Stopping off as part of the Kerrang! Tour, Young Guns arrive in Newcastle today, and George manages to whisk vocalist Gustav Wood off to a very confined space for a chat. Steady girls… they talk dial-a-supports, their as-yet-untitled new album due out later this year, and a whole heap of bits and bobs! Let’s get it rolling…
George: Can you say your name, and what you do in the band?
Gus: My name is Gustav Wood, it’s easier, everyone calls me Gus, because most English people are like what the fuck kind of name’s Gustav, and I’m the singer in Young Guns.
George: How’s the tour been so far?
Gus: It has been amazing. I mean, it’s such a great tour for us to be on, there are all the kind of silly business reasons y’know, like you get a lot of exposure in the press, and obviously they’re big shows, so all those kinda things are great, but the real thing is the chance to get out and play to so many new people every night, y’know? People who we perhaps haven’t played to before, that’s my favourite part of it, definitely, and all the bands are lovely and everyone’s having a great time, so this is definitely the best tour we’ve ever been on, for sure.
George: Which band have you gotten on with most?
Gus: That’s a tough one, ’cause in all honesty, everyone gets along really well. We already knew The Blackout, so it was good fun catching up with them and having a laugh, so that’s been really good fun hanging with them, but we’ve also ended up getting quite close with the My Passion lot. ‘Cause we’re sharing dressing rooms quite a lot, and obviously we’re rotating first and second every day, we spend quite a lot of time with them, and we end up being pretty close to them, and they are like the sweetest bunch of boys, they’re really really lovely, and and they’re actually on a really similar wavelength to us, in terms of their opinions about things, so we get on really well with them, and the All Time Low boys are actually really fucking safe, which you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily expect from a successful band from the States, but they were really down to earth, and they’re really decent guys. We’ve all gone out drinking a couple of nights and it’s been really good fun, so I wouldn’t like to pick, ’cause they’re all really awesome guys.
George: Have you had any decent parties? Do you have any good stories from tour?
Gus: We had on the first night, I think we got a little too excited on the first night in Dublin, and we all went out, and the venue had a club night downstairs, that was like an R’n’B night or something like that, something really inappropriate, and we all went down there and ended up getting way too drunk, and I think us in particular as a band ended up making quite a fool out of ourselves, but it was alright, everyone was very sweet about it. There was one point Simon was so drunk, he just ran upto the cloakroom and dived through the hole. It’s like one of those half doors, so like there’s the bottom half, and he dived at this woman, and landed on her cashbox, money flying everywhere, but it’s just been a really good tour actually, everyone’s gotten on well, like I said, and there’s been lots of funny little scenarios and situations that we’ve been involved in. It’s also been a tour for us losing loads of shit as well. I’ve lost like two pairs of shoes, a jacket, a couple of hoodies, I’ve ripped three pairs of jeans, I’ve lost countless things, so it’s been a pain in the arse.
George: The other bands have a distinct fanbase that you would associate with them, the 14-year-old girl variety, have you been received well in relation?
Gus: I think so, one thing about our band is that I don’t think there is, y’know we’re not a genre band, we’re not like, a pop-punk band, we’re not a screamo band, we’re not any particular sub-style of rock or metal, we’re just a rock band, I think, personally. In the past, or when we were starting out, it was tough, because we never fitted on bills, so y’know, we couldn’t tour with anyone that sounded like us, because we couldn’t find anyone that did, but I think that the beauty of that is, hopefully, that we have the ability to appeal to a wider group of people. I like to think that we can take, or we can get fans from those different kind of sub-genres of music, y’know? We have heavier parts, so the people that like heavy music can get into us, but I also think that we’re fundamentally like a melodic band, so perhaps people into the lighter, poppier sound of things can get involved as well. So, I think we’ve been going down really well, much better than I could of hoped for – hopefully, that’s because we can kind of include everyone!
George: Is it slightly frustrating being limited to the same few songs in your live set? It seems like all you can play is the (Mirrors) EP, Winter Kiss, and a couple of others…
Gus: We really didn’t expect for things to happen as quickly, and go as far as they have done, and that’s like a blessing, it’s amazing, but like you say, all of this has basically happened off the back of four songs, like the past, we’ve had an amazing year, but it has fundamentally been like four songs, which is like an incredible thing, but it has left us in a really interesting position, because we have all this attention and all these people are listening, but there’s relatively little that up until now, we could do. So, yeah, we’ve played the same, kind of variations of the same set for ten months or something now, like that, but touring bands do that for two or three years, so it’s not frustrating in that respect, and it means you can focus more on having a good show, and stuff you know, which is nice, but we’re gonna have an album out soon, so there’ll be plenty more stuff flying around soon enough, I would have thought.
George: What is your favourite song to play live?
Gus: It changes.
