Interview: Years and Years: “Personally I’ll feel relieved when an album’s finished”

Take shelter - this UK trio have only just hit their stride.

Photos: Mike Massaro

It can take mere minutes or a good couple of years, but any new band hoping to get anywhere needs to experience their eureka moment. Years and Years had whittled away and honed in on a sound that best suited their desire to build great, galloping pop songs out of electronics. After months perfecting this process, shit suddenly got ‘Real’.

The trio found themselves on the receiving end of hundreds of thousands of plays, all on the back of their breakthrough single on Kitsuné. This wasn’t easy to take in, especially for frontman Olly Alexander, a verified internet and new music addict. “My friend was like ‘What’s Hype Machine?’,” he recalls, after seeing ‘Real’ top the online charts. “I’m like, ‘You don’t understand!’”

It was nothing less than they deserved, mind you. Take Emre Turkmen as an example. He’ll spend days chopping up loops, vocal samples - anything - almost like he’s on one giant treasure hunt for a killer hook. The curious sample that opens new single ‘Take Shelter’ is all his doing. “It feels weird, like you’re not responsible for it. In a good way. I don’t feel like I really made that hook,” he says.

‘Real’ was the beginning of a new chapter for the band. Coined in speedy studio sessions, it gave the three of them a new sense of purpose. They realised they could pen songs quickly, load them full of hooks and unveil them to the world with a click of a button. These days they’ve a quick means of road-testing things: “We play our demos to our drummer, and if he does his fist-pump, then we’ve got a winner,” jokes Michael Goldsworthy.

Olly renders most Years & Years songs to be a puzzle. “I always want to fix it, but the longer and harder you try, the more broken it gets,” he says. The process usually involves Emre staying in that dark, windowless space of his, presenting ideas to the band, while Olly and Mike apply something they might have been working on in their spare time. “I only really play piano. I have no technical brain, at all,” claims Olly, while Emre dryly states: “I spend my time in a room.”

Together, they’re already thinking about a debut album, although it’s not due out until spring 2015 at the earliest. “If you want to be a musician, who doesn’t have the dream of making an album?” Olly says. “The process of a band, well most bands, is you’re always writing. You always have a lot of material. Whether it’s gonna end up on an album or not, I don’t know. And we’re not taking a chunk of time by saying ‘Finish the album in three weeks’. Personally I’ll feel relieved when an album’s finished, and I can look at it and go ‘That’s a Years & Years album that we made’. It’s hard to grasp.”

Years & Years’ ‘Take Shelter’ EP is out now on Polydor. Taken from the August 2014 issue of DIY.

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