Interview Young Legionnaire: Turn It Up & Go!

“Put a mic in front of it, if it sounds good then we’ll do that.”

You’ve probably heard of Young Legionnaire even if you don’t think you have. Formed of Bloc Party’s Gordon Moakes, ex-Yourcodenameis:Milo man Paul Mullen and drummer Dean Pearson, they’re a supergroup to be reckoned with. Supporting DFA 1979 the day before their first headline gig and releasing their debut album a few days later, Young Legionnaire are having one helluva fortnight.

We caught up with them for a quick salad (yes, really) before their debut headline performance at Camden’s Barfly last week to talk audio books, ‘Crisis Works’ and Bloc Party.

You’ve all been in bands before this one but Young Legionnaire is quite a new project in comparison. It’s your first headline gig tonight as well, how are you feeling about it?
Paul: Just had to learn a bunch of new, well, our songs. We had to work out how to play them after being in the studio doing them for the last ever. We’re doing a song tonight that we haven’t played before ever really. It was one track that was built in the studio, I suppose.
Gordon: It’s nice to just get to that point because I think last year we were champing at the bit to do shows and we didn’t have the time or the time to get together. Now, it feels like the right time to do headline shows, even though the record’s not out and people won’t know it, bar any leaks that are out there. We just played with Death From Above last night and it just felt really good. To do this is the natural step, just to play to our fans and find out who they are.

You mentioned about playing with DFA last night, how was that?
G: We loved it. It was probably our best show so far. In terms of being tight.
P: Just doing our own thing. Being on a big stage, big venue, it was good.
G: And just feeling confident. It was one of the first times I’ve gone on stage and just felt like we can play and relax into it and be ourselves. Even though you think that that’s quite a big audience and there’s going to be a lot of people watching and listening. Paul remembers our very, very first gig. I was just in bits, I was so nervous. I don’t know how cohesive it was as a gig but a year or more later, I just feel like we’re clicking into groove.
P: It was nice of them to ask us to play as well, like.

Ah, so they go in touch with you about playing, did they?
P: Well, we gave them a nudge. We held them at gun point.
G: It was lucky, in my case, that I have toured with them. Paul has as well with Milo. I toured with Sebastien when he was doing his solo record and what he said to me was, ‘I’m glad you got in touch.’ It meant a lot to him at the time that we took him out because he hadn’t put anything out at that point so it was kind of returning the favour, in a way.
P: And they seemed to like the show, they liked the music. They’ve got copies of the album now and I gave them the t-shirts.

So tell us about the album. It’s out pretty soon.
P: Crisis Works! It started off with a few emails darted back and forth and it took a couple of years to get it all together really. We recorded it in Monnow Valley in Wales. We finished it off in a new studio in Wembley called Subbubble. We’re chuffed to bits with it. Rich Jackson, who produced and we worked with, just has a really great sound. He has everything we wanted and probably a bit more.
G: It sounds like it’s got high fidelity in the right places and it’s also like a wall of noise where it should be because there’s no denying that’s what we’re going for, just like a really big sound. It’s not always easy to get that right in a studio because you try to make room for the drums and you try to make the guitars really big without squashing them. Rich is pretty good at sorting that out, I think. Especially because there’s so much over processed stuff. Pop is so processed these days but that’s kind of what you expect from pop. I really hate overly processed metal records. I know there’s an audience for that but we’re more about what you sound like in a room.
P: Put a mic in front of it, if it sounds good then yep, we’ll do that.
G: And I think that is definitely an echo of our shows, hopefully. We can’t fake it. Turn it up and go!

So what’s happening after this album. Obviously you’ve both got other projects outside of this so was Young Legionnaire intended as being a one album thing or do you think there’s a future for the band?
G: it’s just whatever happens to this really.
P: We’re a new band, you know? Who gets a second record these days?
G: Wichita have given us a two album deal so there’s another album.
P: There will be. There’s ideas happening.
G: We went into it not with expectations of when we’ll be able to gig it and when a record would actually come out. We had various plans of exactly how that would happen but you have to change just to what time you’ve got and how things pan out. The next year, we could be doing this but we also might be doing other stuff as well so we’ll just see how it goes but I think there’s definitely another record there.
P: Well, it took six years to get this going so you never know!

How do you think that being in the other bands has influenced the way you act and react to things in Young Legionnaire?
P: I think we went into it as a brand new band and wanting to do it that way but obviously with past experience you have to draw from it because it helps you in certain situations, whether that be in the studio or live - you just learn, don’t you? There’s no point disregarding all of that knowledge that you’ve got, or in my case, haven’t got.
G: I think you’ve got to check yourself not to be a little cynical knowing what the music industry’s like but I think the most healthy thing we’ve all done really is not to have expectations, not to assume people like it and that people we’ve worked with before will necessarily work on it. We’ve been lucky in that a few have, in the case of Wichita and so on. I think, at least in the studio, we know our way around the studio., we know our way around a guitar and a drum kit and between us, we’ve made a few records. So you know, there’s some time saving that’s afforded us definitely. We’ve been able to get some things done quicker than if it was just the first record we’d ever made. And I think it’s hard to imagine what kind of record we’d have made if the three of us had just somehow turned up, met. But it’s kind of a product of, in a way, the records that we’ve made and the experience we’ve had and I wouldn’t know Paul if he hadn’t been in a band. His record was so impressive that I wanted to at least check him out and see him live and work with him or whatever so it’s a big mystery what it might have been like but this is what it is like.

So what’s coming up for you all this year outside of Young Legionnaire?
G: For me, potentially, making some music with Bloc Party towards the end of the year or next year. It’s all very vague but loosely, we’ve definitely discussed it. Again, I don’t know how long that will take anyway but it’s definitely been punted out there. Paul, you’ve got plenty of ideas for more records, haven’t you?
P: Yeah, I’m just going to keep on writing. I think we’re going to tour this until the end of the year. I think we’re going to Europe tomorrow. Germany really, we’ve got about ten shows in Germany.
G: Because the German’s like hard rock.
P: I’ve been making audiobooks with three year old kids at nursery. That’s been quite fun, doing all the soundtrack and getting them to write stories and that so I might do some more of that.
G: Dean’s always getting offers for bands that he either doesn’t want to join or wants an excuse not to join. Guns N’ Roses. You’d probably be good in Guns N’ Roses. I’m not saying you should be in Guns N’ Roses but if they needed someone and you were about and you wanted to do it.
Dean: I don’t know, I don’t think I could take his ego.
G: But actually the only one you’d want to be in a band with is the drummer so you might have to play bass or something.
D: I could play bass with Guns N’ Roses. I’m going to play bass in Guns N’ Roses.
P: That’s what Dean’s going to do.

‘Crisis Works’ is available now

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