George: I found when I listen to the songs, my favourite changes day by day…
Gus: Yeah! That’s cool, thank you, I’m glad that’s the case, ’cause whilst they all sound like us, I’d like to think that within that kind of sound, we can do different things. We all like a lot of different types of music and we don’t want to be limited to any one thing, like Winter Kiss for example, is a little darker and a little more grand than the other EP stuff, so it’s hard to say to be honest with you, I do enjoy Winter Kiss live, but I would say probably, There Will Be Rain for me.
George: You don’t realise ’til you listen to that song more that it’s a faster, heavier song.
Gus: Yeah! Well, what we try and do, we all listen to metal and shit like that, we’re all metalheads really, but we love the idea of a well written, catchy song, there’s a real art to the three-and-a-half minute pop song, there’s a real skill to that, so what we try and busy ourselves with, is kind of burying riffs and heavier parts in catchy songs, but not so it’s like, “Woah, check it out, they’re screaming and having a breakdown here and then a chorus there”, we’re a little more subtle than that, we’d like to think that if you actually listen to our songs, there are big riffs and heavy things in there, but they’re quite subtly kinda done, so hopefully that’s why it took you a while to realise that there’s big riffs and shit in There Will Be Rain. But, yeah, that’s my favourite live song at the moment, just ’cause we can do fun stuff with the crowd.
George: Do you feel Kerrang! has been quite a main reason that you are where you are? You’ve had quite a lot of exposure through them…
Gus: Well, they’ve certainly been really good to us, I mean there’s no question about that, I think that it’s tough because you spend your whole life in a band and you’re wanting press to talk about you, and be written about. Ten months ago, Kerrang! had never said anything about us, until our article in Introducing… actually it was about eleven months now. But you get that press, and while you realise it’s not amazing, it’s still like, a switch, you’re not suddenly like a famous successful band rolling in money or whatever, you’re the same bunch of dudes, playing to whoever will come and see you. Whilst it helps having press, it’s certainly not a be all and end all, we’re still skint, we’re still kind of a small band that hardly anyone knows about trying to get out there.
George: In Case Of Fire, for example, were in the same position last year.
Gus: And they get loads of Kerrang! coverage, you know?
George: And they still play to about thirty people a night.
Gus: Precisely, yeah! Press is great, it’s super important, and doing interviews with like you guys is really amazing, it’s really exciting, but, at the end of the day, like if you can’t cut it, or if you’re just not in the right place at the right time, it doesn’t matter. So, the Kerrang! press has helped, and the Rock Sound press, and all the other press, has really really helped us out, but fundamentally, you’ve still gotta get out there and play, whether it is to two people or two thousand, and we are still a small band, but we’ve just had some really good feedback and some good tours and stuff. So it has definitely helped, and I’m sure it is a big part of why we are where we are, but I’d like to think it’s also because we work really hard.
George: You do a bit of modelling, it seems now for Kerrang!…
Gus: [sighs and laughs]
George: The whole t-shirt thing with Karen from Kill Casino… What’s that about?
Gus: It’s quite simply, it’s nothing kinda covert, they simply asked if I would do that for them, it was like a favour, and you’re not gonna say no, y’know? Course I will, I mean apart from kind of the fact that they’re kind of a press group, and they cover rock music and we are a rock band, all the people that I know at Kerrang! are really nice people, and I’d like to believe that people who help you out, you should help them out as well, and they asked me to do it, and I said “Yeah, sure”. I regret it now, because people must be sick of seeing my mug in Kerrang! [laughs]
George: You’ve supported so many bands in the last year, which did you enjoy most?
Gus: Well, that’s a political one, they have all been wicked for all different reasons, it sounds like bullshit but it’s true. You know, I love doing the bigger shows, and to that end, supporting Lostprophets was probably one of the best things that I will ever do. No matter how far this band goes, that’s something I will always remember, the special thing for us. That was the kind of moment where we were like “Wow, there’s something going on”. We played four shows with them, In Wolverhampton one of the shows was, and I would say that was the best night of my life, that was just, we had a really good response, the crowd was incredible, it was a beautiful venue, and the Lostprophets guys were really good, they treated us well. So I guess probably supporting them, but that isn’t a slight to all the other bands we have supported or toured with, because it’s very hard not to find a tour enjoyable, so they were all incredible.
George: People are starting to call you dial-a-supports now, for supporting loads of bands, what are your thoughts on that?
Gus: I think it’s an interesting, and inevitable part of getting a small amount of success, and it really is a small amount. Being in a band is a funny thing, because you spend so many years trying and trying and trying and seeing other bands that you don’t necessarily think deserve it get somewhere, and that’s because being in a band is fundamentally quite a competitive and kind of an arrogant thing to do. Everyone in a band has an opinion on other bands, and they are usually negative, because a lot of people in bands, are really bitchy. A lot of people involved in music in some way are quite, y’know it’s very opinion based, so the bigger our profile has gotten, the more shit we’ve gotten, but that’s just inevitable, man. I mean, we’ve supported a fair few bands but we haven’t supported that many, I think since last year, since when we released In The Night, which was in like, February, so that’s nearly a year ago now, we’ve supported Aiden, Taking Back Sunday, Lostprophets, and…who else?
