U.K. electronic band Years and Years jumbles together an unlikely combination of sounds, including some that will not seem particularly fashionable — think Hot Chip plus the Wanted covering Savage Garden, which has a dash of Jamie Woon. They have several major hits overseas, the greatest being anthemic summer jam “King,” nonetheless next stop would be the United States: The single recently charted from the lower reaches in the Mainstream Top 40 and recently, the group released their strong full-length debut, Communion.
Rolling Stone met with all the band’s Olly Alexander, Emre Turkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy at their room from the Standard Hotel on Manhattan’s West Side. Black leather covered every piece of furniture, and myriad disco balls hung through the ceiling. The most prominent feature, though, would be a large hot spa, that the hotel staff begun to fill halfway using an interview in that this group discussed songwriting, making their first big record over a toilet and also the pros and cons of orgies.
If you’re telling somebody what we do, how can you explain Years and Years’ sound?
Olly Alexander: I’d say, “Have you ever heard in the Pet Shop Boys or Rihanna?” And then, “Maybe somewhere inside the middle.”
Mikey Goldsworthy: I just had that experience inside café. She was like, “What’s your music like?” I was like, “Uhhh — like electronic dance?” I just informed her to watch The Tonight Show tomorrow. She was like, “Alright, I will!” So I considered that went as good as [laughs].
How have you guys meet? What do you sound like to begin with?
Emre Turkmen: [In] 2010, me and Mikey met online using a band-website forum and started making music. Mikey attended a house party at Olly’s house by way of a mutual friend, got drunk, passed out for the couch, wakened, and Olly was singing inside the shower. And Olly needed to join the group. A few days later, these of us were in their living room, implementing this song idea he.
Alexander: Our first song stood a little distorted guitar.
Turkmen: We were very indie.
Goldsworthy: Yeah, indie: Beirut, Fleet Foxes.
Alexander: We only had one synth when this occurs.
What pushed everyone toward an even more dance kind of sound?
Goldsworthy: You [to Turkmen] had making beats, and I experienced buying synths.
Alexander: And I got more into dance music. Because I’d started playing it when I would be a teenager. And U.K. dance music just exploded during that time — SBTRKT.
Goldsworthy: Little Dragon, also, really pushed us towards that.
Alexander: And Emre was recording our stuff, and brought a laptop and software, so you were like, “Oh, I can make music using this method.”
Turkmen: With the laptop, it had been like a sandbox. Whereas I’d been writing guitar music since I was, like, 14, each time I would acquire the guitar I would feel really — I couldn’t even put two chords together without thinking, “This is definitely so boring; I’ve done this before.”
How do you arrive at the current Years and Years sound?
Turkmen: We just started making music inside a certain way, got tired of some on the ways we had been doing things before, guitars and things. And then started losing your way — if you’ve ever played a synthesizer, you’d be aware that it never ends; you can get a new one every week and you also’d still want a different one, yet another one. Olly started entering into clubbing music, I started entering into making beats, because we was lacking a drummer at that time, and yes it just type of came because of this. I think operate works will be, like, genre is much less relevant. And it’s less highly relevant to us. We were quite keen to get our own sound, but we couldn’t know what that sound was until we did a song called “Real.” And it’s form of been quite natural, unforced.
How have you put “Real” together?
Alexander: I had the song around the piano, and I had this style of four-chord verse, and it also became a slightly altered four-chord chorus, as well as a hook, and I just thought it had been good, and also you [to Turkmen] were built with a beat —
Goldsworthy: Which you made within a toilet—
Turkmen: [Laughs] Yeah…
Alexander: And a synth sound, and now we put the a pair of things together and yes it seemed to work: This is how the background music should sound. It had add up. Your production idea and my songwriting.
You made the beat within the toilet?
Turkmen: Oh, shit, yeah [laughs]. Well, I was at the job. I wasn’t actually [just] for the toilet — I made it at the job. I visited the toilet and got because I was bored, in my phone, then under my desk while my boss was seeking to tell me stuff. And then I went home and added the synths around the iPad and place a sidechain onto it. It just happened very soon, an adorable little thing, and Olly played me this song. We were within this rehearsal studio. Put it together, and hubby liked it. It happened pretty quickly, then Mikey came and did his weird jazz bass solo [laughs].
