I had the pleasure of speaking with Conor O’Donohue and David Whelan of Wild Youth the day before they headed off on a European tour, acting as support for fellow Irishmen Kodaline. Clearly excited about playing in many cities, Conor explained how excited he was for the bands gig in Paris, “My brother got engaged in Paris and I’ve never been. He always talks about it, so I can’t wait to see Paris. I’ve also heard that Lisbon is one of the coolest places in the world”. Bands on tour move around from place to place fairly quickly, but the guys were hopeful that they would get to spend at least a few hours in some of Europe’s biggest cities. “In some cities you get maybe two or three hours in the morning,” explains Conor, “and then maybe two or three hours after soundcheck to go out and get coffees”. Conor and Dave joked about going to the Eiffel tower and then going to put a lock on the bridge; “Conor and Dave [on a lock] haha”.
Coming into the interview, I wanted to know how Wild Youth had come to be. Dave explains how himself and Conor have been friends since they were teenagers. “We’ve always been in the same circle”, he explained,”We always wrote music and played music together”. Dave and Conor were both in opposing bands for a while, and it wasn’t until both bands started to fall apart that Conor and Dave, while on a night out, decided to go back to what they used to do together. “We would just sit in the house and play music and see what happens” explains Dave, “Then we were approached during our first ever gig together. We were playing at a fundraiser in a school in Dunleary that same week we decided to play music together. One of the speakers was a music manager and he approached us. He was like, ‘you guys are amazing, I’d love to work with ye’”. Despite the interest, the guys were quick to point out that they were nothing more than friends having fun playing music, and what could have been the opportunity of a lifetime was turned down.
Thankfully, at their second gig together, the duo were approached again, “Then we were like ‘fuck maybe this is actually something’, so we put our head down then and started writing songs”. All of their favourite artists were bands, “we always wanted the electric guitar, drums, and everything”. Feeling the need to gather a whole band, they approached Callum McAdam; “Cal came to rehearsals and he just fit in perfectly,” explains Conor, “then Ed [Ed Porter] came along and the dream just clicked straight away.”
It was during a rehabilitation period after a bad accident that Conor get really into his music; “I played a bit before; I played bass guitar and piano before, but when I had my accident I was housebound and couldn’t leave for a couple of months, and it was actually around that time Dave used to just call up. We would watch music documentaries, mess around doing covers and try write songs on piano. It was great for me because it kept me occupied, kept my mind off everything, and it got us so much tighter and closer as musicians and writers. It’s funny because back then Dave was playing guitar and I was playing piano, but now in the band I’m playing piano and Dave is playing the guitar!”
The origins of Wild Youth is undoubtedly organic. Conor and Dave explained that there was never an intention on their part to make a career from music. “There was no big plan or intention to be a big band – we were just doing it cause we loved it, and it just mapped its way from there”. They believe that “forcing it” just doesn’t work, “we never got into it because we wanted to be famous. We just did it because it was genuinely just our favourite thing to do all day; to just go into my front room where we had the piano and play songs all day.” You can certainly tell the difference between a band that are doing it for the love of it, and a band that are pushing themselves for the sake of making it big; “People can see through things easily.”
I was curious to know what kind of music, what artists and bands, these guys were listening to and covering back in the beginning. “Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, The Script, and some old school stuff like Prince, Bowie, The Beach Boys… a bit of everything, Mumford & Sons too, a very eclectic, big giant pallet of music. We don’t really have just one particular genre that we love”. Dave spoke about how they would have to know a wide range of songs when they used to busk; “When you’re busking you do everything you can. It’s great because, now, it gives us so dynamic when it comes to writing and being in studio, the fact that we never stuck to one particular genre when we were messing and writing. We did so many different genres; we incorporate Bee-Gee’s harmonies with Prince guitar on top of a Script piano melody, or whatever! It gives us dynamic when it comes to writing, that we’ve got a broad knowledge of music and instrumentation”.
