Whenyoung create the kind of soaring art-rock made to soundtrack dusky nights and crisp mornings. The compelling trio have crafted this unique sound from a distinct musical DNA, one which stitches together the story-telling tradition of their native Ireland with the insouciance of London, the city they now call their home.
2018 was a big one for the group, the year when the music industry began to take notice of their promising talent. No wonder, given that throughout the year they released a selection of stellar material, including well-received EP Given Up and singles like the rousing “Dreams” and anthem “Pretty Pure”. Alongside this steady stream of releases, the band also racked up touring miles playing support for the likes of Blossoms and Dream Wife. However, you’re sure to be hearing even more from whenyoung in 2019. Having kicked the year off with the release of wistful single “Never Let Go”, the band are poised to roam the country for a UK tour that will see them travel the length of the nation: from Bristol up to Glasgow.
As the band prepares for this tour commencing in February, we were lucky enough to sit down with the group to discuss their Irish roots, indie’s outsider ethos and the process of recording their forthcoming debut album.
What’s the story behind your formation as a band?
We grew up in a small city in Ireland and got to know each other as outsiders through our love of music. After a few years of doing our own thing, we all separately moved to London for a change and it’s there that we formed our band.
You hail from Ireland, how has that impacted your sound?
I suppose it has directly influenced our sound as such but the longer we’ve been away from our home the more appreciative we’ve become of it. Recently we’ve found ourselves going back through old songs we learnt growing up or would have heard from our parents. It definitely has some subconscious effect on our songwriting.
How would you describe your music to someone who’d never heard it before?
We are a band that write melodic and intense pop songs with a punk ethos and thought-provoking lyricism.
With electronic music becoming increasingly dominant in the industry, what do more “analogue” genres have to offer?
We try not to follow any trends in music, or any trends in general, as the trends inevitably die out only to be recycled in 20 years. What doesn’t die out is a good song. You can add all the beats, synths and digital effects to a song you want but melody is king and in our opinion without a melody and a meaning everything else is void. Electronic music has been around for 40 years and whether you’re Gary Numan or Grimes, the success is down to talent and graft rather than the medium you create through.
In a pop-culture obsessed, hyper-connected world, how does it feel to inhabit indie’s outsider, counter-cultural perspective?
I guess it’s all we’ve ever known, we’ve always admired the outsiders, it’s what we all first fell in love with artistically. I don’t think the demographic has changed, there will always be creators and imitators and the followers that go with them. Maybe in this hyper-connected world, the counter-culture is more important and relevant than ever before.
You’ve spoken of being Irish but living in the UK and how this brings a duality to your music. How is this duality embodied in your music and what does it bring to the table?
Our upbringing was an Irish one but having lived in the UK for a few years now it has affected us. It is mainly embodied through the lyrics and the subject matter of our songs. A lot of our songs are effectively immigrant songs in [a] way, dealing with being in a new place where you don’t know anyone and trying to assimilate and find your way. It has also given us more drive and a broader view of the possibilities as a band.
You’ve been playing support for Blossoms and are set to play a bill of headline shows in February. How do you think the transition to headlining will impact upon your gigging experience?
It’s great to do a run of big support shows like that because you learn so much every night from yourself and watching the headline act. The do’s and don’t’s and what works and doesn’t work. Seeing success drives us to improve our own work and try to push ourselves to do things we haven’t tried before.
More generally, what’s the best thing about performing in your opinion?
The best thing is the adrenaline rush you get from a receptive crowd. A good crowd transforms a gig and we feed off that.
You recently released the EP Given Up. Could you please talk more about this? As your first EP, what sort of impression did you want it to leave on your listeners?
With it being our first EP and such a short collection of songs we wanted to compress the idea of what we are into four songs. We included two singles “Heaven On Earth” and “Given Up” which are two upbeat pop songs and then a cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries who are a band from our home city and they always represented the idea to us that anything was achievable; if they could do it so could we and it was a tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan. The final track is “Sleeper.” This is a slower and more stripped back song of ours which shows a different side to our music which we haven’t had the chance to show before. The idea of the whole thing was for it to show listeners a taste of what’s to come.
When listening to the EP, I was most struck by the track “Heaven on Earth”. Would you care to talk about the song and it’s accompanying video?
This track is written about how your idea of hell is someone’s idea of heaven and vice versa and the stark contrasts in our society between rich and poor. We self-directed the video to the track with the idea of us being sucked into hell and playing out the seven deadly sins. We had a lot of fun doing that video.
We hear you have an album in the works, could you talk more about this?
Yes, we’ve just finished recording and are currently working on mixing the album. We are really excited to share it as we’re proud of it as a true representation of us as a band. It has the bangers and the ballads, the happy and the sad songs. We [released] the first single “Never Let Go” in January.
What are your goals for 2019?
Our main goal and moment of absolute dream realisation will be the release of our debut album. What we want is to grow as a group and for our audience to grow with us. We want to play bigger shows and expand our horizons to become a global band. We’re looking forward to SXSW and our first trip to the USA and also crossing all our fingers for a Glastonbury slot!
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
photography. Hana Knizova
fashion. Kay Korsh
hair. Eiji Sato @ The London Style Agency
make up. Elaine Lynskey using MAC Cosmetics
fashion assistant. Olga Lungu
location. Victoria Johnston + Mark Brown @ Braine Hownd Films
words. Megan Wallace