Young Guns are definitely living up their name. After getting their big break touring with Lostprophets back in 2009, the Berkshire based rockers have really taken the initiative, with both of their albums being top three hits in the UK rock charts.
The group’s been hitting the road hard since then, supporting massive acts like Bon Jovi and Enter Shikari, as well as playing shows all across Europe and the US.
They returned to the UK though to be a part of Coca Cola’s Olympic Torch relay, and we spoke to lead singer Gustav before they closed out their run of shows in Reading.
So what can you tell us about your involvement with the 2012 torch relay?
We’ve been lucky enough to be asked to play some very short set. This is our last one and we’re the only loud rock and roll band at the event. It’s just an amazing thing that Coca Cola and all the sponsors of the Olympics have put together to celebrate the passing of the Olympic torch as it’s going through the country.
It’s being carried by Future Flames, which is group of young people from different backgrounds who have faced adversity in one form or another and it’s just a really great celebration of the Olympics and the history behind them.
I mean, to get to play a couple of tunes to these massive crowds for a couple of days has been a special experience for us. It’s a wonderful thing.
How did you get involved?
Well, we were asked to do it and we jumped at the chance. It’s been going on for quite a while, I think they’ve already do it for fifty days or so, the torch makes a convoluted journey across the country. So they’ve been having these events up and down the UK, there’s been bands like Kids in Glass Houses, You Me At Six in different areas.
I think when they got to the three counties area (it’s where the band’s based and it’s where all the boys apart from me grew up) and I don’t know if they associated us with the area but they just asked us to play, which is brilliant.
How have to crowd’s been for your four shows?
They’ve been huge. Perhaps not the biggest, but definitely up there with the crowds we’ve played to. They’ve been between five and twelve thousand people and the great thing is there’s a real wide age range. The crowd’s from all different backgrounds, all different ages, all coming together in the parks and the Madejski Stadium in Reading.
You get people from five years old to eighty five and that’s really exciting to us, it’s great to be able to get out there and play to a new audience. It challenging, you have to adapt the way you play and try and interact with such a wide group of people, the crowds have been great.
How different is it playing here than at your own gigs?
When you’re at a rock concert, be it if your headlining or just part of a festival or supporting someone, there’s a dynamic that already exists between the bands and the crowd. You can look for a lot more movement there and it’s easier to get people to jump and y’know mosh.
There are different challenges when you’re playing a virgin audience. A lot of people don’t listen to rock by choice, y’know or don’t go to gigs full-stop. It’s definitely a whole new experience. We play our own shows and it’s all about the energy and the chaos and the atmosphere and the sweat. That’s defiantly not the case with this.
Here we’re trying to put on a good show, that’s fun to watch and trying to get people singing along and involved. That’s what we always try and do, but perhaps it’s a little more full on when we play our own shows.
Have you been able to get hold of an Olympic torch yet?
We have yeah, which is really exciting. I’m a bit of a geek and I love the idea of the history of the Olympics. It was started over 200 years ago in ancient Greece and I love the idea that today, admittedly in some far removed form, a part of something with that much history and has been around for so long. We all got some pictures with it and I think it’s a pretty momentous occasion for both the country and us.
The band was formed in 2003, were there ever times when you weren’t sure you’d make it?
Yeah, to this day. Me and Fraser formed what would become this band after our last band split up. It featured all of us who are in this band apart from Simon (bassist) anyway so we’ve been playing music together for nearly 10 years in one way or another. And although me and Fraser began writing in 2003, this band really didn’t begin until 2008 when Simon joined. So we haven’t actually had a very long career so far, only about three and a half years or so.
You always have to walk that line between being confident and believing in what you do and thinking ‘It’s going to happen’ against all odds but you have to temper that with being a realist. We’re doing something very unlikely to turn into a long term sustainable career and you have moments of ‘We’re doing something great’ and some when you think ‘This can end at any moment.’ You just try and enjoy each thing that comes along on not think about it too much really.
You’ve toured with massive acts like Bon Jovi. Did you pick up any tips about how to stick around in the rock world?
We’ve always followed this relatively simple idea that we had on our own is that if you focus on writing music that’s as good as you can make it, and always keep pushing and improving then people will respond to it. It’s not quite that simple, but somewhere in all the bulls**t, there is that fundamental truth that good music tends to connect with people. So we just try and make songs as good as they can be and try and realise our vision. That’s been enough for us so far that’s helped us communicate with people and build a foundation and here we are today.
I hope we can continue to do that, I think we’ve only just scratched the surface of what we’re capable of yet and it’s just about getting better and better as song writers. Bon Jovi are the ultimate example of that, they’re a machine, they’re a business as much as they are a band.
Fundamentally I think we’re going to pretend to be anyone else and just do what we think is right, which is writing good songs.
How’s the reception to the second album been?
It’s been brilliant. We’ve been on the road for most of the year so far too, which is amazing. We’ve been to countries we’ve never been to before. We went to China, we played in Thailand (we’d recorded there last year but never played there). We’ve been to America and signed a deal with an American record label off the back of the new record.
The reviews have been really good here at home; it’s an exciting time to be in Young Guns at the moment. Whilst you never want to rest on your laurels, there is a feeling that we could do something good here.
The album’s gone down really well, but you have that sort of grace period when you love it and then after six months you think ‘Yeah I like the record, but I know we can do better’, which is where we are now. So we’re taking on board all of the good things that have happened because of the record, but we know we can write another one.
How different is it playing abroad from gigging over here?
In China for example, rock music isn’t a huge thing. To be honest, music isn’t a gigantic thing; there isn’t much of a music industry, certainly not an international presence. It’s very much a new place. But that’s great, because you’re playing to people who haven’t heard a live rock band before and that’s really exciting because you’re getting to do something that feels really new and fresh. It’s brilliant.
I mean playing to your home crowd’s always going to be a very special thing but it’s really important to understand the significance of going somewhere completely new and playing music, because that’s a big deal. We love travelling; it’s one of the best things we get to do.
You’ve got a massive set of tour dates lined up, how are you feeling about that?
Well, it’s a bit daunting sometimes I guess, but every boy or girl that joins a band, that’s what they dream of doing. They want to look at their flyers and see huge list of dates. I look at those things and it makes me feel like we’re in some ways a real band, it’s a really rewarding feeling.
We’re writing a new album at the minute and then we’re getting in to tour mode again. Planning set lists and cool things we want to do each night. You’ve also got to get fitter and healthier because being on tour is hard work, you need to prepare physically as well as mentally. We just try and go out and do our thing every night, wherever we are in the world. No matter how many show’s we’ve played or have got to play, we just go out there, play hard and try and win people over.
So how do you keep yourself healthy on the road?
Well, you’d think playing for an hour a night would be enough exercise and do you good but unfortunately on the road there’s a lot of drink and things like that. So you have to fight that, we play sports when we can and go to the gym, but it’s hard. It’s not a very healthy lifestyle to lead but you’ve just got to do what you can, when you can and luckily that seems like enough.
Finishing up, what sort of thing can we expect from the new album then?
Well, with the second record we wanted to progress and evolve our sound from the first one and wanted to focus it a little bit more and be clearer on who new are as a band. And I’m glad we did that, so we were able to get our song writing up to the next level. This one it’s just about keeping ourselves interested really.
We never want to repeat ourselves because if you’re not a fan of the music you’re writing then how can you expect anyone else to be. So, it’s just about keeping it fresh. We’ll probably experiment a little bit more; we have so many different influences and ideas about what we want to do so it’s all about trying to crush them all down into one thing. We’re not going to turn into anyone else, but I think it’s fair to say it’ll be a little more experimental.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith