GANG OF YOUTHS’ NEW ALBUM COMES AFTER A TUMULTUOUS FEW YEARS, WRITES Rod Yates.
Gang Of Youths have mined personal travails for a rich creative vein
If you’ve ever wondered what Sydney quintet Gang of Youths do to numb the boredom while on the road, right now, at the tailend of a 10-date U.S. tour, it boils down to two things. The first is to binge on Lore, a podcast about “the frightening history behind folklore”. The other, says frontman Dave Le’aupepe, is to “mock each other mercilessly until we fall asleep”. Both, he shrugs, do the trick.
Right now, on a balmy Thursday evening in June, the singer is sitting by a food truck in the hip Los Angeles neighbourhood of Echo Park, tucking into a vegetarian burrito a block away from tonight’s venue, the 350-capacity The Echo. It’s the final show of their American tour, after which the band will splinter – Le’aupepe to visit his partner in New York, the remaining members (guitarist Joji Malani, bassist Max Dunn, keyboardist/ guitarist Jung Kim and drummer Donnie Borzestowski) to their newly adopted home of London. This short run of dates serves as a prelude of sorts to the release of their second album, Go Farther In Lightness, which comes three years after their 2014 Top 5 debut, The Positions.
Never ones to shy away from life’s headier topics, their debut tackled Le’aupepe’s journey as he nursed his then-wife through cancer and, later, dealt with the breakdown of that relationship and his issues with mental health, set to a sound that combined Springsteen’s storytelling with the ramshackle attack of the Replacements and U2’s stadium ambitions. Go Farther In Lightness is what happens when you’ve had to rebuild your world.
“In terms of concept the record is about healing, it’s about empathy, and it’s about learning how to be a person,” says Le’aupepe in his deep baritone. “It’s about becoming a human being. It’s trying to condense the vast array of human experiences and emotional experience that I was exposed to [since the last album].”
Weighing in at just under 80 minutes, Go Farther in Lightness is one of the most ambitious albums ever to emanate from Australia. A double album divided into four movements, each is split by a musical interlude named after the psychoanalytic concepts of French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan – “L’imaginaire”, “Le Symbolique” and “Le Reel” – of whose work Le’aupepe is a big fan. Lyrically, the singer veers between topics ranging from the death of a close friend’s baby to the questioning of the Christian faith with which he was raised, to his fear of loving again after his divorce. It may sound like a slog, but the album is shot through with an optimism borne out of a desire to make the most of our limited time on this earth. It all comes to a rousing finale with closer “Say Yes To Life”, a song charged through with the kind of adrenaline that Le’aupepe found intoxicating as a troubled child growing up in Sydney.
“Hearing [hardcore punk band] Gorilla Biscuits the first time, hearing Broken Social scene the first time, it was like electricity,” he says. “It’s like a moment of primal, undulating desire for spirit. Japandroids put it well – they talk about the punk’s guitar breathing life into a sunken body at the back of the bar. The thunder of the punk’s guitar. A shot of life. It is the thing that makes you feel alive,” he smiles.
“In terms of concept the record is about healing, it’s about empathy, and it’s about learning how to be a person,” Dave Le’aupepe