Soundcheck was complete and Irish trio whenyoung had a few hours to kill until they were to take to the stage at Heartbreakers on Saturday night. More like siblings than bandmates, the warm and welcoming Niall Burns (guitar), Aoife Power (vocals, bass) and Andrew Flood (drums) got into a good old chinwag with The Edge before heading into the city for a quick bite.
To start with, I asked them if it was their first time at Heartbreakers, which got one of the only unanimous responses of the evening. “Yes,” they said, and then Aoife chimed, “it looks really nice,” while the boys got into a conversation about the room we’d met in, behind the scenes but still in hearing distance of the other band’s soundcheck in progress. Andrew thought the space was cool, and Niall asserted that it was “right up my street” as they both glanced about at the not so green but shabby-chic room, complete with cosy sofas. It wasn’t their first time in Southampton though. “We’ve played The Joiners a couple times,” referring to their tour with Superfood last year, and while Aoife continued to think back, Andrew helped out: “[and]Engine Rooms with Peace.” He continued: “Southampton’s always been good though. We did The Joiners with Public Access TV.” Niall jumped in, saying “they were both great, and then Engine Rooms was really fun as well,” which got the seal of approval from Andrew. Niall summarised: “They’ve always been packed, like, more packed than maybe other places. I guess people in Southampton like music.”
It was no surprise that, when asked what their greatest achievement was, Niall needlessly apologised with a disclaimer and said “same boring answer, but for me, supporting Patti Smith, was a highlight so far and probably ever, of mine.” Andrew chose signing a record deal, but they all got pernickety about whether that counted. “That was last year,” Niall stated, but Andrew and Aoife tried to argue for the distinction that it was at the turn of 2018, with Andrew concluding that “it still feels like it was this year”; understandable, after the overwhelming 12 months they’ve had. As for Aoife’s highlight: “I think just all of the support slots we got. It’s really great to do a headline tour, but we got loads of great opportunities and we’re really appreciative of that, ‘cos that really helped”.
Plans for next year are as follows: “we’re gonna start recording an album and then release it early next year”; Aoife said what we were all wanting to hear. In the immediate future, Niall explained: “we’ve got three more tours before the year ends. One of them is in Ireland, one of them starts next week with The Vaccines in Europe, we haven’t been to Europe yet, well, we did one show in Hamburg, but [altogether]: touring Europe with The Vaccines, Ireland date, and then touring with Blossoms in December around the UK, so that should be fun. And then the album next year.”
The Ireland date means going back home to Limerick, and while Aoife reflected that she’s “excited to see all our families,” Niall joked that it’d been 7 years since they’d seen home. Andrew joined in, saying that “it’s actually been good this year. We got home quite a bit ‘cos we had quite a few gigs in Ireland so we’ve seen quite a bit of them which is really nice.”
Then the conversation took a turn for the worse as they thought ahead to the homecoming. Niall said that being in their hometown was “a bit more stressful,” but Andrew soon corrected him: “it’s a lot more stressful. Trying to get guest lists for your neighbour, trying to see all your friends equally [and]not feeling bad about maybe forgetting someone…” “And they’re probably more critical as well, they’re like “why didn’t you play for longer?”, “no, I don’t like that one,”” Aoife joked, “… and you’re like fuck off!” Laughs all round for that one. Then the boys joined in, with a melodramatic “take me back to London” from Niall and a realisation from Andrew that “actually, it’s very stressful.”
Conversation turned to the new EP, Given Up, set for release on 9th November. One of the songs, ‘Heaven on Earth’, sees the band playing around with the idea of one man’s heaven being another man’s hell. So, what was their version of heaven that would be another’s idea of hell? The boys went back to their appraisal of the room, and Niall admitted “yeah, I was just gonna say, like, this room, these kinda [rooms]… Grimy pubs for me, which a lot of people hate, but I feel at home.” Andrew’s answer came next; “we like tearing up our clothes a lot and wearing crappy shoes, which I guess, a lot of people don’t…”, before Aoife’s idea of heaven threw us all for a loop. “I was thinking, this is a weird one, but it’s kind of like Breakfast at Tiffany’s or something, where Tiffany’s is her sanctuary, but I have got this thing that I feel so safe in department stores, like if I go to John Lewis or something.” Niall had continued discussing crappy shoes with Andrew, distancing himself from the drummer’s adoration of them with a “I don’t like wearing crappy shoes,” to which Andrew had replied “I do,” before Aoife’s confession. One of the boys let out a boggled “what?” at the idea, and she went on: “Yeah, it’s really weird, or like Foyles Bookshop in London. Sometimes you can feel weird if you’re spending too much time on your own, you’re like “oh god” and if I go to Foyles Bookshop it’s massive [and]you can just get lost, you can spend hours there.” They ended up all coming round to the idea, and after a bit more explanation, “or John Lewis… People don’t bother you, they don’t ask you questions. You can just wander around and I don’t like talking to people,” everyone chuckled in agreement. Not the same deal at Christmas though. Aoife explained that “it’s different then. But like, Liberty in London, you can’t afford anything there.” “I guess yeah, when you’re not under pressure to buy something…” Andrew mused. “I think they know I can’t afford anything,” Aoife admitted, laughing to herself, “so they don’t bother me”. Niall said what we were all thinking: “that’s really funny, I’ve never heard that before, it’s really weird”.
