People in England just know how to have fun…
MR’s Nathan Daniel took the chance to catch up with Ben from Young Guns when the boys had a day off in America this week. With their third studio album Ones And Zeros just around the corner and being in the middle of a big US tour with Breaking Benjamin, we talked summer festivals, Kerrang! Awards and missing home.
So then, Ben, you guys have been keeping yourselves busy recently! You’re back out in the US with Breaking Benjamin at the moment. I guess you must have a pretty loyal fan base in a lot of areas now?
Ben: Yeah it’s been pretty crazy actually. Obviously America’s such a big place and we’ve spent a lot of time over here and it’s not just something that happens overnight. We’ve been touring pretty consistently for the past few years and it’s great that we’ve been lucky enough to do some great tours and get on the road with Breaking Benjamin, amongst a bunch of festivals and headline shows. It definitely feels like it’s growing nicely. Because America is such a big place, its’ not going to be something that happens so quickly, but we’ve really got our foot in the door now and we’re really lucky that we’re doing well. The shows are just really flying, every show is different – whether in a different state, a festival, a headline show or whatever, there’s a different vibe to each one. It’s really exciting!
We’re very much looking forward to coming back to the UK, though. Other than a couple of shows the other month, we haven’t done a headline for quite a while and we’re dying to really connect with the UK fan base again.
Whilst you say it didn’t happen over night as such, it did come together pretty quickly, didn’t it?
Ben: Yeah, I guess. When we first released ‘Bones’ over here as our first single, our aim was just to release it, see how it does and hopefully tour America. None of us had a clue that it’d go to number one in the Rock charts and obviously that was a massive shock. In that respect, it was a quick jump up. At the same time, though, it’s still early days and it’s such a big country with so much ground to take in. We’re just doing everything we can to keeping pushing, whilst remembering that we have other places to go, especially back home!
How was Rock On The Range last Friday?
Ben: That was incredible. We did that festival two years ago and it was our favourite one at the time. Coming back this year, we had a lot of high expectations and hoped it lived up to it, and it was just amazing. All these festivals over here are great. The second that the doors are open, everyone’s just drunk and having a good time and Rock On The Range is such a big festival and such a great festival. You get to showcase your stuff to people that might have never heard of you before, or might have only heard ‘Bones’.
As far as festivals go this summer, you’ve got T In The Park, 2000 Trees and Y Not in the UK. There are some awesome line-ups there, especially at T In The Park. Are you getting excited?
Ben: Oh yeah, man. We’ve never done any of them before, so doing new festivals, especially in the UK, is big. T In The Park is one we’ve always been interested in, I guess with the more mainstream kind of ‘Pop’ world as well. T In The Park is definitely more that kind of style and that’ll be really exciting for us. 2000 Trees and Y Not are both supposed to really cool festivals too and we can’t wait – just to come back and play in the UK will be so much fun. I grew up going to Reading festival as a kid and getting to play that over the last few years have been some of the best experiences for me. People in England just know how to have fun. It’s going to be so good!
Y Not and 2000 Trees will be good to catch up with some old friends, too, right (Deaf Havana, We Are The Ocean etc.)?
Ben: Yeah! It’s going to be really nice to not only watch, but also see some friends that we haven’t seen for a while. They’re such great bands as well!
You have another new video coming this week for a track called ‘Infinity’. What’s this one all about, then?
Ben: ‘Infinity’ is our next single and we wrote that one when we were in New York about a year and a half ago actually, maybe even two years, now. That was one where Gus had written a lot of lyrics around the piano and it was very much about where we were at the time. Our studio was overlooking Times Square and it was a really great place, really iconic and that spurred on the lyrics. I remember when we were trying to write and couldn’t find a chorus, he just stood outside on the balcony with John, looking out into the city, and just sung the lyrics without any notes. They were gradually written around that, which is something we’d never actually really done before. I can’t wait to play this one live, it’s such an energetic, feel good song. It’s all about overlooking stuff and it’s really quite empowering. We’re desperate to get it out and start playing!
Not only that, it’s three weeks today until the release of Ones and Zeros! With it all being recorded so long ago, you must be buzzed to get them out now?
Ben: Totally, man. We’ve really learnt to be patient with this album – when we wrote some of the songs a couple of years ago, we wanted to release them there and then, but, that’s why we have the people around us that know what they’re doing, so we don’t screw it up! Being able to get the songs out one by one is good, but we can’t wait for everyone to hear the full thing. We’re keen to play them live as well. Over here [in the US], the new stuff is going down the best. Obviously we’ve got to be realistic and can’t just play new stuff, and play the old ones that the fans want to hear, too.
I think one of the biggest differences between All Our Kings Are Dead and Bones was how obvious the general step up was. It just sounded bigger, more polished and more anthemic. Ones And Zeros seems to have evolved in that sense, too. What does the album represent for you guys?
