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Interview: Young Guns


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More than two years after the release of Bones in 2012, Young Guns are back, poised to release their third album, Ones and Zeros, on the 8th June this year.

Gustav Wood

The past eighteen months have been far from quiet. Since the release of Bones, the Buckinghamshire quintet have played Wembley Arena twice, once opening for Bullet For My Valentine in December 2013, and again supporting Bring Me The Horizon at the end of last year.

In February 2014, the band signed a deal with major UK record label Virgin EMI, as well as a US deal with Wind-Up Records, after experiencing success in the States. Meanwhile, of course, they busy were writing Ones and Zeros.

“This record is undoubtedly, perhaps in some respects, our most accessible record to date,” says frontman Gustav Wood.

“But I think that’s primarily because the quality of the songwriting is better.”

Singles ‘I Want Out’ and ‘Speaking In Tongues’ certainly confirm that Young Guns have stepped up their game, with both songs featuring infectious hooks and soaring choruses, making for a more refined and confident sound.

The more prominent electronic elements of these tracks, however, don’t represent Young Guns moving in a completely different direction.

“I think actually the production and some of the music on [Ones and Zeros] is some of the heaviest we’ve ever had. We just wanted to write stuff that was stimulating to us and was exciting and interesting."

“It’s not a case of abandoning the place you came from as a band or anything like that, it’s just about evolving and trying to remain interested in what you do, and I think sometimes that means challenging yourself to kind of be a newer, better version of what you were before.”

Indeed, Young Guns had begun challenging themselves immediately from the writing process for Ones and Zeros, which was considerably more “streamlined” than it had been for their previous releases.

“Back in the day we would just stand in a room and jam, and that was a lot of fun at the time, but five opinions, shouting over each other – it tends to get quite hard to get anything done. This record was written in a more organized manner, around a computer, people coming in and doing their parts and giving their input – a much more structured affair.”

This process was far more stimulating for Young Guns, and led them to be more innovative in their writing.

“We were able to be a little more creative and push the boundaries of what we were writing and what we were doing, because we weren’t stuck with just five guys standing in a room with instruments going ‘all right, lets write something!’ It was a much more exciting way of doing things.”

Evidently, with Ones and Zeros, Young Guns were keen to develop their sound and test their own abilities - they wanted to move to the next stage of the band. 

“We were operating on a higher level than we had done before, and we were being more adventurous than we had done in the past.”

With this newfound spirit of adventure came the idea of working with someone different. One name that arose in discussions of the subject was Dan the Automator, primarily a hip-hop producer. “He was a part of Gorillaz; he’s very much a part of that world, very beat orientated. And a lot of our music on this new album is very much focused on the rhythm section, and that was something we really liked the idea of.”

“It was a great experience,” continues Wood, but ultimately it wasn’t quite what Young Guns were looking for. The band flew home from San Francisco and instead chose to work with producer Steve Osbourne.

One of Young Guns’ major strengths, is, arguably, Wood's lyrics, which are much admired by fans.

“I consider myself lucky in that I’m in a band where people come up to me and are very complimentary and very excited and passionate about the lyrics that I write, and I still don’t understand that. Humbling, but I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing!”

While there is no particular lyrical theme on Ones and Zeros, something that Wood did want to achieve on the record was to write in a less “confessional” manner than he had done on previous releases.

“It was really important to me that I didn’t have to give so much of myself away that I felt that I wouldn’t have much left for myself, and I did begin to feel a little bit like that over the past four years.

Being very open, and very personal, it’s important in music because all you’re trying to do is communicate, but at the same time I don’t necessarily want to give every part of myself away, and I felt that I wanted to write lyrics that were a little more open to interpretation, and that people could perhaps project themselves onto a little bit, and take something of their own away from it, as opposed to finding out everything about myself. It wasn’t that I wanted to be more vague, I just wanted to be a little less open-heart surgery about it – be a little more universal in the things that I said.”

Having recently spent much time touring 2012’s Bones the US, Young Guns’ UK headline tour, which begins in Oxford at the end of this month, will be their first extensive appearance back in the UK in quite a while.

Yet despite signing a deal with a major record label in the UK, and their successes in the US, Young Guns will be keeping their headline tour small and intimate, returning to the venues in which they first started out.

"It feels really nicely cyclical to come back with a major label deal and all this stuff that we've been lucky enough to do and that's happened for us."

For Young Guns, this tour is less about gaining exposure and more about creating a memorable experience for the fans who have watched the band grow. 

“We wanted the first tour we do to be about connecting with that core audience that we are lucky enough to have had over the past couple of years, and really be face to face with them, so it’s going to be really intimate, and I think it’s going to be a really special time.

“It’s the start of, hopefully, a great couple of years for us. I’m really excited about what the future holds, and to be starting off with the people that have been there for probably a long time is going to be really cool. I can’t wait to get out there and sweat with everyone and have it be hectic and chaotic again."

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