Andrew Chats with Dave from Gang of Youths

Andrew Chats with Dave from Gang of Youths

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Andrew got the chance to sit down the definition of a Renaissance Person in Austin: musician, intellectual, and expert conversationalist, David Le’aupepe from Sydney-via-London rock gods Gang of Youths. Gangs’ 2017 album, Go Farther in Lightness, is top to bottom spectacular, as critics and fans agree. Andrew and Dave’s conversation went a little something like this:

 

From left: Andrew Becker, Dave Le’aupepe

Dave: Have you ever been to Australia?

Andrew: Twice. My year off after high school, I worked on a farm near Daylesford–

D: Daylesford! That’s awesome.

A: Yeah! And so the second time around, I went back after I did an exchange in Mongolia.

D: Hold up. Mongolia’s my dream. I’ve always wanted to go to the steppe–just ask my wife. Did you go to Ulan Bator, or…

A: I was in Ulan Bator, and I also lived for two weeks with sheep herders in the Bayankhongor region.

D: That’s so awesome. Mongolia, man–you’ve done more in your short life than I ever will in mine. Mine’s not that interesting.

A: Well, you did write the best album of 2017…

D: Dude, I don’t look like Kendrick Lamar, do I?

A: *laughs*

D: Actually I don’t know what the best album of 2017 is. I think it might be Julien Baker’s…

A: Julien’s is pretty great. For me, it’s you guys, Alex Lahey’s…

D: ALEX LAHEY! Alex Lahey’s a fucking legend. She’s the nicest person too. You look at her whole schtick and she seems sort of sardonic and detached, but you listen to the music and the lyrics and there’s a real beating heart that goes on, and you meet her in person and she’s warm and she’s funny…she’s like your favorite bartender who’s got all the good stories. She’s a deeply insightful singer and songwriter to. I’ve been listening mostly to classical music as of late, but she seems like she’s really right for this time and place. We need more people like her who make observations about life without being this droney slacker “all I do is smoke weed” type. I love that whole elevation of observation and elevation of truth…it’s like this weird Joyceian thing of trying to implement real height into your observations, implement human things into the ordinary nothingness of day to day mundanity…plus, Alex is such a nice person.

A: Totally. I met her at a Julia Jacklin gig in Brooklyn, actually…

D: JACKO! Jacko’s great. She went to my sister’s high school.

A: Oh no way!

D: Yeah she’s mad. Such a nice person too.

A: Yeah, I love her! And her guitarist Eddie is really nice as well.

D: Yeah, Eddie’s great. Their whole band have been friends for a long time, they’re from this place in the mountains called–

A: The Blue Mountains.

D: Yeah the Blue Mountains–sorry, I keep forgetting you lived there, I don’t mean to talk to you like you don’t know anything. But yeah, they’re from a beautiful part of the world.

Andrew and Dave, deep in conversation

A: True that. So you’ve been listening to a lot of classical–what are some of your favorite classical artists?

D: Johann Johannsson died recently, so my wife and I have been listening to him a lot. I’m a big fan of the neo-classical, stuff with repetition, nuance, motif…at the moment I really like…I mean everyone likes Nils Frahm…I’m trying to think of who i’m digging at the moment. I kind of follow different musicians around, I love the Danish String Quartet, Daniel Hope…he does a whole thing called “Spheres” that’s great. He’s a really talented guy, he plays lead violin on Max Richter’s “Vivaldi Four Seasons Recomposed.” Max Richter’s fucking amazing. What else have I been listening to? Actually, let me check… *Pulls out phone* That’s my wife, she’s cute.

A: So you guys got married pretty recently, hey?

D: Yeah, really recently. I only met her a year ago and that was it. It’s really weird, I never believed in any of that love at first sight, soulmate stuff until it happens to you…thenit wears down your resistance to good things. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Kronos Quartet, of course. Daniel Hart’s pretty good, as are the Carducci Quartet…weirdly enough I’ve been listening to a lot of Warren Ellis and Dirty Three, I know that’s not strictly classical, but one of my favorite artists is Gaugin, and there’s a great biopic of Gauguin about him going to Tahiti, and obviously being Polynesian, Gaugin’s work is very evocative for me because Tahiti, Samoa, and all those places that were colonized–his work rings true, and so it hits close to home for me. anyway Warren Ellis did the soundtrack, and it’s so haunting but it also utilizes the native sounds of Oceania, which I really appreciate…yeah, I like all those. In terms of old composers, I love Camille Saint-Saëns, Massenet…I’ve been moving through French composers a lot. Schubert and Brahms I love because of my dad.

A: Amazing. I’m a big Strauss guy, myself, because of the melodrama and grandiosity of the music…

D: So’s my dad! Any of those older romantic guys will try to evoke the power of the universe cause that was the trend of the day…you listen to the later romantic guys, their focus is more about trying to evoke humanity in this expressionist way, you think Rachmaninoff, Chopin…after the 20th century, people wanted to make classical more digestible for everyone, but people forget that classical music has always been meant for everyone, and we should remember that and try and make it accessible again. That’s why i like ideas like Vivaldi Recomposed, that’s why I like Hans Zimmer, cause it’s opening us up to the possibility of new classical — classical with a twist–making it relevant again, cause that classical and opera is what I grew up with, and I owe it all to my father.

A: Is that classical and opera you grew up on that made you want to become a musician?

D: No, other stuff. My earliest memory in life is Sweet Child O’Mine video clip on “Rage.” I was 3 or 4, my sister scooped me out of bed and popped me in front of the TV because I had to listen to it. And it all started from there.

A: I love that! I can definitely hear some influence from GnR in Gangs’ stuff.

D: There is, and sometimes people criticize and compare artists to other artists, but the thing is: all music borrows from what came before. Everyone has influences, and that [The National’s} Boxer came out when I was 14, or The Strokes’ Is This It? and Phoenix’s United came out in 2001, shouldn’t be held against us or any other indie band.

A: I wholeheartedly agree. In creative writing, they teach us to borrow from what came before, and it should be the same in music. These artists, after all, are what make it infinitely happier for us to be alive…

D: Exactly. I don’t criticize anyone for listening to anything, any genre. Music eliminates the suffering of living to the point where we can do it bearably…you can find so much value in all kinds of music. For example, I fucking adore grime– it’s the closest thing to punk in the 21st century…it’s a world beating force. A lot of people don’t like it though…I think we need to have space for dialogue again in music. Individuals in the world need to be able to find the things that are really important to them.

A: What do you have to say about the fact that there are people out there listening to Go Farther In Lightness in 2017 who will have the same reaction as you did to Boxer or Is This It?

D: God, I don’t know if it’s good enough…haha. I don’t want my work to be held in such high reverence that it can’t be reexamined–the only thing i care about is helping people. Every artist just wants to mean something to somebody. The very fact that they allowed my work to help them has helped me. If you love my music, you’re saving my life. If you actually want to hear it, you are doing such a service to me…I’m not entitled to an audience, I’m not entitled to people liking my shit–I want to earn this shit. And it makes such a difference when someone cares…it’s the greatest feeling, to be able to do something positive in the life of someone…the way that Fugazi did for me, the way that Gang Green and Comeback Kid did for me…the way that Chuck Ragan and Hot Water Music did for me, the way that Emperor and Mayhem did for me…like Bruce Springsteen, Broken Social Scene…to have that place in someone’s life, means everything to me.

A: Dave Le’aupepe, it’s been so wonderful talking to you.

D: Good man. You too.

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