Conor and Dave revealed that Wild Youth are currently working on an album. Are there more singles to come before the album’s release? “We’re going to release a new single in January, then we’re going to do an EP at the end of January, and after that EP maybe there’ll be an album or another EP and then an album, we don’t know, but we’re going to go with the next single and the EP anyway, and decide from there”. There is no doubt that these guys have lots of material up their sleeves just waiting to be released – very exciting news for all Wild Youth fans. “Everything is in really good shape. We’re so excited about how our new stuff is sounding. We really feel it showcases who we want to be, and who we want to continue to be as a band.”
I asked Conor and Dave to tell me about their favourite gig, but I may as well have asked them to pick a favourite song; “We have honestly the best time ever when we play on stage so we look forward to every single gig we do”. As they are from Dublin and have fond memories of going to see some of their favourite acts in the likes of The Academy and Workman’s, they admit that they would probably pick a local venue. They’ve played Cork many times already, “We supported The Script there”, and say that the crowds here are always insane, “but we’ve never played our own show there”. So naturally, the guys are excited to be headlining their own Irish Tour and to be playing these places as the main act for the first time.
Taking a different approach to this question, I got the guys to describe their dream gig: “Red Rocks, or else the Hollywood Bowl in LA. Or Croke Park of course, that’s always been the dream since we started the band”. When it came to deciding who would support them, the lads were hesitant and didn’t want to seem egotistical, but I encouraged them to pick anyone, dead or alive. “Kings of Leon, Imagine Dragons… can we have a few people play with us? Make it like a Wild Youth Festival? We’d have The Script, we’d bring The Beach Boys back, would definitely have Imagine Dragons playing, Anderson .Paak, King Princess, Maggie Rogers… this would be an unreal festival! Arctic Monkeys, Niall Horan, we’d have them all”.
As our time together was coming to an end, I asked Conor and Dave where they would like to see the band in 5 years’ time. “We’re super ambitious, without being cocky. As we said, we never got into this for fame or anything like that, but we’re super driven and we want to try play the biggest music venues all around the world. We love playing live, we talk about how we map out the stage, the lights for shows, and everything we want to do and achieve will be possible on the biggest stages so that’s always been our goal and our aim – to not ever take our foot off the peddle, and to not stop writing music, making music, to not stop touring. We’re not the kind to take a two-week break after a tour; as soon as we finish a tour we are like ‘when’s the next one? When are we back in studio?’. We just wanna keep going all the time. We just hope that in 5 years’ time we’re still as close as we are now, playing the biggest stages”.
Favourite current artist: We love King Princess at the moment. Hozier’s new single is absolutely stompin’, like, all over that like. The 1975’s new stuff is great. A Star is Born soundtrack is sick, phenomenal
Least favourite current artist: I don’t know. I like what I like and I don’t listen to what I don’t like. I don’t linger on it too much; music is a choice for everyone, it’s not my place to say [what’s good and what’s not]. One thing that bugs me is current pop songs; y’know the one’s that start off as a nice song, and then goes into like a dance song, this clubby kind of house – it’s no one in particular, it’s just a certain style. Other than that we love all genres, we really do.
Other hobbies, apart from music: I love fashion and clothes. We love movies, we’re movie addicts; our favourite thing is to go to the cinema. We love coffee. I love computer games. (Conor reveals that Dave is a computer game addict.) I’m a nerd when it comes to computer games. Right now I’m obsessed with the new COD. I don’t leave the house unless I have to, for the band.
Favourite Netflix series: Making a Murderer, Ozark, any kind of crime-thriller. One with Jessica Biel, can’t remember what it’s called. 13 Reasons Why, as well, very eye-opening. Makes you think about the times you saw stuff in school, you ask yourself what if I had said something or done something, asked them if they were ok… There is stuff that you see in it that you’ve seen in real life in school before, people acting a particular way – it does go on.
Wild Youth will be playing in Cyprus Avenue on Thursday 8th November.