Returning to the night at hand, I asked them what they thought a typical whenyoung gig was like. “We hope it’s fun,” Niall started off, and then Aoife continued, “I think the one we played at London the other night may be a bit longer than we usually play, and we started with Riverdance (they all laughed) so that would be our ideal to be able to do that all the time (more laughter), get people dancing. And then a mixture between punky pop songs and then more kinda like air ballad-y songs. I don’t know if we’re doing that tonight, but we’ll see.” Andrew took over: “see what the crowd looks like, gage the crowd, and then,” dot dot dot. Read about the “and then” moment here with our review of the gig.
Then we talked a little more about a few of their songs. As well as their cover of ‘Dreams’ by The Cranberries, they did a fantastic cover of ‘A Fairytale in New York’ with London based artist Gabriel Bruce. I asked them how it came about, and Aoife explained that “he was just a friend, we met him pretty much at around that time, and we wanted to do a cover of it. And so we asked him ‘cos we loved his voice, and yeah, just released it.” “There wasn’t really a plan,” Andrew said.
Next came a discussion of ‘Given Up’, a song about “taking control of your life, and just everyone can kind of get into the wrong place at times and just get a bit lost and [it’s about] regaining control.” I got all serious after Aoife’s explanation and asked them what advice they’d give to uni students that might find themselves in this position at the end of their academic careers. “I think just don’t worry about it, take a break. It can feel so scary when you’re supposed to get this job and tick all the boxes and but really you can do anything and just take a breather, and do some travelling, or I don’t know, do something fun, get a normal job for a while [and]work out what you really want [to do]. I mean, I dunno, work in a book shop [or something], and then see [if]you really want to pursue [it]. That’s probably terrible advice really, you should probably like…” Aoife trailed off before turning to her pals for help. “Well, yeah, just don’t panic,” Andrew concluded, which seemed to surprise them all. “Since when do we say good advice?” Niall exclaimed, and Andrew concurred, “here we are in our (struggling to find the right words to describe their favourite room)… if you could see the room we’re in… maybe air our advice for career choices!” This talk descended into working out the funny smell that hung in the air (“someone’s been cooking in here!” Aoife deduced) and the mysterious animal print on the sofa they were sat on. We came up with sausages and tanned zebra print.
As for Irish musicians that everyone should be listening to: “There’s a band called Whipping Boy, they were around in like the ’90s, they’re really, really great.” Niall agreed, “they’re amazing,” and Aoife continued where she left off, “and at the moment, Fontaines D.C., they’re really good.” Andrew had contemplated enough and jumped in with a suggestion, “No Monster Club.” Niall suggested “We Cut Corners” and Aoife cut in with “U2.” Niall: “The Cranberries, The Corrs and B*WITCHED!” All three shouted out the last one like the right answer at a pub quiz. There was a bit of a pause, and then Aoife didn’t feel like they’d done the question justice. “No, there’s more isn’t there,” she said, “no there is,” Andrew replied, “loads of ‘em,” Niall acknowledged. “Fionn Regan,” Aoife remembered. “Fionn Regan is amazing,” Niall agreed, and then added “Slow Riot” into the mix. Niall tried to boil the list down a little, coming full circle with “Whipping Boy, number one, they’re one of our favourite bands, that’s where our name came from,” referencing the Whipping Boy song ‘When We Were Young’. Aoife added, “and if you haven’t listened to Sinead O’Connor properly listen to all her stuff. She’s so much more than ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, which I know isn’t her song, but generally…” They whittled off a few more, including My Bloody Valentine (after a bit of debate, Niall specified that “the songwriters, they’re ours, ok?”) Ash, Stiff Little Fingers, until I was drowning in artist names. They laughed at my predicament, “you’re gonna regret this!” Andrew jested, but Niall was still going, “The Vagabonds, they’re my old band…”
Aoife responded to all this confusion with one word, “brilliant,” but as the interview came to an end, it was still interspersed with the names of Irish musicians. As I thanked whenyoung for taking the time to talk to me, I realised that they had a spot on that list too, somewhere between Humanzi and Westlife.
Keep an eye out for whenyoung’s EP Given Up, which will be released on 9th November via Virgin EMI Records, and watch the music video for ‘Given Up’ below.