We have finally unveiled the mystery of the ‘Straits Settlements Tour 2012’ that brings self-proclaimed punk band Gangly Youth (Kentucky, US) all the way to this side of the world on a seven-date Malaysian/Singapore tour with The Maharajah Commission (MY), where the bands will meet for the first time. We chat with Gangly Youth guitarist Dan Davis before he and the rest of his band mates make their way over here to play us some of their “fuzzy stripped down pop songs”… and to finally try some laksa!
Tell us how Gangly Youth was formed. Is it true that the band hardly knew how to play their instruments when you first got together?
It is true! I still don’t know what I’m doing. I know that when I do certain things, my guitar (that only has three strings) makes noise and, honestly, that’s good enough for me. We are all kinda in that boat. Daniel knows how to play the most, I would say.
“For some reason, not knowing how to play wasn’t really an issue to me. Most things are about just actually doing it. To me, it’s just about making sounds, hitting record, and moving forward.”
I was the singer for a band called Kodan Armada that disbanded in 2003. I really wanted to play in a band again and I wanted to do something different and play guitar. So after a long break from playing music, Gangly Youth started in 2009. It was me, Brent (bass) and our first drummer Hillary playing tom & snare. I wanted to do a stripped down punk band, having been influenced by bands like Beat Happening, Gang of Four, The Minutemen and Jay Reatard, as well as labels like Goner and K Records.
For some reason, not knowing how to play wasn’t really an issue to me. Most things are about just actually doing it. To me, it’s just about making sounds, hitting record, and moving forward. So we wrote some songs, recorded them and put out a 7″, never once playing a show with that line up.
Later on, Hillary decided not to do the band anymore and Ashley took her place. Then, I decided if we had more members it would help round out some of the ideas I had for the band. Daniel (guitar) and a drummer playing full kit decided to join us. That’s basically where we are now.
Where does the name ‘Gangly Youth’ come from?
It came from Disney’s Robin Hood, the one where Robin Hood is a fox. It’s amazing. There is a part in the movie where Maid Marion is asked if she favours the ‘gangly youth’. I always loved that. I was often referred to as ‘gangly’ as a kid, since I was tall and lanky, so it seemed like a good fit.
We’ve been listening to IS FOR TIGERS and we particularly like ‘Foggy Night’. Tell us about writing and recording it?
‘Foggy’ was a fun and fast song to write. I’m pretty sure it happened by accident. Brent was playing a guitar that we had in our practice space through his bass amp and the sound was super blown out, which I really liked.
“I personally love a good lo-fi record. I love the warmth and the rough edges.”
I started playing the little high guitar part, Daniel was able to write his part really fast, and that was it. I think it took us about 30 minutes. The drum beat was actually inspired by a Jay-Z song. I was listening to a few rap records and I was thinking about how much I love the beats in those songs. I was also thinking about how — with rap music — nobody really cares that it’s repetitive, and I love repetitive music. So, we decided to do this drum beat over and over, and make it real big with the two drummers.
The ‘lo-fi’-ness of everything goes back to just doing it. We recorded everything with two mics in our practice space. We wanted to have the songs documented, so we weren’t a complete mystery to everyone. I personally love a good lo-fi record. I love the warmth and the rough edges, and it feels more intimate, exposed and raw. A lo-fi sound was my original idea for the band, but with everyone else’s input I think we are trying to find some middle ground.
How did the collaboration with The Maharajah Commission come about?
We were actually put in contact with them through our friend, Arwith, who runs Utarid Booking. We have known Arwith for a few years. Brent (who is from Australia) put out a record for his band many years ago, which I did the art for. We found out that Arwith was dabbling in booking for European and American bands and we thought, ‘We gotta have him book us!’.
We were looking for a band that would be a good fit and Arwith suggested The Maharajah Commission. We are so excited to be going on tour with them. We have never met, but (from) all the preparations for the tour, we already feel a connection. We think that it’s a good fit music-wise too. We are different, but I feel like we’re influenced by a lot of the same stuff. I can’t wait to hang with them!
Have any of you been to Asia before?
I have not. Brent & Ashley have been to China, but that’s it. I really have no idea what to expect, other than amazing food, which I will say we are all looking forward to. Specifically for me: Laksa!
What has the band been listening to recently?
We are all over the place in terms of what we listen to. I think we’ve all pretty much been enjoying everything out on Woodsist Records right now. I’ve also really been loving the new Ty Segall record. Other bands that always make the rotation for us are Silver Jews, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Television, Dinosaur Jr., Swans/Angels of Light, Nick Cave/Grinderman, Nirvana and Kanye West.
Then there are some really amazing bands from the area here that have been blowing us away at how good they are: Tropical Trash, Cross, State Champion, Tender Mercy. Really awesome stuff. We are lucky to have good bands here in town.
“We are influenced by so many things, but at the core of it, we consider ourselves to be a punk band.”
And for all our readers who’ve never heard Gangly Youth before—how would you describe your sound?
Saving the hard question for last!
I’m not sure, I never know what to say. I always say, ‘fuzzy stripped down pop songs’. You have a good chance of liking it if you enjoy the sound of bands like The Pixies, Pavement, Woods, Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile, the Flaming Lips — things of that nature.
We are influenced by so many things, but at the core of it, we consider ourselves to be a punk band. The same way that Sonic Youth considers themselves a punk band, or how K Records considers themselves a punk label. We don’t mean it in the Sex Pistols kind of way, it’s more just in the feeling. The songs are dissonant and melodic at the same time. They aren’t polished, but they aren’t just noise either. We don’t know exactly how to play our instruments, but it’s not stopping us. We have a strong DIY ethic. We do pretty much everything ourselves: release our own records, do our own art, and make our own merch. We all come from that kind of background and it really shapes the band.
We hope people come out to the shows and see and hear us for themselves!
By Melissa Yong
Congress of Weird Fools Part III
with Gangly Youth and The Maharajah Commission
11 Nov 2012
L Cube Studios (145 Jalan Besar, top of Hindoo Road)
$10 at the door