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February 2021

Whenyoung's debut pulls together love, tragedy and mental health: "We wanted it to be an experience"

The trio's debut album is about to arrive.
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Published: 3:07 pm, May 21, 2019Words: Josh Williams.
Whenyoung's debut pulls together love, tragedy and mental health: "We wanted it to be an experience"

Whenyoung need no introduction. The Irish trio's long-awaited debut album ‘Reasons to Dream' is a cornucopia of powerful indie bangers which starts with a new and improved bangerfied recording of early single ‘Pretty Pure', but why did they re-record it?

Frontwoman and bassist Aoife Power explains: "When we first recorded 'Pretty Pure' it was not exactly how we wanted it to sound. Not that it was awful or anything, but when you work with different producers, and you have different ideas. We knew after coming out with that song that we wanted it to sound a little less lo-fi.

"We like that kind of music, but it's got a pop melody, and we wanted it to be a little more euphoric. We wanted that song to be on the album, and we wanted all the songs on the album to sound like they were coming from the same place."

Just because ‘Pretty Pure' made the cut doesn't mean that earlier releases made the record, though.

"We preferred our newer stuff! For example, ‘Actor' felt different from the rest of what we've recorded and the stuff that we're working on at the moment. We're in a different headspace, and the sound had changed. We preferred the other songs, to be honest.

"The ones that we put on the album are our favourite songs and the ones that felt like they belonged together as a collection or a story. All the songs on the album come from the same place I suppose."

Aoife insists that it was essential to get the flow of the album right.

"We had an idea of the tracklisting and where we wanted to place everything. We wanted to make it into a journey, and the album is called ‘Reasons to Dream' - it's a lyric in the last song on the album ‘Something Sweet', which was one of the later songs that we wrote. The lyrics were a realisation that summed up that whole collection of what we're about: a longing for human connectivity, and relating to other people, and that desire, love and acceptance.

"All the messages on the songs, like love and reaching out, that humans are similar in lots of ways - they were things that we were going through on all of these songs. The flow comes from that. Like, ‘Pretty Pure' is the start of that journey and other things come along.

"We wanted it to have different moods, so it starts in one way, and it flows in and out to ‘Blow up the World' when it gets a bit quieter and comes back and ends again on a quiet note. We wanted it to be an experience to listen to."

"People who aren't contributing large sums of money to the economy are not looked after"
Aoife Power

Standout track ‘The Others' explores Aoife's feelings about being close to Grenfell Tower on the day of the infamous fire.

"I had been working as a gardener in that area, in very wealthy, safe homes. I was working for a lot of politicians at the time, and they were living in very close proximity to the tower; they were very powerful people. I would start early so when I went to work the tower was burning. I left my house, and I was like, ‘Shit, I saw this on the news. Fuck, I have to go to work!'

"I got there, and my boss is like, ‘We're not gonna make it now because Grenfell Tower's on fire, and the roads are completely blocked'. There were ambulances, fire brigade, and just being able to see the smoke - you could see what was going on from all the resources nearby.

"These were my thoughts about me working in these insanely privileged politicians' houses and people who are supposed to look after the citizens and the most vulnerable; it just seemed like a problem that exists in many countries. The same thing could happen in Ireland, it's not necessarily exclusive to the UK, but it's the government in power at the moment that makes it even more emphasised.

"It's awful that people should live in unsafe conditions, and so that's where the song came from. People who aren't contributing large sums of money to the economy are not looked after, and it shouldn't be like that. The people who lived in that building were concerned about the safety in their block, and I'm sure that there are people living in London who are doing the same right now and it's not being recognised because they're not seen as important."

‘Blow Up The World' sees the trio explore their softer side after Aoife read a passage in a book "describing families coming together after the second world war," she explains. "It was women and girlfriends sitting around, and they were being commiserated with roses and red wine. It was quite emotional, and I wrote a narrative based on that. A love story, it was someone like a mother or a lover who's lost someone to something that is so futile. I guess it was kind of anti-war."

‘Future' tackles more heavy subject matter, telling the story of a close friend who took their own life, and Aoife admits that it was a bit difficult to settle on how the song should be.

"It's an older one, and it's gone through many different arrangements. We've messed with that song because the subject matter was very close to us and that was difficult. We struggled with quite a bit, and I don't know if that's because of the subject matter because it's a weird one."

The first single from the album, ‘Never Let Go', was quite the banger, so what was the thinking behind making it the first single?

"It was a bit of a shock from what we'd released before," Aoife explains, "but it felt like the true representation of what we are about. On the album, there are the slower ones as well, but we were really excited about that track, and we wanted to get that message out. We wanted that positive mental health message."

Despite the political leanings of ‘The Others' and ‘Blow Up The World', Aoife insists that Whenyoung are not a political band.

"That's not our main message. Like, with ‘The Others', that was just something that I happened to witness. If I'd never had that insight, I wouldn't have written about that just from reading the newspaper. I would have been upset, but I don't think I would have had an emotional basis to write that song."

"We're outsiders; I dunno where we fit in?"
Aoife Power

Unlike many of their indie comrades, for their debut album release, the trio have signed to a major label in the form of Virgin EMI, home to heavyweights like Bastille, Lewis Capaldi and Slaves. It's a "different world", according to Aoife.

"We've released singles with indie labels, and it's different. At the same time, we've had complete artistic control. Like, we got our best friend to do our album art, and we got to choose who produced our album. There are expectations, of course. It's a huge machine, but they've been great to us, and they have really believed in who we have chosen to work with. It's been good so far!"

In March, the band played their first ever US shows, and they loved it.

"We played in the Mercury Lounge in New York, and it was a special gig. Lots of people came, which we were super happy about because we didn't know what to expect. We went to Austin for SXSW which was brilliant; we played 6 or 7 shows there, and the crowds are very optimistic. There's a lot of industry there, a lot of people having a good time.

"It's a nice festival, but for us, the real feeling was from New York and LA. That Mercury Lounge show was special because we love The Strokes and they played there; that was a monumental gig for them.

"LA was just mad. We arrived on Hollywood Boulevard or whatever, and there were stars on the street outside, then we went in and played this night called student night, and it was just fucking weird! We couldn't believe it, we were totally in awe of all the tourist traps and stuff and very much, ‘oh my god, Jesus, I can't believe we're playing here!'"

They're a well-travelled bunch - despite being from Ireland, the band made their name in London.

"It feels like we've been on holiday here for quite a while," Aoife laughs. "Obviously a working holiday, like we've all had like other jobs with music until this started to take off. At some point, I feel like I'm gonna go back to Ireland, I miss it as well, but London is exciting, and as a band, it can be really good here. We've met lots of great people who have helped us. We feel very welcomed by London. Initially, when I got here, I felt very lonely. Although it was fun, I felt a bit homesick."

However, Aoife and the band don't feel part of any particular music scene.

"We're outsiders; we have lots of friends in different scenes. I feel like we've always been doing different things, I dunno where we fit in? It's not that we don't fit in anywhere at all, that we're totally obscure, it's just maybe people just haven't created a scene for us yet. Those scenes are coined by journalists, right? It's like a selling point; that's what it seems like to us."

It's not a scene that she wants though; most of all, Aoife just hopes that ‘Reasons to Dream' is received well.

"That would mean that we could continue to tour the UK, Europe, and hopefully the US. For us, it's a dream to keep playing to people and keep being able to share our music and be able to keep recording and building as artists, and being able to produce new work. We just wanna be busy; we hope it goes down well!" 

Taken from the June issue of Dork. Whenyoung's album 'Reasons to Dream' is out 24th May.

June 2019
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June 2019

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