"Spontaneity was the spirit of the album" - hmv.com talks to Young Guns
Just over a year after the release of their third album Ones And Zeros, Young Guns are back with a brand new album named Echoes. We sat down with frontman Gustav Wood to find out all about how they made it...
How do writing and recording this album compare to making Ones and Zeros? What did you want to differently?
"As an experience it was the polar opposite to recording Ones and Zeros. That album was a really long drawn out process that stretched over nearly two year. We wrote the first song, 'I Want Out', in the beginning of 2013 when we had a break between tours in New York. By the time the album was released in the summer of 2015, that song had been recorded in different places four times from demo to final form. We demoed in New York, we demoed in London and Wales, we started tracking the album in San Francisco with Dan the Automator before abandoning the recording sessions and switching producers to Steve Osborne in Bath, before getting it mixed in Canada and then remixed in London."
Sounds like you need something simpler this time?
"The whole album was just a really laborious process and our first experience with a major label was the same. It feels now, on reflection, like they weren't quite sure what to do with us as a band and the album was delayed by six months in the end. This time we wrote the album in eight weeks, recorded it in just over a month and shot the campaign photos and the artwork ourselves. It feels smoother and we feel much more in control. That was the whole point this time, to create something and be spontaneous and not over-think things. Just to create in the moment and enjoy what we do again."
You recorded in New Jersey with David Bendeth, why did you decide on him and what did he give you as a producer?
"We'd spoken about working together on the last album but the schedules didn't line up. This time, we hadn't really decided on who to work with yet and we were made aware that he had a five week opening in his calendar due to a project he was due to start being pushed back. It felt kind of fated and we jumped at the chance. We wanted to work with him because we knew he would push us, and challenge us to be better than we'd been before. That was really important and something I really wanted for this album. He was not afraid to say that something we had done was not good enough or not genuine enough and although that's difficult to hear, I feel like sometimes that's how you reach beyond and get better performances out of yourself than you thought possible. I'm glad that he did that."
This is your first album without Ben Joliffe on drums, did that affect the writing process at all?
"To be honest, no. The skeletal drum ideas would always be put down by myself John (Taylor, guitars) or Fraser (Taylor, guitars) when we were writing the instrumental or vocal ideas in the first place so really that didn't change. We invited Chris when we got to the studio to do what he would do and express himself not as someone occupying someone else's role but to bring something new to the table. It was great to write and play music with someone new as it made everything feel fresh again."
How is your new drummer Chris settling in? Is he with you for the long haul?
"Right now we're just enjoying playing music together and not looking too far ahead. I will say that playing with him has been a revelation and really helped us to become a better newer version of the band we were before."
What was the song on the album that took the longest to get right?
"The whole process was really quick, with two songs more or less coming together in one day, 'Afterglow' and 'Mercury In Retrograde' in particular, but 'Afterglow' was a vocal idea I'd written maybe six months before so probably that one if we're talking from inception to finished song. I'd written it in a really unusual time signature and we just could not figure out how to translate it into a full-band piece of music from the synth and vocal embryonic little thing that I had written. Chris tracked the drums in 30 minutes before rushing out of the door to the airport. Spontaneity was the spirit of the album though and so that was actually kind of fun."
And which came together most quickly?
"Probably 'Mercury In Retrograde'. We had a song that the label loved but that none of us were that sure on and it was a real sticking point. Myself and John stayed over night in the studio after we wrapped up for the day about midnight, and rewrote the entire song including vocals and lyrics by the time everyone got back in the next afternoon."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Does it have a common theme?
"It does probably more so than anything I and we have written before. I'd come out of a six year relationship, we'd had a turbulent year with the saga of getting Ones And Zeros over the line, we parted ways with Ben and many more things like that. I found that I couldn't write anything other than songs trying to process the ideas of letting go of the past and how hard that can be, but how important it is to be able to find the strength to do so, and not live in moments that are gone. Writing the album was a way for me to face up to these things and put them to bed. It was important for me."
When did you settle on the title of Echoes? And why?
"It was one of the first songs written and it was a set of lyrics that I wrote that I felt summed up my ability (or lack thereof) to stop doing what I spoke about there, I was finding it really hard to let go of all the things that had run their course and was not letting myself get better or happier by dwelling on the past. It's very difficult to be honest with yourself, to accept things that you don't want to have to. It is for me anyway. When I looked at all the songs on the album I could see that thread running through them all and because this song spoke about it in a way I thought was real and honest I decided that I wanted us to name the album after it."
Were there any other titles in contention?
"Just one, Living in a Dream I So Easy."
How’s your live set coming together? You’ve got a lot of material to choose from now...
"It's a fun problem to have! We're starting to introduce new material into the set but when the album is out we'll really be able to get into it and start swapping older material out for new tracks. It's so exciting to be able to do that."