IN CONVERSATION WITH: whenyoung @ The Deaf Institute
WORDS BY MATTHEW PYWELL
Irish trio whenyoung have come a long way since their debut single back in 2017. Just over a year later, the band have released their first EP – Given Up – and 2019 will see the release of their debut album. I recently caught up with the band ahead of their show at The Deaf Institute, to feed my curiosity about the intriguing indie pop/rock group.
Initially hailing from Limerick, the band members Aoife Power (vocals/bass), Niall Burns (guitar) and Andrew Flood (drums) bonded over their mutual passion for music and art. However, the formation of the band didn’t start until they moved over to London. I wondered whether the contrast between Limerick and London was a culture shock for the band, “It was in the sense that the city we’re from is really small and coming to London, you forget that you don’t have to say ‘hi’ to everyone on the street, and actually you probably shouldn’t because they’ll think you’re really weird” Aoife replied. “Where we’re from, if you’re walking down the road and there aren’t many people on it, you’d probably salute the person”. Moving to London gave the group a chance for a fresh start, “it felt like a holiday for a long time”, Niall revealed.
When asked about the benefits of immersing yourself in different cultures, the band are all in agreement about its importance and see London as a hub for multiculturalism, “It’s amazing to experience different cultures within one place, you can go to an area of London, walk down to an area with Turkish shops, there’ll be Ethiopian restaurants, and you can just soak that up” said Niall.
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One of the most famous people to come out of Limerick was Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, who tragically passed away last year, whenyoung were performing at Shane McGowan’s birthday on the day she passed, “it was such a weird night, all these Irish artists were brought together and we got the news just before we were going on stage”. This was part of the reason why whenyoung released their own cover of The Cranberries song Dreams, a poignant rendition with an obvious sense of respect and gratitude towards the original.
A marker of just how far the band have come since moving over to London, is the fact that they were asked to perform at the Barbican recently, to celebrate Irish artists making a name for themselves in the UK. “we were quite surprised when we were asked to do that, because a lot of the musicians were of high esteem, in the Irish traditional scene, which we wouldn’t necessarily feel that close to, the talent on the stage was amazing”, Niall told me. A huge passion of the band is their interest in fashion, not high-street fashion but finding outfits that make them stand out in the crowd, usually sourced from charity shops. As they took to the stage at The Deaf Institute, they certainly look the part, Aoife illuminated under a spotlight, contrasting her black blazer and trouser combination. Niall has chosen the same blazer/trouser combination but in a startling bright yellow, while Andrew heads towards the drums in a bright orange boiler suit.
One of the first songs played is Pretty Pure, a track which encapsulates the nature of a lot of whenyoung‘s discography, in that there’s a veiled disguise of joy over melancholy lyrics. “Don’t think I’m human anymore”, reverberates around The Deaf Institute on the track’s chorus. One of the night’s highlights is Heaven On Earth, a track which is pessimistic in nature but through its soaring hooks, manages to add dynamism to the live set.
Their latest single release, Never Let Go is all about remembering that there’s hope, even within the most trying of times. “I think with a lot of our songs, they’re about quite sad things but we always try to bring hope to the subject and in a way they’re all personal affirmations and we want them to connect with other people. The best books and songs are the ones that stick with you, the ones that have moved you and made you feel inspired” Aoife told me.
In addition to the release of Never Let Go, the band also released a run of t-shirts to help raise money for Mind charity. “We contacted them because we wanted to support a mental health charity because we’d lost a best friend to suicide”. The song has whenyoung‘s most uplifting hook, it achieves the desired effect of bringing hope, the kind of track I’d want to hear just as I was finishing a marathon. The set is slowed down for Sleeper, the backing track is simplified and this gives a sense of introversion to Aoife’s vocals, adding an extra air of vulnerability to her performance.
They then go on to play The Others, a song which was written about the Grenfell Tower fire and probably the band’s most far-reaching and socially conscious track to date, it pays a closer homage to one of their biggest influences, The Clash. I’d be interested to see whenyoung write more politically engaged songs. The set finishes with Given Up and the difference it holds to the recorded material is that the verses feel darker, and moodier than ever, while the chorus is more euphoric a suitable ending. I asked the band how they wanted people to feel after their live show and Andrew replied with, “we want people to feel a sense of euphoria or to be crying while laughing”. That bittersweet sensation is definitely felt and their fans definitely feel a connection to the themes of the various tracks.
A couple of new songs were debuted as well including Future and In My Dreams, the former seemingly encapsulating that overlapping sense of optimism that whenyoung seem to be imprinting within their brand of indie-pop. The band are all set to release their debut album this year and I recommend you keep your eyes peeled for its release!