Although the usually prominent band has been fairly quiet since the release of their last EP Let Me Be Clear, Gang Of Youths have certainly been keeping busy. With new music in the works, a list of summer festivals and an overseas stint on the horizon, it looks as though 2017 will be another massive year for the boys.
Right before it all kicks off, we caught up with bassist Max Dunn and drummer Donnie Borzestowski amongst the rays at Festival of the Sun.
After slip, slop, slapping at Festival of the Sun, Gang of Youths chat Dave’s songwriting genius, festivals and keeping a work/life balance.
HAPPY: What’s been happening since you released Let Me Be Clear?
DONNIE: That was in August, so mostly just writing and doing some studio work.
MAX: We’ve pretty much just been writing new music. We haven’t played a show in ages. We did Splendour, then we did Let Me Be Clear, so since then we’ve just been focusing on the new music. Trying to get a bit of down time until festival season picks up.
DONNIE: We played at Spilt Milk last week in Canberra so that was kind of the start of it all.
HAPPY: How was Spilt Milk?
MAX: It was alright, Canberra’s alright. There’s a lot of trees, I really like the trees in Canberra, not a big fan of man made lakes or Peter Dutton but it’s not bad.
HAPPY: You have a fair few festivals your playing over summer yeah?
HAPPY: Have you got any of your own tours planned?
MAX: We’re going overseas in February, so we won’t be back until July, so that will be our next Aussie tour, somewhere around July next year.
HAPPY: What are you doing overseas?
MAX: We just want to play heaps of shows, we’re going to live in London but I think we’ll reside in the States for most of February. Just trying to do as much shit as we can overseas.
HAPPY: Do you find it hard being overseas so much?
MAX: Donnie has more of a personal life than me.
DONNIE: We haven’t spent a ridiculous amount of time overseas, we spent a bit of time earlier this year but I think it will be a big change heading over this time.
MAX: I think for me, when I kind of gave up on having a normal lifestyle, you’re just fine. I think I had a grieving period of like a year where I was like ‘oh man my car’s gone, I miss my amazing flat’, which is really tough, but eventually you find it normal to be living out of a suitcase. You have to think, I’m not going to quit music, so why would I complain about what the life entails. You just have to suck it up and get used to it. I’m really excited to get back overseas now.
HAPPY: What kind of themes is the new album going to revolve around?
MAX: I think the best way to say it is that, with The Positions, it’s looking inward and connecting people through Dave’s story, then this is much more Dave turing around and asking bigger questions. Like about why we should live, and feeling and loving as much as you can because you don’t have much time on this planet. It will all follow that kind of thing. There’s a lot of hope and life affirming aspects to it too.
HAPPY: You were nominated for an ARIA and a National Live Music Award for your live sets, how important is the live aspect of music for you?
DONNIE: It’s so important. We take it pretty seriously and we try and give our absolute best every single time we set foot on a stage.
MAX: For me it’s more like a football team than a band. If it’s slightly below par for us, the entire green room will be silent. Where as if we play a good show we will all be very pumped up. Everything that goes wrong we will think about a lot. This is all we have As a band if you can’t play live, why would you play music? You want to make people feel as much as you can. Without sounding like a dick, your goal is to be the band that people remember every night.
HAPPY: Do you guys put a lot of pressure on yourselves in that sense?
MAX: Yeah, we just leave our soul out there. I’ve never got off stages and thought I could have tried harder, and I think that’s the way everyone else in the band feels.
HAPPY: I think that definitely comes through when you play. Some bands you can tell are a bit half-hearted about it all, but it’s pretty obvious you give everything you have.
MAX: Fuck them (laughs)
DONNIE: I always wonder why in the world would a band play like that?
MAX: Yeah sure, I’ve come off before and thought ‘fuck, I wish I had played that allin the right key, but I’ve never come off thinking ‘I wish we’d had our hearts in that more’.
HAPPY: I wanted to ask about the lyrics and the connection with your fans. From an audience point of view, you can see just how much some people resonate with them, do you guys notice that?
DONNIE: Absolutely. People are constantly telling us stories about their personal lives and how our music or Dave’s lyrics have affected them in positive and amazing ways, we definitely see that. Even in the crowd too, there’s always people crying while they’re singing along, it’s pretty special to have that connection I guess.
MAX: Vulnerability breeds vulnerability too. Dave’s music is so honest and we’re touching on pretty heavy shit…I mean we’re all bloody mental, but I think people share that with us to quite a heavy extent. You’ll meet a person at a show and they’ve gone through something awful and crazy and it’s a real honour to be able to connect. But also, this is Dave’s story, so I can’t even begin to understand what he feels, but it is cool to be a part of something that is giving people who are suffering a bit of hope.
HAPPY: In terms of the song writing, is it a collaborative effort or does everyone do their own separate parts?
MAX: Dave writes it, he is the freakish genius, and then we all kind of produce it. We get together to make it sound like Gang’s, but Dave is definitely the freakish, artistic guy in the corner spitting magic. I think freakish is the only way I can put it.
DONNIE: It’s actually really amazing to watch.
MAX: It’s also really frustrating sometimes (laughs). With Kansas on the positions, we’d pretty much finished the album and Dave just came in one day and goes ‘hey boys I had a shower last night and just decided to sit on my bed for nine hours and make this song’. And we didn’t change it.That was Kansas, what you hear on the record is what Dave wrote on his bed with a laptop. He wrote that in nine hours after we spent two years making the record, and we were all like ‘that’s probably the best song on the album, we should probably include that’. No one can take away from the freak that he is. We’re really just a bunch of brothers making music together, it’s really not that complicated.
Find all of Gang of Youths’ tour dates right here.