Interview Young Guns: Bone Idols

Young Guns frontman Gustav Wood talks us through finding inspiration from right beneath his skin.

Carving an identity for yourself as a band nowadays is an extraordinarily hard task. It’s no secret that the defining factors that lead to even the smallest of successes are a pressure unto themselves. Thus, trying to get your head around the difficulty an artist faces after achieving such a mean feat and then, well, having to do it all again, is even harder.

“The cliché of saying that the second album is harder than the first is definitely true,” offers Gustav Wood, the frontman of British rock band Young Guns, who are just about to put out their sophomore album ‘Bones’. “It feels like when you’re standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up, thinking, ‘We’ve got to climb that.’ We put an awful amount of pressure on ourselves as a band and - I always say this when people ask - the amount of pressure we put on ourselves beats any pressure that anyone else puts on us. It pales in comparison. It’s an insurmountable challenge, but you chip away. You think you’re never going to get to the end of it and then one day, you realise, you’re there.”

For the five-piece from High Wycombe, it’s been a long and steady climb. Spending the first few years of their career relentlessly touring, their debut EP ‘Mirrors’ only came out in 2009, before their debut album ‘All Our Kings Are Dead’ was released in mid-2010 on their own label Live Forever. It was around then that people started to sit up and take notice.

“The first album was very personal in terms of lyrics, and that was a conscious decision that I made. I don’t regret it but at the same time, it is a bizarre experience having something so personal end up getting out there in the way that the album did; having people respond to it like that. That was a privilege and an amazing thing, but it’s the whole experience of being really brutal about the way you feel….” He trails off, unable to truly word how intrusive his work had inevitably become. In fact, the very title stemmed from Wood’s own relationship – or lack thereof – with his father, perfectly showcasing how open he was during their debut. But looking back, how does he feel about it all now?

“In a way, I felt like it was almost a crutch. I was being so super honest with people about how I felt, that I felt the art of the lyrics had been removed, by having it bang you over the head with how obvious it was. For this one, I kind of wanted to try and evolve my lyric writing so that it didn’t have to rely on being really honest, or really open. I wanted it to be a little more open to interpretation and a little more introverted.”

And, as with any new artistic project, the band’s second album presented its own set of challenges: “I really didn’t want to repeat myself. The problem was, I had gone through every topic that I could think of, that I wanted to write about. So, the challenge was finding new things, or finding new ways to say similar things. At the end of the day, there are only a certain amount of things in the world that I care passionately enough about to write about, so the challenge for me was really figuring out how to inspire myself again as a lyricist. For me, it was more about - not trying to reinvent myself but - trying to push myself to become better.”

Thus, that’s what ‘Bones’ provided for the band. Pushing themselves to simply sound bigger and bolder, they began the process in July last year, even heading halfway around the world, to Bangkok in Thailand to record. “We wanted it to feel like a real step up; a real new feeling. We wanted to feel bold and bright and more exciting. We knew that if we wanted to step it up, that came down to how and where we recorded it. It didn’t cost that much more than doing it in London so when we were given the opportunity, we grabbed it with both hands. I think being that far away and somewhere that different allows you to step outside of everything you’re familiar with and that was really important to the album.

“It wasn’t necessarily about changing who we are as a band, it was more about trying
to evolve and become better. As with all things, people have preconceptions and we wanted to write a record that would confound those preconceptions and expectations. We didn’t want to write a record that sounded like a small UK rock band. We wanted to write a record that sounded like it had a bit more ambition.

“I think we just tried to make an album that felt a little bolder and more exciting. It’s not like it’s more pop, or less heavy; it’s just better. I think it sounds a little less niche, and a little stronger. It sounds even more assured. It sounds like a more confident version of the same band.”

So, with all things considered, it may seem strange for a record with such a sense of grandeur – and believe us, every song drips with the slick and bold confidence of a band much more assured of themselves – to be given such a bare and stripped back title.

“‘Bones’ is the idea that, yes, these songs are intimate and personal, and in many ways, are the bones of who I am as a person. It’s the idea that we all have these things inside us that are personal, but that we can draw strength from.

“It’s about self-empowerment and it’s about the idea that, inside of us, every single person has the ability to make the change. That’s really a metaphor for the whole record and what it means for us: the idea that we have everything we need inside of us already.”

Young Guns’ new album ‘Bones’ is out now via Play It Again Sam.

Taken from the March 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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