Originally known as The Dirty Tricks (forced to change their name due to a Canadian band sporting the same name), Young Kato are an alternative pop sextet hailing from Cheltenham and Birmingham. Despite an average age of just 18, their fresh attitude has met nothing but praise from top DJs such as BBC Radio 1’s Tom Deacon and Annie Nightingale and fellow musicians such as The Libertines’ drummer Gary Powell. April 2012 saw them sing a record deal with Manchester-based label LAB Records with the debut self-titled EP released on the 26th of August, this year.
I spoke to the band to find out all about their latest EP and what vital experience they gained from collaborating with renowned producer Gordon Mills Junior (Ed Sheeran, Newton Faulkner, Placebo).
Tell us a little about how you formed. You’ve come a long way in such a little time, and at such a young age. Did you expect this kind of attention so soon and where/when did you realise that things were really starting to take shape for you?
We formed in late 2011 and played our first Young Kato show on November 10th in front of a strong crowd of 7,000 people in Bristol as a support act. The band’s connections lie with the drummer (Sam) and the lead guitarist (Jack) who are step brothers and essentially invited two separate friendship groups to form who we are today. We honestly gelled straight away and are all one tight group of mates and wouldn’t change anything or anyone in YK. We really didn’t imagine being where we are right now and certainly wouldn’t have seen the rise of our band this quickly, but there’s no time to stop and admire – there’s lots more work to do.
How would you describe your genre of music?
It’s hard to pin it down but for me, personally, I would say Alternative/Pop. We thrive upon catchy hooks and riffs in our songs, much like the pop music today. However, I think we’ve found a respectable middle ground with the music as a whole which gives us the gritty edge that is needed as an up and coming band.
Tommy, you have said, quote, unquote “We are pop, and we’re not afraid to say that.” Why do you feel people have this fear of being “pop”?
Pop music today has been well and truly lost and there’s a serious lack of respectability with the older audiences. In my opinion you only have to look to the Top 40 to understand what I’m getting at.
You’ve been described as The Smiths with attitude. Would you agree with that or do you detest the whole idea of “pigeonholing” bands?
‘The Smiths with attitude’ was an incredible quote we picked up from the head of our BBC Introducing in Gloucester. ‘Pigeonholing’ for me isn’t necessarily a bad thing and as long as people are loving it, it really doesn’t matter. Call us what you want!
Joe Green, our rhythm guitarist is the brains behind everything. He plants the seed with the songs that everyone else then chips into and gives it their own spin, leaving a somehow perfectly formed YK song every time. We have written two songs with Ian Dench (EMF) who won an Ivor Novello award for song writing which was an incredible and important experience for us. We’re looking to go back later on this year to continue the writing partnership.
Do you find it easy to reach a compromise in terms of achieving a finished product?
We never compromise within our music and we always wait until Joe Green is happy. He has a really good ear for music and leads every rehearsal.
A lot of record companies tend to keep their artists on a tight leash. You’ve recently signed with LAB records, with your first EP released at the end of August. Would you say you are left with a fair amount of freedom to experiment with your songs?
LAB records is a perfect opening label for any band, but even more so for us, as their label is youthful, colourful and pop. We are given total freedom with LAB in terms of music, control over the merchandise and artwork etc. This is important to us so we can create our own unique look/identity. Fortunately, with YK we wear what we want, play what we want, act how we want and people still seem to love us for it, including Mark Orr (head of LAB) which is great.
How easy/difficult is it to take your music from your living room, so to speak, to the live circuit?
It’s a crazy thing how it goes from me and Joe G writing a song at 3am (because it’s not finished) in his tiny bedroom, to then performing it in front of hundreds of fans at a headline show at say the Thekla (Bristol), or even in front of thousands, as we did in June at the Cribbs Causeways Jubilee celebration. We’re very lucky, as a band, to have a good rehearsal space at Sam’s (drummer) house and the sound has perfected/found itself over the past few years so now we can just feel if a song is going to go down well live.
What can you tell us about the new EP? What was it like working with Gordon Mills Jnr (Placebo, Ed Sheeran)?
The experience was like nothing we had done before. We recorded our EP in his self made studio, which is in a shed on the outskirts of London. We had worked together before in early 2012 as a bit of a test and this was when we co-wrote a song called ‘Lights’. After that we knew that we wanted to work with him. ‘Lights’ is available as a free download from our site (youngkato.com) if you are interested in hearing it. Gordon and Barney (Gordon’s manager) are great guys and completely understood the vibe of how we wanted the EP to sound and we are pleased with the way it turned out.
Do you have plans for an album or is it still early days?
The plan for an album is definitely there in the back of our minds but right now we are happy to play 30 minute sets of pure adrenaline, leaving any audience we face in no doubt that pop music is in a revival. We will definitely aim to have an album out in the next year or so though, but we aren’t rushing into anything.
Which rising bands would you like to see more of in the future?
Dog is Dead, Various Cruelties, Bastille, Peace & Young Kato – of course. For me, this is a collection of bands that have captured the qualities of popular music and interpreted them into their own style. We would love to see any of these bands smashing sales and breaking into the Top 40 as deserved. There’s still time though. Perhaps a revolution needs to be enforced!
The Young Kato self-titled EP is available here:
(you can embed the single purchase page here : http://youngkato.bandcamp.com/)
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