Gustav Wood of Young Guns (UK) talks recording process of Ones and Zeros and music journey

It’s been a huge year for British alternative-rockers, Young Guns. Since releasing their new record, Ones and Zeros, the band recently wrapped up a headline tour in the UK and will be doing several overseas trips to treat international fans with anthemic and powerful tracks. The band’s visit to Australia has been long overdue but they are doing the best they can to relive their experiences since their two trips in both 2011’s Counter Revolution and being Tonight Alive‘s support act in 2012. We took the opportunity to speak with frontman, Gustav Wood about the inner workings of the new record, working with producer Steve Osborne and their musical progression.

I believe you wrapped up some shows in the UK. How was that?

It was great. It was our first headline tour in two and a half years – it’s been a long time. We’ve been basically in America since the headline tour in October 2012, which is fucking ridiculous. We kinda finished our American touring cycle in October last year so we came home and kind of prepared the release of the record. It came out last week which is wicked and we did a headline tour to support that. It was brilliant – it felt so good to be back at home and play shows again. We’re now in America in Toledo, Ohio today and it’s pissing down rain but I’m happy to be here.

Yeah, the weather down here isn’t that great too – it’s all cloudy. I bet you’re really psyched about these American shows though, right?

Yeah absolutely. I really enjoy touring over here. I feel like the audiences are really good here – they make it easy. I can’t speak for every band – even as a young kid, it was always something I really wanted to do; to be able to go to the States and play shows. The fact that we’ve been able to that frequently is what I’m really happy about. It feels like it’s going well so I’m happy. I’m busy, I’m in a band and I somehow managed to blag my way into being a guy in a band and I get to travel so I’m just enjoying it.

I think it’s really cool that the band have come such a long way since 2010 when you released All Our Kings Are Dead. Straight after the album release, you did a bunch of festival shows as well as being the support act for really large bands. How has your journey with Young Guns been so far?

It’s been interesting. I never really expected to come this far. It’s been quite a surprise but you know, we’ve worked really hard and managed to see a lot of great places I never thought we’d been able to see which is awesome. And five years have gone by with a blink of an eye, so I’m really happy where we’re at but it doesn’t feel like we’ve scratched the surface really. I think we have a long way to go but I’m happy where we are and proud of the music we’ve been releasing. There’s a lot of things to be grateful for.

Like you said, Ones and Zeros was released last week and it was really well-received by fans. I really enjoyed it myself. How have the new songs translated to the live audience since your headline tour in the UK?

I mean, I never thought about this but actually, the new material that we’ve been playing live has gone down the best in the whole set. I would like to believe that they’re stronger and I do think they are because we haven’t really released any new music in quite a while. The truth is, every night I sang on stage and played fifteen or sixteen tracks which included five of the new songs and they were the highlights of our set. You can’t really ask for more than that as a person in a band. It really felt amazing to us. It was really inspiring and there was a lot of confidence behind this and we’re feeling really good at the moment as the new music is working. We wrote that music to be played live in the environment that the songs worked best in and it feels great.

Yeah, I found that it was such a powerful record and very anthemic too. Most of the tracks were really well-suited for arena shows. Compared to your last album, Bones, I found that the sound dynamics of the band evolved in such a great way. How was working with Steve Osbourne as a producer?

It was great. I mean, I don’t think you know but we had some problems getting our producer situation correct. In April of last year, we just signed to Virgin [Records] and we’d written a bunch of demos – which are the songs on the album. We were really excited with them and they were quite progressive, certainly for us. It was kinda going to new places musically and we were excited by that. And because we just signed to Virgin for the first time, we were in the position where we could afford to really take a gamble and try something in the knowledge that if it didn’t work, it wasn’t the end of the world. We were talking about producing it with an outside-of-the-box person and on top of the list was a guy called Dan Nakamura who’s a producer that worked with Gorillaz. His main work was hip-hop and he’s very beat-orientated. A lot of the music he’s written is quite based around the rhythm section of the band so we went out there to kind of experiment for a month or so demo-ing with him and see how those songs would feel and unfortunately that didn’t work out.

We came home and we were a bit confused by that whole experience and we met Steve Osborne, he’s a brit – he lives in Bath which is like the most English place in the world. To go and to meet him and to have him be on-board and be really excited about the music and to have really interesting ideas and live to breathe what we played, it was really encouraging for us. He’s kind of an old-school dude in some ways and he’s done some great records with like PlaceboU2 and really important records that have influenced us as kids. To work with him and to have him bring that feel that we wanted which was slightly old-school and more mature while still maintaining our sound was really great and he really helped us shape the record and I think without him, I don’t think our record would sound as good as it does. It sounds like a more mature, slightly interesting and a little bit more meaningful than the band we were before and that’s what we’ve come out with.

