Dave Le’aupepe and Max Dunn speak to us about the bands evolution.
Almost four years since the release of their sophomore album, Go Farther in Lightness, globally acclaimed Australian band Gang Of Youths are making a statement with angel in realtime. Leaving behind the more alt-rock based realm of their previous records, their third studio album explores new sonic territory, venturing further into euphoric rhythmic-driven soundscapes. Serving as an ode to frontman Dave Le’aupepe's late father, rooted in his Samoan heritage, the body of work continues the bands implementation of samples from David Fanshawe’s field recordings of Indigenous Pacific music, with contributions from a number of Pasifika and Māori vocalists and instrumentalists.
Opening with you in everything, the track sets the scene for the lush, boundary pushing sonic exploration that plays out across the body of work. Serving as the first piece written for the album in 2019, the track picks up shortly after his fathers passing, ruminating on how his legacy will live on through his own life and existence, ultimately capturing the conceptual nature of the record. Built upon percussive world drums, we’re introduced immediately to Tom Hobden’s bewitching string work, swelling above considered production and complex rhythms. Le’aupepe’s straightforward vocal performance perfectly juxtaposes the soundscape flurrying below, placing focus on the songs emotive lyricism.
Leaning more into their signature indie-rock sound and serving as a bridge between the bands previous work and their latest offering, in the wake of your leave reflects on Le’aupepe’s own relationship with grief, whilst offering up a dynamic performance. Meandering between a low monotone and soaring falsetto, we’re met with gritty vocals in between, showcasing the light and shade of Le’aupepe’s range atop propelling work by a collective of drummers from the Cook Islands and the bands signature use of droning notes over the top. Captivating harmonies from the Auckland Gospel Choir and moving strings, arranged by Hobden, hold the song together, before bringing a shimmering acoustic based sound intricately woven within a high tempo drum on the angel of 8th ave. A hypnotic cut that brings poetic yet intense conversational lyricism inspired by the night Le’aupepe met his wife.
Weaving together a number of influences and musical motifs, the collection of songs pushes the boundaries of what we've come to expect from Gang Of Youths, showing an immense sonic and artistic evolution since 2014’s The Positions.” The debut was us wanting to be as cool as Titus Andronicus and going to New York.” bass guitarist Max Dunn shared with MILKY. “Completely fucking it up remaking it, you know, in the Sony studios. That was an absolute train wreck, but had a lot of heart and vibe. I think this one was, Dave always has this like overarching, usually has the name of the record, like five years before it comes out. Weirdo [laughs]. We were living in Angel and he was demoing there. And then yeah, it was just a three year process of just literally going into a studio every day, trying to make it this massive vision for these crazy influences from like new American minimalism to UK garage, the incredible samples from David Fanshawe. But it was this crazy vision that, you know, five dudes just chased for three years and we, you know, we basically made it like twice.”
Continuing their intense attention to rhythm, the band take a slight melodic shift on returner, opening with vocals and harmonic strings before the main vocal and violin melody replicate each other. Bringing a punchier attitude, the track recalls on pre-fame days and how making music has evolved into a career and income. “I’m only in it for the money, I’m only in it for the change” gang vocals chant, with Le’aupepe even shouting out former Tottenham defender Benoît Assou-Ekotto who famously stated, “I play for the money. Football’s not my passion”. We’re immediately met with a break in tempo on unison, which threads together counter melodies laced throughout, around a spatial bass line and Hobden’s lush string work, conceptually centring itself around Le’aupepe’s Samoan heritage, where tend the garden tells his fathers story and offers an inner monologue atop 70’s soul inspired sounds and our first taste of warm saxophone melodies. Gang Of Youths are embracing moving forward and experimenting with their sound to propel their artistry into new territory.
“Even little tiny things have changed, obviously not having Joji [Malani], Joji's a magnificent guitar player, but he's, you know, he's gone off and done, done his own life and so we've had to, we had to kind of pivot and figure out how we can not replicate what we was good at before, but how we can generate something new and evocative and something that has our DNA but is still [a] step forward and not trying to replicate past glories. Do you know what I mean? And you know, it's interesting, like the sound had to change. We haven't lived in Australia for fucking five years. I haven't lived in Australia for seven years.” Le’aupepe details. “In 2012, 2013, we was recording The Positions 2014, I was a little shit. I don't have any discipline. I don't have any… Like we don't have the same naivety about what it's like to make music and what it's like to be in the world. You know, we are as crushed by the frustrations of neoliberalism as you people are. So that's kind of coming out.”
the kingdom is with you is a jam-packed dynamic cut built upon a dance beat that continues the driving force of percussive rhythms and feel-good sonics embedded within the album. The track explores the exploitation of Pasifika and Māori people from the 1960’s onwards, as well as Le’aupepe’s fathers own journey to a new land to escape persecution and build a new life. A powerful soundscape swells beneath Le’aupepe’s captivating performance and choral work. Opening with lo-fi drum pads and drop-tuned acoustic, sombre vocals narrate how death and grief can cause a crisis in faith, drawing parallels to bible verses and psalms atop brit-pop infused moments that swell into a massive chorus. The track features an original spoken word verse from musician and Taonga Puoro facilitator Shane McLean.
