Midnight Youth are all grown up

As Midnight Youth prepare to release their sophomore album, they tell Scott Kara how much they've grown up during the past five years.

Midnight Youth's second album World Comes Calling reflects how the band members have grown, both artistically and personally. Photo / Supplied
Midnight Youth's second album World Comes Calling reflects how the band members have grown, both artistically and personally. Photo / Supplied

The turning point for Midnight Youth was a triumphant main stage set at the Big Day Out in 2010.

That might sound a little grand, especially since they were only playing around 3pm, but the hordes of fans in front of them at Mt Smart Stadium that day was something to witness.

It was the moment they went from high school band - admittedly with large rock 'n' roll ambitions - to the big time.

"We were like, 'Maybe one day we'll get on the [Big Day Out's] Local Produce Stage'," remembers lead guitarist Simon Oscroft with a laugh, "but then the album came out, we got this main stage slot, and the support ... I was genuinely not expecting that."

Though their cover version of Black Sabbath's War Pigs bemused some of their loyal fans, the masses were there to sing along to arena rock epics The Letter and All On Our Own off debut album The Brave Don't Run.

"It was the peak of the wave we were on," remembers singer Jeremy Redmore.

It's fair to say the Big Day Out and a similar-sized show at Rhythm & Vines that same summer, changed everything. Among other things, it was the catalyst for them to become full-time musicians. They kicked on into Australia, and, with the majority of the band still living with their parents, also moved out of home for the first time.

They spent six months of 2010 holed up in Sydney writing songs, attempting to break into the Australian market, and learning to fend for themselves.

"We made that mental and physical move, and aside from the music we learned to cook, clean, and live," smirks Oscroft. "I learned a lot about myself and I reckon I turned into an adult last year."

That maturity and self-assuredness comes through on second album, World Comes Calling, out on October 24. Once again the Youth wear their influences proudly - from the cheeky swagger of the Happy Mondays, the Verve, and modern day louts Kasabian, through to Brit rock invaders the Kinks and Led Zeppelin - but it is rowdier, bolder, and more rock than their earnest debut.

Redmore and Oscroft joke that they upped the intensity and energy for the album because they were sick of not having enough party songs to play live.

"We toured for four years off the back of The Brave Don't Run, but we could only play five songs off it," laughs Oscroft. "We'd start playing Flash, the acoustic song, and people would just go and get a beer," adds Redmore.

So on World Comes Calling there's the straightforward, You Really Got Me-style romp of first single, Who Said You're Free, the posturing Come One, Come All, and Won't Stop is a lowdown dirty blues stomper with "a cock rock riff".

Most ambitious and interesting of all is French Girl, with Redmore sounding like Neil Diamond-meets-Richard Ashcroft from the Verve, and the music escalating into a swirl of psychedelic grandeur.

"It was a realisation that we are 23-year-olds making a living as fulltime musicians, and this is pretty cliched, but hey, it's rock 'n roll, so why go and write [a beautiful rock ballads] album when we can do that on album number five? So let's write a rock 'n roll album that we can play at a festival," says Oscroft.

Still, The Brave Don't Run was a big and accomplished sounding record for a bunch of first-timers from the North Shore - and New Zealanders lapped it up with sales of more than 15,000 copies.

Of the five singles from the album, which peaked at No. 2 on the charts, it was The Letter that was the breakthrough hit in late 2008, with follow up All On Our Own going top 10.

They were 18 and 19 years old - although Redmore is older than the others - when they wrote most of the songs for The Brave Don't Run.

"The naivety and innocence in those songs made them pretty raw emotionally, but the way we approached it was: 'Let's just write some awesome songs'," says Redmore.

Five years on, a lot has changed for Oscroft and Redmore as songwriters, and for band mates Aidan Bartlett (drums), Matt Warman (bass) and Nick Campbell (guitar/keyboards). "It's completely different," says Oscroft. "We were students, we had our innocence and naivety and we wrote a record that sounded like us - and then it took off. We were like, Holy shit."

Redmore says lyrically the first album was about his own personal experiences whereas this one is about how the band see the world.

"It's a more definitive capture of us right now, whereas with the first album we just wanted to have an album in our hands."

Not that Midnight Youth have ever lacked ambition. Oscroft especially is constantly referencing their favourite bands, and makes no secret of his aspirations to be like some of them.

"We want to make an Urban Hymns [The Verve], we want to make a What's the Story Morning Glory [Oasis], we want to make a Ten [Pearl Jam], because obviously you've got to aim high."

Not that this likeable, friendly chap is arrogant, because he genuinely loves these bands and would dearly love Midnight Youth to emulate them.

"You read about Guns N' Roses, Alice in Chains, or whoever in their biographies, about how they grew up as a gang, going to hear live music and doing everything together. We have become like those gangs that we looked up to and loved when we were young," says Oscroft.

"That's what we were aiming for when we first started the band ... and this album is a step in the direction to becoming a genuine, authentic band."

LOWDOWN

Who: Midnight Youth
New album: World Comes Calling, out October 24
Debut album: The Brave Don't Run (2009)
Live: Powerstation, Auckland, October 28, with a nationwide tour to be announced soon.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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