David Le’aupepe from Gang of Youths

Interview with Gang of Youths, David Le’aupepe.
Photo by AL KALYK


Gang of Youths is an Australian quintet of David Le’aupepe, Joji Malani [guitar], Jung Kim [guitar, keyboard], Max Dunn [bass] and Donnie Borzestowski [drums]. Their most recent album The Positions was released back in Fall 2015 independantly on their own label, Mosy Recordings. It got to #5 on the ARIA Album Chart and has recently grabbed 5 nominations in the ARIA Music Awards including “Best Rock Album” and is now leading nominations in the 2nd Annual AU Live Music Awards.

The Positions began when David started writing songs for his then girlfriend/now ex-wife to listen to in the hospital during her diagnoses and afterwards the record reflected “the disintegration of their relationship”, which starting to happen around the same time. The band has received great feed back from the debut album and we now get to look foward to the EP they plan to release in 2016.

I got to talk to DavidLe’aupepe [lead singer] and hear what he was up to and listen to a lot of his insights and hilarious rants. When David pick’s up the phone his voice is kind of mumbly and deep which he apologizes for but he seems a bit distraught from the news he just read.

NT: How are you man.

David: Sorry I just read that Charlie Sheen is announcing that he is hiv positive but he knowingly slept with some girls which is illegal in the state of California. It’s fucking heavy.

NT: Shit, ya that’s intense.

The worst kept secret in Hollywood and it’s becoming public knowledge tomorrow. Then again I don’t believe everything the media tells me. Anyway how are you doing where are you?

NT: I’m up in Vancouver.

D: Nice i’ve never been.

NT: Where are you?

D: I’m in New York City. My sister’s got a spare apartment block she’s letting me stay in.

NT: Nice getting some family time in!

D: Fuck yeah! were going to have dinner. Actually i don’t ever spend this much time with anybody in my life, even family which is unusual but its cool thats she’s letting me stay here.

This morning I woke up with and armenian guy walking around the apartment and this little kid yelling, apparently it was the caretaker of the apartment but it was fucking weird. I didn’t know who it was so I thought i was going to get maced or kidnapped and get my organs taken out. It seems though like a lot of people have a key to this apartment.

NT: Hmm that’s kind of funny and yet odd.

D: Give me a second… (he is interrupted by someone)

Ya see, that was somebody with a key to my apartment.

NT: Man crazy so you get all these people passing through?

awe dude it’s fucking weird when you don’t know anybody, the only way you can get to the backyard is through this apartment. I also walk around in my underpants half the time. (we laugh) partially because I’m gross, partially because well..

NT: Because it’s comfortable!

D: Yeah it’s comfortable man, I can grab my nuts out when ever!

NT: Hey fair enough! So you guys were touring your album around all summer and now you guys are in line for the Aria awards. How does that feel?

D: I don’t know, I have a philosophical difficulty towards award ceremonies in general and I think that the institution is fine, it’s like the Australian Grammy’s. I find the whole process of contributing awards based on an arbitrary voting system a bit dated and stupid but it’s nice. It’s fucking nice to be recognized. If we look back a year ago no one gave a fuck about us, they didn’t give a shit and they shouldn’t have.  We didn’t mean anything, we didn’t have anything we didn’t want anybody. So it feels nice to be acknowledged but at the same time Courtney Barnett probably going to win the awards because she’s actually really good (laughs) you know what I mean?

NT: Yeah! Though, i like your music a lot too.

D: Awe thanks man.

NT: You are right though award shows are quite dated but I think that they can be a good way to show a bit of Australian talent to other countries.

D: I don’t know man there’s been a lack of success for most Australian artists overseas, for so many fucking reasons but one of them is that there is a lack of original music in Australia, primarily because we are isolated but also because a lot of Australian artist end up staying in Australia not that’s there’s shame in that. I think the people that get recognized internationally are people like Tame Impala, Chet Faker, Courtney Barnett people that are bringing us out of the shell a little bit. But ya its nice to be recognized, before they used to toss us aside and listen to some shitty band like INXS. I’m sorry but I fucking hate that guy. I’m that guy in the band thats thinks Arabian Prince is the best person from N.W.A and not dr. dre, mc ren or ice cube, I feel like that guy.

You know there was one point in time where the three biggest bands in the world were, INXS U2 and Guns n Roses, like I could fucking do without INXS but U2 and Guns n Roses all the way!

NT: Aw definitely I mean it’s INXS, that’s just rough.

D: And remember that time remember that fucking tv show it was like hosted and produced by INXS, remember that little post adolescent jonny.. I don’t remember his name.

NT: I think i know, it’s that rock star show but I don’t know what it was called. (it was called Rock Star: INXS)

D: And it wasn’t like he wasn’t recognized because he became the iconic brilliant frontman. JD Fortune! (laughs). JD misfortune. Man I’m an asshole shitting on this poor guy, he’s probably living pretty in some penthouse in Las Vegas . I feel terrible.

NT: I wouldn’t worry about it.

D: (laughs) I’m sorry.

NT: No, this is great! Mean when I’m interviewing people I want it to be more like a conversation. The fact that the topic shifted to how bad INXS was means its going well. I’d prefer you to talk about whatever you want rather than me asking a bunch of questions you’ve already heard before. So I love this cuz you’re just going for it.

