Latest release: All Our Kings are Dead (Live Forever/Liberator)
English alternative rockers Young Guns are gearing up for their first ever Australian tour, playing alongside rock royalty like Van Halen and Alice Cooper at Soundwave Revolution. Releasing their debut EP Mirrors in 2009 and their first full-length album All Our Kings are Dead one year later Young Guns’ popularity is growing rapidly. All Our Kings are Dead peaked at #3 on the UK Rock charts, spawning five singles including ‘Sons of Apathy’, ‘Stitches’ and ‘Weight of the World’. That success helped land them support slots with Lostprophets and the world’s biggest touring rock band, Bon Jovi, not to mention the largest festivals to hit the UK and Europe in recent years. Performing blistering sets and the Download and Sonisphere festivals Young Guns also found themselves rocking out on the main stage at the 2010 Reading Festival alongside Guns N’ Roses, Queens of the Stone Age, A Day to Remember and NOFX.
Cameron Edney recently caught up with the band’s vocalist and main lyricist Gustav Wood to discuss Young Guns’ first Australian tour, most recent album and the vulnerability of writing honest material for the world to hear.
Q: Hey Gus, thanks so much for taking to time out to chat with us. Let’s kick off talking about the upcoming Soundwave Revolution tour. You guys must be over the moon to be a part of the festival and to finally perform in Australia?
A: First off, it’s my pleasure; thank you for asking me some questions. We’re all over the moon, it has to be said and it’s certainly the coolest thing that we’ve been able to do as a band so far. It’s quite mad. It really hasn’t sunken in as of yet. We’re all still expecting something to go wrong. To be able to travel so far to play on such a great festival with so many cool bands is quite a phenomenal experience that tells me just how lucky we are at the moment.
Q: Young Guns are no strangers to handling the big festivals having played Sonisphere, Download and the Reading Festival. Are you a fan of doing the large festival shows or would do you find yourself gravitating to playing those smaller more intimate club shows? They both have their advantages, I guess you can say?
A: That’s the thing… they have their own set of experiences. Fundamentally we’ve always said that if anything ever progressed with our band, and if we were playing the massive stages every day, we never want to lose the feeling of playing those small club shows. It’s incredible playing a sweaty club show to a couple of hundred people. It’s in-your-face and I never ever want to lose that. They both have different things to offer but my heart is with small shows. If I’m being honest, I love the intimacy of people coming over the barrier and the vibe between the band and crowd. I think there is a little bit of magic in that!
Q: I couldn’t agree more. Soundwave Revolution is rapidly approaching and the bill for this festival is mind-blowing. Will you be putting much time aside to check out some of the other artists on the bill?
A: Oh man, we’re going to try and soak up every moment of it. We’re going to try and meet as many people as we can, people that may know about our band and even those who have never heard of us. It’s great cause we already know a lot of the bands on the bill and it will be great to reconnect with them. We’ve toured with All Time Low a few times and Yellowcard as well, and some others. We’re really excited to watch many of the bands that will be playing. We’re kinda bummed that Thrice pulled out but that’s alright; there’s tons of other great bands to watch.
Q: For the punters that are attending the Soundwave Revolution festivals who are considering checking out Young Guns live, how would you best describe the band’s onstage presence?
A: We all grew up going to metal shows, hardcore shows, shows that were based around energy and atmosphere and we try to create that vital energy. In our short career we’ve played with Bon Jovi, we’ve played the small club shows, no matter what we do we try and create an atmosphere and try to make each show and experience. The goal with these shows and every show we play is to try and make it memorable. We want to create that vital feeling… live music, that’s what it’s all about.
Q: It’s funny that you mentioned Bon Jovi, because I did want to ask you about that experience. Bon Jovi are one of the largest touring rock bands on earth. What is the most important lessons you learn when touring with someone like that?
A: Well, it has to be said… we only did one show with them, there wasn’t much time to learn many experiences but fundamentally it was really interesting to see how things operate on that level. What a machine it becomes. It was really an eye-opener. Just the reality of it though, going from playing one of our shows, playing to a couple of hundred people and then you go and play with Bon Jovi to more than 20,000 people, you can’t really ever get your head around that. Things like that have been really good for us, even though we haven’t been a band for that long, the confidence that you get from doing shows like that is amazing. It’s something that you never forget and it really makes you a better band. We’ve always had a level of commitment to playing live shows and I think that’s really helped us no matter what the stage size.
Q: Getting away from touring, I wanted to talk you to briefly also about the other exciting side of the business, writing and recording. Congratulations on the continued success you’ve been having with the album All Our Kings are Dead. The albums been out almost 12 months now, looking back is there anything you would have changed?
A: Yeah of course. It’s funny because we wrote an EP and no one knew who we were and it was received so well that we were snowballed. It was great. We got booked further and further down the line and we were going with it, not really thinking about it. People started asking us where the album was, and we’d been so busy hitting the road that we didn’t have an album ready. We wiped six weeks out of our calendar and spent that time day and night writing and we went straight into the studio and recorded the album. It was really rushed; we didn’t have a lot of time and money. I am really proud of the record and it’s definitely done a lot for us but I know we can do better. Now the aim is learning from our mistakes and learning from things we wish we’d done differently, whether it is more time or more money. I think it’s a strong album but I know without a shadow of a doubt that we can do better.
Q: I read an interview where you said that you only write from your experiences otherwise it would all be a bunch of “fake” songs. Was there a point where you thought that with any of the songs that made the album that maybe you were a little too honest? Once it was out you thought… ‘oh maybe I shouldn’t have said this or I should have played it from this angle’?
A: Ironically I think the more personal you are the more universal your songs become. Everybody goes through the same experiences, and the various things that were a part of me growing up seem to have really connected with people. It was a bit painful writing very personal things but at the same time, I meet people now that have my lyrics tattooed on them and tell me that the things I said really mean something to them and that’s pretty magical. I wouldn’t change that for anything. I’m glad I did it. Probably the most personal song of them all is ‘Stitches’ and that’s the song I am most proud of. It’s a bit nerve-wracking putting yourself out there but sometimes it’s worth it. I think certainly with the album I made a really specific decision to be as honest as I could and that was for a number of different reasons. I felt that if I made the songs as honest as I could lyrically then, no matter what, no one could say that we were trying to be anything then what we actually were and that rings true for me. It’s an odd experience being honest about things, it is quite a personal pursuit and I am definitely aware that I put some really personal things out there but people have connected. Certainly over here at home and through all of my experiences people have really connected with the lyrics that I managed to somehow write for that record and I think it’s because I was so honest, about different things I experienced growing up and different experiences that have helped shape me today.
Q: Have you started penning ideas or recording the follow up to All Our Kings are Dead?
A: Yeah, we’re in the mix of writing album number two right now. We have about three weeks more of writing and then we fly out to Thailand on July 10 to begin recording the second album. It’s all hands on deck at the moment.
Q: Well Gus, I won’t take up anymore of your time! Thanks again for the chat tonight; we hope you have a fantastic time when you get to Australia in September. Do you have any last words for our readers?
A: I’d like to say anybody out there that knows who we are or that listens to our music, thank you. It’s quite a trip to know that on the other side of the world there are people that give a shit about this stupid little band. We’re very humbled by the whole experience so thank you, and also thank you to you man for asking us some questions. It’s really cool of you to do that.