In August of 2014 I stumbled upon a UK band by the name of Years & Years. This three-piece, synth popping, RnB, house music bunch had released a couple of songs which included “Real” and “Take Shelter“, but it would only be a small sample of what they could do.
Come January 9 of 2015, BBC Sound of…announced Years & Years as the winner of their 2015 poll. Since then, the reverberating waves of YouTube plays and live concerts has spread their music across the pond and onto radio rotation with the release of their single “King”.
Whilst they were in Australia for Triple J’s Splendour in the Grass festival and their two sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney, we caught up with frontman Olly Alexander.After their release of “Real” and “Take Shelter” back in 2014, Olly said it was hard to imagine where they would end up this year.
“…it’s very hard to really imagine what a successful band is and what it’s like to be ‘there’. I mean, you sort of don’t allow yourself to really think about that really, it’s something that happens to other people really (laughs).”
Years & Years formed in 2010 when Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen started a band together and were looking for a singer. Olly Alexander sang for them and, well, the rest is history. Fast forward five/six years, the band has released their album ‘Communion’, is on tour around the world playing sold out shows in Dublin, Australia and London and they’ll be heading over to LA next week.
“Splendour was a bit intense! We weren’t even sure if we could play, we had this crazy kind of drama because our instruments were still in Canada when we arrived, so we had to figure out to play the songs with what we had. The playback system was different, we borrowed keyboards, we went on a little late and played weird versions of our songs. I apologised to the crowd but they were really nice and super supportive. But I think we did the best we could, I wish I could have hung around more actually.”
The new album ‘Communion’ which dropped July 10 is a culmination of their work over the past year to two years, and Olly said an album was more or less always in the works.
“We’ve been working on abody of material ever since we started really, to sort of unconsciously make an album since we formed 5-6 years ago. It wasn’t always apparent, but it was really looking to what makes the most sense. Most of the stuff, nearly all of it really, has been music that we’ve written and have been recording. It was an ongoing process.”
The album, which features the singles of “King” and “Shine”, also has a bunch of other tracks including “Ties”, “Worship”, and the ethereal “Eyes Shut” that were written in a way that encapsulates what Olly Alexander’s voice can do. Olly, who is also an actor and has starred in Skins, and with Aussie actress Emily Browning in the British film God Help the Girl, said performing live on stage is an addictive medium for him.
“I haven’t done any (acting) for a while, at one point I was doing both, but I got so busy with Years & Years I took some time off. I will definitely consider it I guess, but it doesn’t feel the place to right now. The biggest difference (between performing music on stage and acting) is having the script and having someone tell you what to do (laughs). With film and TV it doesn’t feel like acting and creative, you’re doing someone else’s work, you’re positioned for cameras and it loses the immediacy of it all. Performing in front of a crowd like in a play is a little different as you’re putting on a character, but there are still layers between you and the audience. With getting to write your own music and be able to do it live, it’s very addictive. It’s immediate and it just feels like it’s my own story. Every night is different.”
Touring for a band is often quite a crazy period, with limited time to get out and explore the places they visit. Heading to LA in August, the band has managed to grab a week off, where Olly says they will probably relax and sleep a lot. But with the constant touring and crazy schedule, Olly’s love for music and performing keeps him going, with the hope to produce some new music videos when they have time.
“We’ll definitely do some for sure! We would love to, if it was up to me we’d make a video for every song like Beyoncé (laughs). I mean, we’re on the road constantly, but we actually have a week off after going to LA, and we have a few days off here and there, but it’s pretty full on. We hardly do any touristy stuff, ever (laughs). I think tomorrow we’ll have the day off in Melbourne and Mikey will visit his parents and I’m excited to visit there. But when we get a day off, we usually sleep (laughs).”
Keep a lookout for Years & Years and stay tuned for hopefully some new music vids and after they finish up touring and some new sounds! Thanks for the interview Olly!