in conversation... Young Guns
The first time I saw Young Guns was in 2009. They played at a small pub called Man On The Moon in Cambridge, UK and I went with my two brothers, one of them had recently seen them at Sonisphere Festival, and my dad and there was about five other people there including the sound guy and the guy behind the bar who wasn't actually there for most of the night. It was from that night on that I found something special in Young Guns. Maybe it was to do with the fact that they put their all into a set when there was almost no one there or maybe I was just fascinated by their bad hair cuts (they were probably cool at the time and it didn't stop me from buying a t shirt). Following that night I have seen them again and again, watching them climb the ladder of success. With their debut album All Our Kings Are Dead released in 2010 I caught them supporting at the O2 ABC in Glasgow, in 2012 they played a headline show at London's Shepherd Bush Empire which was sold out after the release of their second studio album Bones, in 2014 I saw them playing high up on the Main Stage at Reading Festival and this year, with the release of their third studio album Ones And Zeros, I caught them at their launch gig at London's Scala. Tonight, I was back for more. Young Guns had come back to Cambridge six years later and of course I couldn't miss it. There were a few more people there this time (it was sold out, as soon as you opened the door to the venue you walked into a wall of bodies) and I sat down with the band before their set to catch up. "We've grown in loads of ways since 2009," bassist Simon Mitchell explains. Simon is doing the talking today. Frontman Gustav Wood sits quietly next to him on the torn up sofa backstage and whispers to me that he is saving his voice. Behind me guitarist John Taylor is trying to move around the room which isn't quite big enough for the band and their equipment, which includes some weights lying on the floor that I almost kicked upon entering. "We've been really lucky to be able to stay so busy since then, with constant touring and writing and moving from Mirrors to All Our Kings Are Dead to Bones, so I guess there's been a natural evolution of the band." Mitchell sits very engaged, taking time and thought when talking. Times have definitely changed since 2009 and the band have found themselves getting thrown in to new experiences and when talking about their time touring in the United States, the bassist's face lights up and he takes a moment to recap on their travels. "It's been pretty crazy," Mitchell says and laughs a bit. "We signed the American deal about three years ago, after we released Bones in the UK, and that meant we had to start touring and promoting Bones again." This explains why Young Guns fans have been having to sit tight for the past couple of years for new songs. "We were basically doing the same cycle but over in the States. It felt a little but odd [starting the album cycle again], but definitely different. For us at the time it was super exciting because it's always been the dream to tour America." He sounds apologetic that it has taken so long to come back to the UK with their last headline show (before London's gig last month) being three years ago. "I guess everything happens for a reason though."
Since the June release of Ones And Zeros the band haven't had the chance to slow down at all, but the months prior to the release have also been busy. When talking about the new album, Mitchell describes it to have been a learning curve. "It was quite a journey," he recalls. "We had a bit more time on this record which is certainly different to before. We used to be limited in terms of time so it's always been quite a rush to meet deadlines but this time we had the luxury of having a bit more time to reflect on the songs we were writing." It's clear he is going through his head thinking about the recording process of the previous two album. "It's been quite an experience [Ones and Zeros], we've been writing in different parts of the world. There were times when we were in New York City and went to San Francisco to work with Dan the Automator, and that was a learning experience in itself." It's easy to hear when listening to the album that it's a real push from Young Guns to explore new possibilities with synths that sound like it could fill arenas, however this wasn't something that was exactly in the forefront of their minds. "We didn't think about it too much. I think when we were jamming the songs to ourselves each one had a different journey. There was no specific formula for each song." He pauses for a brief moment before continuing. "We were ambitious about the record and we wanted to make sure everything had a purpose on the songs." The album was recorded at Real World Studios, the same place that part of Jay Z and Kanye West's groundbreaking Watch The Thrones was recorded. "We were sitting down having dinner and our chef was telling us a story about when they were there. They had all their security down and they brought in a huge lighting rig just to supply them with a vibe." Mitchell goes on to explain how it was cool to be able to record in a studio that had a record of that status recorded in.
Signing to Virgin EMI was a major moment in Young Guns' career. It put them on a platform that's home to some of biggest artists in world, including Taylor Swift and Morrissey, but there can sometimes be a stigma around major label deals as people think that with the signing to a major label the band become more controlled and told what to do. "There's really no influence from the label to be honest." Simon Mitchell states. It seems as though, from the public eye, that Young Guns are a band that are maturing and stepping away from their 2009/10 tour videos which includes John Taylor discussing his favourite crisps and a traffic cone being thrown at drummer Ben Joliffe whilst he's on the toilet. "We're so busy with everything else and we would like to do more videos and vlogs so we can have more content on YouTube and that's always a discussion between us." Gustav is listening closely to Simon at this point and between taking sips of water and checking his Twitter he slowly nods in agreement. "You never know, there could be a time again where we find ourselves dancing to stupid songs at a random castle." This makes the rest of the band smile with the memory.
It's no secret that Young Guns are rapidly growing and taking to new and bigger stages, and soon they will be headlining arenas that they currently find themselves supporting in, but there is still another push to make. With that said, Simon takes thought as to what is to come after Ones And Zeros. "For us it's to just keep on promoting the record and touring as much as we can. This is quite an important time for us because the album is out and we have been on the road constantly for the past three or four months, so this is the time we need to be as busy as possible." The band are doing just that, with a few festivals this year including their debut appearance at T in the Park, heading back to the States with Breaking Benjamin and potentially planning another European tour. It seems to be that playing live and heading to as many places as they can is the main priority for Young Guns. The future is important too, but Simon admits that they don't spend too much time thinking about it. "We don't really give too much thought into the future... We just take every step as it comes and right now it's about getting out to all the places we haven't been to for a long time and maybe going out to some new places." With uncertain but nonetheless exciting plans for the future, I was keen to know what the band were most looking forward to. "We're going out to Taiwan for the first time!" This sparks the bassist and he seems genuinely keen on the thought. "It's a bit random but we like to have little random experiences, like going out to China and recording in Thailand, and every now-and-then we get offers from festivals in countries that we've never been to before so that will be cool!"
Everything seems to be going right for Young Guns and even if they don't give it too much thought, the future looks to be as exciting as their previous experiences have been. It'll be no surprise when they begin to announce larger venues and it seems highly possible that they can become a festival headlining band. In the meantime, Young Guns are working hard to show people their potential and win over new fans with the amount of shows they are playing. They're rising up to be one of the best British rock bands and they most certainly deserve that title.
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