lucifer Youth Foundation, or LYF. (The WU stands for World United.) The Lucifer Youth Foundation provides the band with press photos and videos, a la Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, and the buzz that erupted around WU LYF was not unlike that generated by Odd Future. But where that act and its frontman, Tyler, the Creator, are oversharers -- flooding the Internet and Twitter streams with music, videos, opinions and releases -- WU LYF remained a mystery, leaving outsiders to beg for more.
"'Heavy Pop,'" says WU LYF manager and Factory Records alum Warren Bramley, "was the only thing they had. They didn't have anything to say."
The steadfast anonymity only stoked the fire, and Stereogum, the Guardian and NME all named WU LYF a band to watch, with the Guardian calling it "revolutionary."
Now, as the band gears up for the Sept. 6 physical release of its self-released debut album, "Go Tell Fire to the Mountain" (the project arrived digitally and in the United Kingdom on June 13 through the band's LYF imprint), rumors continue to swirl, many only adding to the myth. Though some are true -- the group has yet to respond to an offer from director Michel Gondry, who wanted to work with the quartet after seeing the video for "Spitting Blood" (directed by the band's friend, filmmaker Jamie Allan) -- reports that it sold demos to clamoring A&R reps for £50 ($81) a pop are the stuff of rock fables. (Several labels allegedly tried.)
Perhaps the grossest distortion has been the claim that the band is giving the music press the proverbial finger to construct a persona. "I don't know why people always point out what we didn't do rather than what we did," bassist Tom McClung says. "In not doing [interviews], we [got] to concentrate on [making music], and we made that one thing we did a lot better than the product of doing 15 interviews in our first six months."
In April, the band made a smattering of appearances at venues in Europe and the United States, selling out shows at two of Brooklyn's DIY venues, Glasslands and Shea Stadium, to berserk crowds. Though it shut out the press at these shows too, outlets like the New York Observer managed to review the band, noting the audience's ferocious appetite for new tracks.
Since then, LYF has morphed into the quartet's collective/fan club; members can, for £15 ($24), receive merch and lifelong discounted entry fees to WU LYF shows. The band has also pulled a publicity 180, offering interviews to Spin, MTV and Pitchfork, among others.
Now that the curtain has been pulled back on the enigmatic quartet, whether the group can maintain the attention of its heretofore salivating audience remains to be seen: Despite the anticipation leading up to "Go Tell Fire to the Mountain's" release, only 3,000 copies have been sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Unsurprisingly, Roberts and his bandmates aren't concerned with speculations: They just announced a 26-date fall tour with dates in the United States and Europe.