Tara Hanneffy sits down with Wild Youth to chat about their whirlwind journey as a band.
The life of a music star is never dull. So it’s no wonder that by the time I sit down with Dave and Conor of Wild Youth, they’re pretty tired. They’ve already been on The Ian Dempsey Breakfast show (which kicks off at 7am) that day and they’re feeling the effects: “We find each other funnier than we normally do – we’re getting on better, maybe we’re delusional!” They’re just getting used to this kind of manic lifestyle. Dave, Conor, Ed and Callum, collectively known as Wild Youth, are rapidly rising in the music world. They’ve recently been splitting their time between Dublin and London, preparing material for an EP, which is set to be released in the coming months. They recently played at Electric Picnic, and have supported The Script and Niall Horan so far in their relatively short, but illustrious career.
Dave (vocals) and Conor (songwriting and keyboards) have been best friends for years, having grown up together, and share a mutual interest in music. “I played music when I was younger, and I also played sport, but Dave did a lot of singing, choirs and all that kind of thing,” Conor explains. “But then one day whilst playing sport, I had a really bad accident, which was a traumatic time. After that, I could never play sport again, so I went back to playing music, and I found it unbelievably therapeutic.” Music was for them, like it is for many, a unifying and healing activity. “Dave was my best friend at the time so he used to come up to my house when I couldn’t go out. He’d come up and I’d be playing stuff, he’d be singing – we’d be messing and writing songs and then it just became a thing that we loved to do.” The duo had never considered working together seriously in the music industry, and happened upon the idea quite accidentally. “Fast forward three or four years, one time we went out and someone asked us would we do a gig, so we played a little acoustic night. And this guy came up to us and said “You guys are amazing, I want you manage you”. We said no, we don’t do this!” Conor laughs. “It was funny because beforehand, we always played music and jammed in Conor’s gaff but we were in different projects,” Dave chimes in. Despite their reluctance, they were asked to play a half-hour set at another gig – “we didn’t even have a half an hour set!” – which prompted someone else to approach them about the prospect of being their manager. “Then we said maybe this really is something, so we started taking it a bit more seriously. We had a conversation and decided that we would try something, but we were very certain that we wanted it to be a band, we wanted electric guitar and drums, the whole lot.” Enter Ed (guitar) and Callum (drums), who completed the four-piece. “Ed and Callum were in different bands around Dublin…so we reached out to them and from the day they joined it just became this really close unit. We all got on insanely well.”
“What’s great about Irish artists like Niall Horan and The Script is that they’re so good for advice – anything you need, you can ring them at any time… they want you to do well. There’s no rivalry there, it’s ‘go do it, and we can tell you how it’s done.’”
Everything happened quickly for the group after that. They spent nearly a year working on their material, and in June 2017, their first single ‘All or Nothing’ was released. Conor explains that the band have been lucky to receive exposure from the get-go. “‘All or Nothing’ got some radio play which was amazing and we did some shows, and then we released ‘Lose Control’, we did more shows, the crowds were getting bigger… Our songs were being exposed to radio while we were still trying to figure ourselves out. But we were lucky, we got to meet new people, ended up working with a new team, a new producer in London.” “We got a gradual growth from it too,” Dave muses. “If you listen to ‘All or Nothing’ and then ‘Can’t Move On’ [their most recent single], you can see our growth as a band, and how we all got to know each other better personally and musically.” Wild Youth have opened shows for Niall Horan, who they describe as “a beautiful human being…he’s so humble it’s insane.” They’ve also worked and played with The Script, which for them is a dream come true. “We remember back when we were kids, they were like the U2 of our generation, we were fourteen years of age and wearing leather jackets! We had a moment when we were in the studio with Mark [Sheehan] and Danny [Donoghue] and we’d just finished a new song and had poured out a little shot of whiskey because it had been a good day. Then I got an email saying that we’d been picked as the new hot pop act on BBC Radio One!” They can’t speak highly enough of the bigger artists on the Irish music scene – in a dog-eat-dog world, those with experience are willing to lend a hand. “What’s great about Irish artists like Niall Horan and The Script is that they’re so good for advice – anything you need, you can ring them at any time…they want you to do well. There’s no rivalry there, it’s ‘go do it, and we can tell you how it’s done.’”
“Stay in your lane, do your thing, create the music that you love and you’re passionate about and if that sticks with people then that will stick with people, it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. We challenge each other within the band to try and get the best out of ourselves.”
Despite their success, Wild Youth never take anything for granted. “Everything that happens to us makes us pinch ourselves, inside there’s still a bit of the two guys who were just in our houses, writing songs, messing and trying to get through a tough time…we’re ordinary people in extraordinary situations!” They have a fantastic fanbase growing rapidly, who connect with each other through the band’s music, a concept that the lads find amazing. “There’s one group of our fans who set up a Wild Youth Family. They’ve now created this group and they didn’t know each other before our band, and now they’re best friends, they come to all our gigs together, stay in each other’s houses, look after each other…and we’re like, if our music can do that – that is more important to us than anything.” Dave agrees: “It kinda goes further than us. It’s pretty sweet and surreal.”
The group are working towards releasing some new music and an EP in the coming months, and I asked them what their main musical influences have been in curating their sound. While they cite interests in Imagine Dragons, The 1975, Bon Iver and The Script, they’re keen to insist that they don’t put themselves in a box musically: “We’ve a vast eclectic love of different music . . . I don’t think we put ourselves into a bracket of what we listen to.” They state Prince, The Weekend and Michael Jackson as influences in their up and coming music. On the subject of new music, the tickets for their debut tour have just gone on sale, during which they’ll play in some of Ireland’s best music venues. “I don’t think you can be a band in Ireland and not play venues like Dolans, The Róisín Dubh, Whelans…the iconic venues. They’re the places you want to start off in,” Dave tells me. “I always say ‘If things go very well, we can look back next year when we’re doing bigger venues, and go ‘Jeez, remember when we did the Roisin Dubh, that was amazing and now look what we’re doing.”
Wild Youth have got it all going for them, but they’re keeping their feet firmly rooted on the ground. In a music industry that’s growing rapidly every day, they feel it’s important to stay true to themselves. “It is hard to stay current, but we don’t think about it. The more you try to stay current, the more boring you get.” They might be up and coming, but they’ve already garnered a wealth of experience and know exactly what they want. “Stay in your lane, do your thing, create the music that you love and you’re passionate about and if that sticks with people then that will stick with people, if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. We challenge each other within the band to try and get the best out of ourselves.”
Wild Youth play The Academy, Dublin on November 30th, tickets on sale now.