This interview with Gus of Young Guns was conducted on site at The 2016 Warped Tour in Scranton.
When we last caught up with Young Guns nearly two years ago at a tour stop near Philadelphia, the band had recently premiered their ‘I Want Out’ single here in the states, and were gearing up to release their third record Ones and Zeroes to their new fans in America. Since then the band has continued their rise to the top, and are on the heels of releasing another awesome new record called Echoes.
Eager to find out the scoop on the new record, we caught up with Gus at a recent Warped Tour date in Scranton (in the catering tent none the less!) and Gus was as wonderful to speak to as ever. Check out our interview with Gus below!
AltWire [Derek Oswald]: So how has Warped Tour been for you guys so far?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Warped Tour’s been fantastic! I mean, we’re probably just over two weeks in now. Feels like we’ve been on here for, like, a year! Because it’s a little self-contained world and, once you’re in it, the ‘outside world’ kinda stops existing, which is really unusual. But it’s fantastic — it’s our first ever Warped Tour, so it’s significant for us, it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. And we’re having a great time! The shows are awesome, and we’re hanging out every day with great bands. It’s amazing — we’re having a really good time.
AW: When we last caught up with you guys, you guys were putting the finishing touches on ‘Ones and Zeros’. Incredibly, you’re already about to release a new album, ‘Echoes’! What inspired such a quick turnaround for that?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Well there were a number of different factors, really. ‘Ones and Zeros’ was a record that, for the most part, we’d actually written a long time before we recorded it.
Basically, we put ‘Bones’ out in 2012 — we released it in September over here [in the states], but we had released it in Europe the February before that, in 2012. So we’d already toured it for six / seven months by the time we started touring it in the States. And, because the country is so big, the tour for ‘Bones’ ended up taking, like, two years! So, by the time we released ‘Ones and Zeros’, in the UK and Europe there’d been three-and-a-half years between ‘Bones’ and ‘Ones and Zeros’. So we were very conscious about not wanting to have that length of time happen again.
We always knew as soon as we released ‘Ones and Zeros’, we knew we were going to keep the tour short and begin a new cycle as quickly as we could. And we were already touring the singles from ‘Ones and Zeros’ for about half a year before we released the album. So, by the time October last year came round — although ‘Ones and Zeros’ had only been out a few months — we’d already been touring it for a year.
Gus Wood / Young Guns: So, we kind of packed all our stuff away, said goodbye to touring for a while, and sat down to begin discussing a new album. That’s when we had the conversation with our old drummer and we decided that we should part ways. So, we began writing the new album — just the four of us — and the chemistry was really good.
We were really revitalized by the idea that our dynamic was new again. We got a new drummer, Chris Kamrada, and it just flowed! It just happened really quickly. We wrote the album in eight weeks! And recorded it in five weeks, in New Jersey, with David Bendeth. So, it just happened really, really quick and we wanted the record to feel spontaneous and alive and exciting. And I think that’s because it was all so fast. So I’m very glad that it happened that way.
AW: What would you say the biggest difference is between Ben and Chris?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Well, it’s a great question. Haven’t actually been asked that one yet, so that’s cool! I think Ben was — and is! — a fantastic drummer. There’s no question of that. And he’s one of my best friends; I’ve known him for eleven years. I think, the thing about Ben was that, in terms of us and him, his life — and his priorities — just changed a bit. He had a girlfriend he fell in love with in Los Angeles and he wanted to settle down. And we respected that and backed his decision to do that. But we said, ‘Look, we need a full-time touring guy that’s gonna go all-in.’ And so I think, really, they’re different drummers in some ways.
Chris is, actually, a very technical, and very skilled musician; but he’s also a songwriter, so he brings that to the table. Ben was a really great classic hard rock drum hitter — he just beat the shit out of the kit, all the time. Chris does that too but his drumming’s very intelligent. And that’s just really brought a new flavor to the band. It’s made us love playing live again, so it’s fantastic!
AW: Your previous record was actually recorded over multiple countries and had a long development process. In contrast, your new record was recorded in Jersey and was a lot quicker. Did you find this album, in some ways, a lot easier to make than the previous record?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Infinitely so. The last album’s recording process was actually very frustrating for us. We signed a major label deal in the UK and they put us in the studio with a producer in San Francisco. Then, that didn’t work out after, like, six weeks. So we came home, had three months off, then went in with someone else. Then we had a different guy mix it… and then that didn’t work, so we got a different guy to mix it. The label pushed the album back by about half a year. So the whole thing was very frustrating.
When we went into this one, because we wrote it so quickly and we recorded it so fast, it felt very natural and spontaneous. And that was really, really good fun for us. It was lovely to actually just have a really enjoyable recording experience. It was all about just capturing how we felt in a moment — being excited, being energetic. And, recording an album is always hard — always hard — but if you’re enjoying it, you don’t mind the struggle.
The last album wasn’t really like that, so this was a difficult process but in a really good way. And we challenged ourselves. We did a lot of it live, so there’s not that much in the way of tuning or over-production on the songs. It’s just very much guitars, bass, drums, and some programming. And it feels really organic and I’m really proud of that.