Goldsworthy: I’d just got such a jazz bass. So I chosen to put a jazz bass solo inside [laughs].
How do you put “King” together?
Alexander: When we recorded it, not a soul felt good about this. It sounds lame! And we could never repair it. We shelved it for awhile. When we went back to it, we took a new approach: “Let’s seek to make it an Eighties dance-pop track.” And we only started out with this, make the grade all up, arranged it. Used that balearic flute vibe, as being a bird from the forest.
Goldsworthy: That’s actually Olly’s voice sampled and fucked up.
The “King” video is extremely unique. Were you heavily associated with making that?
Alexander: We always try and make the videos ourselves.
Goldsworthy: We wanted dancing.
Alexander: We always wanted dancing. Ryan Heffington, the choreographer, just received in touch with me on Instagram. He taught “Real” in a of his dance classes; they danced for it.
Olly, who’re your songwriting influences?
Alexander: I love several genres of music, and I love pop music, but I went by way of a really big singer-songwriter phase. I really fell deeply in love with Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. That’s how I learned to experiment with piano, also; I was playing their songs. Some of them really are complicated — Stevie Wonder loved key changes. But the best songs are quite obvious. I just love hundreds of late Nineties, early 2000s R&B songs: Aaliyah, TLC, Destiny’s Child. Even though Years and Years isn’t actually like that, personally they were pretty perfect pop songs. Or even a Rihanna or Beyoncé song. I think you will find there’s tendency to believe if something’s hooky, it isn’t cool. But I think the contrary.
Turkmen: I grew up paying attention to the Beatles and stuff this way, and sort of taught myself music by hearing the Beatles and copying it. We have very varied tastes. I love rock music and Nineties grunge. Mikey loves the jazz and shit. But it also filters through inside the way you’re employed, possibly not the way you sound. We don’t could be seen as grunge, but once we started, we were being a band, an indie-band ethos, though we make pop music. That kind of way of thinking sticks along with us.
Goldsworthy: My dad became a music teacher. He taught Latin music, plenty of Cuban stuff. He employed to take care of me when I was young, I accustomed to go to his lessons. He forced me to understand piano when I was four, so I had it for a very young age. I absorbed every music genre you might until I was 16. A jazz phase, classical, blues. I style of missed out on R&B. The whole Nineties is just like a black hole over the internet. The only bands I can remember include the Offspring, Korn, Papa Roach.
Alexander: Do you remember Staind?
Goldsworthy: Staind, Slipknot, Crazy Town.
One with the most beautiful songs with your album is “Memo.” How do you put that together?
Alexander: I was sharing a dressing room using this type of guy who I thought was fit. I familiar with sit in front from the mirror in this little side, yet sit in front on the mirror on his side, and hubby would it’s really important at himself, and I would examine him considering himself within the mirror from my mirror. And that’s just the thing that song concerned, fancying that guy. I totally developed this fantasy — nothing ever happened.
Alexander: I was going off those four chords that were inside chorus. They’re precisely the same chords to, like, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Changes.”
Alexander: Tupac! [Bruce Hornsby’s] “The Way It Is.” I love that chord progression; that chord progression’s great. I was just using can singing over it. And I sent it to your account [to Turkmen] on the voice memo, because about the old iPhones you employed to record and save as memo.
Turkmen: That’s why it’s name is “Memo.” A lot of our songs are prefer that. “Real” is referred to as “Real” as a result of synth patch I used.
Goldsworthy: “Foundation” is known as “Foundation” due to synth patch.
Turkmen: “Border” is additionally an app I used within the iPad called Borderlands.
This college accommodation feels a little like the type of place where someone might have an orgy. . .
Turkmen: But maybe not the kind of that you’d feel better about.
Alexander: Do you ever feel better about an orgy?
Turkmen: I’ve never had an orgy. But I indicate that they are better in here [points to head] compared to what they are within the real world.
Alexander: Because you employ a fancy orgy expectation.
Turkmen: I think I’d feel terrible about myself. . .
Alexander: I’d be worried about hygiene.
Turkmen: I would bother about splashback.
Alexander: I think I’d get rid of my clothes. But car should be done in your lifetime. . .
Turkmen: You should have an orgy.
Alexander: As long as it’s safe. Safe and consensual. Very important. I think we’ve gone off-topic.