It’s been over a year since Years & Years released their debut album ‘Communion’ into the world, but the album still has a very special place in many people’s hearts. It’s an album of honest lyrics from Olly Alexander - but also incredibly catchy synths and dance-beats, and you’ve got the group’s other members Emre Turkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy to thank for that.
They also told us about new Years & Years music, working with Tove Lo, and more…
"...just go around the studio playing with every synth, chucking in a bunch of sounds. We always have too much, and then we start editing and deleting stuff. It’s like making a cake."
CDM: You have a habit of debuting songs in Paris - you played a new song called ‘See Me Now’ at your recent show in Paris. What made you decide to play a new song on this tour?
EMRE TURKMEN: Jeez, how do you even know that? We just wrote it, we decided that for a new year, we needed a few new songs, so we started working on it - it happened really quickly, so we thought we’d play it. We’ve got a few new things on the show, a couple of tracks from the deluxe album. We haven’t made new music for such a long time, that we got bored.
MIKEY GOLDSWORTHY: We were playing bigger stages and we needed more material, so we thought, “Why not go into the studio and make a brand new song?” So it’s kind of the reason why we did that. And also it’s just fun to get back into the studio again.
CDM: You’ve been touring so much for the past year. How has writing and working on music been while you’re on the road?
EMRE: We haven’t really had time to go into the studio at all. We haven’t stopped since the beginning of last year. Olly started carrying a little MIDI keyboard on the road with him, he’s in the hotel room next to me, he keeps texting me with questions about how to use a computer. So he’s started writing in hotel rooms. I’ve actually got some gear here right next to me, in my hotel bedroom. It’s messing around, really. And hopefully when it comes to actual music-making, we’ll have a little treasure trove of stuff.
MIKEY: We sort of usually separate it. Like we’d had a bit of time off earlier this year so we could go back into the studio. So far, we’ve actually never written together on the road. But we might start, we might have to sooner or later.
CDM: I know a lot of bands struggle writing on the road, but I guess it becomes a necessity at some point.
MIKEY: Yeah. Exactly. I know Ed Sheeran has a tour-bus with a producer in it.
CDM: Emre, I noticed that you played guitar on the new track you played live, and I’ve seen videos of you playing guitar more in the studio. Are synths still your #1 passion?
EMRE: <laughs> Actually, guitars are my number one passion, and then synths became my number two passion - and now I’ve decided that I quite like guitars. I bought a new guitar a few months ago, it’s called Misty. I’ve been doing some stuff on that, but then I thought it wasn’t really for Years & Years, but then I thought I’d try and do some stuff for Years & Years with guitar. Mikey’s always banging on about me playing more guitar, so I’m gonna do that I think.
CDM: In a recent radio interview, you said you’ve been using guitar pedals with your synthesisers - how does that work?
EMRE: Yup. It works great, it’s just the same. Just because it’s called a guitar-pedal doesn’t mean you can’t plug whatever you find into it. They work great, they sort of do different things. I’ve started getting bored with using computers, I quite like having actual things in my hand.
CDM: How does it work in the studio when Olly brings in a song he’s been working on? How does it develop into a Years & Years song?
MIKEY: We usually just strip down all the piano-stuff, and we usually start with a beat, and then just go around the studio playing with every synth, chucking in a bunch of sounds. We always have too much, and then we start editing and deleting stuff. It’s like making a cake.
CDM: Except you can’t take the ingredients out once you’ve put them in a cake.
MIKEY: That’s true. Once the icing sets, it’s done.
CDM: Is there a date when we can expect to hear 'official' new Years & Years music?
EMRE: There’s no date that we know of. We haven’t set any dates. I think it’ll be probably towards the end of the year. But you never know. Probably just whack something up on Soundcloud, and then our label will take it down, and it’ll be a big legal battle.
CDM: I read in an interview that for ‘Without’, you recorded your own face as part of the sound. Is it an instrument that you’ll continue to use on future recordings?
MIKEY: <laughs> That’s true. It’s on your favourite track.
CDM: Maybe that’s why 'Without' is my favourite.
MIKEY: And Emre plays it live, he’s got my face-sample on his drum-pad. Am I going to continue to use it? Yeah, I’ll definitely have my face in the next album, for sure.
CDM: How did it happen?
MIKEY: I always do percussion towards the end of the day. Our producer Mark was like, “Why don’t you just play your face?”
CDM: Tove Lo features on the new version of ‘Desire’ - what made you guys decide to work with her on this track?
EMRE: I think that last year when we were touring, Olly did a lot of, for one song we did a lot of duets on-stage, we did it with Tei Shi, we did it with Shamir, and I think everyone loved it, and we enjoyed it, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we do that again?’ And we’d met Tove [Lo] a few times, we’ve played loads of shows together, same line-ups, and she’s awesome. So it was pretty easy, we thought it’d be fun. And it wasn’t that hard work, all we had to do was delete some of Olly’s vocals. <laughs>
MIKEY: We kind of kept bumping into each other on the festival circuit, all these things, we just became friends, and when we were thinking about reworking it, she was the first, best choice to come up. She did it which was great.
