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First Look: Young Guns

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Young Guns, a brilliant five-piece from the UK, is about to hit U.S. soil and blow it wide open.

Sure you might hear snitches of familiarity in their music, and one could wage a decent argument that they sound like a number of other bands past and present, but it doesn't detract from what these boys bring to the table. Young Guns is a fiercely addictive young band with an instantly contagious sound. Their video for their track Towers, off of their new album, Bones, slated for U.S. release September 4, has been viewed just under 19,000 times. And their track Dearly Departed, a keystone track off of Bones, has been viewed well over 100,000 times.

The current lineup of Young Guns is led by Gustav Woods, vocals, and Fraser Taylor, guitar, and is joined by John Taylor, guitar, Simon Mitchell, bass, and Ben Jolliffe, drums. Young Guns formed in early 2003, but would wait until 2009 to release their debut EP, Mirrors. A year later, their first album, All Our Kings Are Dead, released on their own label, Live Forever, hit the streets. Success from both the EP and album efforts included sellout headline tours, more than a smattering of top music magazine covers, and notably, supporting slots for high-profile acts Bon Jovi and Lostprophets. Additionally, Young Guns have charted on all of UK's major charts, both indie and mainstream.

It appears their momentum knows no bounds, and has little intention of slowing down.

In 2012, Young Guns teamed up with producer Dan Weller (formerly of the metal band SikTh) and headed to Karma Sound Studios in Thailand, to work on their second album, Bones, which they've documented via Youtube. The sophomore album, Bones is realistically going to be the album that puts this band on the map, moving them from a post-hardcore rock band that gets inside your head and under your skin to the behemoth it was meant to be since its inception.

Young Guns has managed to sink their teeth into the proverbial neck of alt-rock. A post-twilight era rock piece that makes no apologies for where its been or where its going, Young Guns is one of the greatest secrets going. At least one of the greatest secrets in the U.S. The rest of the world is onto them, leaving the U.S. of A a little behind what's hot. But, thankfully, not for long.

Young Guns kicked off their worldwide tour in the UK and plan to land on American ground this fall, as touring support for Seether. With a worldwide fan club, a pervasive sound, and a beautiful modesty about their amazing talent, they're undoubtedly going to rock the hell out if the States when they get here.

Lucky for us, antiMusic caught up with Woods for a chat between tours.

antiMusic: With a name like Young Guns there has to be a great story behind it. Who in the band is the Wild West fan?

Woods: None of us! We're all children of the '80s so obviously there's a love of the film in a pop culture-y kinda way. The name actually came about when we were living together in London about 6 or 7 years ago. We had a different line-up, and in all honesty, weren't even really a band, just a bunch of friends living together going out every night, being rowdy young and stupid. We would jam together and write demos and stuff, and wanted a name that summed up how we were living and how we felt as a group of guys. Our friend Tom, who was playing guitar at the time, was a bit of a classic rock guy and he suggested it. It stuck. Our line-up changed over the years and when John and Ben (and soon after, Simon) joined in 2008 the chemistry was suddenly there and we wrote our first EP in a couple of weeks. It was received well and a buzz started to grow around us before we'd had a chance to change our name. As you can see, not really a great story just a stupid drunken suggestion.

antiMusic: What does everyone bring to the table musically that makes them an integral part of the quintet?

Woods:
We all bring different and quite disparate musical influences into the band. Simon and Ben have a great ear for rhythm and feel, whereas myself John and Fraser bring the more melodic side of things to the table.

antiMusic: Who is responsible for the majority of songwriting? Who handles the mechanics of it all--lyrics, melody lines, etc?

Woods:
We tend to jam a lot and try to pull ideas out of those sessions. I'm constantly writing lyrics and melodies and for the most part it's me that takes care of that side of things. John will occasionally have a melody in his head for a part he's written. we used to do it totally around playing live but weeks and weeks of jamming trying to get a song together can feel like hitting your head against a brick wall so these days myself, John or Fraser will try and bring ideas into the practise space that we've worked on by ourselves, on garageband or pro tools or whatever, and then we'll build from there collectively. Songwriting is like pulling teeth but when it works it's a great feeling. We're very critical and are rarely happy, which is good but means that it takes a while to get something together we all like.

antiMusic: You've shred the stage at festivals that included powerhouse heavy hitters such as Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, and Modest Mouse; talk a little about the Reading Festival experience. What are your favorite memories of the show? Any good backstage stories?