AW: Since your previous record was with Ben when you came to record this album, were any of these songs leftover from the previous era, or did you start completely fresh?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Completely fresh slate. Me and John and Fraser probably do the majority of the songwriting to the extent that we actually write the drum parts as well. And that was something that we did even when Ben was in the band. We would say, ‘This is how we want the drums to be,’ and then Ben would either program them or play them. So there wasn’t much difference there. We knew how to do it anyway, so we just continued doing it. It did mean that we didn’t have a chance to jam any of the songs live, cause we didn’t have a drummer at that point.
But, honestly, no — it was pretty simple, it was pretty easy and we just started with a fresh slate. Chris came into the studio, and we weren’t strict. We were like, ‘Yo, dude, just do your thing, express yourself — play like you would play, not like how we want you to play.’ And that brought a real, new dynamic to the band.
“I’m sitting here in Scranton, with all this beautiful woodland around me, talking to you guys and I’m just a kid from London, England, that made a series of bad decisions that somehow led me here…”
AW: Now, are there any songs in particular on the upcoming album that you’re most excited for fans to hear?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: It’s hard to say! Because I am excited about the record as a body of work. People will have heard two songs now, we’re playing another song live, called ‘Echoes’, which is a song I’m really excited for people to hear. That’s the first song I tracked vocals to. And it’s an interesting, kinda, mature, modern version of Young Guns. So, probably the title track!
AW: Now, of course, you said this is your first Warped Tour. This is probably one of the longer periods that you’ve been away from home. Does it ever get difficult — considering you guys are based out of the UK — to be over here and touring without your family for so long?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: That is hard. I’m very close to my family. But touring is a demanding thing and every person in this band is fortunate enough to have the patience and support of their family and loved ones. Because it is demanding on your relationships both with girlfriends, or family members, or whatever. But it’s the price you have to pay for doing the job that you love. And we do love this and I consider myself lucky every single day that I wake up.
I mean, just look at it like this: I’m sitting here in Scranton, with all this beautiful woodland around me, talking to you guys and I’m just a kid from London, England, that made a series of bad decisions that somehow led me here. So I think you should try and always be thankful and not look too much into the negative side of it.
AW: Fun question here, time to narc on your fellow bandmates! Who would you say has the most annoying or strangest habits in the band?’
Gus Wood / Young Guns: This is a can of worms here! I think the diplomatic answer is that we have been friends for ten years and we know each other inside and out. And, because of that, we know when to leave each other alone — when to give each other space — and we all respect that. So we all work really hard at keeping things good.
Me and Simon are very, very similar. So, we’re probably the two that argue the most. Because we’re very passionate and we’re very emotional, very sensitive. So we get on each other’s nerves sometimes — I know I get on his nerves! John has periods where he just won’t speak to anyone for days — cause he’s quite introverted. That’s fucking annoying!
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Especially when you’re trying to write a song! You’re like, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ He’s like, ‘Uhh…’. Like, dammit! But John is the engine of the band in a lot of ways. He’s the creative drive. He’s very disciplined. He has this ability to put his mind to something and just work at it until it gets done, and I don’t have that. So we all annoy each other, but we also bring vital things to the table.
AW: After Warped Tour, where are you going on tour after this? Do you have any places that you’re looking forward to going to that you haven’t been to before?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: We’re on the Warped Tour for about four more weeks? Something like that? And then we go home, which will be nice. Go hang out for a week or two. Then we come back here for radio festivals in September. Then back to the UK and Europe to tour with Billy Talent.
I’m really excited about that, because we haven’t actually toured Europe in three years, because we’ve been over here so much. So, for me, just going to all those beautiful cities in Europe — Vienna and Amsterdam and all these wonderful places full of culture — I’m really excited to go back there.
AW: To branch off that, what are you most looking forward to in the new record and 2016? Is there anything in particular that you’re excited to talk about?
Gus Wood / Young Guns: Well, I can’t wait for the album to be out, because I’m proud of it. But, almost more importantly than that, what this album has done for us is open a whole set of new doors. We found a new way of working that was very quick, and very effective — cause we’ve traditionally been a band that takes a long time to write. So, I feel after six years — or whatever it’s been now — I feel like, only this year have we finally actually figured out how to do what we want to do.
Gus Wood / Young Guns: And that’s really thrilling because I feel like this is a new start in some ways. We’ve had some success and we’ve been lucky so far but I feel, at the moment, like a kid again. And that’s really exciting for me. So what I wanna do is actually write another album!
Gus Wood / Young Guns: I would like us to have another one written before the end of the year. And then you don’t have to release it straight away, but it’s great to have that in the pocket. It’s made me fall in love with the process of being a musician and writing music again. And then, that makes me just feel very positive for the future!
Pre-Order ‘Echoes’ Below:
Official Store: http://smarturl.it/YGEchoesDlx
Apple Music http://smarturl.it/YGEchoesAppleMusic
Google Music http://smarturl.it/YGEchoesGoogle