There is an argument that the UK’s electronic-based scene is becoming saturated, particularly following Disclosure’s chart-topping breakthrough year. It is more accurate to see their domination as a door-opening for other hopefuls; a signal of the mainstream success that can be achieved from ambitious, bedroom-producer roots.
While Years & Years’ – Olly Alexander (vocals), Mikey Goldsworthy (bass), Emre Turkmen (synths) - sound doesn’t necessarily immediately bring the Lawrence brothers’ to mind, “Real” highlights a very important similarity: the ability to throw a genuine pop song structure, an infectious chorus and a gorgeous, soulful vocal on top of the kind of deep-house-esque production the zeitgeist demands.
And much like “Latch”, this sophomore single – released 17 February via the consistently trend-setting Kitsuné – has all the potential to project Years & Years out of the ‘blogosphere’ and into the charts. Things deserve to get very real for this London trio in 2014. We caught up with them to talk early days, hopes & dreams, and working with Ben Whishaw.
How did you start writing as Years & Years?
Mikey moved from Australia and met Emre online through findabandmate.com, then Mikey met Olly through a friend at his work and heard him singing in the shower and let him in the band. It’s gone through a couple of different formations but Years & Years has been alive for a good few years now. The music was very different when we began, we had a melodica and even a guitar.
What are your main influences, musical and/or otherwise?
I guess we’re all influenced by different things. Musically we all agree on Flying Lotus, Diplo, Jai Paul and 90′s R&B (actually just Emre and Olly love 90′s R&B, and Olly takes the obsession too far). We all talk about Twin Peaks and Seinfeld/Frasier a lot. Emre likes buildings and architecture and his dog; Mikey loves lasagne and coffee; Olly loves feeling emotions and reading dystopian novels.
What music do you listen to/admire at the moment?
Lots of Banks, Jungle, SOHN, Oscar Key Sung, FKA Twigs, Oceaán. Woodkid is doing crazy good things on all platforms. Olly knows all the words to at least four of the new Beyoncé songs. Sampha is doing some amazing things as well; there’s a lot of good stuff out there.
Do you have any ‘Ones To Watch’ for this year?
I’m thinking Lxury, Movement, Raleigh Ritchie, Shivum Sharma and Kidnap Kid are all going to make waves this year, plus everyone mentioned in the last question (although Beyoncé’s already doing pretty well…).
There seems to be a bit of a ‘Disclosure-effect’ at the moment; how do you feel about comparisons with them?
It feels like Disclosure have changed the face of popular music; those boys are brilliant. They’ve brought club music and 90′s influences into the mainstream in a credible way. I think our music comes from a different place, but the way they can create heart-pounding dance tunes that you can sing along to, that’s something we’d like to achieve too.
If you could work with one other artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Ah that’s such a hard question; I don’t know. Olly would love to sing with Jeff Buckley or Whitney or Stevie. We’d love to work with Flying Lotus. Emre would love to make music with Thom Yorke - that would blow his mind.
Can you talk a bit about your songwriting process?
It usually happens like this (but not always…): Olly sits in his room and scribbles things down in his journal and writes things on a piano and then sends it to Emre who sits in his room and writes things on his computer. Then we all get into a room and Mikey writes a bass line and then we all fuck about with everything until we think we have a song.
How did the star-studded video for “Real” come-about?
We wanted to see people dancing in the video and create a weird Lynchian-vibe, so we shamelessly made use of Olly’s famous actor friends. It was really nice because Ben , Nathan [Stewart-
How would you describe your live show?
It’s important to us to be as live an act as possible, so even though there is a laptop on stage (and a million synths) we aim to make the sound as organic as we can. Playing live is our favourite thing to do – it’s why we’re in a band in the first place. We’ve got some big plans for the future, (3D projections! balloons! spinning lights!) but our general vibe is give the audience a good time, and play the songs like your life depends on it.
What are your main goals/dreams as a band?
Being able to say, “What me? Oh yeah I make a living making music, I’m a musician.” That’s a goal (although said in a less douchey way…). We’d love to tour all over the world – have people in Vietnam know the words to our songs – make people feel things, the general band stuff.
What can we look forward to from Years & Years in 2014?
Some more gigs, maybe a tour, definitely more music, hopefully a music video that blows peoples minds. We’re making new music all the time, and there’s potentially some really exciting stuff in the future but we’re just trying to take it one anxiety-riddled day at a time.
What’s your favourite thing about making music/being in a band?
Being able to write a song in your bedroom, or with your friends, turn it into a track, get it played on the radio, have people hear it, step back and go, “I made that”. It’s an awesome feeling.
What do you enjoy doing away from Years & Years?
There is only Years & Years – that’s how it feels. I guess there is dog-walking, coffee, cartoons, relationships, swimming, drinking, but yeah, mainly it’s just Years & Years. We spend a lot of time with each other, but we love each other so its fine (except Mikey and Emre like to talk football and Olly does not like to talk football at all).
“Real” is out now on Kitsune. The band headline Hackney’s Oslo on 5 March – tickets available here.