CDM: We know you’re a big Marilyn Manson fan... so when is a Marilyn Manson x Years & Years collaboration going to happen?
MIKEY: That’d be great. I reckon that wouldn’t be a bad mix.
CDM: If you made a Years & Years video game, what do you think the plot-line would be? How would you win?
EMRE: I think it would be a bit like ‘Zelda’ or ‘Ico’, where you are a young boy and you have to go around town finding pieces of your heart and putting them back together, so that you can give it to the one you love.
MIKEY: That’s tough. Let me think. Emre had this idea of a video game being-- did you ever play that Temple Run game? So, it’s like that, but you’re running through an airport trying to get your plane to get to the gig. You have to dodge all these businessmen and jump through security, and get to the platform.
CDM: What would the theme-song sound like?
MIKEY: I think it’d be a cross between Kirby’s Dream Land and Donkey Kong.
CDM: If you could form a pub quiz team with five other people, who would you choose?
MIKEY: Ooohhh. David Attenborough, Brian Cox, Bruce Willis - just for the banter - oh, Nigella Lawson for the food questions, and then I guess I need a sport- guy. I’ll get Shane Warne, for the banter.
EMRE: I would choose Stephen Fry, Oscar Wilde, Morrissey - he probably knows quite a lot - Einstein, you’ve got your sciences covered, and Ariana Grande, just because.
CDM: If O.L.L.Y. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
EMRE: Orangey Love Like You.
MIKEY: Overly excitable, Likeable, Loose, Yak.
CDM: If M.I.K.E.Y. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
MIKEY: That’s tough. Music, Incredible, Charming, Hairy - well, I’m not that hairy - Amazing, Excitable, and Lovely.
EMRE: Mademoiselle In Kangaroos Effectively Yolkey.
CDM: If E.M.R.E. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
EMRE: Extremely Moody, Rubbish, Elephant.
MIKEY: Evil, Malicious, Righteous, Evil. <laughs> That’s pretty good. I like that one.
CDM: What would Years & Years sound like in a past-life, before synths were invented?
EMRE: <laughs> We’d probably want to be one of those medieval bands with the little ute or ukulele type thing, and little minstrels wandering around from town to town, singing tales of woe and heartbreak.
MIKEY: I think it’d have to be guitar-based wouldn’t it, or-- you know, originally we sounded a bit like Beirut and Fleet Foxes before we had a synth. So I’ll go with that. Quite folky.
CDM: If you could invent a synthesiser, what would it look like, and what would it do?
EMRE: It would look like, well they already have it - it would look like a keytar, and it would be able to play notes so high only dogs could hear it.
CDM: I feel like Zey would be very appreciative of the synth.
EMRE: Yeah, probably moreso than humans.
CDM: You can actually buy CDs which are just for dogs.
EMRE: There’s a story that apparently there’s a whistle or something that you can’t hear on the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' album, that only dogs can hear.
CDM: Obviously this is the most important question of all: how is Zey? And when is she going on her own world tour? She really needs to become the official Years & Years opening-act.
EMRE: Zey, as in my dog? She’s good. She’s great. I don’t get to see her much. I don’t think she travels well, she’s only got a European passport, and unfortunately the British dog quarantine laws are really strict, they’re the worst in the world, so she doesn’t really leave the country. It’s not leaving the country that’s the problem, it’s getting back in that’s the problem.
CDM: How unfair!
EMRE: I know. Dogs are humans too.
CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
EMRE: ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ by Eiffel 65.
MIKEY: Good question. I think it would be-- what’s that song by Yazoo in Napolean Dynamite. <sings 'Only You'> Maybe you’ll have to look it up.
CDM: If you were to curate your own music festival, who would you want to play and what would the festival be called?
EMRE: The festival would be called Mega-Lollzapalooza. The three headline acts would be Caribou, Radiohead, and Beyoncé.
CDM: What's the most despicable thing you've ever done?
EMRE: Let me think. I used to be a fussy eater, and once my Mum gave me some food and I didn’t want to eat it, and they were meatballs, so I hid them when she went inside to the kitchen, underneath the radiator. The whole house stunk for a week, and no-one knew why. I couldn’t tell my Mum. It really, really smelled bad.
MIKEY: I don’t know... I hit my friend in the head with an oar, once.
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
MIKEY: Harry Potter’s wand.
CDM: What is your first proper memory, ever?
MIKEY: I think it might be when I watched ‘Batman’ at my Grandma’s house, the Tim Burton version. The Joker shakes that guy’s hand and he turns into a skeleton. Or it could be David Bowie in the ‘Labyrinth’. My Grandma only had three videos on VHS, and it was ‘Batman’, ‘Wizard Of Oz’ and ‘Labyrinth’. And she had the ‘Care Bears’ TV series on VHS.
Watch the ‘Meteorite’ music video below…