It's one thing to have the tremendous amount of pressure looming over your shoulder as your debut studio album is about to be released for the world to hear. Add in a decent time crunch and the fact that you are recording the album in three separate studios around Europe, without even being in the same room as one another, and you get Always Lose, the thrilling debut album from UK alternative rock act The Gospel Youth.
The Gospel Youth's process for writing Always Lose is fascinating, and one that wouldn't have been even possible just ten years ago. It shows what technology allows artists to do in a modern day. Four members of the band stopped by after their set at the Vans Warped Tour a few weeks ago to talk about tracking the album in different locations, their sound on this album versus their 2015 EP, and the idea behind the vibrant artwork that gra
You released Always Lose, your debut album through Velocity/Rise Records in July. Before this album you had an EP out called Empires, which was released two years ago. During the time between the release of the EP and the album, what would you say changed? Was the album and extension of the EP material?
Kev: In between the EP and the album, we did a single every month. Those weren’t “quite” release, but I guess they were slowly building up to the album. Stylistically, it’s all pretty much the same. All the stuff that’s on the EP could be on the album. But I think it was just about getting all of those ideas out [for the album]. It’s not too much of a departure from the old stuff.
I mean, it’s your debut album. It’s the first thing from you guys that people are going to see, so the sound makes sense. We’re still album culture. With the EP and the album included, what did the process entail for you guys in terms of getting together and writing the songs? Was it something that was challenging, easy? What was the overall feeling?
Kev: So we were releasing singles each month, a year before we released the album. Because we had such little time to write the album, it was quite stressful. We don’t live anywhere near each other, so we’re constantly emailing over ideas and what not. I don’t think we’ve actually rehearsed a lot of the songs. I mean, we still don’t even know how to play a lot of the songs as a band. (laughs) It sounds really stupid. But it kind of works, it’s very much an internet relationship with the band. It was hard and easy at the same time. I’d like more time for album number two though, definitely.
I like how we have the technology to be able to make music like that, though. You could have people in different parts of the world come together to make an album. How did you record this, then? Did you go into the studio together? Or did you track in separate locations?
Kev: We actually didn’t see each other throughout the whole recording process.
Julian: Well, at one point we [Kev and I] were together, since we did guitars together.
Kev: Yeah, we went to three separate studios. Kurtis recorded drums in….
Kurtis: Rockfield Studios in Wales.
Kev: We waited for drums to be done, and then those [tracks] got sent over to me, where me we tracked guitars We went to another studio in Wales where we recorded bass and vocals. I mean, none of us actually had the vocals until the album was finished. It was actually quite surreal. Again, it’s kind of a stupid way of doing it but it worked out.
Was there a lot of anxiety surrounding the record, or was it more exciting?
Julian: Definitely for Sam (Little, vocalist), because a lot rides on the vocals and people listen to the lyrics. I was confident that the music was good, but I think for Sam, he was stressing out quite a lot. I gave him a lot of songs in the beginning.
Kurtis: Yeah, he got writer’s block for sure. There’s a couple songs where he got in and said, “you know, I just don’t like it. Let’s change it.” We went back to where we were, re-wrote it, and it worked out.
There’s ten songs on the record. How many did you guys have in the beginning? If you had more, how did you narrow it down?
Kev: Well we actually were strapped for time. Initially, we were going to have twelve songs, but we ran out of time quickly. We stripped it down to the ten best songs. We had another maybe five to six songs. But initially, and stupidly, I want to have like thirty songs, but I mean, considering the amount of time we had, it wasn’t realistic. I think we initially just went for the strongest ten, rather than adding a couple in at the end that weren’t quite as good as the other ones. We really wanted to have quality over quantity.
Julian: I think as much as it was last minute, we would revisit ideas, and ideas would evolve the songs.
Since you’ve been touring off of the record as well, and now that you’re in that environment and playing together in-person rather than over the internet, what is the dynamic onstage?
Kev: I’m very lucky to be in a band with musicians that I can trust fully. We can literally write a song, send ideas back and forth over the internet and know that when we get to rehearsal, we’re all going to absolutely nail it and know exactly what we’re doing. I think with this tour, especially, we’ve confirmed that we’re in the right band with the right people. We’ve hardly rehearsed, and it seems to be going okay. It’s always worrisome playing new songs, but I think it’s going okay.
In the time that you guys have been together on Warped Tour, have you had any time for writing, or has that not been something that time has allowed on the tour?
Julian: We had the intention to write. (laughs)
Kev: Yeah, I’ve got my laptop and everything I need to record.
James: The only free time we have on this tour is the drive between shows. We’re doing this tour in an eight-seater van. So there’s way of charging shit on the road. (laughs) You can charge phones, but that’s not good enough. We have the time, just not the means.
Kurtis: Everything is very routine now, as well. Every day is like Groundhog Day. We get up, set up, play, and then we do press and everything.
Julian: Ideally, I would have loved to do some writing with the longer drives. But in order to bring a guitar in, I would need literally half the space in the van. But I’d love to do it.
I had a question about the album artwork. What does the umbrella with flames represent for the overarching theme of the album?
Julian: Sam, our vocalist, was very much involved in that. He’s got a brilliant vision for that stuff. The whole idea for that was [the concept] of shit going wrong. It just happens to all of us.
Kurtis: There’s an umbrella with fire, so if it’s raining you’re just going to get wet anyway.
Julian: A lot of stuff that he touches on in his lyrics revolves around that, basically. How shit happens, but it gets better. He wanted to reflect on that.
One other thing that I wanted to touch back on before wrapping this up. When you’re recording in various locations and you’re not in the studio together, does it give you a chance to hone in more on things like guitar tones and drum tones?
Kev: I mean, I would love more time to mess around with sounds. I’ve recorded everything that the bands done, up until the album. I did guitars for the album and all that, but I would have loved more time to kind of experiment with different sounds. We had three days to record guitars. I had to quadruple track all of my guitars as well, so I just wanted to get it down by the end of the three days. I was kind of dying a little bit. (laughs).
Kurtis: We chopped and changed the snare drums a little bit. We spent maybe a good two or three hours tuning drums. I’ve never been so in-depth, but it definitely made a difference. I’ve never been happier with a drum sound.
Always Lose by The Gospel Youth is now available via Velocity Records/Rise Records.
The Gospel Youth
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