Woods:
It was one of our first shows of that size. Stepping out on stage in front of 15,000 people is not something I will forget in a hurry. Ironically enough, having said that, most of the show is a blur in my mind. You're so hopped up on adrenaline and your mind is racing a thousand miles an hour, so it can be hard to stand there and just absorb the moment. It's one of the greatest things I've ever done in my life. Having dressing rooms next to all the artists so much bigger than us was a total head f***!! We were told we had the biggest crowd for a mainstage opening band in, like, a decade, so we were pretty happy with that. We'd played a one-off support slot for Bon Jovi a couple of weeks previously at the o2 and that took some of the nerves off of the whole experience, but it was an intense day.

antiMusic: Talk about the debut album, Bones. So far, it has received rave reviews across the spectrum. Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? How long did the project take you to complete?

Woods:
We worked with our friend Dan Weller with whom we've recorded everything to date. We have a great working relationship with him and there's a mutual respect. He knows how to get the best out of us but doesn't interfere too much (we're pretty much control freaks). We recorded ‘Bones' at Karma Sound Studios in Thailand and it was paradise, a world apart from where we recorded everything else - in a little room in East London. We wanted to remove ourselves from everything we were familiar with and go somewhere new and inspiring to get out of our comfort zone. While we were there we were so over-awed at where we were, and so excited to be in such a different environment that I really think it had a positive effect on the overall sound of the record. We spent five weeks in Karma Sound and we did some overdubs when we got home - both at our home studio just outside of London, and in Dan's place in East.

antiMusic: What is your favorite track on the album and why?

Woods:
Probably the last song on the record, "Broadfields," because it means the most to me from a sentimental point of view. That's the name of the street I grew up on, and I always wanted to pay tribute to that place and time in my life. Also it was the most we've been able to experiment instrumentally so that was fun. Either that or the title track "Bones," just because I think it's the strongest song we've written to date.

antiMusic: Can you give us a backstory to one of the tracks that means the most to you?

Woods:
We had the music pretty much done and arranged for "Broadfields," but I didn't have any lyrics. It sounds cliched but I sort of felt like I'd know when I'd thought of the right thing to write it about. On one of the last nights in the studio, we were recording all the parts, pulling an all nighter drinking Thai Rum and experimenting with different instruments/sounds. I left for a while and sat outside on my balcony and watched as a tropical storm rolled its way in off the coast. As the rain got heavier and the lightning and thunder got more and more intense I was reminded of being about 5 years old and sitting on my window ledge looking out at a thunderstorm on the road I grew up on. It totally took me back to that time and I could remember so clearly looking at all the people running home from work in the rain and the look of the trees swept around by the storm. There was something electric and alive about the air and it felt just the same that night in Thailand as it did when I was a boy in the house I grew up in. I wrote the lyrics about that place and that time in about 20 minutes that night.

antiMusic: The title track Bones' video was directed by Tim Mattia; What was he able to put into the song that you wouldn't have necessarily seen in it yourselves? Talk a bit about the video shooting process-- what were some of the challenges you faced? What did you enjoy about shooting the video?

Woods:
We've worked with Tim quite a few times and this time, as we felt it was our biggest song so far, we wanted to really try and step it up visually. He shot the video and us with a real widescreen big dramatic sensibility and it really made the video seem like a progression for us. He makes shooting videos relatively painless and this one was all about the body shape and silhouettes being used to to create a dramatic feel with great lighting. It's a very simple concept but it has an atmosphere and fits the feeling of the video perfectly.

antiMusic: You've gained quite an international audience and are slated to bring a tour to the US in the fall. Are you nervous about bringing your live show to the states?

Woods: No way! We can't wait to get out there. It's only the first step but one that we've always dreamed of being able to take so we're really excited. It won't be easy but we're hard workers and really what we love doing is hitting the road and reaching out to people, one by one if necessary. We'll hopefully be back quite a few times over the next year or so.

antiMusic: How has the internet helped you gain fans?

Woods: Well I think the great thing about the internet is that in some ways it places more power in a band's hands than they could have ever had, say, 10 years ago. It's easier to self-promote and to begin to build awareness of your music with social networking sites and so on. It also means there's more competition than ever before but it was great for us in the formative days of our band. We could contact promoters ourselves, book our own tours and just hit the road. We'd only play to a handful of people each night but it was a start and we did it without a label, management or anyone like that. Also the internet totally erases boundaries and borders - you can reach people from all over the world.

antiMusic: What's the band's ultimate goal?

Woods: America is obviously a big deal for us, and we're excited to tackle that challenge but we try not to look too far ahead into the future. I've found that if you do that too much, and if you obsess over reaching certain goals, you can lose track of the importance and the greatness of whatever it is that you're doing at that time. In the music industry, and life in general, nothing is for certain and we've found that trying to exist in the moment as much as we can means we can enjoy being in a band that little bit more. Having said that, we're a determined and driven bunch of guys, and I really believe that we have the ability to write a classic album. It's just about getting better as musicians and a live band, and seeing where that takes us.

First Look: Young Guns

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