I think as a process, an organic process or whatever you can fucking call it, this one was about as organic as it got in terms of its inception.” Le’aupepe shared with MILKY when we spoke earlier this week. “But as the process went on, we stopped looking for things that were coming out of our amps. We looked for things that are out in the world. We would look at things that were cohabiting nicely with the ether that were ignored, you know? We looked for found things. We looked for parts of my ancestry to infuse it.”
On brothers, Le’aupepe continues to tell his fathers life story, documenting the revelations that arrived following his death, including learning of his two half-brothers. Raw and emotional lyricism is further heralded by vulnerable vocals, woven together poetically atop piano work that conjures lullaby-like melodies. Keeping in the creaks of the sustain pedal and tapping of the keys, offers a more organic recording and one of the records most intimate moments. “This one [album] was so free, man. Like there's some stuff on it that's just the dumbest, honestly, some of the engineering is just unbelievably bad. It's like pointing a mic at something that should be plugged in, but just miking it instead. We recorded random people walking past” Dunn shares.
angel in realtime. marks the bands first full-length outing since Hobdon joined the band. The addition not only brought a new guitarist, but a multi-talented musician who brings many new assets to the group. “But in terms of like how much, like we literally just spent all that time there right, in this studio making this thing and I end up doing the strings.” Le’aupepe says of working on their debut, adding of their new material “I don't have to do that anymore because we've got a fucking world class string arranger.”
Pivoting back to busy percussion, forbearance’s complex drum work perfectly works in simpatico with the songs central bass line, offering a more melodic phrase similar in the same vein of the songs vocal melody, giving the percussion motifs its own space to exist within. Le’aupepe recalls on past mistakes, hoping for redemption. Opening with striking strings and hymnal choral work, the band present one of their most captivating tracks to date with the man himself. The symphonic release is built upon a pulse-racing beat and dimensional guitars, that move towards a contemplative piano breakdown. Further sampling Fanshawe’s field recordings of Indigenous Pacific music, there’s an effortless marriage of the samples and the bands own artistry, creating a euphoric moment that is sure to erupt at their upcoming live shows. Channelling U2's Bono with his emotive and strong vocal performance, Le’aupepe’s enchanting vocal performance rings clear throughout the song as he navigates the loss of his father. Throughout the course of the song, Le’aupepe holds onto the memory whilst attempting to find his own purpose and ponder the future.
The albums penultimate track hand of god returns to the muffled upright piano work of brothers, with a short reverb on Le’aupepe’s vocals that creates this other worldly aura within the song. Bringing some of the albums most introspective and intimate lyricism, hand of god is one of the albums standout moments, building to a final chorus of Le’aupepe’s dazzling vocals backed by stirring choral work. The albums closer goal of the century picks up from the piano work of the previous track, before packing in the albums textural and dynamic exploration into one seven minute offering. Opening with almost two minutes of rich and symphonic strings before introducing moving choral and scintillating percussion, the song builds to a crescendo before Le’aupepe’s distinct vocals arrive. Building to a rapturous and celebratory chorus, the track captures the albums central themes; love, death, grief and the continuation of life after a considerable loss.
On their third studio album, Gang Of Youths deliver their most engaging body of work to date. A cohesive collection of songs, the record is driven by its conceptual narrative that provides cathartic moments of introspection and vulnerability. Exploring new sonic avenues, the band have offered up dynamic cuts driven by complex rhythms and introducing hints of synth-based electronica and American minimalism. Thought out and meticulous production is paired with more organic and natural choices, with Le’aupepe’s beguiling vocals boosted by Fanshawe’s field recordings of Indigenous Pacific music. Serving as an ode to his father, Le’aupepe and his band mates have created a body of work that questions life and mortality, and provides a space to honour the legacy of lost loved ones.
angel in realtime. is out now!
GANG OF YOUTHS angel in realtime. tour
Perth: Sat 30 July 2022 @ RAC Arena, WA
Adelaide: Wed 3 Aug 2022 @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre, SA
Sydney: Sat 6 Aug 2022 @ Qudos Bank Arena, NSW
Melbourne: Fri 12 Aug 2022 @ Rod Laver Arena, VIC
Wellington: Tue 16 Aug 2022 @ Hunter Lounge, NZ
Auckland: Wed 17 Aug 2022 @ Powerstation, NZ
A MORE PERFECT UNION
Hobart: Sun 14 Aug 2022 @ Regatta Grounds, TAS
Featuring GANG OF YOUTHS, ARLO PARKS (UK), CUB SPORT, GRETTA RAY, ADAM NEWLING and THE LAZY EYES
Sunshine Coast: Sat 20 2022 @ Sandstone Point Hotel, QLD
Featuring GANG OF YOUTH, MATT CORBY, MIDDLE KIDS, BUDJERAH, BLESSED, BECCA HATCH and ROMERO
General sale: Friday 25th February @ 10AM AEDT
Tickets available via amoreperfectunion.com.au