Who doesn’t love the 80’s? A fantastic period for both music and artistic creativity, the decade witnessed many classic artists like Tears For Fears, U2, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and Journey leave their permanent mark on pop culture. With breathy synths and hook-laden tunes that blasted into the stratosphere, it is hard not to get hooked into this spell-binding decade’s offering of music.
It is, perhaps, fitting that the enduring legacy of electro-pop and synth-rock from that time period hasn’t exactly gone anywhere. In an industry where grunge has come and gone, along with dance music trends that seem to change with the seasons, the inspiration of the 80’s is still widely felt. Such inspiration can be found, ever so prominently, in the tunes of MGMT, Passion Pit, M83 and now Young Kato.
A six piece band from Cheltenham, England, Young Kato was founded in 2011 by step-brothers Sam Henderson and Jack Edwards. Along with Joe Green, Joe Lever, Harry Steele and Tommy Wright, Sam and Jack rehearsed and wrote material that would become the basis of the band you hear today. Currently hard at work on finishing their debut record, which is due for release in 2015, the boys have released the exquisite Sunshine EP to give a taste of what’s to come. With sounds and ideologies that are rooted deep in 1980’s pop culture, Young Kato is a band on the verge of exploding into the public consciousness. We recently caught up with lead vocalist Tommy Wright to discuss the band’s upcoming record and tours. Check out our exclusive interview below.
AW [Derek]: Congrats on your newly released Sunshine EP! I’m sure you must be very excited. Out of the three tracks on the EP, which in particular are you the fondest of? Do you have a favorite?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: I think the favorite for me is track two. We haven’t really released that in any format, so it’s kind of a “you buy it and you listen to it” sort of thing. It’s called ‘Ultraviolet’ and it’s hugely 80’s inspired, and that’s everything that me and Joe Green (the songwriters of the band) aspire to [create]. We’ve got breathing loops and stuff like that. We really went to town on that whole kind of 80’s vibe, and so we’re really proud of that one specifically.
AW: Speaking of that 80’s vibe, I’m really digging the new wave influence that I’m hearing on this EP! Which artists from that time period would you say are the biggest influences overall on the band’s sound?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: The thing with Young Kato is that we have so many influences, that we can’t really be tied down or pigeonholed into “you sound like this band” or “you sound just like that”, which I guess is a positive thing. Our influences can be things that are slightly current, or it can be back in the 80s, with bands like A-Ha, or Tears for Fears. The kind of music we play today is the kind of music that would have been huge back then, in the way that it has a big poppy chorus and it has loads of hooks, but it still sounds credible at the same time. And we use big synths, and really cool little guitar hooks. That’s what we’re really trying to aim for.
AW: What was it like working with Paul Stanborough for this EP? Was there something in particular that made you choose him as a producer for these new tracks?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: Definitely! Paul Stanborough spent years and years shadowing Guy Chambers, who did all the Robbie Williams stuff, and so he’s naturally got kind of a good ear for pop music. We took the songs to him and they were kind of more in an indie style, and we wanted to really bring out the whole pop ‘culture’ in this new EP. We wanted it to be a celebration of Young Kato, we wanted it to be happy, and we really felt that he was the person to do that, and I think he did. He was kind of a ‘sing with a smile’ type of producer, you know what I mean? He would forever get us to redo takes and get it perfect.
AW: Is that a focus of your songwriting, to make happier sounding music? I’ve noticed a lot of Young Kato’s music has more of a positive vibe. Is that the feeling that you’re trying to give off with the music that you make?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]:Definitely. For us, music can do anything. Music is powerful; it can make you sad, it can make you happy, you know what I mean? It toys with your emotions, and we feel with our band that it’s our given to kind of make people happy, and that’s what we like. We like going to gigs, we like seeing people smiling and singing along, that’s what Young Kato is all about. It’s about six lads from the ass end of England [laughs], playing really happy songs and escaping into that. There’s nothing better than being on stage for however long, playing our tunes.
“We’re not afraid to admit that this is 80’s indie-pop with big choruses.”
