When Wild Youth released their song “Can’t Move On” they were plugged by Zane Lowe, dominated the Irish airwaves, and even became the most played song on Irish radio in 2018. That same track also appeared on the soundtrack of one of the biggest television shows of the last decade, BBC/Hulu’s series Normal People. More recently, they released the trippy throwback track “Next to You” alongside a retro music video and performed it on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show. The band consists of lead vocalist David Whelan, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Conor O’Donohoe, lead guitarist Ed Porter and drummer Callum McAdam.
They have shared the stage with and supported the likes of Mumford and Sons, Niall Horan, The Script, and Zara Larsson on arena-sized shows. They have also been attracting huge crowds to their festival slots across Ireland and the UK in recent years. The quartet has even performed at the Royal Albert Hall and has sold out shows at Dublin’s iconic venue The Olympia Theatre.
We caught up with the thriving Dublin indie-pop group to discuss all things lockdown, kindhearted fans, and much more.
“Next to You” recently broke the top ten in the Irish Radio Airplay Charts, has been added to the New Pop UK and A Perfect Day playlists on Spotify. Were you expecting it to take off like it has? No, not that I wasn’t expecting it I think we hadn’t put out a song in a while and it’s such a weird time so I didn’t know what to expect. Also, I think everyone kinda does this but you downplay it a lot in your own mind so that you’re not disappointed when it comes out. But yeah it’s been great, the reaction has been amazing!
I was definitely nervous because I think the song is slightly different from the rest of our stuff, so you’re just a bit worried about how people will take it because you haven’t put music out and it’s a weird time, it’s been a big relief to know that people are enjoying it.
How did the lyrics for the vibrant track come about? I wrote it over in London and it’s all sort of based around the kind of funny things I think you do when you start to fall for someone. I always laugh about my first date with my girlfriend and we were going somewhere and I was like let’s just get a sandwich here and she was like “yeah, cool,” and we went in and I said “will we just get these sandwiches?” and she was like “perfect!” But then weeks later she told me that she’s totally gluten intolerant and I was like “but you had that sandwich on our first date!” and she just didn’t wanna say it at the time.
It’s like the kind of sacrifices people make and everyone does it, like if someone asks “do you want a whiskey?” and you’re like “oh yeah, I love whiskey” just trying to keep things super easy with the other person. So it’s kinda based all around that, when you fall hard for someone, all the little things that you go along with at the start until you eventually get to a stage where you’re comfortable and you’re like “I actually fucking hate whiskey” (laughs).
I caught your performance on The Late Late Show on RTÉ, what was it like performing to an empty studio? It actually wasn’t that weird, not in a bad way but I think it’s weird like when we did a show for TikTok recently and that was kinda weird because we were doing a full show and at the end, there’s just silence and you’re being filmed so it’s kinda weird not having a crowd then. I think with The Late Late Show you’re focusing on it being a TV performance, it’s not like a crowd would be going mental after you finish a song you know, you just kind of get applause. I actually found it less intimidating because there are fewer people looking.
That’s true actually and there probably would’ve only been a few grannies in the crowd anyways! Yes (laughs), it’s actually more so you can see our parents in the front row just staring at you, like oh God… that’s when you’re most nervous.
The music industry has been hit hard this year due to coronavirus. How have you stayed positive and productive despite not being able to play festival slots or at your own gigs? I just went ok “it’s probably going to be a year until shows happen again,” so I just kind of gave up on the fact that we wouldn’t be doing a show. Rather than focusing my energy on how shit it was going to be not playing, I was like how can I focus my energy on something productive, so that when shows do come back around it will make them better. I spend a lot of time writing new songs to have more and have spent time on concepts & visuals so that we can have more color and lights on our shows.
It’s also a good time to interact with fans on socials and coming up with concepts for music videos. We’ve been trying to put out as much music as possible and yeah I suppose just trying to do all the things that we can do, kind of controlling the controllable, and, don’t get me wrong, there are days when I wake up and I’m like “I miss playing shows so much.” Like when you do The Late Late Show and you’re all together with your crew and you’re playing the show it’s just like “shit, I miss this so much.” So yeah, just trying to focus on the things we can control right now and staying positive.
The “Next to You” music video has catchy dance moves and a kaleidoscopic feel, what was the inspiration behind it? I think for a lot of our new stuff the whole idea is just going right back. We’re all very influenced by music our parents would’ve listened to when we were growing up. We just wanted to have a bit of fun with everything and go right back as opposed to trying to stay very current. You know, there’s inspiration from the kinda psychedelic almost acid-rock kind of music era with the trippy visuals and coloring. We actually made two music videos last week and it’s kind of the same thing. One video was a throwback to the New York old-school like disco nightclub thing and there’s another that’s a total throwback to the hippie flower power era. I think visually and aesthetically it’s the kind of stuff I love and I follow. Even if you look at my Instagram you’ll see psychedelic colors , those who know me know that I’m always looking for hippie clothing!
Your band has always had a unique sense of style, who are your current style icons? There’s so much good style out there right now. My mom used to always say to me that if you hold onto something long enough it will come back into fashion. I always love that saying and it’s funny because the eras and styles I loved like everything Elton John used to wear back in the day. I more so follow clothing brands, like I love seeing Gucci’s campaigns, Yves Saint Laurent, all these different kinds of clothing brands, and the things they’re doing. It’s all kind of going back to that era but in a modern way and I think that’s so cool. I get my inspiration from them and I love seeing the modern interpretations of them.
Yesterday you guys posted a competition for your fans to be in with a chance of winning a private Zoom gig. What has the support been like from your fans on your journey so far? Insane. They’re the best, we’re so lucky they’re so supportive, loving, and kind. Some of our fans came along on that whole tour with Kodaline around the whole of Europe. They’re like family now, we see them and we talk to them, it’s not like us and fans are separate, it’s like we’re all part of this big journey which is really cool.
A giant box arrived at my dad’s work last week and it was from two fans and they had made tie-dye t-shirts with the lyrics from “Next to You” on the back. I got sent a ketchup phone cover because people slag me for eating ketchup. There were girls who’ve traveled from France and Belgium and they’d bring chocolate to the show because they know I love it. Not that bringing things is important, but what I’m saying is that they’re just so incredibly thoughtful and caring. I know everyone says they have the best fans in the world but I think we do.
What’s next for you guys, is there a new EP or an album on the cards? Yeah, there is a new EP which will be out in the new year, but we’ll have some new music that comes out before that.
Do you have any hints to give your listeners? It’ll probably be a lot sooner than people think, something a little bit slower and we’re gonna try to put out as much music as we can without boring people. There’s probably about eleven songs done and we’re just trying to whittle that down to five or six which will be done soon. It’s all in the mixing and mastering stage now. We will get started on writing what will eventually be an album in November and have a bulk of songs ready to go and work on for when the EP comes out, that is if people aren’t sick of us!
If you had to describe Wild Youth in four words to an alien who had never listened to your music, what would they be? Kind, mental, sad, bangers.
Lastly, before you go, where’s your happy place? I think we’ve three happy places. Writing, on tour, and when we’re with our loved ones. It doesn’t matter where you are once you’re doing those three things because that’s your happy place, right? In your happy place, you can move wherever I always say that. I wrote a song called “Anywhere Is Home When I’m With You” and I think that it’s true.
Check out Wild Youth’s latest single “Through the Phone,” now available on all streaming services.