“Rumours of the death of Young Legionnaire have been mildly exaggerated…”
13th November 2014. After nearly nine months of silence from Young Legionnaire, the above comment was posted on their Twitter account. This was soon followed up around 10 minutes later with a second tweet proclaiming “…We have definitely had a bit of downtime but we’ve got about 6 new songs and are planning to finish writing a new record in the new year.”
With excitement levels growing from just under 140 characters, the trio went a step further earlier this year, announcing a run of dates in Germany supporting Idlewild. Having dusted off the cobwebs as a three-piece on tour with the Scottish alt-rock quintet, Young Legionnaire then made the announcement fans across the UK had been waiting for – their return to Blighty.
With the festival entering its third year and boasting an incredibly stacked line-up, the brilliant ArcTanGent was the logical choice for a bit of a homecoming, and so nine months on from those initial tweets, Young Legionnaire made their triumphant return to UK soil. It was wonderful.
Here’s the band that haven’t missed a beat. The mass of people packed into the Yohkai tent were treated to crushing new material from the trio, with the curtain being pulled back ever so slightly to reveal snippets of what they’ve been working on in their time away.
Later on that afternoon, sitting backstage with front man Paul Mullen and bassist Gordon Moakes a.k.a. Gordy, talk near enough turned immediately to new material, and the exciting prospect of what’s to come. “We’ve got about – I actually know it – we’ve got seventeen songs,” Paul proclaimed. (Gordy later mentioned with a laugh “We had to write that many to make sure that at least ten of them are good”) “We’re just gonna get in the studio…”
“It’s always the case of when, rather than…” Gordy added, touching on the availability of the band.
Gordy now spends his time in the good ol’ US of A, having relocated to Austin, Texas a few years back, whilst Paul currently resides in Berlin. It’s a distance between the three that’s made getting together in the same room more sporadic “It’s quite tough,” confirmed Paul “But it’s alright, it’s good. It means we have these bursts of energy, so we almost can’t really be too precious about it. It is what it is. We’re happy anyway with what we’ve come up with. It’s just now try and find a producer that wants to work with us, that we want to work with. A studio that’s right, and then hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have it all recorded, ready for next year to do a tour round it”
Reflecting on their set earlier that day, Paul mentioned seeing the size of the crowd had come as quite the shock “Massive crowd – couldn’t believe it. When we got announced, we kind of saw on the website… that was quite nice, people hadn’t forgot about us. Then there was a packed tent.… Really good response. Now looking forward to next year and doing our own tour”
Their current circumstances could be perceived as a minor hindrance, certainly with the time allowance “It can be a bit frustrating not to do a bit more, but it’s the nature of where we are” Gordy commented.
“I think every band has its sort of, writing wise or any… limitations, and it’s sometimes good to have them – we’ve definitely got them” Paul added with a smirk “We have to turn the tap on and turn the tap off for creativity – in a week. It knocks about ten years off your life doing it, but it’s a good exercise”
“It’s no worse than getting in an Estate car and doing a two week tour, which we’ve done before. It’s just the nature of it.” Gordy further pointed out “It’s not like we have ‘mega bucks records’ to bank roll it. Like Paul says, the limitations are where you innovate within those boundaries”
Drummer Dean Pearson has been a little easier to get hold of, having worked with Paul in electronic-rock outfit Losers. “Dean is the best drummer in the UK. I’ve always said that.” Paul added “I can’t really play with anyone else. On all the different projects we’ve got, he’s my drummer. He’s the guy.”
With side projects in mind, a further Twitter related bombshell was dropped in March of this year, with Gordy announcing he was no longer involved with Bloc Party, focusing instead on Young Legionnaire. With their chemistry on stage unquestionable, I was keen to hear what it’s like for the trio to come together. “It’s so natural, that’s the beauty of it” Gordy commented, continuing “These kind of things, we’re always a little bit on the back foot – because Dean’s been on tour all week, we couldn’t rehearse really. We’re thrown in the deep end with stuff like this. But when we have a week to write, which has happened maybe three or four times in the last couple of years… Even though it can be quite intense, it comes so naturally. It’s such a joy to just get in a room and start doing stuff. It’s kind of instant”
“Out of all the bands I’ve been in, and I guess we all have, it’s definitely three minds equal working together.” Paul added “It’s just a lot of fun to be in the studio playing, getting all those tingly frequencies that you’re not meant to have. It’s like your first band when you’re like 14/15 – You’re in a garage and you’re just writing riffs, it’s great. That’s exactly what it is”
“It’s like putting on a comfy pair of trousers” Gordy smiled, summing up his left-field analogy “Comfy but stylish. That’s what we are”
Looking through their musical careers, the bands they’ve been part of and the people they’ve worked with, it’s clear that the trio have their collective finger on the pulse. With work on their new material under way, it was interesting to find out that a change of pace acted as inspiration during the writing process (though a truck reversing momentarily side-tracked Paul, the shrill reversing tone infiltrating his answer, as he added hilariously “Reverse sounds are pretty interesting for me. Really big”)
“I’ve moved to Berlin, which is an amazingly creative city. So that’s had a big impact on where I’m at in my life,” Paul commented, continuing “I was in London for many years, and it sort of got the better of me. So I’m in a better state of mind; it’s a better place I feel. I feel a bit more comfortable. Music wise – everything and anything. Still totally open to any genre, but for me location and just a general feeling of comfort…”
Sensing a chance to get a dig in, Gordy questioned Paul on his new level of comfort “Pipe and slippers? Cocoa?” before the conversation descended into Paul’s slight ode to Gregg’s the bakers… “I had a great Greggs coffee – I love Greggs. I had a Greggs coffee before on the motorway, and it was…sorry Greggs. I love your peach melba, I love your steak bake, but… I need a good coffee.”
Moving swiftly away from cheap sausage rolls and ‘hotter-than-the-sun’ pastries, back on the topic of influences, Gordy was able to offer up a bit more insight “We do go to and fro. With our first record, I was very keen that it was quite stripped back and minimalist. In the end, it had quite a big volume to it. We went away a bit when we were writing, from big riffs… I was listening to things like Arcade Fire and anthemic kind of things, more simple – less kind of aggressive. But then I’ll swing back from that and listen to obnoxious math-rock and stuff. We were listening to the Deafheaven record on the way up, it’s a great record.”
“Deerhoof are one of my favourite bands of all time as well…” Paul added, lamenting they wouldn’t be able to catch them at ArcTanGent.
“There’s definitely some more downbeat moments that we’re looking at working on.” Gordy concluded “The last thing we wrote was the biggest riff we’ve written, so we definitely flip between the two.”
It’s a real treat to know that the wheels are now certainly in motion for Young Legionnaire. With their excruciatingly brief return to the UK a success and the promise of new material in the works, when can we expect them to knock it up a gear?
“There’ll be some news, probably in the next five weeks. There’s a plan ahead…” Paul confirmed “…Basically, there’s a new record. It will happen. I know we’re not very good with time, but it will happen. We might do it in Berlin, we might be in London…”
“Berlin’s looking good… “ Gordy agreed “We’ve got the material – that’s the main thing. That’s the first hurdle you’ve gotta get over before you hit the studio, and we’ve definitely got it. The future’s a possibility”
To hear the interview in its entirety, click the image below: