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whenyoung talk challenging themselves on Paragon Songs, ‘reinventing the wheel’, and new tour

Just two albums in to their work as a band and whenyoung are already reinventing the wheel, their sound and their style. Ewan Gleadow sits down with Aoife Power and Andrew Flood, a day before the duo release their second album, Paragon Songs, and set off on their homecoming tour.

Ewan Gleadow: Well done on Paragon Songs. Really great stuff. Talk me through how you’re feeling? We’re a day before the release of the new album, how are you feeling before it goes out there?

Aoife Power: Yeah, we feel good.

Andrew Flood: It’s that weird apprehension before something big happens. We were literally just rehearsing there and my friend messaged me saying “oh, the album’s out tomorrow,” and I was like, is it? So yeah, we’re excited.

Ewan: Obviously touring it very soon with Tom A. Smith and Lauren Ann opening for you, what was it about their music that attracted you to working with them?

Aoife: They’re both really talented and obviously it’s nice to be able to watch someone’s set before you perform that you really enjoy. Both of them, we really like their music.

Andrew: Yeah, and I think they’re both at an early stage and I can see them going on to have huge careers. It’s nice to be able to help them out in a small way by offering them shows with us. 

Ewan: I can’t remember all the dates off the top of my head but there’s a fair few aren’t there?

Aoife: We’re doing eleven, so tomorrow we are in Ramsgate for our album launch, and then we do five there, five more in the UK.

Andrew: Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and London. Then we’re over to Ireland to do a homecoming show in Limerick, then Cork, Galway, and Dublin.

Ewan: That homecoming show must be an important one, a big culmination?

Aoife: Yeah, it’s nice.

Andrew: It kind of feels like we’re doing two home shows in this one. We’ve actually just moved back to Ireland having spent the last few years in Ramsgate. We’re doing out album launch in Ramsgate, which feels like a home from home, but also a goodbye show. Then a returning home show in Limerick. 

Ewan: That’ll be nice, bringing those two together. Talk me through this new record, because there appears to have been a lot of changes, a lot of risky choices made between what you had on your debut and now with Paragon Songs

Aoife: Yeah, we wanted to challenge ourselves and try new things. We really went for that and I think there are still elements of the first album in there, maybe in terms of lyrically or melodically, but instrumentally it’s a lot more…

Andrew: It’s a lot more programming, a lot more synth-based stuff going on. At the root of it, they’re both still whenyoung albums. We were kind of aware that we were changing things a bit, but it felt like what we had to do. 

Aoife: I think it felt like progress to us, and it was really fun. We were aware that some people might feel a bit alienated if they had preferred the guitar-heavy kind of tracks. But for all of us and when we recorded the album, Niall was still in the band, we wanted to try something else. 

Andrew: Next album we’ll reinvent the wheel again. 

Ewan: It does feel like you found your footing on the first album and now it’s time to branch off into what else you can do, the next steps, whatever direction that may be. Is that just testing the waters of what could come next or figuring out new things you may want to try in future?

Aoife: I think it was just wanting to try out different things. I think we’re aware, of people commenting or saying, this has a lot of mixed-genre stuff going on. The way we write songs a lot of the time is acoustic, we build them up. They don’t feel that different even though the finishing pieces, may feel poppier or folky, but, it feels like us still. It doesn’t feel that weird to us. 

Andrew: Yeah, what we like is a balance of pop and rock and folk, a lot of sonic textures that we have in this album, actually.

Aoife: I think, when we recorded this album, we recorded eighteen songs originally. We selected these ten, but if you ever heard the other eight, there are even more crazy things going on.

Ewan: Are you planning on getting those out there or are you saving them for the third album?

Aoife: No, definitely not for the third album, we’ll get some of them out there though.

Andrew: Yeah, I think the third album for us, I think we’d have to take some time and find out what that might be, but we have been writing new stuff. There’s definitely more music to come.

Ewan: It doesn’t feel that long ago since your first record came out, but 2019 was four years ago. Are you still riding that receptive wave? You look at Bruce Springsteen who’ll be on album number thirty and wonder if he still does. 

Aoife: It’s definitely a different energy around the first album we released on a major label, that was a different experience. This is an indie label. I think that’s always going to be a different experience.

Andrew: I think having done something the second time, you’re more experienced. There’s less of that naivety and innocence. Whereas now it’s like, our second album is coming out and, yeah, we’re already thinking of the third. 

Ewan: You’ve found your footing. I can’t pronounce the name of this song because I’m from the northeast of England, so if I try and pronounce it, it’s going to sound awful. It’ll sound like I’m telling someone to go home, you know? The three days I spent in Dublin really paid off. 

But the last track, a very strong album ending on a very strong final track. Tell me more about that song, I hate asking questions like this but I’m fascinated by Gan Ainm. Was that always the last track of the album?

Aoife: When we recorded, it was probably one of the last ones we did. 

Andrew: Through the various album listings we went through, it always felt closer to the end.

Aoife: Maybe in a way it even feels like a lead on to the stuff we’re currently writing, which is a little bit folkier. But that’s one of our favourites. I think it’s grown on me more and more as we’ve played it in rehearsals as well. It means without a name and in Irish music, traditional Irish music in books, there might be a tune or a jig that might just say gan ainm because the name has been forgotten because the tune has been passed through families. I was playing fiddle when I was younger and that was what I thought, it was a nice thing to put into the song. The song has a quite heavy Irish traditional music influence, based on memories of me as a child playing traditional music with my family.

Aoife and Andrew are taking Paragon Songs on tour, with tickets available here.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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