Wenn die Young Fathers in Berlin sind, lassen wir uns das natürlich nicht entgehen und haben sie inmitten ihres Interview-Marathons getroffen. Diese drei jungen Herren sind etwas Besonderes. Das wissen nicht nur Massive Attack und auch uns war das bereits vor unserem Gespräch klar. Aber spätestens seit wir die geballte Synthese von Coolness, Ehrlichkeit und Bodenständigkeit erleben durften, haben sie uns vollends in ihren Bann gezogen. Ihr neues Werk Cocoa Sugar wird am 9. März via Ninja Tune veröffentlicht und tritt in die Fußstapfen (oder eben nicht?!) von Dead (2014) und White Men Are Black Men Too (2015). Wir haben nachgefragt, wie man es schafft auch nach 14 Jahren in einer in Teenagerzeiten gegründeten Band noch als Team zu fungieren, was um einen herum passieren muss, damit das innere Feuer immer weiter brennt und nachgehakt, ob sie sich selbst als politische Band bezeichnen würden. Ach Leute, schnappt euch die Platte, die ist nämlich grandios!

Your new record Cocoa Sugar is ready to find its way out into the world next month. Now that you’re holding it in your hands, what are and were the feels?
Kayus: I think individually amongst us three it defers about how we felt like in the time of recording and conceptualising it. But all that doesn’t really matter. We’re all extremely proud about what has come together and how the record has turned out.
Alloysious: I think it’s fantastic. It’s the best record we’ve done, it’s iconic as is the imagery and it’s gonna be one of those go-to albums that people will see along with Tape II. I’m confident with that.

Talking about that confidence, where do you think that comes from? Is it the experience in getting music out there, experience in life, general self acceptance? Where did this growth originate?
Alloysious: Growths in general. Personal growth, touring, all of it. We’ve toured around for quite a number of years and then had a bit of time off to spend with family, loved ones, friendships. All that helps and feeds into the music. We draw a lot of inspiration from those mundane everyday life things. It’s the catalyst for great things to come and for you to push yourself and to allow yourself to feel uncomfortable in certain situations.
G: It’s weird, cause it does sound like a confident record. But that doesn’t mean, that we were all so confident while making this album. I can say that I was probably the least confident I’ve been in a while.

Maybe that was a reason for it? An inner growth, rather than an outward confidence?
G: Exactly! Maybe that’s a reason why it’s sounding so confident. Kind of trying to make up for it.
Alloysious: But then for you to still do that, that’s courage. And that’s where confidence comes from, to be able to say I feel unsure about something, but I’m still gonna go for it. And that courage is the appointment of confidence.

In an interview you said that your music stems from the soul, from a place inside. What’s happening on the outside to keep that fire burning?
Alloysious: On the outside you’re reacting. On the inside there’s the fire burning. But the outside stems from an emotion, you hear a sound and you want to react and once you react the arms are flying and the head is nodding and things are getting knocked over. That’s what the outward experience is. And on top of that you’re getting a reaction from people and that feeds into you. From making the songs and trying to see what one works and what one doesn’t and the certain reactions to it all. It makes you think about what kind of music you want to make next and how to change things to make them more exciting. It’s like a conversation in that sense, like a give and take, back and forth, that helps propel each phase of the group.


How did you decide, that you’re ready for a new record? Was it the timing and the last release being 3 years back, did you feel particularly inspired, or are you constantly creating and things fell together? How can we imagine it?
G: I think you just get to a point, where you have that fire in the belly. Like you were saying. And we simply match up and synchronise. With this album, we’ve been touring for six years before we started it and then kind of got bored of being the band we were. Ultimately we got to a point, where we all just wanted to be home. Doing the mundane things mentioned and taking time to realise, what the fuck just happened. Then the time comes, where you are just completely bored of everything. And as a band want to do the complete opposite of what you’ve done before. We wanted to expose ourselves and practise the sounds more accurately and pick the lyrics more accurately and appreciate our own strangeness and weirdness. During the process of this album, we’ve rekindled that realisation of the strange concept we are as a band.
Alloysious: I agree 100%. And just to add to that, I feel like at the time it was trying to create a situation, where the most extreme way the group could go, would be to try and normalise what and who we are. That’s when change and new ideas happen- it will make everybody feel uncomfortable and you’re going to the extremity of the pull in opposite. When we started working on it being linear and more arranged it was exciting, because we haven’t done that before. And in that whole process, you start discovering and liking certain things. Liking how something just sounds off for example. Working with the opposite of what you’re doing is gonna bring you to the middle. You as a group is one thing, wanting to get to a certain point is another. We like what we like and we apply that everywhere. Amongst each other, there are different spots we all possess and together it creates what Young Fathers is.
Kayus: Even the idea of toying with the concept of what is normal. Especially in the process of creating, because it’s very subjective. Being in a round, where generally you want to push yourself to a place that you’ve not been to before, is what brings excitement. It’s what happens when you travel to a new place, that you’ve never seen before. There’s all the visual new things and people react differently, speak differently and that’s what’s translated in how we felt at that time.

You’ve just mentioned the lyrics. Where does the first idea spark come from and how do you go from there? How do you approach your lyrics? Are you walking into the studio with a specific state of mind or how do you tune in?
G: We all go in the studio and come up with stuff on the spot. We come up with lines from other people too, it’s a mixture of things. We’ve always liked words and words in places, where they’re not familiar and where they’re not usually used. We like using words and terms, it’s just another thing that we play with.

