WILD YOUTH…

You’ll have heard them non­stop on the ra­dio and seen them sup­port­ing the likes of The Script and Niall Ho­ran these past few months, but as they gear up to re­lease their de­but EP, Dublin band Wild Youth have sta­dium shows and world tours in their sights.

Hot Press - - Contents - In­ter­view: Peter McGo­ran

You’ll have heard them non­stop on the ra­dio and seen them sup­port­ing the likes of The Script and Niall Ho­ran these past few months, but as they gear up to re­lease their de­but EP, Dublin band Wild Youth have sta­dium shows and world tours in their sights.

The big tents at Elec­tric Pic­nic don’t look like much from the out­side. Once you’re in them though, that tun­nel of space be­tween the Main Stage and the back en­trance packs in about 10,000 peo­ple, eas­ily. In­tim­i­dat­ing at the best of times. So what do you do when you’re a band who’ve only re­leased three sin­gles, barely been around more than a year, and been given the awk­ward slot on a Sun­day af­ter­noon? Doubt your­self, nat­u­rally. “We went to see Der­mot Kennedy in one of the tent the day be­fore our set, and the place looked so big that we got ner­vous and had to leave,” laughs David Whe­lan, vo­cal­ist and gui­tarist for Wild Youth. “His gig was packed. It hit home how much space there was and we were like, ‘Oh fuck, if we can’t fill this it’s gonna be em­bar­rass­ing!’”

“We were on at 3.30 like!” adds co-vo­cal­ist and pi­anist Conor O’Dono­hue. “The All-Ire­land was on at the same time. Every­one’s al­ways dy­ing on the Sun­day af­ter­noon. We thought we hadn’t a hope.”

Pre­ma­ture pes­simism, lads. Hot Press was down at the set in ques­tion and can con­firm that it was the GAA, in fact, that didn’t have a hope. While a few hun­dred packed into the Irish Lan­guage tent to watch Dublin smother Tyrone, up­wards of 10,000 caught Wild Youth’s blis­ter­ing half-hour per­for­mance. They had hits for days, showed them­selves to be ac­com­plished mu­si­cians, and strode around the stage like they owned the place. Every­one who’d wan­dered into the tent ac­ci­den­tally was ask­ing the same ques­tion – “Who the fuck are these guys?”

HOW IT BE­GAN

“Wild Youth started with me and Dave,” ex­plains Conor. “We’ve been best friends since we were kids and we used to meet up af­ter school and play mu­sic to­gether. Then once school fin­ished, Dave joined a duo and I was in a dif­fer­ent band. It was one of those things where we didn’t see each other for about a year af­ter school fin­ished. Then one night we were out and bumped into each other at the same bar and we both talked. I was like, ‘I don’t re­ally en­joy the band I’m in’, and he said ‘The duo’s good, but I re­ally en­joyed what we did.’ We had this buzz when we were mak­ing mu­sic to­gether.”

While the pair of them hadn’t gained much trac­tion do­ing their sep­a­rate projects, things picked up al­most im­me­di­ately when they be­gan work­ing to­gether.

“The mo­ment we played our first gig, we had an of­fer from a man­age­ment com­pany,” says Conor. “We thought, ‘But we’re noth­ing?’ Then se­cond gig – an­other of­fer. So we thought, ‘Al­right, maybe there’s some­thing here.’

“I think there was a con­nec­tion that shone through with our friend­ship. So when we got those of­fers, we went and wrote

more mu­sic. We de­cided the di­rec­tion we wanted to go in, we de­cided what our name might be, and then we knew we wanted to make it a full band to fill out the sound, so we re­cruited Cal­lum and Ed. We played them our mu­sic and – I know it sounds clichéd – but they just clicked with it too. We all just clicked.”

Wild Youth’s three sin­gles, ‘All Or Noth­ing’, ‘Lose Con­trol’ and ‘Can’t Move On’, have all be­come in­stant ra­dio hits. What was it about the group that made the record com­pa­nies come run­ning?

“Look, we’re not naïve,” says Conor. “We know we make pop mu­sic, we know that’s not for every­one. But the one thing I’ll al­ways say to any­one is that be­fore you judge our mu­sic, come to our show. Come see us live. If you see us live, we have the en­ergy of a punk band. That was our vi­sion from the start – we wanted to be a su­per en­er­getic rock band live, but then also be su­per clin­i­cal with the songs so that they come across on ra­dio. But hon­estly, for the live show, we give it our all.”

“And that’s nat­u­ral for us,” adds David. “It was never Conor say­ing be­fore the show, ‘Right, go up there and lose your shit for half-an-hour.’ It’s not a con­ver­sa­tion we ever had. It’s just a nat­u­ral thing that all four of us have go­ing for every show.”

“Some­times we go up on stage and we’re throw­ing drums about and Dave’s jump­ing round the place and then af­ter­wards we get off stage and we’re like, ‘Who the fuck do you we think we are?!’”

David laughs. “Yeah! Throw­ing digs at each other and all!”

“Hav­ing to have con­ver­sa­tions with our­selves like ‘Calm the fuck down now! You’re play­ing pop mu­sic boys!’”

REWRIT­ING THE SCRIPT

Wild Youth now have a ded­i­cated net­work of fans, and they’re pack­ing out fes­ti­vals and gigs across the coun­try.