George: Deaf Havana.
Gus: Well, that’s like our friends, and we were playing with them two years ago before nobody knew our name, we were playing with them then and we’re still doing that now, we’ll probably do it again. We’ve only really supported three or four big bands…
Gus: Oh yeah, Fightstar. So four bands, you know? I don’t really see how that’s a dial-a-support, it’s just that when people start to see your name around.
George: We asked We Are The Ocean this the other day, and they didn’t get it either. They think people start to call you dial-a-supports once you’ve supported as little as two bands, one after the other.
Gus: Yeah, it’s an inevitable part of being in the music industry. People are thick, or people are very opinionated, we’ve had people calling us sell-outs. What the fuck do you mean selling out? What are we selling out from? We’re not like Minor Threat, we’re just a fucking catchy rock band, we’re not compromising any morals or anything, we’re just getting a bit of attention, it doesn’t make you a sell-out, it doesn’t make you a dial-a-support. At the end of the day man, whoever’s gonna call us a dial-a-support, if they’re in a band, and they get asked to support, say, Lostprophets, and they say yes, and then Fightstar go, “Yo, wanna come out on tour?” they’re not gonna go “I dunno, man, I don’t wanna be seen as a dial-a-support.”, they’re gonna go, “Fuck yeah! They’re gonna be great shows, why would I not do that?” So people are entitled to their own opinion and I understand that, but it is a very short-sighted thing to say, because it’s just stupid. Stupid thing to say. ‘Course we’re gonna do the supports, this is what we want to do with our life, and any opportunity we have to help that, and to progress, we’re gonna take it, which is what every band would do. As long as we’re not fucking doing like, the McDonald’s tour you know, [laughs] we’re hardly clubbing seals, we’re just trying to play shows.
George: You’ve come a long way in such a short space of time, within the past year, did you think you’d get this far?
Gus: I didn’t, I didn’t, if other people are surprised at how things have been going for us, then they have no idea how surprised as we are. It’s tough, because we’re a really dedicated bunch of guys, and we are really determined, and we work really fucking hard. We do what every other band does, and we chucked in everything, I’ve sold almost everything that I could sell, and all the other stuff I’ve just stored at friends houses, or peoples basements or whatever, and slept on couches for the past year. Now I’m staying at Ben’s mums house. I am surprised by it, but at the same time, it’s happened, at least in part, because we’ve dedicated our entire lives to doing it. I think honestly, I think people, like magazines and whoever, I think they can see, I hope they can see, how hard we work. It’s quite an honest, and small kinda DIY operation. There’s just us and a band, and a couple of crew around us who we employ to help us out, like our tour manager who’s one of our best friends. Our managers are very close friends of ours, and past that there’s no shadowy record label throwing money at us, it’s a very small, very honest operation with a few people who care a lot, working hard, and I think a lot of people can relate to that, and can respect that. That’s part of the reason we’ve had such a good year. So, I am surprised, I’m definitely surprised, but I’m fucking glad, this is a dream come true. Even if it stops now, we’ve already done something that I’m really proud of and I’m happy to do. So yeah, I’m surprised, hopefully it’s gonna continue. I fucking hope so. [laughs]
George: Like you said before, you don’t have a specific genre really, it’s a very broad rock sound; which bands do you take your influences from, musically?
Gus: Well, we take influences from a lot of bands in terms of ideas and I like to think that the music we write, doesn’t sound like a small English rock band, you know? Not that we don’t sound English, but we don’t sound like what we are, a bunch of dudes that nobody knows, writing songs. We have an ambition I think, to our sound. So in that sense, I respect bands like Lostprophets or 30 Seconds To Mars, all the kind of bands that create quite grand music, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say we take an actual sonic influence from them. We listen to heavy stuff like Architects. I love stuff like Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan, I grew up listening to Fear Factory and stuff like that, I’m a big metal fan. But we also listen to a lot of pop music as well, as I said, I think there’s an art to writing a good song, and a good, well written song will transcend genres. I think a well written metal song is just as great to listen to, and I suppose, to write, than a well written pop song. So, as far as musical influences go, we have a wide range, but I wouldn’t say we have one or two bands that we try and emulate, ’cause that isn’t the case. We get a lot of Thrice comparisons, and I can’t understand that. They’re a band we love, and he’s (vocalist Dustin Kenshrue) probably one of the singers I grew up taking influences from in that respect, but we certainly don’t set out to try and sound like anybody, things just happen.
