Young Guns are one of the bands benefiting from a UK music scene that's thriving right now, with recent record Bones reaching the top 20 of the UK's album chart. I caught up with frontman Gustav Wood during their UK tour with Enter Shikari last week.
First of all, how’s the tour with Enter Shikarigoing?
It’s been amazing. We did the European run with them and new we’re on the second leg in the UK. Without gushing we really click with them; we’ve become good mates and they’re a fantastic live band so it’s been an incredible tour for us so far.
We came off the back of a month and a half of doing really small, intimate headline shows so to tread on the bigger stages again is a breath of fresh air. We’re having a great time at the moment.
The club tour was quite a lot smaller than the shows we have been playing – we were going back to playing venues that we would’ve done two years ago – but that was the whole point. It was really exciting to get back and have that intimacy, that sweat and that energy. It’s something that as a band we’ve always really cared about. We’ve always felt that smaller shows were our preferred way to play so they were really good fun.
I have to say though once you get used to playing the bigger stages there are certain technical things like not having any space and all that kind of stuff that you don’t get in smaller venues. You’re afforded a lot more luxuries when you’re playing on larger stages. It was good fun and a bit liberating being able to get rid of all those and just focus on the energy of the show itself but at the same time you do get spoiled a bit on bigger stages. We respond well to big stages and big audiences too. We do enjoy doing both and I like the idea that no matter what happens we’ll always be a band that does all shows.
This run of shows is straight off the back of a European tour with Lower Than Atlantis. Any plans to sit down sometime soon?
I think the plan of action is just to go, go, go. It’s funny because sometimes you’re like “I want a couple of days off” but you have one or two days off and you realise that you don’t really know what to do with yourself anymore. It’s hard to switch off which is a good and a bad thing I suppose but every time we have time off we seem a bit lost. As far as I’m concerned, the busier we are the better.
Europe is a huge place and it’s hard to make a dent in it but it’s something that we really want to do so every time we’re not gigging in the UK we’re planning to be busy in Europe or wherever else will have us, really so hopefully sitting down isn’t on the menu this year.
We’re about a month and a half on from the release of second album Bones which debuted at number 19 in the UK album chart. Was that something that you were expecting or did it come completely out of the blue?
We were obviously chuffed to bits with that but it definitely wasn’t something we were expecting. We just missed the top 40 with our first record and that was released when nobody really knew who we were so there was a little part of us that was maybe thinking that we’d chart somewhere but as far as being in the top 20 is concerned, we didn’t dare presume that it’d happen and we’re just really pleased that it did. Apart from anything else it’s a great thing to be able to say about your band and the fact that we have a fanbase that can make a difference like that is pretty humbling. The fact that we were in there at all is pretty insane.
You ended up recording the album in Thailand with Dan Weller (SikTh). How did that come about?
We sat down to discuss where we were going to record, who we were going to record it with and all that stuff and we kind of knew that we wanted Dan again. He’s a really good friend of ours and a really talented guy and there was a collective feeling that we really could improve upon what we’d done the first time. We love the first record but we knew we could do better. It was very much the product of not having a lot of time and money. So we thought if we record with Dan again we don’t want to go in the same environment that we recorded the first record in.
We thought if we were going to record with Dan then we’d make it a bit easier and we came up with the idea of renting a place in
London while we were recording. When we factored the cost of that into everything else we realised that doing something as far-fetched as going to Thailand actually wasn’t that far-fetched because it was kind of all-inclusive. We managed to get a good deal and it was an incredible experience.
You mentioned earlier that you had a lot more time and space to write the album. Was it easier this time around?
We had a lot more time to write it but still only had eight weeks which perhaps is a long time but for me, I kind of grew up imagining that an album would take a year to write. I grew up reading about Metallica taking a year to do the Black album which isn’t the way that the universe works any more. I think the cliché of the “difficult second record” is very accurate because you have a lot of outside pressures. When you write your first album you have a lifetime of pre-written material and ideas and you’ve said a lot with it. When it comes to the second album you think “right, I’ve got to do it again, holy shit.” For the second album we wrote a lot but we wrote a lot that we didn’t think was very good, or rather a lot that would’ve been good enough for the first record but wasn’t good enough for the second. We were very, very determined to make sure that the second album was a significant improvement on the first one. So we kicked our own arses and wrote the whole thing late on, pretty quickly. We had a really painful month or two with lots of stress and then it kind of ended up just falling out towards the end. You always wonder how the hell I’m going to write an album when I’ve only written one chorus for the first song but two months later you’re standing at the other side and you’ve got the album. It’s a bizarre process. We put ourselves under so much pressure and we’re so critical of ourselves that all other pressure from outside sources – be they press or fanbase – pale in comparison. I think there should be a bit of pain involved because you are giving birth to something that’s going to last a long time.
UK rock seems to be in rude health right now...
There’s kind of a renaissance going on with UK rock music at the moment and it’s great to be a part of that. I think about 10 years ago the taste of the public started to change and we were so over-saturated in the late 90’s and early 00’s with really processed dance music – our charts were full of it. I think the average person has more tolerance for band music now. I’m sure bands like Coldplay have really helped to change that but it feels to me that people in our age group and younger are growing up in an environment where playing in bands is cool and possible. There are more bands than ever before and there are more good bands than ever before. I think UK music is in rude health and that’s pretty exciting. Of course that means that there’s more competition but in the end that’s good for everyone.
So who would you say is your favourite band from the UK right now?
They’re not really on our level but my favourite bands at the moment are bands like White Lies and The Joy Formidable. From our world I really love The Xcerts, I think they’re fantastic. Flood of Red are brilliant. We just did a European run with Lower Than Atlantis and I think they’re going to do really well.
Any UK festivals on the agenda this summer?
Previously we’ve done an awful lot of festivals but I think this year we’re being slightly more selective. We’ll be making some announcements in due course but we’ll be around over the summer.
Do you have any plans to head over to the USA any time soon?
We hope so. Things are kind of moving forwards in that respect with regard to that now which is really exciting. We just announced that we’re going back to Australia in May and then Japan for the first time so that’s going to be really exciting and we want to get over to the states. We’re trying to get a record deal going at the moment but we’ve got a lot more work to do in the UK and Europe let alone anywhere else. We’ll deal with the USA as and when but you kind of have to do it properly and we’re not going to do it just for the sake of it, we’ll do it at the right time.
I think some of the songs on the new record could work well with American audiences but who knows. There are so many factors but for now we’re just happy to continue with what we’re doing over here.
What’re you up to for the rest of 2012?
As you’ve said really we don’t have time to sit down. We’re going back to Europe soon, we’re going to be lining up a couple more singles and shooting videos for those just before we go to Australia and Japan. Then it’s festival season so hopefully we’ll be floating around doing shows until the end of summer and then we’ll be doing some more headline stuff I assume, so hopefully a busy year.
Brilliant. Anything to add?
If anyone’s reading this who has bought our record thank you very much for your support. We’ve all been amazed at how well the record been received and how many people have got on board and we’re very grateful, so thank you.
Bones (the album) is awesome - I highly recommend everyone check it out.
Good interview. I saw them at one of their 'small' shows (in their hometown) and it was great, really good energy. Although as you'd expect from a Student Union bar, the sound wasn't all that great - they sounded much better at Download festival last year. Still great fun though.