Gang Of Youths’ Savvy Seven

 

imageSydneysiders Gang of Youths are having a cracker of a year. They’ve embarked on a sold out national tour in support of their album The Positions, with the album itself scoring triple j feature album, FBi album of the week, and debuting on the ARIA charts; and receiving rave reviews from the likes of Tone Deaf, Rolling Stone, The Music, The Guardian and FasterLouder. Now the band are set to hit the road again in August on a massive 24 date tour – but not before frontman Dave Le’aupepe generously shares his insights into navigating the music industry with us in this week’s Savvy Seven…

The best live music venues in my area are…

It used to be Annandale Hotel, but that motherf***** closed down! Because the man and all his scoundrels decided to turn it into a yuppie joint. I think my favourite venue is Oxford Art Factory, on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, for nostalgic reasons. I’ve been going there since I was fifteen – and it’s not an all ages joint – so I’ve been sitting in there for about eight years. It’s a good place. But I think the best venue to play is The Metro.

The music scene in my hometown is…

Completely separate from anything I know anything about, to be honest. I don’t know. I’m from Sydney, from Newtown – I was born and raised in the Inner West – I just have no idea what the scene is like, because I’ve never really been part of it. I think ‘broad’ is probably a good word. It’s broad as sh** now. We’ve never really functioned in and of it, and I started playing music here when I was thirteen, so ten years ago. Things have changed a lot. I played in a lot of hardcore bands, and I played drums in a lot of bands as well. I guess the progression for Sydney has been toward electronic music and a lot of that kind of thing.

My top business tip for new artists is…

We didn’t do things in a very traditional way. My advice is to get a f***ing lawyer. Get a lawyer and get a manager. Those are the two things you need if you’re starting out.

So don’t try and do it yourself?

No, do it yourself – under the guidance of people who know what they’re doing. The DIY movement works in a small scene if you don’t want to make a career. And doing things DIY is how we did it for a really long time. And I was always attached to DIY, but get some good people around you who know what they’re doing. Make sure they’re trustworthy. And make sure it’s not all about the bottom line. As the great British philosopher, Paul McCartney said, “Money can’t buy you love“. Don’t make it about the bottom line. Too many people are so focused on trying to monetize their career and monetize their career, instead of making something that’s going to have value in an esoteric or metaphysical nature. So, find good people and don’t make sh**ty f***ing music. Put your f***ing ovaries or balls on the line, you f***ing cowards, that’s what I would say.

In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is…

Most people would say, how are musicians are going to last, and how are we going to make money? I don’t give a f***. That doesn’t matter to me. How are we going to continue making good sh**, when everything is becoming homogenous? How are we going to continue? Are we going to continue appropriating the past? Or are we going to continue moving forward in some regard? I think the process of our artistic credibility and artistic integrity is being compromised by ‘group think’, by cronyism, by mindless sheep on the internet gravitating towards anything that seems remotely trendy or hip. How are we going to maintain credibility as a new, burgeoning artistic generation? That’s the important thing. I said that Gang Of Youths never were really part of a scene, we never gravitated towards a scene. To say that U2 and Bruce Springsteen weren’t influences on our first record would be a lie – and  they’re not the coolest people in the world. Maintaining a sense of individuality and refusing to conform to whatever d***-riding trend is existing at the moment is probably really important.

And there are people who are doing it. We like to pretend that everything’s the same and moving in the same direction, but Kendrick Lamar did some pretty drastic sh** this year. Titus Andronicus just released this ninety-minute, extraordinary piece of work that I don’t even know how I’m going to tackle yet. I don’t even know if I like it yet. But they’re trying to do something different. Taylor Swift changed the pop landscape last year. People are doing different sh**. All the middle men are sort of d***-riding any trend that they see on Stereogum. Maintaining artistic credibility in a burgeoning, fledgling generation of creatives is the real problem. How the f*** do you expect to make money if you’re all making the same sh** – or at least make money honestly? I’m not the kind of person to denigrate people like Avicii, because at least they’re making huge statements with big pop songs. We can sit here and castigate them from a distance, but we’re doing the same thing.

When on the road, my favourite pit stops are...

We don’t really have regular pit stops – wherever we can p*ss is generally the best place to do that. I’m a bit of a health nut now. I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, and I recently quit smoking. I’m on a bit of a health kick, so generally anything that is not going to kill me slowly. Give me quinoa. Any place I can get quinoa. Quinoa is a miracle food.

My biggest career mistake has been…

I was a drunk and a drug addict and I was horrible to my friends and family. I got into substances. Don’t do that, ever. I was depressed and I didn’t get help. And I already had a propensity for drug abuse. My advice is don’t do that. I was truly an awful c*** to my band members, and they stuck by me. So that goes along with picking your friends wisely. Don’t get involved with substance, and don’t be a d*** to your friends.

No one in the industry wants to talk about mental illness, and no one wants to talk about drug addiction. Because it’s part of the lexicon, it’s part of the iconography of what we do. It fuels our creativity, and it fuels the fun drunken stories that people at Rolling Stone used to write about. No one wants to address the significant damage it does to us. “Oh, if you do a little bit of drugs, if you drink a little bit too much, it’s fine.” And, you know, whatever – people are people, and I’m all about everybody’s individual civil liberties. But no one wants to talk about depression. No one wants to talk about mental illness. No one wants to talk about that sh**.

A song on our record, ‘Magnolia’, is about the day I tried to kill myself and got arrested and taken to drug and alcohol rehabilitation. This shouldn’t be something we have to hide in the dark. Having Bipolar disorder, which I do (though I’ve been able to mitigate it over time) shouldn’t be a taboo subject, should not be something to eschew or something to ignore. Mental illness is rife within the creative community. And a lot of it fuels the artistry – but a lot of it is really damaging. Addiction is an illness, and it’s symptomatic of broader issues, whether they be psychotic, non-psychotic or depressive.

We need to talk about it, because I have a lot of friends who live in the dark. I refuse to. I was talking to my publicist about, and she’s an amazing woman – her name is Natalie Files, and she’s just an astonishing human being. I sort of can talk about this – I’m six foot two and a hundred kilos. I’m quite a ‘manly man’ – it’s easy for me to talk about it because I have that whole, you know, “I’m just one of the boys” type thing. But there’s a lot of people who can’t, and there’s a lot of women who can’t, because women feel like, they’re just gonna be like, you know, “B*tches be crazy”. Because of the f***ing bullsh** boy’s club, patriarchal garbage that you have to deal with. “Oh, it’s PMS”. F*** you, a**hole, it’s not f***ing PMS. There’s actual sh** going on. And actually, women’s issues are something else that I’m really into. Especially when it comes to mental health. It’s hard for men to talk about it, but it’s hard for women to actually get proper help. Because we kind of write them off. Because any man who admits that he’s got depression or anything, it’s like, “Just toughen the f*** up, man.”. But with women it’s like, “Oh, it’s just hormones.” We have these attitudes, and they exist because no one wants to talk about it.

My best general advice for emerging artists is…

Don’t be a c***, for the love of God. Be kind, be compassionate towards people, and your music comes first. Actually, your music does not come first. People come first. People are important. Treat people with respect and kindness, and honour them. And then you might actually see that people want to do sh** for you. People are really important – don’t be a c***. For the love of God, please.

Check out Gang of Youths performing their incandescent version of LCD Soundsystem‘s All My Friends below.

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