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An Interview with Young Guns

After smashing their performance on the main stage of Reading Festival 2014, London band Young Guns spared some time to speak with The Spark.

Between a particularly keen fan and student onesies, drummer Ben Jolliffe and guitarists John Taylor and Simon Mitchell share their rockstar lives with Gabrielle Linnett. As well as covering the band’s recent movements, we ask them questions inspired by The Spark’s upcoming WattsUp segment; how do your answers compare?

Q: How have you found your Reading Festival experience this year?

SM: It’s been amazing!
JT: Well, we haven’t really done that much though. We played quite early. But we like to get in the zone, so you don’t see any bands before you play and stuff like that. Now, we’re doing some press. But afterwards we’re going to go see everyone we can and get drunk.
SM: We’ve got a lot of friends and family here, we basically grew up around this area.
BJ: Yeah we’ve got lots of catching up to do. We’ve all been coming here since we were kids and stuff, so being on the stage and being able to see everyone is great. For many years we were on the other side.

Q: Is it quite nostalgic being on stage here?

BJ: Yeah totally. But you totally get a different perspective. I remember being a kid and looking at acts on the main stage and thinking of them as this massive band. And then you’re on the other side. It’s great to see the view from the stage. I mean you can’t really get better views than that.
SM: And it hasn’t rained! Apparently it’s raining in Leeds now and we missed it, and now we’re here and we missed it as well.

Q: You’re just bringing the good weather with you! So this isn’t your first time at Reading Festival, how do the experiences compare?

SM: Apart from the first year, when we were on the main stage, we’ve been in the festival tent and it’s a totally different experience. We always wanted to play in a tent, we like that intimate close vibe. It’s a good experience.
BJ: It’s nice to be playing higher up on the stage. The first time we were here we felt lucky to be here and I guess now it feels like we deserve to be here. So that helps a lot as well. We’ve been looking forward to this for so long; it’s a nice way to come back into playing shows.

Q: You said that you’d been away for a while, so what have you been up to?

JT: Our whole last campaign kind of staggered. We basically finished it in the UK for the second record, then started in America. Then we signed a new deal and had to tour the states essentially again for another cycle. So it feels like we’ve been away for two and half years. And we’ve been trying to write the third record at the same time.
BJ: We’ve just finished recording that now. We were very much in album mode until last week, when we said right, now we’ve got to remember how to play again.
SM: We had to remember how to be a band again.

Q: Is it stressful trying to make that transition?

BJ: I think it’s stressful before you make that transition. As you make the album you think you’ve got to get ready for this festival next week. Even though you think of it as this massive daunting task, it isn’t when you settle down, think and then focus on what you’re doing.
SM: At the same time we’ve been away for quite a while, apart from the couple of warm up shows that we had before Reading & Leeds Festivals, it’s funny how you get into that frame of mind again. It reminds you of how much you enjoy it and the reason why you do it in the first place. As soon as we walk on that stage it’s like, ah this is what it is again. Today was cool, there’s nothing to worry about. Having a few nerves is fine as it makes you awake and excited. Yeah, it’s great.

Q: What do you prefer, live performances or recording albums?

BJ: For me, I’ve always wanted to be in a band, tour and play the drums. We’ve been out for 6 months and I’m tapping away, almost like a constant twitch.
JT: I’m the polar opposite. I’m like the homie of the band. I like to write music. I get scared.
SM: John likes the creative side of the band, whereas I’m a massive show-off so I love playing on stage.
BJ: We’ve got a good dynamic; it keeps us all excited about everything we’re doing. We all love recording but for me there’s nothing better than performing.
SM: There’s nothing better than performing, getting the music you’ve done in the studio and taking it to people.

The energy of the crowd was brilliant and knowing that was for you must be incredible.

BJ: It sometimes won’t hit you until later though, when you’re watching a video or notice some photos and see there were loads of people. You’re in the zone then, so it’s quite nice to sit back and appreciate what you’ve done. A lot of people don’t get to do that.

©Marc Sethi

©Marc Sethi

Q: The Spark has been asking University of Reading students WattsUp, and we’ve adapted some of the questions for you to answer too.

BJ: This will be embarrassing.

No, they’re fine! So, what’s your weirdest encounter with a fan?

BJ: In the Bahamas we had one that took a liking to us.
SM: She wouldn’t take no for an answer basically.
BJ: We were doing a cruise tour round the Bahamas, it was paradise. We played two shows in a week, it was hard work. We went out and it was great, we got to meet everyone and hang out with all the fans. It was a really fun environment. But there was one fan who took a liking to us and it got the stage where she was chasing after us as we were running to our rooms. She said “you run too fast”. Surely that’s a hint.
SM: “You run so fast” Yeahh there’s a reason for that!
BJ: Yeah and there was some stroking of herself when we were on stage, while we were playing (gestures chest). That was interesting.

Q: What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve brought from home?

JT: Probably onesies. One tour we all wore them, I think it was when the onesie thing was just kicking off. Everyone had one; I had a nice panda one. They were the best thing, as soon as you got on the tour bus you just put on this one piece of clothing and it was like ahhh.
BJ: It was lovely for the first 15 minutes and then you were like, urgh it’s boiling.
SM: And you looked like every student.
JT: Not in public.
SM: Yeah not in public, strictly in the tour bus.

Q: Have you got any advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps to the Reading Festival stage?

JT: Don’t. I’m joking.
BJ: I think John’s probably the worst one to ask. The words “don’t give up” are really important. It’s very easy to be in a band and still do this and do that, but you need put in 100% and you have to put all your eggs in one basket. There will be parents out there who hate hearing this, but if you want to do it, you’ve really got to do it. You’ve got to tour, tour and tour. We did it the very organic way, we played for two years to nobody.
SM: But that didn’t matter to us. We didn’t have any expectations, we were just so happy being on the road. It didn’t matter how many people there were, we were just hanging out with our friends’ bands. I remember the early tours of Deaf Havana, like just literally rocking up to a car park and having fun.
BJ: Having realistic goals is really important. It’s very easy with stuff like X Factor to think that within a year you can play Wembley stadium, you could be rich and all that. People growing up tend to see that and think “I want to to do that”. You’ve got to think realistically about what you want to do and when you finally get to do that, you can appreciate it and then move on.
SM: If you enjoy something so much, you’re going to put that effort in and then the more experience you have, the easier it becomes.
JT: Just do what you love, fundamentally. You’re not young forever; just do what you want while you can.

Q: Reading Festival: hard work or a lot of fun?

JT: Absolutely a lot of fun.
BJ: Even the press is easy, talking to people about how much fun we have on stage.
SM: “How much fun did you have?” I had a lot of fun!
BJ: You know, you drink and get to see lots of friends, lots of friends in bands, you don’t get to see very often.
JT: It’s also nice that we did Reading last because it’s kind of like our home side of the festival. We saved the best ‘til last.
Q: Are you hanging around for a while or back on the road again now?
BJ: We’ve got a couple of weeks and then we go to the states. We’re doing a couple of months with You Me At Six, so until then we’re just trying to get ready and remember some more songs.

About Gabrielle Linnett

Gabrielle is rarely seen without technology in hand, whether that’s an iPod or games console making her walk into walls. Balancing time between studying German and fine (or not so fine) dining is also a pleasure for this busy bee.

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