Several concerts across the country, two additions to the More Perfect Union Festival tally and one unique acoustic set later; Gang of Youths have officially wrapped their Australian tour.
To celebrate their tour, Marx Music caught up with Gang of Youths bassist Max Dunn to discuss being back on stage, how streaming has changed album consumption and of course their latest album, angel in realtime.
India: "Max, how does it feel to be back on stage after so long?"
Max: "Really good, I'm really lucky and stoked to be back. It's been a really amazing thing to be able to play the new songs and we’ve had a few of our friends from around the world playing with us, which has made it way more fun. It’s not just the same five bastards when you look around on stage. It's been a really fun time."
India: "Speaking of the people you’ve had on stage, every show you guys put on, you do such a great job of championing fellow Australian artists particularly, whether on stage with you or as supporting acts."
Max: "It's just a really cool thing to get to do. One of the perks of the job is getting to have people that you really love, play with you. We usually just choose people that we love their music and just say, “Hey, do you want to come tour with us”."
The tour was a special one, not only for the live performance of their latest work the inclusion of two A More Perfect Union festivals, in QLD and Tasmania. Each festival featured some stellar Aussie acts including Middle Kids, Cub Sport, Gretta Ray and Matt Corby.
India: "There's something incredibly cinematic about angel in realtime, could you tell me about the experience of both the album’s creation and then releasing it into the world?"
Max: "It's been really cool. It was a lockdown album, so we spent so much time on it. So it's a huge relief, almost like finishing the world's most painful university group assignment, but also the most beautiful thing we’ve got to do together. It was extremely communal.
"I think it's a really special one. Like I think it's our best one, but that’s my opinion."
It would seem that the sentiment is widely shared, with the album having received high acclamation since its release in February.
India: For the first listen that I did, I made a point of digesting it from first to last track, in order. Was that the intention for the track list, to be digested in that way?
Max: Always, always, always, always. We’re hopeless believers in the album, even though we know no one gives a shit anymore with Spotify as everything is compressed, or songs come up in your New Music Daily and it’s supposed to sound good there. But we just want it to sound good when you listen to our album.
India: "With streaming platforms like we have now, like Spotify, do you think that the narrative and story arcs of albums are somewhat lost now?"
Max: "I don't think they're lost, like there's still people making ridiculously good albums. I think it's just changed the way we consume it. But I mean, it was always kind of like that, when you used to be in the car with a CD and you’d skip a song. Streaming probably just enabled it, but it’s also done a lot of good. It's probably democratised the industry and allowed people that would have been gatekept, to have their own fanbases."
When asked about the album’s creation and if there were any unofficial musical formulas, such as bass first (as an example), Max immediately took the opportunity to celebrate the versatility and talents possessed by his bandmates and the importance of sharing roles for fresh takes.
Max: "We're not really obsessed with our instruments. We aren’t there to think, how can I do my own thing, like it was Dave that played bass on the angel of 8th ave because the way that he played it was better for the song. Then there are moments where I’m playing guitar parts that I won't play live and it was because I was sitting in the room trying it.
"No one's ever sort of sitting there thinking, me, me, me, because, that's that's the worst way to make music. Sometimes, a drummer is the best person to play piano on a track, because they think about it differently."
"I see it as, I'm lucky to work with four geniuses, and I don't see my role as imposing my shit on them. It’s more like, oh this song definitely needs bass so I’ll just do everything I can to add something to help make it better."
- Max Dunn
India: "I think that the collaborative approach you’re talking about is something that's not only very prevalent in the music that you all create as a band but also on stage. I'd say it's that real wanting to just share in the joy of it, not a wanting of spotlight or anything like that."
Max: "That’s cool that it comes off. I mean, we kind of have, like Cristiano Ronaldo in that we have Dave, so we kind of all just want to play our role in highlighting and helping get the songs there by making the sound and soundscape right. It’s all on the feel. Dave is like Marie Kondo, we get in front of the speakers and think, “does this bring me joy?'"
India: "What is the one thing that you want everyone to know about this album and the tour?"
Max: "Everything in the show and the album is about the story of a beautiful indigenous man in a modern era. It’s honouring Dave’s father. I think that the takeaway is for people to be a little kinder and call their parents a little more."