AW: This month and into November, you’ll be embarking on a UK tour with Rixton. You’ll also be playing the Roundhouse with Charlie Simpson. How does it feel to be invited out on tour with these artists?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: It’s great! Charlie Simpson for example, he obviously was in the band Busted and that was kind of the first record that I bought when I was a child. I was ten, and I was the right age for it, so coming full circle and supporting him at what I think might be a sold out show is great. It’s at the Roundhouse which is a prestigious venue in London, so we’re really looking forward to that.
And Rixton I think is a really good show for us. We’re really pleased that they asked us to get on that tour, because we feel that they truly are a ‘pop’ band. They’re hitting the charts and they’ve got a great smash single, and we feel that we could compliment them really well on that tour.
AW: With Young Kato being – as you so eloquently put it – from the ‘ass end of London’ [both laugh], the dream for you would probably be not just to tour London, but to tour the states as well. Are there any plans in the works to come across the pond?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: That would literally be the dream. It’s funny; we always say how it’s amazing that the songs we write in our little bedrooms at home can send us thousands of miles away to different countries. We went to Russia once, which was a weird experience. It was really humbling to know that songs that we wrote were being heard over there. That’s literally the only reason we were sent over there, to play music, and it’s such an amazing feeling. We’d love to come over to America. I think slowly but surely we’re getting interest from ‘over the pond’ as you say, which is really cool because it means that something could happen, and maybe one day we’ll be in America playing a few shows and we’re really excited about that!
AW: If I understand correctly…for this EP, you recorded six songs, and choose three songs from that session that you felt best defined your new sound. Since the three you’ve picked are so excellent, are there any plans to release the other three tracks down the road? Will they be on an upcoming album?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: Yeah, 100%! The thing with that is that we had an argument the day of recording drums, and it was three vs three (there is six of us in the band). It was a complete and utter divide over what the last song was going to be on it, and it was between ‘Light It Up’ and another song. In the end, there was a boy who came in on ‘work experience’ and we let him choose between the two tracks. He had nothing to do with us or the producer; he was just there for work experience. And we were like “Ah mate, we’re going to play you the two songs, you just choose your favorite one and we’re going to whack it on the EP” you know what I mean [laughs]? But those songs are still going. At this very moment in time, we’re in Devon, which is very south England. We’re like ten minutes away from the sea and we’re in a little log cabin writing new tunes. We always feel it’s best to kind of just get away, and that’s all we’ve been doing for the past six days. We’ve been endlessly writing new tunes because I don’t think you can ever ‘have enough’ to then go in and make your debut album. I think it’s a big thing for us, this debut album, and we want to have as many choices as possible. So those three songs are definitely going to be in the running to make potential singles, or album songs.
“We want to get in a van for 52 days and hate each other by the end of it!”
AW: How far along are you with the new album? Do you have an ETA on when you hope for it to be released?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: Definitely will be early next year. It’s literally 85% done. We went in with Dan Grech-Marguerat who did some Lana Del Ray, The Vaccines and Tom Odell records recently, which is an amazing thing. He was our number 1 producer, and thankfully the label got him in. We’re really excited to show everyone [the new music] actually. It is a celebration and it’s what Young Kato is all about. It’s fun, but it also has slightly darker sides to it, which kind of shows our maturity as songwriters and shows what we aim to do in the future.
AW: Great! Anything you’re looking forward to in the year ahead and lastly is there anything you’d like to say to people who may be introduced to your music for the first time?
Tommy Wright [Young Kato]: For the year ahead, hopefully it will be as busy as it was this year. I mean we’re very grateful for every opportunity that we get to play our music and that’s all we ever want to do. For the next year we’re looking to release the album, tour the hell out of it, and we want to get in a van for 52 days and hate each other by the end of it! We just want to play in front of people, and we just want as many people to hear the album as possible. Anything between interviews like this, and playing shows, everything helps. And I guess to say to someone who’s never heard of Young Kato before, you need to check us out if you’re into that kind of indie-pop vibe. We’re not afraid to admit that this is 80’s indie-pop with big choruses. So that’s your kind of thing and you want to feel good, go listen to Young Kato!
Watch the video for Young Kato’s latest single “Sunshine” below: