Years & Years began, like many good things, with a shower.
Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Turkmen were on a quest to find a vocalist for their music project when Goldsworthy heard Olly Alexander (of Skins fame) singing in the shower at a friends’ apartment. Now, the London trio has a number one single under its belt, a few EPs, the 2015 Woodie Award for Artist to Watch, and a debut LP, Communion, dropping June 22. Talk about boy wonders.
We caught them at three of their SXSW shows, each time surrounded by a larger crowd than the last as the boys swept across Austin with their R&B-inflected, electro-pop '90s jams. It’s easy to see why people are so excited about the group: Years & Years have begun to carve out a nice little niche for itself in the pop sphere where heartbreak and the dancehall come together in a glittery mix of sounds and lyrics that are anthemic to the core. Years & Years, however, is still relatively enigmatic. Luckily, we scored the chance to sit down with the boys at FLOOD Magazine's FLOODfest in Austin to get the story behind the band whose star has only just begun to rise.
Alright, what's the story behind the name Years & Years?
OLLY: There really was no concept. Emre just racked his brain!
EMRE: We needed a name. We wanted to put a track on a podcast I was making for a friend of mine, and after some spitballing, I said "Years & Years" and neither of us hated it. Olly didn't get a say in it because he wasn't there at the time.
OLLY: I have grown to cherish it.
EMRE: I quite like it. It's symmetrical.
As your band gets bigger, is there anything about fame that freaks you out?
OLLY: Generally, it's quite weird. I don't know how you get equipped to deal with it.
EMRE: Olly's getting stopped more.
OLLY: It's quite a lot.
MIKEY: There are people at tube stations and people waiting outside the hotel. It's weird.
OLLY: It's been super strange. Mostly, though, people have been nice. It's so hard to project your own fame. It would suck if you couldn't go to the supermarket, but I don't think that happens very often.
How are you balancing the tour life with personal lives?
EMRE: We have no personal life.
OLLY: My boyfriend and I sometimes fly to one another, but that's it. You just have to try and make it work. It's hard to have one.
MIKEY: It's doesn't exist.
A lot of your songs deal with unrequited love. Is this about one person?
OLLY: Well, I write all the lyrics. The album is about maybe four people. A good chunk of the songs are about one in particular.
Who were they?
OLLY: Oh my god! I'm not going to tell! [laughs] I guess you could say I got almost addicted to getting rejected by people. That was my own story and one in particular trampled over my heart in the lamest way possible. It inspired a bunch of songs, so I guess it was beneficial.
EMRE: It's like a diary.
OLLY: Yeah, a musical diary.
How do you balance Olly's stories with music? These songs could easily be downtempo, moody tracks, but they're so dance-y. You almost want to cry on the floor listening to them.
EMRE: Some songs on the album are quite downbeat, like "Memo" and "Eyes Shut." But, we never set out and put a four-to-the-floor beat for the sake of it. We love pop-house music. It always works well.
OLLY: Most of my favorite dancehall songs are about heartbreak.
EMRE: It gives it depth, really. You don't want to be singing about partying at the club for your whole life.
OLLY: It's old at this point.
EMRE: It doesn't interest us.
Who or where do you pull influence from?
EMRE: Oh, so many things. My favorite album is a dance album, but it's incredibly sad as well. We love Little Dragon; Mikey is obsessed with PHILO. But, we love the pop stuff, too.
MIKEY: Disney soundtracks…
EMRE: '90s R&B is a big influence. It all just filters in. It's a way of working.
What's been the most surprising thing about coming to America?
EMRE: That people like us.
OLLY: It's crazy coming to a place you've never been to and people know your songs. I'll never get over that.
Your name is still so new, but have you come across any misrepresentations?
OLLY: People don't realize Mikey is Australian. We haven't really had much conception to be misconcepted.
MIKEY: People think a lot of our songs are '90s influenced, but we're not just that.
EMRE: Yeah. The album has some '90s influence, but there's also R&B influence and poppy stuff. "Ties" is quite heavy with a Depeche Mode sound.
OLLY: Ask us in a year's time.