Interview: Young Guns

Young Guns @ Horseshoe, 11-09-12

I sat down with 3/5 members of Young Guns earlier this month when the band made their Canadian debut at the Horseshoe Tavern. Gustav Wood (vocals) and brothers John and Fraser Taylor (both on guitar) were looking forward to their first show in Canada and hopefully seeing some sites for the first time on their day off the next day. When we chatted, they hoped to go to Niagara Falls and then see a Blue Jays game.

If you’re unfamiliar with UK’s Young Guns, they describe their sound as “catchy rock,” but Gus continues, “We don’t concern ourselves with any sub-genre. We just play rock music. We just write big rock songs and that seems to be enough for us to do our own thing.”

The band didn’t officially start until 2008, though Gus and Fraser had been “hanging out writing music together” since 2003. Gus emphasizes that the two “didn’t even have a full lineup for a long time,” so they weren’t really a band then.

As far as the evolution of their sound goes, Gus says, “Since this band begun, we stayed within the realms of just writing melodic rock. We probably had a slightly heavier touch to us back in the day.”

John continues, “It was a little darker, I guess. A little less direct. It was a lot of… I wouldn’t call it filler, but there was a lot of jamming sections.”

Gus then says, “I think you’re always growing as a songwriter and learning just what doesn’t need to be there. I think the art of good songwriting is simplicity. It’s about being brave enough to take away rather than add.”

While their sound probably hasn’t changed too much, their songwriting process has. Gus says, “It used to just be us in a room jamming, just literally 5 of us. It’s a little bit less like that now.”

“That got stressful quickly,” John continues. “There were 5 people trying to stir the pot, as it were. But now we kind of either write a basic idea by ourselves and bring that idea to the practice space or just write everything on the computer and all of us will put our input at certain times.”

Gus then says, “It’s a little big fragmented, isn’t it now? It’s actually nice because people get to express themselves on their own and bring their own to the table. It’s cool. It’s nice and everyone has a say in what the final song will end up being.”

The band recorded their sophomore full-length Bones in Thailand at Karma Sound Studios. Gus calls it “the best place on Earth” and describes, “It’s basically a little coastal village and it’s bliss. The studio is modelled on Abbey Road, which is a beautiful world-class studio. You live there, so it has all these great bedrooms. We had our own rooms. It was a very modern building, very sleek, open planned dinner room, kitchen, gym, swimming pool and it’s just the most… we were kind of like ‘what the fuck are we doing here?’ It’s like paradise for 5 weeks. I think when you’re in such a beautiful place, it makes, in essence, what is quite a stressful experience, it makes it a lot easier.”

Fraser agrees, “Yeah, like if you get stressed, the beach was a 2-minute walk. You walk down the beach and you feel all right. It’s nice.”

“It was a charmed experience,” says Gus. “And the whole idea about going to Thailand is that we could remove ourselves from everything we were familiar with and comfortable with. With the record we wanted to, not reinvent ourselves but step outside of ourselves and challenge ourselves to be a better band and do something different from the first record. So going somewhere totally new seemed like a good idea.”

Bones will be released in Canada this fall, but the album was released earlier this year in the UK and earlier this month in the US.

Although Canada hasn’t really been exposed to Young Guns, the band has toured quite a bit since their debut album in 2010, All Our Kings Are Dead. Fraser cites Japan as a touring highlight and Gus says playing in Thailand was just as special as recording there.

“We’ve been lucky. We’ve done loads of this stuff. We’ve been very fortunate,” Gus then says.

For Young Guns, it’s their live show that they pride themselves on. Gus says, “We are very much a live band. We’re defined by that. We’re not a kind of like a studio band that will then take their songs and play them live. We’re a band that exists and lives off playing live. It’s the most important aspect. And I just like it’s not about replicating the CD. It’s about having an energy and an atmosphere at a show. I think that’s much more important than being perfect. We just try to make sure that people leave having had a great time and people remember us. We’re trying to get people singing, trying to get people moving, trying to get people to sweat a little bit and give them a night that they won’t forget the next morning.”

After emphasizing the importance of live shows for their music, the band indicates that their future will have lots more touring. After leaving Toronto, the band joined Seether on tour in Kansas City and they are currently wrapping up this tour. After this, the band goes straight into a headline tour in the UK and Europe that takes them into the end of November, which John says is “the biggest thing [they’ve] done over there.”

When the band gets back from that tour, they still have more touring ahead, but there was talk about getting some time off in December to start writing the third record. However, they band also discussed coming back to North America around Christmas. Either way, the band is looking at touring well into next year and is already filling in their schedule with summer 2013 dates.

When I ask the band about a drunken story, Fraser suggests a story involving giving their bassist Simon Mitchell vodka instead of water. I’m instantly intrigued and Gus then tells the story.

“Back when things first started happening in the UK, we were touring in a van and we’d sleep in the van as well. It was a very small environment. We’d have like 7 or 8 of us because it was us and our crew. We were finishing off a tour with a band called Fightstar. I think it was in Belfast and we went out and celebrated. It was really cold. I think it was December. Ice cold. And we were sleeping in a van and the only way to cope was to get extremely drunk. And we did that and we came back to sleep in the van. We climbed back into the van, kind of bleary eyed and Simon was like, ‘I just need some water. I feel really ill. Can you help me? Guys, do you have any water back there?’ And we were in the backseat, ‘Yeah, sure dude.’ We grabbed a big bottle of vodka and filled a plastic water bottle with it and I’ve never seen anyone take as big a drink of water as he did.”

John interrupts, “He was gulping it until he realized. He took like 3 massive swigs before he realized.”

Gus continues, “And he just stopped and he put the thing down and was like, ‘WHY?!’ [Gus’ animated impression was added for effect] and he just collapsed out the front seat out of the front van and was just sick everywhere. And in between throwing up you could just hear him gasping for air, ‘Why?!’ So that was kind of funny.”

Although this seems like a good prank, Gus says it was just in the moment because they were all drunk. John says that generally the band is careful not to prank each other, however they say that drummer Ben Jolliffe is probably the joker of the group, along with Simon.

As far as the band’s shot of choice, Gus starts off by saying it’s Jagerbombs, but Fraser prefers Sambuca. Gus then changes his mind and says that they’ve been doing a lot of tequila. After their show, only three of the members took shots. Gus went with tequila, Fraser went with Sambuca and Ben got a surprise shot that was a terrible mixture of different liquors, which was suggested by Fraser as a joke. Although he thought it was gross, Ben didn’t seem to mind too much.

It was a pleasure speaking with the band and seeing their Canadian debut at the Horseshoe. To keep up with their adventures, you can find Young Guns all their social networking sites as YoungGunsUK. Look out for Young Guns’ Canadian release of Bones and the band assured me that based on their upcoming touring discussions, they’ll be back soon.


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