Young Guns: Under Pressure?

By the time Young Guns’ third album comes out in June, it’ll have been over three years since the release of ‘Bones’, a record that placed the London quintet at number 19 in the UK album charts and on top of the Billboard Active Rock chart in the US. Despite this achievement, Young Guns are as down-to-earth as ever about the impending release of ‘Ones And Zeros’. Full of catchy, slick hooks, it’s certainly an album that could – and probably should – propel them even further into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic, but, as vocalist Gustav Wood explains, the band aren’t going to let the idea of success drive what they do as a band…

**HOW DID THE SUCCESS OF ‘BONES’ AFFECT THE BAND? **Gustav Wood: “This idea of the degree of success adding pressure when it comes to writing – success is such a relative thing. We’re quite cynical, I suppose, fundamentally, and we’re quite hard on ourselves, so this idea that in other people’s eyes we’ve done X or Y, or that we’ve reached a certain level, isn’t something that concerns us, because we’re the same people that we were when we started and our living situation is the same and, fundamentally, our desire to be in a band and to write music we think is cool is the same, if not greater. So the only thing is just making sure we’ve done something that we’re proud of and that’s all we’ve ever done and that was no different this time. And honestly, the pressure that we put on ourselves is so great that any other pressure pales in comparison.”

**THAT’S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE. **“I think so. It’s important. And I think there’s a trap that people can fall into, which is to find yourself writing music which you think is the music that other people want to hear, instead of the music you want to hear. And I think that’s a very dangerous place to be in, because you’re not being creatively honest, and I think a lack of honesty in music means you’re not being yourself. I don’t know what people’s response is going to be to the album, but the one thing I know is that we did exactly what we wanted to do, and we had to write a record that we thought was cool and interesting. If we’d written a record that was the same as the last one, we wouldn’t have felt that way.”

**THE SONG ‘INFINITY’ HAS VERY EXISTENTIAL UNDERTONES. WHAT INSPIRED THAT PARTICULAR TRACK? **“We were in New York, and we had two weeks off between tours. Our American label has some studios – actually, it’s the studio Tupac was shot outside near Times Square – and we asked if we could use the studio just to do some writing. So we went in there and we wrote the music for that song but we were really struggling to get the vocals and that side of it down. So me and John [Taylor, guitar] went back to the apartment. All the other guys went out, so we just sat there drinking beers, dangling our feet over Lexington Avenue. It was a very stereotypical New York experience – we could see the Empire State Building and all the cabs on the street below. We were so struck by where we were and how amazing it was that me and John – who had become friends and dropped out of university together and drank ourselves half to death – could somehow get ourselves to a place like that. I was struck by how amazingly unlikely this all was, and yet here we were, doing it together. And we were talking about the music and how it made us feel and the lyrics and the melody came from there. It’s about celebrating a moment in time and the idea that life is a complex, difficult thing, and very turbulent, but sometimes it’s important to just enjoy where you are in that moment.”

Young Guns in 2015 and right, the artwork for ‘Ones And Zeros’

WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND THE ALBUM TITLE? ARE YOU FANS OF BINARY NUMBERS? “Well, the songs are all about moments in time and actions between people, be it how temporary that can be or, really, the idea that a single moment can stay with you forever. And all the songs are about moments in one way or another and the way human beings communicate, and really, Ones And Zeros is the title of one of the songs on the record, but it’s an interesting way of saying that. There are so many ways that we communicate. And I think Ones And Zeros just works on a number of different levels and I like the idea of opposites. I thought that would pique people’s curiosity.”

WOULD YOU SAY YOU’VE MOVED MORE TOWARDS THE POP REALM WITH ‘ONES AND ZEROS’? “To be honest with you, we’ve always considered ourselves a pop band. We love pop music, we love rock music and we love metal music, but we’ve always tried to write accessible, anthemic songs that have energy and emotion and it’s no different on this record. Lyrically, I wanted the songs to be a little more adaptable so people could interpret them in their own way. My past is full of songs which cover the circumstances in which I grew up and how I feel about things, and I still want that to be the case and it still is the case, but I wanted it to be a little bit more open to interpretation. I’m still being honest, but I’m just a little less confessional with my lyrics.”

**THAT MUST GIVE YOU A BIT OF A BUFFER ZONE, SO THAT IT’S NOT SO SELF-DESTRUCTIVE. **“I mean, I do think I’m still prone to being a little self-destructive, but sometimes it’s nice to go a little less hard on yourself. Being in a band is an incredible thing, but it’s a stressful experience as well, and I just found that I wanted to enjoy myself a little bit more. You don’t know how long you’re going to be in a band, so you have to make the most of it. It’s an intense thing for a human being to do. It’s pretty weird. It’s not normal.”

Young Guns’ Ones And Zeros will be released on June 8 through Virgin EMI and are on tour now. See their website for full details.