A constant intake of what’s around you?
G: Sometimes you find the most innate things, that you take note of. But you apply them into a situation, into a chorus of a song and they take on a whole different meaning. Kayus: We have a bountiful amount of words, that we choose from. We were just sitting here and Ally recorded something on his phone via a conversation, that we were having. It’s endless. A bottomless pitt of words. But with this album in particular, it’s been about reigning it in a little bit. Trying to be more precise and dismantling stuff, to then built it up again. That’s what we tried to achieve- it was a concious effort to be more precise.
Alloysious: To get to the essence of what the group is.
Kayus: And to discard all that fluff.

It’s impossible to put you into a genre- and don’t worry I won’t ask the genre question. But I wondered if the music you surround yourself with comes from all different sort of styles?
G: We all have different tastes in music. We’re all different people. But we never listen to music in the studio. Nor do we listen to it together, in order to study it. The way we take stuff in, not just music but anything, is we just built that archive in our mind that comes from life and living. And you remember bits in songs, moments in songs, where someone does something and for some reason that’s the point in which you busted crying or you jumped up dancing. There are certain moments in songs. And for me it’s about figuring out what they are. Why certain rhythms make you dance in a certain way.

So it’s more about the feeling than anything else?
Alloysious: It’s a gut thing as well. For us, what we always like is that gut feeling that gives you the hibbie-jibbies. It just makes you feel a certain way. And certain moments in songs give you that. And that’s addictive.
G: It’s like an orgasm junkie. You are constantly trying to hover, but also you realise, that have to bolt up and you can’t have that feeling all the time. It can’t be great the whole time.

You have to ride the waves.
G: Yes! You have to sustain for a bit and then something happens. It’s weird. Look at how people dance to let’s say techno or how people dance to James Brown. Everybody is dancing, but they’re dancing very different. Techno happens in the head, people move kind of uniformly. Whereas James Brown is in the stomach. It feels much rawer.

A whole body sensation?
G: Yeah, it’s just mere satisfying all over. Alloysious: If you can see it in colour, James Brown would be a warm, yellow, brownish tone. For the feeling of it all over. Like that Club drink over there. What’s it called?

Mate! Welcome to Berlin!
Alloysious: That sort of colour. And techno would be cold, with blues and blacks.
G: Some are great for certain occasions, some are great for others. For us the gut instinct has always been the strongest influence.

You just mentioned, that you’re all different people. You formed the band in 2001, when you were all 14 and meanwhile created music half of your lives together. It’s pretty unique and must take a lot of commitment to stick together as friends and band members? How do you keep the energy flowing between the three of you?
Kayus: Part of that comes from allowing each other to be themselves. When we’re together, I appreciate the other two guys for not liking the same stuff that I like. And vice versa. So I think that keeps us moving. We can have a back and forth with each other about different ideas and not agree upon stuff. If we all agree on the same thing, then where’s the excitement?
G: We’re not like-minded in that sense, and that’s a great thing. A lot of people who make music in a greater format lean towards liking the same things. For us it’s really not that at all, in fact the essence of what Young Fathers is, is the complete opposite. We do art together, but we do disagree. But the actual thing is more important than our friction. Because in the end there’s a trust, that everybody is trying to make it as good as they can. And that’s it. Sometimes we disagree, but sometimes we have to lean on each other and ask if this is good? And the other two in the band will say yes or no. That democratic approach to things helps us to actually do stuff.

Would you describe yourself as a political band?
Alloysious: Some days we would define ourselves as a political band and some days you just feel like you’re in a band. You’re just singing the songs that you want to sing and writing the words that you want to write. When we started being on stage together and the matter in which we perform and the songs we like to sing, people seemed to lean towards thinking of us as a political band. And we’re completely alright with that. It’s fine, we’re not gonna sit here and say na we’re not a political band. But from our perspective, we’re not sitting in the studio thinking about how political we could be.

What kind of message can we send now?
Kayus: Exactly! What’s going on in the world of injustice?
G: Inside all of us, we innately care about certain issues. We’re just interested in finding out about stuff and wonder why things are happening. And that comes across in the songs in the end. I don’t know, maybe the way we perform makes people think that we’re protesting.
Allysious: We’re trying to capture the mood of the song when we first recorded it. And that’s what we’re like when we’re in the studio trying to record that song.
G: It’s weird, that by just saying something you believe in, in the context that pop music is in at the moment and art in general, there’s such a black hole in the middle. From people who never say or do anything, to people who do and are put into a niche straight away. It’s just very strange for us, that we are seen as such a political band across the board. When actually we’re just singing the songs we wanna sing.
Kayus: Saying that, I had various conversations with people who don’t see us like that in the slightest. But like Ally was saying, we can’t actually shake being human. Having an opinion in general can come across in a way that is political. Within the context of the lyrics, that’s just us being reactive and observant. But it’s fine, they can call us whatever they want to. We can’t control it anyway.

Sophia Kahlenberg

Sophia, 29. Fotografin. Dann kam das Schreiben. Verspürt starkes Herzklopfen beim Wort ‚Australien‘. Aber Berlin ist auch ok.

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