“We’re still pro­cess­ing it,” David says, shak­ing his head. “Like, we’re not mas­sive ob­vi­ously, but I don’t think you can ever treat it like a nor­mal thing to have 10,000 peo­ple scream your lyrics at you – that’s not nor­mal. I think if one day you find it nor­mal, you’ll find it bor­ing. So it’ll al­ways give us a lit­tle tin­gle down our spine.”

“We’ll never think about be­ing known or be­ing big,” says Conor. “One of the great things about be­ing best friends in a band is that we’d never be able to get an ego or think that we are some­thing more than our­selves.”

“I think we’d bring each other back down to re­al­ity,” smiles David. “If I ever saw Conor be­ing a dick, I’d be sure to give him a clip be­hind the ear. That’s the kind of friend­ship that works well.”

“We’ve had that con­ver­sa­tion be­fore,” says Conor. “We spoke about that and we said, ‘Lis­ten, if things do get crazy, we’re gonna stay the same.’”

That seems like a dis­tinctly Irish qual­ity, not to let your ego get out of con­trol…

“It is the beauty of the Irish thing,” says Conor. “Like we’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of work with The Script. You’ll never meet a more down-to-earth group of lads. They’ve played Croke Park, they’ve played Shea Sta­dium with Paul Mc­Cart­ney. They’ve played world tours to mil­lions of peo­ple, but when they walk in the room, they could be three peo­ple walk­ing into your lo­cal. You’ve got Hozier, you’ve got Gavin James, and there are no egos any­where.”

The band sup­ported The Script dur­ing their sum­mer tour and co-wrote ‘Can’t Move On’ with lead singer Danny O’Donoghue. Did they learn many lessons from them?

“They’ve kind of be­come men­tors for us,” Conor re­veals. “We’re like sponges around them, soak­ing up every bit of guid­ance they give us.”

“And we learnt a lot from their work ethic,” adds David. “They don’t have down­time. They’re al­ways in the stu­dio work­ing on the next vi­sion for them­selves, or else work­ing with us. Then they might be off do­ing the next thing. Then the next thing. There seems to be no off switch with them and that’s ob­vi­ously why they’ve been in the in­dus­try for so long. We’ve learnt a lot from them.”

The band have promised that their de­but EP will be com­ing out in Jan­uary. It’s some­thing which, ac­cord­ing to David, will en­com­pass all their dis­parate in­flu­ences – from the soul singers that their par­ents played for them when they were younger, to suc­cess­ful indie acts like Foals and Wild Beasts. Most of the writ­ing re­volved around a se­ries of break-ups, which shaped the band both per­son­ally and cre­atively.

Be­fore that hap­pened how­ever, a freak ac­ci­dent which hos­pi­talised Conor shaped his and David’s friend­ship with each other.

“I was play­ing foot­ball one day and I wasn’t ex­actly pay­ing at­ten­tion, so I ended up run­ning into the side-hoard­ing on the pitch and I rup­tured my spleen and had to get emer­gency surgery. I was in ICU for about four weeks, then I was home bound for about six months af­ter that, learn­ing to walk again. “That’s where Dave and I built our strong­est bond. I couldn’t leave the house, I’d lost the abil­ity to do a lot of things, and he used to ring me up every day and he’d come up and help me. He’d come round with his gui­tar and I’d get up to the pi­ano and we’d just play and sing for hours. That was part of the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, singing and play­ing in that front room.”

“That’s what we should call the EP; Front Room Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion! Or maybe just Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.”

He turns to me: “There you go, you heard it here first.”

STA­DIUM SIGHTS

Happy to help… Some­one else who got to hear Wild Youth’s ideas first was for­mer One Di­rec­tion star Niall Ho­ran, who Conor ranks as a close friend and con­fi­dant.

“He is one of my best friends,” Conor nods. “But in say­ing that – Niall’s a per­son who likes what he likes. He’ll be hon­est with you. If he likes some­thing that we show him, his face lights up. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll tell you straight up – ‘Not my thing’. But he’s the most down-to-earth per­son I’ve ever met for hav­ing such a big pub­lic pro­file. And it’s like what we said about The Script, to have some­one with that much tal­ent and that much knowl­edge of the in­dus­try, to have them on the other end of the phone and be able to pick their brain and send them new mu­sic, it’s cool to have. We’re grate­ful for that.”

Wild Youth have come a ridicu­lously long way in a short space of time. It’s also ev­i­dent that so much is go­ing on in the back­ground to pave the way for a suc­cess­ful fu­ture. Where do they want it to end?

“We want to be a sta­dium band,” David con­firms. “We’ve al­ways said that. We want to tour the world and play sta­di­ums for the rest of our lives. We’d love to play Croke Park. We have dreams of big live venues in Ire­land.”

“The dream has never been about get­ting rich or fa­mous,” Conor adds. “It’s just about play­ing to as many peo­ple as hu­manly pos­si­ble in the big­gest venues.”

“HAV­ING TO HAVE CON­VER­SA­TIONS WITH OUR­SELVES LIKE ‘CALM THE FUCK DOWN NOW! YOU’RE PLAY­ING POP MU­SIC BOYS!’”

‘Can’t Move On’ is out now. Wild Youth tour through­out Ire­land this au­tumn/win­ter.

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