Aussie band Gang of Youths goes deep
In October, the Australian band Gang of Youths opened a string of Midwestern dates for the Foo Fighters. Most bands would probably blow their own horn about a gig that huge. But for this thoughtful quintet, it became one more cause for self-examination.
“We didn’t (mess) it up, I’ll give us that,” lead singer Dave Le’aupepe said this week. “I probably had the most enjoyable touring experience I’ve had in my life. But we felt that we were doing something we didn’t necessarily deserve. There’s probably some indie band in the U.S. that deserved that slot far more than we did. It felt important to us personally, but little indie bands from Australia aren’t supposed to be opening for the Foo Fighters.”
At home, Gang of Youths is far more than an indie band. They’ve had a No. 1 album (last year’s “Go Farther in Lightness,” their second), won a stack of awards in Australia’s equiv- alent of the Grammys and were the first band picked when MTV revived “Unplugged” in Australia this year. Wednesday’s show at Brighton Music Hall will likely be one of the last chances to see them in a small venue.
“I tend to believe we put a little more into it, performance-wise, when we don’t have a built-in audience. It’s what makes you a better band,” Le’aupepe said.
The band’s sound is arena-ready, with a lot of U2ish grandeur. And Le’aupepe regularly puts weighty themes into his lyrics: The band’s first album, “The Positions,” was written while he was dealing with alcoholism and his girlfriend was fighting cancer. The second album was a 77-minute epic full of existential themes.
“That’s where my preoccupations really lay,” Le’aupepe said. “I grew up around some pretty intense evangelical Christianity, so I’m used to looking at some serious life-or-death struggles in my everyday life. Even without the religiosity, I’d be looking at life as a serious existential test — trying to find significance in our facile, mundane world. My life has been relatively eventful, so the backstory I’ve had brings metotheplacewhereIdig for artistic gold. I’m always interested in that collision of everyday life with the eternal.”
The band has sometimes been criticized for being too relentlessly rousing and anthemic, but Le’aupepe has no patience for that.
“The people who don’t like it are probably innercity white nerds who’d rather be listening to some trust-fund punk band,” he said. “I hate the idea that rock ’n’ roll is not supposed to be transcendent. Our music is about building people up and giving them a sense of purpose in life; and nobody can tell me that my dream of finding some redemptive power in music isn’t significant.
“I’ve got no use for any kind of cynicism,” he said. “The last cynic that I thought was any good was Diogenes, and that was a long time ago.”
BIG STAGES: Gang of Youths, above, opened for the Foo Fighters in a bunch of Midwestern tour stops in October.