It’s obvious that he had such a positive influence on you guys while you were making the record. Did you feel that way when you were working with him?

Yeah, I think so and I think you could really feel the way of his experience, you know. He helped us to think on our music in a different way and one thing we really wanted to do was not come out with a record that sounded over-produced. I think a lot of young, modern rock bands go for very ultra-polished and pinnacle kind of sound and everything is crystal clear and digital and very modern. We wanted something that sounded like it had a bit more life and was more loose, wanting to convey this sense of a bunch of guys playing their instruments together. At the same time we wanted it to have a little soul and I think he really helped us to find that a little more. The conversations that we would have with him weren’t necessarily about whether it was a good take or not, it was more like asking questions like: Was there an emotional response? Did you feel something? And it was really nice to have these conversations like that as opposed to being really kind of anal and having a sense of perfectionism for it and it was something we didn’t really wanna focus on. We wanted to be away from that and just be a bit more holistic about it and to have a lot more feeling to it. It was kinda cool and I think that’s something that we’ll really take with us as we move forward.

I think that’s really translated really well on the new record. I guess that communication is vital when you’re working with all the band members as well as the producer. Did you feel like that sort of progression improved a lot compared to your other records?

I think so. I mean, we really wanted to progress and evolve as a band and we really just wanted to be in the position where we felt confident and comfortable in doing that. If there were decisions that we wanted to make and weren’t sure about, he would kind of hand-hold us through it a little bit and that was really cool. We have grown as people and as songwriters and we wanted that to be reflected on the record that we’ve written and I think it enabled us to get to that place. I mean, the difficult thing about writing music or any creative pursuit is that you can only ever work to the best of your ability in that point of time. You’re always chasing this idea of having something be perfect and be how you want it but the problem is of course that your goal posts or rather your yards get moved as time goes by after what you pictured it to be. You can only ever write music in the moment and I think I’ll always look back on records where I’d go, “Oh, we could’ve done this better or we could’ve done that better,” and I hope that happens ’cause that’s what you use to be there the next time round. However, I’m really proud of the album. I think it’s great and I love it but I also know what I wanna do better next time round which is what I think is really important and I know that the next one will be even better. We’re really in a good place right now. Steve helped us out and I’m glad it has so we can kinda move on.

I’m really happy to hear that. Obviously you’ve learnt so much from working with Steve as well as working with all the other band members. What impact do you think you’re making with this record? Do you feel like your fanbase has expanded since the release of Ones and Zeros?

Well, I’ve noticed that certainly the UK shows that we’ve just played, the audiences were changing a little bit which is really exciting for me. Rock music in the UK is traditionally kind of the younger person’s scene and that’s fine – I have no problem with that. I was one of those people in that audience but one thing I did really notice is that our crowds are kind of evolving and there’s a greater age spread and that’s something really encouraging to see for us. Previous fans have gotten older but there’s always new people that are kinda young as well and that’s really what you want. You don’t ever want to alienate your existence to anyone – you always wanna be reaching out to new people and connecting with more people and trying to get your band out there, you know. It feels like it’s happening right now. We feel happy about it and I think the record is doing what we wanted it to do.

The last time I saw you guys live was actually when you were supporting Tonight Alive back in 2012. And that was so long ago. Is there any Australian tour in the works for you guys? And how did you find your Australian visit last?

Yeah there is. I don’t wanna get ahead of myself and announcing things that aren’t supposed to be annouced yet but that is definitely the plan. The plan at the moment is to go over there relatively soon around the end of the year. And that Tonight Alive tour was a lot of fun and they’re really good friends of ours and we’re close with them. We’re quite desperate to get back to Australia. We’ve been there twice and that’s a place where we’ve had some of the best times as a band so I hope that we can come back soon.

You guys had such an amazing presence live on stage. I actually discovered your music right before those shows and it was when I heard that you were replacing The Dangerous Summer as support act, I was really stoked. Did you feel like it was a last minute change when this happened?

I don’t think so. We kinda got asked about it a little while and it wasn’t too much of a surprise for us as it happened. We’ve been there previously on the Counter Revolution [Festival] (in 2011) and we had a little taste of it. Australia is somewhere where we’ve always really wanted to go. I’m really hoping that we can get there soon. It’s a lot of fun over there.

Ones and Zeros is available now. It can be purchased via iTunes or streamed on Spotify!

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