Youth Group have long been a staple in the indie music scene. Emerging in the late 90’s, the Sydney outfit have undoubtedly forged a successful career with their signature brand of rock. Skeleton Jar, their sophomore album released in 2004, garnered rave reviews and ultimately marked the start of Youth Group’s musical journey. However, it was their cover of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ that rocketed the band to a new level of national fame and earned them an ARIA award. With no sign of slowing down, the four-piece went on to release two more albums, Casino Twilight Dogs in 2006 and The Night Is Ours in 2008.
Last year saw the long-awaited return of Youth Group when they dropped their latest album, Australian Halloween. After a near decade-long absence, critics and fans alike welcomed their new work with open arms (and ears). Youth Group drummer Danny Allen graciously took time out of his busy schedule to share his personal insights and best advice for navigating the music scene…read on below.
What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
I don’t think any of us intended for it to become a career per se, we just absolutely loved music and did everything we could to play it together. Personally I worked as an electrician for 11 years to fund the ability to play in bands and tour, and I was just extremely fortunate that it did pan out into a career for me. I think generally if you go in for any other reason, it’s going to be tough. I will say though, that all of Youth Group’s opportunities, we were always able to capitalize on because music always came first for us. Sometimes at the sacrifice of other parts of life. It all comes down to what you value most I guess.
Besides making music, what have you done to get to where you are?
A lot of the last answer applies here. Putting music first has been paramount. In all of the time I worked as an electrician, I basically never took holidays that weren’t used for touring. In fact I was reprimanded constantly for taking leave without pay to cover playing shows. I worked for the Government in hospitals and would never have been able to get away with that in the public sector. Once we started getting radio play and a bit of notoriety, bosses were a bit more helpful though. Construction workers can be incredibly supportive at times (haha). The point is – music always came first and daylight second. Which I guess can be seen as dedication but honestly if you just love doing anything that much, it doesn’t take much effort.
How do you approach developing timelines for your career?
It’s much harder now that we all have kids (8 between us!). It has become so much more meaningful to us now though. To get the time and opportunity to even get together to continue to play is a blessing. Aided in huge part to very understanding partners! Everyone recognises how special a role it has played in our lives though and pitches in to make it possible. Even moreso because I live in Miami. Does not make it easy. To answer the question, we don’t really plan further than a year in advance at this point and take NOTHING for granted.
What is the most significant challenge you have conquered in your career?
Personally, it’s sobriety without question. When you’re young you can get away (somewhat) with being loose and a lot of the time it’s even encouraged, or at least it used to be. Hopefully that’s changing but when you start getting older it’s a lot more difficult to manage. I don’t recommend that path for anyone. For me, when I started playing much larger shows as a session drummer in the US, I couldn’t justify not being 100% on top of my game and after a few mortifying incidents I had to promise to quit totally on tour. Which eventually led to having to eradicate it from my life entirely because it just becomes so tough to juggle. I felt like I got to a point where I had to ask myself what my motivations for playing really were and how professional I intended to be. I also think it was an excuse for me to avoid seeing if I really could cut it at the next level. I’m so glad I really tried. I feel like I’ve met so many unbelievably talented musicians that allow this to stop them from going as far as they should.
What will musicians discover from touring and how should they prepare for it?
Expect to be exhausted and feel like taking it out on your touring buddies. Which you absolutely cannot. Fastest way to make yourself unwelcome to the tour. I’ve been incredibly lucky to get to experience touring with my lifelong best friends but when that’s not the case, tempers can fray frighteningly easily.
How should people educate themselves on current industry issues?
Surround yourself with great, experienced folks you can trust. I’m so lucky to have incredible, smart, gifted and yet HUMBLE friends that have guided me over the years and who have not been afraid to give it to me straight when required.
How have you integrated modern technology into your content process?
For our recent album, Youth Group demoed songs while living in three separate countries, something technology makes more and more fluid a process. Personally, I just recorded my own solo ep entirely on my own on Logic. Despite having recorded extensively since the late 90’s in studios such as Sunset Sound in LA, I feel like working everything out for myself taught me more than I’d learned in the first 15 years put together. The resources even just with say, online tutorials, are unprecedented. The sky’s the limit.