D: Oh fuck yeah! That’s what it should be. I mean the worst thing ever is having to sit down when everything is structured, the journalist in question is being the worst. You know direct and impersonal and impractical. I think there’s more viable information and interesting content to come out of conversation. Otherwise is all just fucking convoluted and contrived. I can really do that.

NT: If I ask standard questions sometimes that just standardizes the answers.

D: Yeah, you only get standard. Actually, you probably wouldn’t get standard answers from me because I’m a fucking arbitrary person. I have to be the guy that’s doing something at random. Its part of my sickness.

NT: No worries! That’s great. Mentioning the sickness reminds me, I dig the song “Benevolence Riots”.

D: Oh that one I hate that. (I laugh) I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

NT: Who came up with the video that goes with that one.

D: We all kind of put our heads together for that one with our amazing label guy in Australia, Wayne Ringrow, who’s actually also a former music producer so he’s really great at music. So ya we tried to think of something that would be engaging and also reflect the content. The first edit of that was completely different than what we wanted so what the boys and I did was went back to the editing room a couple times and just fucking recut the whole thing. We added all the inlays all the quotes and all that. There’s actually a Margaret Atwood line, “Canada is built on dead beaver’s”.

NT: Yeah! (big reason why I like the video)

D: Yeah so you’re Canadian, you should feel that one. (we laugh) Margaret Atwood is fucking my idol! (I’m smiling so big) I fucking love her so much she’s one of the greatest authors, in my opinion, ever to walk the face of the fucking earth (seriously this dude knows where it’s at). Yeah, that video clip was just a big amalgamation of ideas and we had to find a running narrative and we thought the notion of these two kids subjected to mind numbing television, mind numbing food and a mother that doesn’t give a flying fuck about was a really nice before all the chaos that you see afterwards. That was a weird transitional period for me personally as well. I think it sort of worked ok, it looked cool the guy that directed was this weird arty middle aged guy he’s like 45 with a son that’s like 20 really cool guy. Good dude.

NT: What’s his name?

D: Storm Ashwood

NT: So what was all involved? What did he direct you to do?

D: It was a while ago, but I remember I had to perform the thing a bunch of times, after the 30th time I was like can you please slit my fucking throat, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m discovering more and more how much i personally hate doing video clips but it’s a necessary component of what we do. Making video clips is so hard, you know to make something engaging and we have 8 min songs on this record. So trying to make stuff that engaging, versatile and accessible, things that translate well on youtube that people will want to share and not just enjoy.

NT: It’s tough I think.

D: It’s fucking tough.

NT: Especially if you guy just want to play your music eh?

D: Yea! I think now though, you can’t just play your music. As a band if you want to boost your career you have to produce all kinds of content. That the real thing about doing this is that you have to create content or people won’t be engaged. You have to do music videos, social media, it’s necessary and I’m not one of those people who’s too fucking indie to care. Those people like wes anderson like we don’t really do that. It’s not sustainable and it’s pretentious. There’s nothing wrong with producing content and making content.

  It’s kind of like a  little while ago, quite recently, every artist was trying to shield their face in photo’s and create all this mystery, you know who is this person and it became really ubiquitous and over fucking done. We have a generation of electronic artists who never show their face. You get one fucking shot before you are a skull sitting on a plinth and it just became so impersonal. I remember I did that and I thought that it was be preserving your anonymity and sense of self. In reality it was just being pretentious and fucking looked bad.

  I remember there was this really awesome band who did it, one of their first pictures, all of them and their friends had bandanas around their mouth, while sitting on fire. Also Burial never showed his face and that was really cool! Then wanker’s like me are like ” oh ya we should do that” and it just became a saturated amount of different people who didn’t show their faces and I apologize to everybody in retrospect. I hated fucking doing that, so pretentious. Why didn’t I want people to know who I was.

NT: Man I never realised that pattern before but yea, especially in electronic music here for sure.

D: Just show your fucking face, you’re not that interesting. Nobody is that intriguing or captivating to hide from everyone. Like The Residents, no one one gives a shit about them anymore.

  You know people should be able to relate  to the artist on a real human level. I think it comes from my sort of loveable understanding of art and the dynamic between the consumer and artist, but I believe that for consumer and fans being able to see faces and connect and see humanity in the person they’re listening to that’s probably me being old fashioned but I don’t know there’s a beauty in that kind of relationship. That’s the kind of thing that got me into music. Even Burial decided to show his face about a year ago, he realised it was getting old that whole approach was becoming impersonal. I think the more we yammer off into this brave new world, this technologically advanced place where it’s harder to make a living and harder to connect with people, artists are going to have to start embracing the notion that fans can have access to them as people as well. We can’t remain robotic apparitions or projections of the industry anymore. Most us us are gonna have to make middle wage, instead of millions and millions.

NT: Art tries to maintain that personal level, where industrialization can often desensitize.

Desensitize is a good word but I don’t know. I mean even, depeche mode has a face, chet faker people know what these guys look like. I feel like an old man, I’m so fucking old fashioned, but I think that unless it’s a religious decision people should show their face.

NT: Lastly, what are 5 records you are listening to.

Nils Frahm

Jamie xx -In Colour

Ocean Party -Soft Focus

EL VY – Return to the Moon

Max Richter -Sleep

Interviewed by Nova Olson