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October 20, 2011 / rocksandgravel

Interview: Young British Artists

Written for The Stool Pigeon, link here


Although the name will transport anyone over the age of about 25 back to the days of Cool Britannia and all that jazz, Young British Artists are influenced neither by Tracey Emin or Damon Albarn and his Good Mixer cronies. Rather, the Manchester group combine bleak vocals and fast-paced, skronking guitars that refer back to the more greyscale sensibilities of the post punk set; with a dash of American post hardcore’s haywire rhythms thrown in for good measure. Members Sebastian Mariner (guitar), Simon Walker (keys, synth), Ben Phillips (drums) and Leo Scott (vocals, bass) formed while studying at Leeds University back in 2008, making the trip across the Pennines after graduating. They found rehearsal digs at a ‘smelly place’ in Manchester’s thriving Northern Quarter, which they share with pals Airship who they’ll be embarking on a series of tour dates this November. With the band currently gearing up to release a new single next month —the full-throttle, epic dronefest of ‘Everything In Front Of You’ — we spoke with Leo about having a Ford Ka for a tourbus, and his quest to make a record that doesn’t sound ‘shit’.

* * *

The Stool Pigeon: I remember seeing you guys play last winter, and thinking how, umm, animated you were on stage. Do you tend to lose yourself and embellish at shows?

Leo: For us it’s all about the live shows, we try and play as much as we possibly can. I don’t think these days you find many bands who will throw themselves around and let themselves go. I personally wouldn’t want to go and see a band where you go and basically hear it exactly as it is on the record, I’d want to see a show. But I’d probably call it making mistakes rather than embellishing!

Your name could be seen as a reference to the art collective of the late-’80s/early-’90s and the Britpop bands of the era. But listening to the music the allusion doesn’t necessarily make a great deal of sense…

The name is a tongue in cheek, blunt reference to that era, and although we were of course all fans of Blur and the like when we were growing up, they don’t serve as influences to our music. We became friends through our mutual tastes for American bands such as Sonic Youth, At The Drive-In and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Oh, and Pylon! When DFA reissued that record [Gyrate, or possible Chomp] I was pleased because I’d been searching for ages. They’re particularly special to Seb, our guitarist. He loves a good squealing.

Pylon, good shout. Your vocal, although purposely distorted, implies a raw and sinister tone. What do you tend to write about?

A lot of it sounds quite serious, and I’m sure when people hear it they find it a bit serious and in your face. Basically, the lyrics aren’t very whimsical but they’re pretty straightforward. How vague was that? Sorry.

Hmm, OK. So presumably you’re working on an album too?

That’s the plan. We’ve recorded four tracks with this guy called Owen Turner, who produced a Factory Floor record. We really like their stuff at the moment so we felt we had to track him down, it’s great to have him on board. We headed out to this place in the middle of Norfolk to record it, which was a perfect setting.

Did you go to the countryside to get away from distractions?

Yeah, that’s partly it. We’ve recorded in London and Manchester before and there’s always our friends saying ‘come out for a beer’, it just wasn’t that focused. Plus when we got hold of Owen he suggested Norfolk, so it seemed like a good idea. We did four tracks in as many days.

How do you think the recording process has changed since the last single? Is it still a makeshift process, using more lo-fi methods?

We’ve tried the lo-fi stuff and it just didn’t work. The first few tracks we did by ourselves and it sounded pretty haggard, then when we went down to London, and it was just too polished. We really wanted the recordings to sound like a live show, and I think we’ve managed to do that now, with Owen.

You’ve had a productive year, by the sounds of things.

It feels like we’ve really turned a corner. Getting Leah, our manager on board was a huge bonus, and for once we were actually really pleased with the recording, whereas before we’ve come away thinking ‘this is shit’. We had a great time touring with Dutch Uncles back in February too.

Was it all wild after parties and trashing the tour bus?

I wish! We actually travelled around in a Ford Ka. It was pretty cosy.

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