Gus: Well, we’ve kinda finished it. Finished writing, I should say, pretty much. We’re going into the studio, Kerrang! Tour finishes on the 6th, we’ve got a day off on the 7th, and then on the 8th we have a show at the Garage with You Me At Six in London, then that night, we’re taking our gear to the studio, then we’ll begin the process of recording our album. So, the album will be out by the beginning of summer, and there’ll probably be a single ahead of that, but it’s kinda done.
George: Do you have a name for it?
Gus: Yeah, but it’s too early for that. I’m not allowed to say things like that just yet.
George: Speaking of new albums, what’s your favourite recent new album?
Gus: That’s a good question, well, there’s been some really great records this year. I listened to the new Flood Of Red album an awful lot when it came out, I really like that album, fantastic band. The last Biffy Clyro record was amazing. Hollow Crown by Architects was just unbelievable. The last Your Demise record was wicked as well. What else have I listened to a lot this year? I’d say they’re all the main ones I’ve listened to, in the past couple of months. Beggars by Thrice was a good one, as well.
George: It grows on you.
Gus: Yeah, it’s not terribly instant, but I think they have like I was saying earlier, I think they’ve really found out their identity as musicians and I think that really comes across in the music they write. They just write really solid, well-written songs, and there’s a real elegance and simplicity to them as well. They’re really creative, but it’s deceptively simple, and Beggars is a kind of combination of that, I think. Short songs, with bits of really great ideas between them, but it’s catchy and really accessible.
George: What’s in store for Young Guns in the near future? Apparently it’s either you or Anberlin on the Madina Lake tour?
Gus: I heard that on Punktastic, yeah. I find it very funny. That’s kinda what I’m talking about when I say the old addage, opinions, everyone’s got them, and they do. All message boards around the world. With regards to that tour, we’ve got some tours coming up this year that we’re not allowed to announce yet, and I read that thing, and it’s news to me. I’d love to go on tour with Madina Lake, and Anberlin. We’re doing the album after the tour, and then we’re gonna be touring hopefully for the rest of the year. Get out to Europe, we’ve just got confirmed for Groezrock, which I’m pretty stoked about. So, just wait and see, there are certain things I’m not allowed to say. So, our plans for the rest of the year after the Kerrang! Tour, we’re going in to the studio to record our album, and in the meantime you can download Winter Kiss which is a free single, then after we finish recording the album, one of the things we’re gonna be doing is a headlining tour, we’re gonna be announcing that on Friday. It’s not a huge tour, the idea is that we do a relatively short tour to begin the ball rolling of the album. Dates are gonna be released on Friday, around the middle of April.
George: Here’s another one you’re probably not allowed to say, are you guys going to make a re-appearance at Slam Dunk again this year?
Gus: I hope so! But we haven’t, it’s not like, we definitely are but I can’t tell you. It’s great fun, Slam Dunk. It’s a great festival and it’s always full of good bands. That was literally one of my favourite shows that we’ve done in a long time, I didn’t think there was gonna be anyone there, and the room was full, and we just had a really great day, with all the other bands there. I really would love to play Slam Dunk again, but I’d be lying if I told you that I knew we were.
George: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Gus: We’ve got some friends in some great bands; Deaf Havana, The Casino Brawl, Outcry Collective, fantastic band. But I think in general, just the UK music scene is looking really good at the moment, there’s loads of great small bands out there, and the best way to find them, is just to get on things like our MySpace page, and go through our friends list, and their friends list, and so on and so forth, there’s loads of good bands, there’s loads of great Scottish bands, great Welsh bands, Save Your Breath, pop-punk band from Wales. They’re really really cool, I’d like to be able to play some shows with them. There’s a shitload of good bands around all the time.
George: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Gus: I’d just like to say if anybody hasn’t already, I’d appreciate it if people would download our single, Winter Kiss. It’s free, obviously, and it’s on our MySpace. The idea behind that was to give it away for free, because we’d had such a great year, and you’re never going to make any money off a single or anything, but it was more important to say thank you in some way to the cool people who have gotten on board and helped us out. So, if you haven’t already, please go check it out. Even if you don’t like it it’s free, you haven’t lost anything. Check it out, come down to a show, if you haven’t already, hopefully you’ll see what people have been talking about. Unless it’s negative, in which case, don’t. [laughs]
George: It’s been played on Kerrang! radio so much.
Gus: Yeah! The response that song’s had has been amazing man, we didn’t expect it at all. When we were recording the song, we didn’t really know if people were gonna kind of, I think people would be surprised, ’cause we thought it was quite a departure from the EP. We’ve had people go, “You’ve sold out, you’ve gone all commercial”. What are you talking about? But yeah, we’ve had some great receptions, Jo Wiley’s played it, Zane Lowe’s played it, Fearne Cotton, it’s on the music channels and stuff, so hopefully if you haven’t been exposed to it, you can go and download it.