A group of three lifelong friends who grew up together in Edinburgh, Scotland, Young Fathers (aka Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and “G” Hastings) make music that reflects the world around them—dark corners where light struggles to exist, hard truths afraid to be faced, and desperately intimate narratives. But far from feeling completely hopeless, all these thematic threads are framed through an unexpectedly boundless sense of inspired creation. Jumping genres with the enthusiasm of young kids playing cops and robbers in their backyard, Young Fathers switch between rhythms and sounds at a moment’s notice—oftentimes within the same song. This dedication to innovation allows them the opportunity to follow their unbridled creativity without pause or interference. Drawing influence from traditional African music as much as they do modern electronic and R&B genres, their songs feel inclusive but aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with someone who challenges them.
They self-released their debut record Tape One in November of 2011, but Anticon Records—seeing and hearing the amazing musical aptitude of these guys—picked it up and re-released it in January of this year. Their second album Tape Two will see release on June 11th on Anticon as well. Favorable comparisons have already been made to like-minded and innovative groups such as Shabazz Palaces and TV On The Radio. But Young Fathers are not merely the sum of their admittedly varied influences. Displaying a preternatural ability to combine and re-contextualize sounds and genres, they have developed a fantastic ability to quickly and seamlessly meld disparate influences into something unique and wholly their own. And from directing their own videos to throwing their own shows and even making their own posters, the group infuses the spirit of DIY punk into everything they do.
We recently spoke with G about Tape One and Tape Two and how the familiarity between the members of Young Fathers helps to shape the direction and approach of their music. We also talk about the thematic connections between these two records and how the recording process is less about rigid structure and more about instinctual response. And in going against the accepted practice, don’t expect them to bring on guests any time soon. According to G, Young Fathers is and will continue to be three friends who have a communal love of music, and they are all that you need. Check out our full conversation below.
Beats Per Minute (Joshua Pickard): I know that you’ve been making music together since you were all 14, but did your individual musical tendencies initially line up or was there a period of time before that group dynamic developed–even when you were that young?
Young Fathers (G): We line up enough for this to be something, we love each other. We met 11 years ago and we’re still the same boys. We can put each other outside our comforts as part of the process cos we know we’ll get something special out of it. Its good to feel uncomfortable. We dealt with wrong people for a long time. Holding us back. Outside voices became quiet the week we did Tape One. Tim told us to get in the basement with no hesitations and we let the demons go.
BPM: And speaking of your influences, what kind of music did you all listen to growing up? Were there any particular artists that you can point to in regards to the development of Young Fathers’ sound?
G: Influences are destroyed and put together again. Bent outta shape just how we like. We take it too far away from anything direct, naturally. Its gotta be us all over every song. We got too too many ideas.
BPM: Now Tape One was originally independently released in November of 2011. And then it was picked up by Anticon and released in January of this year. Were there any changes made to the tracks in the interim? Or were there any changes that you wish you could have made?
G: Nothing changed. Wouldn’t dream of touching it. Tape One means more to us than you know. Going back over things is the opposite of how we work. Bang it out and move on then decide what it is, or don’t.
BPM: When did Anticon come into the picture for Young Fathers? What led to your decision to release music for them?
G: Early 2012 was when we first spoke. Emails then skype with Shaun. He understands YF, he understands we have a fascination with the almost state run pop machine business along with our loves of hooks, but also that its not straight. We liked that they were American too, Jimmy Page said something about kicking Americas door in when it comes a knockin’.
BPM: With Anticon’s re-release of Tape One done, you’re now getting ready to drop its sequel Tape Two in June. Naming them sequentially would make it appear as though the two albums are related in some way. Is there any connective tissue between these two records?
G: Recorded a month apart. What was going on with us was still the same but where Tape One is a blowout, Tape Two is us learning to be free. The way we work we dont know what it is til we stop and listen back to everything. Its instinctual so you can’t be influenced to do the same thing twice.
BPM: The songs on Tape Two seem to skip across genres without even noticing the borders. Was this a natural result of your combined influences or was it a conscious effort of wanting to incorporate various aspects of different genres into your songs?
G: Its never conscious. We’ve always sounded like nothing else. Knowing ur genre before creation is a sin for YF. Honestly couldn’t think of anything worse.
BPM: Given the collaborative nature of Young Fathers, is there any artist with whom you haven’t worked that you would like to if given the chance?
G: No. All you need to hear is us.
Young Fathers’ upcoming record Tape Two is due out June 11th via Anticon Records.