Gus Wood Interview – Young Guns
“Good music isn’t quantifiable by how many people are watching, it’s quantified by how good the music is.” – Gustav Wood, Young Guns
A few hours before they took the stage for a late afternoon set at the Orlando Vans Warped Tour stop, I had a chance to sit down backstage and chat a little bit with frontman Gus Wood from Young Guns. He’s a super-friendly artist with a refreshing outlook on the music scene. Check out the second of five Warped Tour conversations, in our week of Warped Tour interviews.
Cretin: Young Guns has done really well in the UK over the past few years. I’m wondering how important is it for a UK band such as yours to gain success here in the United States?
Gus Wood: A lot of it depends on what your goals are. For us, we never had any kind of grand plan or scheme. For us it’s just been about being a band, and we’ve had some luck and success at home early on which has taken us further and further afield. Every opportunity we’ve been offered, we’ve grabbed with both hands.
Cretin: When did you first come over to the States?
Gus Wood: We came over here for the first time in 2012, and we had some good fortune where our first single (“Bones”) did well on radio, and that enabled us to keep coming back. The fundamentals are that this country is really big compared to the UK. If you are being businesslike about it there’s a much greater capacity for your band to be successful, but of course, to get to that level, a lot more work is needed. America is a place that loves rock music and most of the bands we listened to growing up were from here, and part of this Warped Tour world. In terms of how important it is for us; it’s kind of the Holy Grail for bands in the UK and Europe coming over here.
Cretin: Do you enjoy the grind over here?
Gus Wood: We’re not bored of touring over here. I love it and every day is a new experience. It’s a huge place and there are so many new people to meet. We’ve been touring here for three years and we’ve only scratched the surface.
Cretin: So many different cities and all kinds of different venues…
Gus Wood: Which is remarkable, and everyone’s been so nice to us and we feel welcome every time. It’s a real goal for us to achieve something over here and we’re working hard, and hoping that can happen. We’re still making new friends and playing to people for the first time. This is our first Warped Tour and it’s a crowd that we haven’t had the opportunity to play in front of too many times.
Cretin: Were you making a concerted effort to be on this year’s Warped Tour?
Gus Wood: We’ve always wanted to do it, and we’d spoken to Kevin (Lyman, founder of Warped Tour) about it last year, but we could only do a portion of the tour and he wanted a band to do the whole thing. So, it’s been discussed for some time, and this year it was just right and it worked out. We had just finished recording a new album in March (which comes out in September), so we can promote the release of the record while we’re on Warped Tour. It’s a bit of serendipity that it all worked out. It’s quite fortuitous.
Cretin: Is it different touring this big country where it’s not really one homogenous place but rather all of these distinct regions?
Gus Wood: It’s actually very similar to Europe in a lot of respects because it is one body but there are all of these different subcultures and tastes.
Cretin: Have you covered the entire country?
Gus Wood: When we were doing our active rock radio touring, we really weren’t hitting the coasts, and we did a lot of our work in the Midwest. On tours like this we really get to hit the coasts, and I love playing on the East Coast.
Cretin: Have you found any of the regions more receptive to Young Guns’ music?
Gus Wood: Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been made to feel really welcome and the response has been good. I think our sound is quite digestible to American audiences and that helps. That was nothing we planned to do, that’s just the music we write.
Cretin: I’m sure the level of response varies from city to city. Is that a challenge?
Gus Wood: Even if you are playing to only two people, it is very important that you need to play well to those two people. If you phone it in, you don’t deserve to be on that stage. Good music isn’t quantifiable by how many people are watching, it’s quantified by how good the music is. So we just try to play hard every day, and maybe it is 5 or 10 people, but those 5 or 10 will come back if we impress them.
Cretin: Tell me about the forthcoming album, Echoes.
Gus Wood: We wrote and recorded it very quickly; wrote it in eight weeks and then recorded it in 5 weeks at the beginning of this year. The album will come out towards the end of Warped Tour and then we go straight into a European tour before coming back here for the festivals.
Cretin: Your last album was a bit more electronic; will we see that trend continue on Echoes?
Gus Wood: The last album in some ways was a bit of a departure for us, a little more of an experimental record. We found ourselves after two albums and an EP, in a place where we really wanted to challenge ourselves and play with a lot of different instrumentation. There was a lot more programming involved. And this time around, that’s still there, but this one is very riff driven.
Cretin: Most of US radio is fairly lame these days, and it’s hard to get your new music heard and subsequently sold in the States. Do you see that same challenge?
Gus Wood: It’s hard to make money making music and the playing field is constantly changing In terms of fresh things. It is hard at the moment, but there are bands breaking out now, and you are starting to hear bands like Bring Me The Horizon on the radio. (They’re) pushing the envelope and opening the door for other bands. As a British band, our song “Bones” was the first British band since Bush to go to number one. That proves how hard it is. You need to have a little luck because it is difficult to have your music heard. If it is fresh, interesting and new, you hope that people will listen to it.
Cretin: You guys recently became a trio, how has the transition worked for you three?
Gus Wood: It’s been incredible for us. We had been together for six years, and we were friends since we were kids and quite frankly, we got to the point where it was kind of stale. We were exhausted and we’d had the same dynamic for so long, and then our drummer fell in love with a girl from Los Angeles and wanted to move over there.
He wanted to stay in the band, but we said that this band was extremely important to us and we believe in ourselves and we want to go hard and we’re not sure he was in the position to do that, and he agreed. We hired Chris Kamrada to come in and play on Echoes and we were so impressed with his work that we wanted him to come and play with us this summer. He is a phenomenal drummer and he’s from right here in Orlando.
Check out the new Young Guns single “Mad World”
Cretin: The Vans Warped Tour is a unique kind of rock tour. How do you like it?
Gus Wood: I love it. It suits our work ethic. We like working hard and we’ve always enjoyed the grind, it’s fulfilling. I am not a morning person, though. The other day I overslept until 10:00 and we were on stage at 11:15. An hour after waking up I was onstage in the blazing hot sun. But that kind of stuff keeps you on your toes, and that stuff is important.
Cretin: Your band has done really well and accomplished a lot, do you feel you are successful?
Gus Wood: Do I think we’ve done well? We get to do what we want and live as professional musicians, so yes. But the money is scarce. We don’t have any money, as this is not a career where money is easy to come by, but I’m doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. So in that respect, we’ve found success, but we have a long way to go. I want to be an old guy playing shows with a cute little kid bouncing around the stage in headphones on the side of the stage.
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