Ben: For AOKAD and Bones, we only really had a month or six weeks to write, which isn’t long. With this one, we actually had some time and we had a couple of different producers. The best thing is that we got to write stuff, sit on it for a while and come back to it with a fresh outlook, which is something we’ve never got to do before. Once you’ve sat on a song for a little while, you get to make up your mind about it and change bits about that you didn’t necessarily like, which is exciting. I think, fundamentally, we’ve grown as songwriters and really worked on grooves, drum and bass, and really tightened stuff up. We’ve simplified a lot of it – we used to write and demo and basically put the kitchen sink in, with all the guitars, loads of crashing symbols and so much noise. With this record, we really worked on texture and made sure that everything counts and that everything has a purpose. The fact that each song is written in different parts of the world is crazy. Some from New York, some in San Francisco, some on the road around America and some from home in London. They were written at different times as well, so each song has its own identity and its own story, really, which I think shows on the album. I really think it showcases our songwriting – we’ve been pushing it and not just trying to do five guys with heavy guitars and stuff, we’ve tried to do something a little bit different, that we really enjoy doing and we hope everyone else enjoys it too.
Looking towards the future, is the slightly more accessible and hugely anthemic style of the new material the general direction you’ll continue in?
Ben: I guess so! It’s hard to say. At the end of the day we write stuff that we love – big catchy songs. We love our Pop, we love our Taylor Swift and we’re never afraid to admit that! But, we also love our heavy riffs and heavy music and just want to write the catchiest songs we can with big guitars, big drums and something a little different. We’ve been using keyboards a lot more on stage lately, trying to do different kinds of stuff to push the boat out further. I guess you could say more anthemic, yeah!
With heavily touring the US over the past couple of years, do you feel a bit out of the loop in the UK?
Ben: You do, actually, yeah. It’s quite surprising coming home and suddenly being like “oh, what time is it?” and finding myself coming back and talking slightly American! You do feel slightly out of the loop, but we try and do what we can to keep in touch, but it’s never the same as when you’re actually there. Just seeing family and friends, you come back home and its very much like “what’s been going on, then?” Now that we have been touring in America for a little while, we’ve got more used to it, with little silly things like having good Wi-Fi. For the first couple of tours, none of us could speak to anyone back home and we found it really hard to keep in contact. We’ve definitely got a lot better at it since, though.
It’s very cliché, but what’s different about touring and the shows over in the states compared to the UK?
Ben: Mainly, it’s the journeys. There’s just a lot of travelling and because of that and being in a different state each day, its quite amazing how much the crowd are even more varied over here. We get treated so well, the climate changes so much – one day, you’re boiling hot in Texas and the next day, you’re playing a show in Colorado Springs and putting a parka jacket on. At some of the shows over here, we’ve done a lot of Amphitheatre stuff that you don’t get so much in the UK and it’s quite exciting, but I do think the people in America are a little bit different in terms of the fan base. For Rock music in the UK, they’re slightly younger and over here its definitely more widespread – you get an older dude with his son on his shoulders singing along and that’s something that we never thought we’d see. It’s really cool. We want everyone to like our music, so it’s cool in that respect. In the UK, it is different because each journey is only about an hour long. It’s home and where we started touring and it still doesn’t get any better than doing headline shows over there, with the atmosphere and the familiar faces. It’s always great to come back, man.
It’s obvious that people aren’t forgetting about you lot in the UK. You’re nominated for a Kerrang! Award again with ‘Speaking In Tongues’ as best single. Not bad, eh?
Ben: We couldn’t believe it, we were so happy about that. Like you’ve said, we have been away for a while and you always get that slight fear that you’ve got to come back with a good record, and that feeling of “what if they forget?” Especially in the UK with the radio side of things, singles don’t last very long and people can be forgotten a bit more easily over there. There’s so much music coming out all the time. Being nominated for best single is such a great feeling. Whenever Kerrang! have nominated us for anything, its always been so cool for us because we grew up buying that magazine every Wednesday and being able to be part of that is incredible. With being away for a little while, we didn’t know what to expect and we weren’t sure if we’d get anything like that because of it. We’re very lucky that we haven’t been forgotten about and it’s important that we get back to where we were before!
Lastly, what are Young Guns into at the moment, then?
Ben: To be honest, I’ve been listening to a lot of Hip Hop lately. Since we’ve been writing this album, I’ve been listening to a lot more groove and things like that. The new Marmozets record is unbelievable and it’s no secret that we’re a fan of those guys – we brought them out on our last headline tour a couple of years ago and they’re doing really well over in America now. They’re absolutely smashing it, so we’re really happy with how the Marmozets guys are doing and really proud of them for that album. There’s a lot of music around at the moment that’s really exciting, from Rock to Pop and I’d probably say that Marmozets are the band that I’m most excited about. Everything I’ve heard from their new stuff has been amazing!
It’s been great talking to you. Hope the album campaign goes well and you guys having a cracking summer doing what you do. Thanks!