Young Knives; a band of three men, containing two brothers, one of whom goes by the name House Of Lords. A quirky concoction to say the least. Best known for their zealous live performances and penchant for tweed, looking like your old high school Geography teacher is not enough to warrant chart success on it’s own. After all, Top 40 hits and Mercury Music Prize nominations never were his strong points. Photography: Verena Stephano-Grotto
“It’s funny, isn’t it? Even though our other albums have been in the Top 40, they weren’t in it for long,” Young Knives frontman Henry Dartnell begins.
“On our second record we followed a logical progression from the first, which was to be quite cynical about things; ‘us against the world’. It gets a bit stale after a while, if you keep looking for fault in things and making half-jokey comments about people. That’s not quite what the second record is about, but there is an element of it.”
In reality, Young Knives have been missing in action for a while, substituting mainstream success with trying to evolve sonically.
“It seemed worth taking our time over it - that’s what the plan was, not to rush it out,” Henry explains, speaking of the band’s third album, ‘Ornaments From The Silver Arcade’. “We spent a long time touring the last record so we did it in about a year and a half. It might have been two years that it took to actually get it finished. It’s quite a long time really.
“We tried to cross over between writing some really good melodies, and also trying to make tracks rather than just straight songs. We took quite a lot of influences from dance and soul records, trying to work out a way of making something different. And actually, what we ended up with was quite a lot of different sounding things.”
But with all this talk of change, they’re still the Young Knives we know and love.
“It still sounds like Young Knives but we went through a bit of a phase of trying to work out how to make music again. It seemed like what we’d done, we’d done; there’s no point making another one that sounds exactly the same. We spent quite a long time writing lots of different songs and trying to approach music in different ways.
“We were a bit worried that it was going to be a record that sounds really different all the way through, and in a way it kind of does, but that’s how I like records sounding. I don’t like to put on a record and every song sounds the same as the last - I quite like the idea of having a mixtape of ideas.”
Working alongside producer Nick Launay, the band spent some time recording in LA, which must have made quite a change from rainy ol’ Blighty.
“I didn’t see a lot of it because we spent all of the time recording! It definitely wasn’t a miserable time of our lives and it was pretty much good fun the whole time we were there. Hard though, hard work, but we had a pool. That cheers you up! And Nick Launay did Arcade Fire and he’s also done stuff like Talking Heads and Public Image Ltd - stuff that we really like.
“We had this choice of whether we’d go with a proper old school producer like him or someone younger who’d try and make something a bit more trendy. We thought that what we wanted to do was make sure that these songs came out good. We wanted to go in with someone who cares about the songs, rather than a knob-twiddler. So that’s what we did, and I think it’s worked.”
‘Ornaments From The Silver Arcade’ sees our trio take a turn for the upbeat, and Henry sticking firmly to his guns.
“I think the first couple of records that we wrote were quite harsh and challenging, if you listen to the whole record. I thought, “I just wanna write an album that’s full of things that are positive - making a sound that people will enjoy listening to.” It’s more inviting than the second record was.
“We wanted to see if we could marry credible music with upbeat music, and I guess you do just end up sounding poppier. But that’s good, that’s fine. We just decided that a more uplifting record would be a fun thing to do. Like an experiment.”
But some experiments do fail, as we all know, and with Young Knives being out of the picture for a few years, are they worried that this might be one of them? “I know we’ve still got lots of fans who are waiting to hear us. It will take a little bit of time, and it might not hit Top 40 straight off but then who cares about that, really? I’d rather it was a slow build up than getting smashed up to oooh, number 32 for a week and then no one hears of it again. It’s not about that; it’s about keeping it going rather than getting chart positions.
“It’ll take a bit of building up to get people to remember us. That’s always the way, if you take a big break. But I think if we hadn’t, we’d have come back with a less good album - I think it was worth the risk.”
Young Knives’ new album ‘Ornaments From The Silver Arcade’ will be released on 4th April via Gadzook.
Taken from the April 2011 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.