Imagine if the upbeat flit of Jethro Tull, the sassy vintage rock n’ roll of Blues Pill and the stark punchiness of the Germanic powerhouse Kadavar combined to create something truly special. Imagine if that resulting amalgamation were fronted by a singer of phenomenal quality, resonating an aura that captures you like a fly in a spider’s web and backed by musicians of the highest order in both ability and tone. Then open your eyes and see that such a thing exists. May I present to you, Wucan.
It was a few years ago that they first seduced me. Lost in the ethers of a Youtube binge, I found myself watching this spellbinding blonde croon and roar, in equal, captivating quantities, through an acoustic rendition of Kadavar’s Living In Your Head. The woman in question is Francis Tobolsky, frontwoman of German retro-tinged rockers Wucan. It was - prepare for a God awful cliché here - love at first chord…sorry.
“I’m not actually sure why I made that video,” she says reflectively. “I never even hoped for anybody to watch it, not to mention Kadavar themselves. But it went extremely successful among the stoner scene and helped me a lot taking my own career forwards. I think Wucan and I would not be where we are now without the video of a little girl in Hot Pants doing a Kadavar Cover.
“I remember going to a Pentagram and Kadavar concert in 2012 and it changed my life! Two days later I saw Kadavar doing just the same acoustic version of the Song on a German TV show. I played along and sang along, wrote down the chords and lyrics - of course there were none given online - and I practised for myself. I loved the original version too, but the acoustic song caught me much more. You know: a very good rock song should work out both on electric guitar and acoustic guitar and Kadavar proved they are damn good song writers.”
Born in East Germany, Francis would later move to Dresden to study, with a lingering hope to meet like-minded musicians there too. She did this, somewhat pleasingly, the old school way: With an ad in a local newspaper.
“I went to study in Dresden to start over new, I did not see any chance to meet musicians who were interested in Blues Rock and 70s Hard Rock back home. Hit or miss, I made up an advertisement in the local students' newspaper with the headline ' ’Blues Brothers wanted’, where I said I was looking for someone being into Rory Gallagher and all that stuff. The last line was ‘Oh, and By the way: I am a girl'.”
Francis would soon find her blues brothers in co-guitarist Tim, bassist Patrik and drummer Marc accompanying her multi-tasking skills on vocals, guitar and flute.
“Wucan started as a Blues Band, but slowly but surely developed to a Kraut fuelled, progressive - and I really mean progressive in the way it was used in the 70s - folky rock band."
Gaining notoriety however, proved difficult for the quartet, with some many retro-rockers about, is there too much competition, is the movement suffocating itself because of this?
“At first I was surprised I wasn't the only one in the world listening and reproducing the 'good old music', now it more or less feels like everybody's jumping on the train to get their piece of the pie and this makes it really hard to make a lasting impression, because this movement became so overwhelming, in my opinion. There a lots of great bands out there and the festival scene does a great job in supporting the 70s revival rock thing. But I can't decide whether I think this whole thing becoming bigger and bigger is good or not. We will see what time will bring.”
Their EP opens with Franis Vikrama, a song which showboats the duality of their ‘Tull inspired prog and their 70s blues rock vigour, it’s extremely alluring. Dopetrotter expresses some of this band’s other colours; a darker grey, doom/stoner atmosphere coats this track with a driving, sassy rhythm. But the song’s palette is brightened with Tobolsky’s vibrant vocals and silk-smooth, soulful blues playing from Tim’s guitar work. Think Kyuss covering La Grange with Stevie Nicks on vocals. Big Red Bun is a gorgeous acoustic led track which has so much feel it almost hurts. But the song builds beautifully, progressing into a more expanding piece which leads the listener down its fragrant path. Some fantastic percussive work then combines with a sprinkling of flute before the crescendo, a bouncy folk bounce and one final, moving chorus, leaps out at you. This is a wonderful record that keeps you guessing and just charms you into falling in love with it.
“The boys and me just found our way to play music and this is where we got with it, I guess,” Francis humbly continues. “I have had some years of classical flute lessons but you can’t really hear it in my playing. If my flute teacher heard the stuff I play he would run away. We wanted to experiment a bit with the band. The boys thought the flute was cool and so we kept on including the flute to our set up.”
The band already have plenty to be proud of, including some high profile fans: “Having met Michael Gerlach of Eloy, our Producer for Vikarma was one of the greatest moments for us. Having him and Frank Bornemann (Eloy Headmaster) as Wucan fans is quite honouring.
“Being able to play the Hammer of Doom festival in Würzburg, was also one great day for us. This event brought us the appreciation of Saint Vitus - I mean, what more can you ask for than having one of the biggest and most influential Bands in Heavy Metal to like your music? Remembering this is quite emotional. Wow! I can't believe this happened!”
The band is moving forward at an impressive pace, and they deserve everything positive that comes their way. Check out their EP and see just why we like them so much.
Words: Phil Weller