whenyoung are a youthful trio of Irish expats, formed in Limerick, but now based out of London. Later this month they’re set to release their new single, Actor, as well as playing a headline show at London’s Shacklewell Arms.
The follow-up to See How They Run, the band’s debut single, Actor builds on a wall of fuzzy guitars, and a guttural pounding drum beat as excellently named singer Aoife Power’s vocal swoops from frantic yelp, to sweet, soaring melodies. Lyrically it dissects the modern obsession with image and the difference between how we portray ourselves online and how we are in reality, “you can be an actor for a while, practice taking pictures with a smile.” Recalling the likes of Let’s Buy Happiness or The Joy Formidable, whenyoung are a band you feel are on an inevitable trajectory towards success.
Actor is a huge leap forward for this talented band, who initially bonded after meeting in the only indie-bar in their native Limerick; a shared love of cheap vodka and The Velvet Underground later, whenyoung were born. Today the band answer our questions on topics from sexism in the music industry, through to moving to London and their complex relationship with social media.
FTR: Who/what are whenyoung?
whenyoung are Andrew, Aoife and Niall. We’re from Limerick in Ireland and we live in London.
FTR: You’re about to release your new single Actor, what can you tell us about the track?
Actor is about just that. Acting. Every day. Projecting artificial images of yourself through social media and in real life interactions with others. It’s a temporary reassurance that you’re necessary but behind it all there’s a sinking feeling. It’s tiring, we need to find an honest existence. We hope it’s inspiring and uplifting. It’s also a great soundtrack for getting dressed in the morning.
FTR: How was the process of recording it? Did you work with a producer?
We recorded with our superstar producer buddy Adam Lunn, previously quoted as being a “genius”. We really have to thank Sarah at Wendyhouse for letting us use the place. We go in and get bits and pieces done over a few weeks during downtime. It’s a very easy and natural process for us. We have a very clear idea of our music and what it should sound like.
FTR: Why did you call the band whenyoung? Did you come up with any other (ideally terrible) options?
It was a way of telling ourselves, this is it, we won’t always be young, we won’t always have this chance. Let’s follow a dream and risk it all. ‘Born blue’ was a pretty terrible name. We thought it might be interpreted differently than intended. ‘Dancer’ was another one but there were some old guys in Pennsylvania or somewhere using it.
FTR: If you could be young in any era – when would you go for?
New York in the 70s. Hanging out with Richard Hell, Patti Smith, William Burroughs. But we’re also pretty happy being here, now. We can find inspiration in anything and everything around us and that pushes us on as people and as artists. We try not to look backwards, there’s still so much to create.
FTR: What did (do) you want to do when you grow up?
Be in a band called whenyoung.
FTR: You’re originally from Limerick in Ireland, what’s the music scene like there? Anyone we should be listening to?
It’s a small city, I wouldn’t say there’s really a scene. Slow Riot would be top of the band list though.
FTR: What was behind your decision to move to London? Pursuing the rock’n’roll dream?
To get away. The rock and roll dream was consequential.
FTR: Why do you make music?
It’s cathartic. We want to soundtrack a generation.
FTR: What’s your songwriting process, do you all write songs?
Aoife usually goes, “oh wait hang on” and hums a melody and it snowballs from there. The lyrics are always written after. They’re about how we feel.
FTR: You’ve said you bonded over a shared love of The Velvet Underground and cheap vodka – what other bands have influenced you?
The Modern Lovers, Blondie, The Replacements, Air
FTR: What about influences outside of music?
Jim Jarmusch, Eric Rohmer, Paul Auster. I sometimes feel like we are more influenced by artists outside of music.
FTR: With bands like Doe, Brusing and Honeyblood, there seems to be something of resurgence in noisy, female-fronted bands – do you feel part of a scene?
No we don’t feel part of a scene but we feel like at times people think we’re part of a scene of female fronted bands. We’re a noisy pop band and being female or male or whatever doesn’t define our sound.
FTR: There’s a lot of talk about sexism in the music industry, is something you feel has affected you as a band?
That’s interesting, we’ve noticed that promoters usually put us on with bands that have female members too. We hope this means that there are lots of women making music but fear it’s because they assume if there are guitars and a woman, we’ll all sound similar but this isn’t the case. We’ve played with some amazing acts so we don’t want that to sound like we don’t want to play with bands with women in them it’s just we’d prefer if we were judged on our music and not our sex. On the upside, it seems like more and more people are becoming aware of sexism in music, which can only be a good thing.
FTR: You’ve talked previously about the downside of social media – do you feel it’s been a good thing or a bad thing for bands? Is it something you enjoy?
Social media is a great way to promote your art, meet people, educate and amuse yourself. But it also highlights our ugly human traits like self obsession and social comparison. Actor references this but we’re not slating social media or saying that we don’t or won’t use it. We’re also guilty of this ugliness.
FTR: What’s your opinion on streaming? Does it make it harder to make a living as a band?
Yeah, musicians are poor these days, it’s hard to make money doing it. You have to have a day to day job unless you get lucky. There’s huge polarity in the industry but to be honest there always has been. In some ways this makes us work more and strive more to be successful. It weeds out the part-timers.
FTR: What are your aspirations for whenyoung? Do you think music is a viable career?
It depends on your idea of a career. It’s a risky dream but you have to take risks for your dreams to flourish or else life would be pointless.
FTR: You’ve got a show coming up at the Shacklewell Arms, what can people expect from your live show?
Pop melodies, freaky guitar sounds and LOLs.
FTR: What’s next for whenyoung?
Actor is released on the 25th November. We’ll be doing more writing, recording and gigging.
Actor is out November 25th. Click HERE for all upcoming whenyoung shows.