[INTERVIEW] THE GOSPEL YOUTH

It’s not easy to make a name for yourself in the UK pop punk scene. With acts such as Neck Deep, As It Is and Boston Manor occupying centre stage, it’s going to take something really special to stand out amongst the crowd. However, the one band who seem to be doing all the right things this year comes in the form of Brighton five-piece The Gospel Youth. Having recently signed to Rise Records after an impressive year-long singles series, the band are currently on the final night of their UK tour with pop punkers Seaway, WSTR and Tigress. The Gospel Youth head into the studio over the next few months to record their forthcoming debut album Tired Eyes And Heavy Hearts Always Lose, so I caught up with them to discuss what’s in store for 2017.
“We only formed two years ago,” says frontman Sam Little. “Almost everyone is in a band nowadays – if they’re not, they’re trying to become the next viral sensation. But coming from different bands in the past, we’ve earned our stripes.” Originally only intending to release one song, the band eventually progressed into something much more important to vocalist. “Jules [Bowen, guitarist] and I wanted to work together and when he showed me the song ‘Kids’, I instantly loved it. We recorded it and thought that would be it, but we just wanted to make music.” Referring to Jules as the ‘spine of the band’ (and other members as various body parts), Sam adds, “We all come from an eclectic background, so everything kind of fits together and works for us.”
Since their formation, The Gospel Youth’s line-up has changed significantly – firstly with the departure of drummer Max Wingwell, and later with the addition of bassist Tom Aylott and now-drummer Kurtis Maiden. “Max couldn’t commit the way that we wanted him to commit to the band,” explains Sam. “We’re still good friends and he’s making some really good music, but there was a show that Max was supposed to play and couldn’t. We were touring with Midday Committee who Kurtis was drumming for at the time, and after seeing him play, we just thought that he had to drum for us.” Eventually, The Gospel Youth opted to become a five-piece (with original guitarist Kevin Deverick taking the fifth place), changing up their individual roles and finding a much better dynamic within the team. Despite honing their sound over the last two years and determining what works best for them however, the band haven’t quite come to terms with the positive feedback they’ve received from fans. “It’s always a bit of a shock when we get a good reaction to something, it does still feel like we’re new.”
Addressing the 2016 singles series, I was curious about the band’s decision to take the Crowdfunding approach. “It wasn’t necessarily the route we wanted,” Sam explains. “It was based around the fans. We wanted to give something back to the people that cared. Some people will only listen to a band on Spotify or something. Some people get involved in everything that the band does and we wanted to make sure those people got what they deserve.” From a professional point of view, the band claim while they feel that they haven’t accomplished anything, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “It was the band equivalent of taking a gap year and finding ourselves. You can kind of listen to each song and tell where we were as people that month. It’s helped us to figure out what we want to do.”
On the decision to sign with Rise Records at the end of 2016, Sam says, “We sent around a few different track listings of stuff that we’d done, but we wanted the right team behind us. When we spoke to Rise they were instantly like family to us.” Aiming to release their forthcoming debut in July 2017, The Gospel Youth intend to stick with the relatable lyrical content that fans have come to adore, this time throwing a positive spin on things. “It’s a bit more hopeful. We decided to call it Tired Eyes And Heavy Hearts Always Lose because the idea behind it is that if you’re tired and sad all the time, you’re not going to get as far just look at everything with a positive attitude. Although there’s one previous song that means a lot to all of us, as soon as we wrote it we all agreed that we wanted it on the album, so it’s making a comeback.”
As self-proclaimed ‘honorary Sad Club members’, the band’s lyrics take an alternative approach from the teen-angst tendencies of many pop punk outfits, instead choosing to address themes of emotional hardships and the severity of depression and anxiety. Fusing this idea with the upbeat nature of the pop punk genre, their music ultimately enables the band to engage their listeners through honest and relatable material. “Over time I realised how much of a platform I actually have,” claims Sam. “I just want people to realise they you’re not along when you go through this stuff. You have to take each day as it comes. Without sounding cliché, we’re just sad. We’ve all got our problems, and we’ve had to deal with stuff like that, so if we can help people, then we’ll do it.”
“People find solidarity in music. I know people have access to the internet these days, but stuff like this can get lost amidst videos of cats and dabbing and stuff,” Sam laughs. “It’s not our main focus, but it’s important to me that people are aware of these things. We’re not out to stand on the roof and shout a message about how life gets better and it’s gonna be okay, because you don’t always feel like that. We just want people to know that no matter how you feel, it’s normal.” Of course, addressing such intense topics does weigh heavy on the heart. “’Hospital Blues’ [written about the death of Sam’s sister] was difficult. We played it live a few times and it broke me. I took a big step in releasing ‘Hurricane’ too, there’s a lot of honesty in those lyrics. It’s always a concern when you release a song that people are actually gonna hear it and you’re putting yourself on display.”

But for a band like The Gospel Youth, they wouldn’t have it any other way. “None of us are really nine to five people. We’ve always had an inkling that we want to do something more than work in an office. If we weren’t making music, we’d still be doing something creative – Kev’s a guitar teacher when he’s not in the band, and Jules would still be recording. I’d probably be in an alley somewhere singing to make money or something” Sam laughs. The Gospel Youth will play Dorset’s Teddy Rocks festival at the end of April to help fight against children’s cancer, alongside bands such as Twin Atlantic, Blood Youth and Scouting for Girls. The pop punk five-piece have also hinted at a few upcoming announcements that they claim will definitely shock fans, but refuse to give away any specific details. “Keep your ears to the ground. 2017 is going to a lot of fun and we’re going to do our best to get as many people involved as possible.”
Words by Kelly Ronaldson

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