Years & Years might still maintain a low enough profile in the U.S. to enjoy the anonymity that eludes them in the U.K., but if their stateside shows keep going the way they have, it might not last much longer. Following the release of their first full album Communion last summer, they toured extensively in the U.S. in the fall and again in spring of this year. With rocking sets at Coachella and recently New York City's Governors Ball, more and more fans from this side of the pond are taking notice.
We got a few minutes of the trio's time before their Gov Ball set last weekend, and from the sound of things, the added fame isn't changing their approach to the process of making music that resonates.
"Everyone has a different opinion," frontman Olly Alexander said when considering how the band creates songs their fans will love. "I think, generally, if I like [a song], or we like it, that's good enough. If the song doesn't take off, it doesn't take off. That's kind of, like, not in our hands."
As for taking those songs to the stage at live shows, the group does acknowledge there's a sweet spot in terms of venue and audience size that produces the best energy.
"I quite like it to be small enough to feel immersive, but big enough to feel like a big party," said synth player Emre Türkmen.
"There's a perfect number, around a few thousand, where everyone is getting so tight ... when it gets bigger than that, it's kind of, like ..." added Alexander, waving his arms around as he trailed off.
In addition to being the frontman of an on-the-rise electronica trio, Alexander is an established actor, and at just 25, is making an effort to use his platform to bring awareness to an issue he himself has struggled with — mental health. In an interview with The Guardian and Dazed earlier this year, he discussed the battles he's waged with anxiety and depression over time, and explained to A Plus that he's been able to use those experiences as fuel for his creative pursuits.
"If you're a creative person, you tend to draw from your own life and your own experiences ... it's the same for us making music," he said. "I've really had to view my low times and my up times as a way to create music that I can be proud of."
His best advice for those suffering from mental distress who don't have the same kind of creative outlet was simple: "seek professional help," and beyond that, "talking."
"Get it into your mind the concept that things will change and that you won't always feel this way," offered Türkmen as Alexander and bass guitarist Mikey Goldsworthy nodded in agreement.
It's not clear how much higher Years & Years will go from here, but based on their attitude and the response they generate from their fans, they're still very far from their ceiling. If for some reason their music careers don't pan out, though, Goldsworthy has the perfect fallback: opening a sandwich shop. As for the signature sandwich?
"BLT, but with avocado," he said immediately.
"No, you'd go for a chicken and chorizo," insisted Türkmen.
Goldsworthy considered this for a moment.
"Oh, I do like that," he agreed. "With mustard."
Might be time for a career change.
Cover image: Years & Years via Twitter