Gang of Youths have attracted quite a bit of attention over the past few years. Their highly anticipated debut “The Positions” was released only a week ago…straight into the top end of the ARIA charts.
This is a band you will hear about…and Inbetween constant busy promo and tour schedules, we managed to chat with guitarist Joji, about all things music and guitar gear.
So tell us about the recent release of “The Positions” and the process involved in its creation?
This record has been like a 26 month pregnancy where the last 14 months were just a long, drawn out, over due labour period. It’s great to finally kick this thing out of our musical womb and show off this child to our loved ones and enemies. It is a reflection of our journey over the last few years, and everything in between. As Dave our front man and my best friend has revealed in the wake of our release, this is a concept album based on the journey of our friendship as a band and in particular the story and journey of David and his 4 year journey with his terminally ill wife and how we rallied around him and each other during tough times and beyond.
This LP is our first full release. No EP’s or shit in the past. Just straight up birthing this big ‘ol mother fucking and just gonna put it out there. Feel free to adopt it into your musical family.
Your recorded the bulk of this album in the US with Kevin McMahon (Swans, Titus Andronicus, Real Estate, Frightened Rabbit). What was the experience like?
We recorded a bunch of different places. The majority of this album was done in Marcata Studios, New Paltz. Which is a big old barn in upstate New York filled with old gear which we were lucky enough to use on this record. Kevin McMahon is friggen genius. The only thing which was brand new in his studio was his Mac PC. He had either built or restored everything else in the studio. It was like some crazy, fucked up, musical Frankenstein studio.
There were old world war II parts that was incorporated into recording equipment. Guitars which he had found on the side of the road which he restored. I played some parts on our record which had tire patterns imprinted into the body. A car had fucking run over it. He had a bunch of amps he had either built or restored, including his first ever amp as a kid. Some old Ampeg which sounded great.
So Gang of Youths consists of 4 members, with David, Jung and yourself handling guitar duties.
Do you guys have any difficulties in sharing parts or writing songs? Any key Influences that may have played a part in writing this album?
Influences? Think the most niche, wanky bands and performance theatre acts you’ve never heard of and add some swinging Brian Setzer licks and some kewl Blue Man Group synths. Nah, but for reals. We all have fairly humble, way too obvious to be true musical influences. Pretty much any number one hits from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s.
Dave writes all the lyrics and the music. The rest of us come into play more in the production and arrangement side of things.
Anything I write musically is usually all written out of impulse. For this record, I don’t think I sat down once to try and work out parts. I at most would play out of impulses, listened over what I came up with and then would try to rehearse it or execute it better. The longest I would take in recording would probably be more to do with un-guitar sounding guitar sounds where I would just sit there with the our very patient engineers and just try shit out and track it down.
Tell us about your first guitar and amp experience.
First guitar was a Monterey Strat. Piece of shit. My first ever amp is an amp I still currently own, a 1968 Riviera 725 amp head with a matching 15″ speaker cab. Don’t know much about it. All I know is it is meant to kinda be like a Fender Bassman but it sounds more like some weird Plexi. I like it, but it’s weird. It’s not in twerking condition at the moment but hope to get it up and running.
First ever “AHA!” guitar moment?
My first guitar related epiphany I guess was when I first learned how to play thunderstruck and when I first stumbled upon effects in my early teens. Both incidents opened me up to new possibilities of how music could be played and enjoyed. I grew up playing at my local youth group. I use to borrow effects off a friend named Jos and just kind of taught myself how to use them. I use to watch him and would just gauge what to do off what he did. He was and still is a dope lefty guitarist. He plays in a local Sydney band called Nantes. He had a really simple set up, just like two delay and two drives but he would just get the most amazing sounds. Learnt a lot from him. From there I just experimented a lot with anything and everything I could find or borrow.
I think every electric guitar player goes through a stage, where they discover a “new” effect… and when it’s such a new experience, you don’t really know how to harnest it…
BUT you write a song, and then this section comes in (for me it was a flanger) and it just goes “flllllwwwoooosh” and completely takes over the mix!!! Can you relate? And do you have any effects that you are guilty in overindulging and over abusing?
Yeah, totally! for me, it wasn’t so much an effect but a pedal or effect unit. The Line 6 M9. With the M9 I discovered every type of guitar and non-guitar sounding effects imaginable and unimaginable. Verbs, chorus, flanger, trems.
I have been guilty for purging on all these effects. Although to be honest, it has come off better than for worse with some of the crazy shit armed in this thing.
What kind of attributes do you look for when choosing an electric guitar
I look for one thing when using an instrument and it’s super weird (understandable given the nature of my mental makeup). I look for comfortability and feel in an instrument. For me it has to have this responsive, interactive spirit like thing about it (I know, weird). Nothing to do with shape, brand, scale length, or any of that shit. I have used some brilliant gear and pieces of shit in the past and have like them both just as much. But what they both must have in common is that feel and spirit. It’s when you can just pick up the instrument and play something and you don’t know why but things just come to you. That’s what I look for. I look for the same thing in reproductive partners too.
I totally get that, its almost like, every guitar has some sort of song ,or at least some form of inspiration to write one, whereas others you might have to fight to get it out. Some others are just good for bashing out a tune…
Do you have a certain guitar or gear you use for touring?
When it is in one piece and fully functional. I use my first guitar I got as a kid. It’s like a mid 2000’s fender mexican tele which has been heavily modified. More out of necessity. I have broken 4 necks on the thing and damaged most of the electronics and hardware on the body. This one time. I broke my 3rd headstock of the neck during a show and taped the whole thing together to play a show the following night. It honestly played as normal without a problem.
When it comes to effects, I used to have a big ass rig but thought is was super wanky going around with all the gear in the world. So now I’ve just simplified it down to just 2 drives, 1 distortion or Fuzz, compressor, 2 multi effects units and of course a tuner. I also do a bunch of live looping which makes up the large basis of my sound. I do all my looping with the M9.
You recently released your new single ‘Radioface’ out now and with your first full length LP ‘The Positions” out now, what’s up next?
We are currently on tour promoting the Album through out may. Will be playing in Brisy, Syders, Melbs, Adelaide and Perth. Very excited to be spending a bit more time in Perth. All tour dates and details are up on our socials.
We all know your biggest “wtf” off stage experience (search hard enough on the interwebs to lol at Joji vs 2 doors)…but give us your best “wtf” live show experience…
I have had 3 occasions where I have had an audience member spill a whole glass of beer my pedal board. Once before a show, once during and once after. All separate occasions. Gear did not flitch of glitch. Board included both my AA pedals. They must be built pretty well!
Thanks for taking the time to chat, appreciate it and hope to catch up soon!
Best Shape KTHANX xoxo
Joji’s Custom 2 in 1 fuzz “Roadhouse”
(Joji – You can hear it particularly in the instrumental parts of our single ‘Benevolence Riots’.)
Joji’s Custom double boost with insert loop