Gang of Youths’ front­man Dave Le’au­pepe bares his soul in the songs on their new al­bum – it’s his re­flec­tion on the can­cer fight from hell

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD PLAY - KATHY MCCABE

It may be mu­sic’s last re­main­ing taboo: can­cer. Coun­try star Adam Har­vey had a crack at the dif­fi­cult topic last year in She Don’t Know She’s Beau­ti­ful, while hard­core band Con­fes­sion pro­voked at­ten­tion with their em­phatic F--Can­cer.

Gang Of Youths’ al­bum The Po­si­tions, which de­buted at No.5 ahead of their sold-out na­tional tour, is an en­tire al­bum on the theme.

Front­man Dave Le’au­pepe was only 19 when his part­ner was di­ag­nosed with melanoma, which then spread to her lymph nodes and at­tacked her lungs.

For the next few years, the pair went through end­less hos­pi­tal vis­its, the ex­pense of treat­ment and long dis­tances when he re­lo­cated to Amer­ica.

His part­ner sur­vived, their re­la­tion­ship didn’t.

The Po­si­tions chron­i­cles these bat­tles against a bold rock sound­track re­call­ing sta­dium kings from Spring­steen to Bono.

“It af­fects one in two peo­ple, 50 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion. And no one wants to talk about it be­cause it’s awk­ward,” 23year-old Le’au­pepe says.

“We wanted all the sides of liv­ing with can­cer rep­re­sented on the al­bum; the de­fi­ance and hope­ful­ness that are in­trin­sic to fight­ing the dis­ease and the anger and res­ig­na­tion be­cause you don’t have any choice in it.”

Writ­ing songs in­clud­ing Vi­tal Signs, Kansas, Ra­dio­face and Knuck­les White Dry was ther­apy for Le’au­pepe; he didn’t in­tend for them to be­come part of the band’s first al­bum.

His band mates chal­lenged him to think dif­fer­ently. In the end, a de­sire to say some­thing im­por­tant with Gang Of Youths made his de­ci­sion.

“These songs are vul­ner­a­ble, too con­fes­sional, har­row­ing and be­fore them, I was writ­ing to­tally su­per­fi­cial, facile mu­sic,” he says.

“Now I un­der­stand what the truly cathar­tic el­e­ments of mu­sic are; you are slit­ting your wrists and paint­ing with blood. It’s ugly and it’s clumpy and it’s got your DNA all over it.

“And some­one is go­ing to find some po­etry in that.”

The Top 5 chart de­but is tes­ta­ment to that, though it shocked the band.

Le’au­pepe and his band are de­fy­ing ra­dio trends with epic sta­dium rock songs bust­ing the five and six-minute mark.

“Am­bi­tion is in­tox­i­cat­ing and the sound of huge mu­sic is im­por­tant to us,” he says.

“Born To Run, Joshua Tree, Day­dream Na­tion are the three records I want to beat in my life­time. Time-hon­oured clas­sics with long struc­tures.”

But he ad­mits Gang Of Youths have an up­hill bat­tle to go U2-sized.

“Rock mu­sic stopped be­ing seen as re­bel­lious when it be­came part of the main­stream,” he says. “Hip hop and dance mu­sic are be­ing seen as the rebels. And a lot of that has to do with drugs.

“Look at the last rock move­ment with The Strokes and those guys – it ush­ered in skinny jeans. Hardly re­bel­lious.

“And there’s no trib­al­ism be­cause hip hop kids will love Bon Iver. As some­one who is pas­sion­ate about heavy mu­sic, I don’t want to be called a poser be­cause I like Ken­drick La­mar. But I think rock’n’roll needs to adapt be­fore it can be saved.”

Gang of Youths’ al­bum

The Po­si­tions,

a deeply per­sonal re­flec­tion on can­cer, has de­buted at No.5.

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