Kat Smith discusses why Palo Santo, the long-awaited sophomore album from Years & Years, deserves five starsWritten by Kat Smith on 19th July 2018
Redbrick Meets: Years & Years
In discussion with Emre Türkmen, Sorcha Hornett finds out more about the new album from Years & Years
Years & Years are set to release their second album, Palo Santo, on 6th July. It’s been a long time in the making since their last album, Communion, was released in 2015, but I have to admit it’s worth the wait. Their new album oozes the same electro-pop anthems with beautiful lyrics that they delivered on their debut, which can already be seen with pre-released ‘Sanctify’ and ‘If You’re Over Me’. They have also recently announced a UK tour at the end of November, including a massive tour date at London's O2. I interviewed Emre Türkmen from the band, responsible for all the synths and beats behind Olly Alexander’s vocals, to talk about the tour and the new album.
Hey Emre, are you excited about releasing your new album?
Yeah, yeah very much. I mean it’s been a long time, right?
Yeah, 2015! I remember seeing you guys at this tiny venue in Essex after your first album came out, was there any reason for the gap between the albums?
Well, the thing is, when we released the album in 2015 it was like we were touring, and we toured for solidly for two years. We had been touring for almost a year before that and had been a support act for Clean Bandit and Sam Smith, so we toured for like three years straight and then we were exhausted. We then started making the album and it takes a long time to be honest.
That’s understandable, speaking of the new album I’ve listened to it and I love it! Are you excited to get back on tour?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a little scary because you never know how things are going to go. I had been on the tour bus for two years and I was in one again for the first time a few days ago and it’s like muscle memory, you know, it comes back to you. The new show is epic, huge and really cool, so I’m quite excited to get back on the road and go to crazy places I haven’t been to, it should be really good fun.
“Small gigs are really cool but in a totally different way, The O2 is like a Hollywood blockbuster
I’m really looking forward to it! I saw you guys are doing a date at The O2 in London, how does that feel? I first saw you guys in such a small venue and now you’re hopefully filling a whole arena, it must be surreal?
It’s a bit mad isn’t it? I’m going to have to try and invite as many friends as I can to fill that bloody place! If you think about it you go a bit mad though, don’t you? We played Wembley as our final show of the tour last year, kind of, and that was like 11,000 people and I do remember thinking, this is bonkers, this isn’t right! I don’t know how many The O2 holds, it’s sort of a different thing entirely. Small gigs are really cool as well but in a totally different way, but gigs like The O2 are like a Hollywood blockbuster, just got to go for it. If you think about it too much it all falls apart so you just have to get on with it.
Do you have a favourite venue you’ve ever played?
Oh god, if we discount festivals; that’s a good question. The first thing off the top of my head is there’s a venue in Paris, I think it’s the Olympia which is a really wonderful old building that we played where Jeff Buckley and so many others have played; a really cool building with lots of heritage, that was really good fun. Then on the other end of the scale, I really enjoyed playing in Glasgow in a small venue… what was it called? Ah… it’ll come to me when I’m not thinking about it, but we played there at this tiny little venue and we found out we were number one just as we were about to go on stage. There’s loads, there’s too many. I really love Brixton Academy, I’ll be honest, I’ve seen so many bands there, so it’s got a special place in my heart and heritage. But, yeah, too many.
Do you have a favourite track from the new album?
I really like 'Rendezvous', which we’ve started playing live now and we play it a little bit faster and I’m like damn we should’ve recorded it a little faster but it’s not, but it’s still pretty groovy.
Is there any reason you picked the track ‘Palo Santo’ as the album title?
Olly picked it, but I think it was the first song he wrote after Communion for the second album and we all love that song. Palo Santo is a type of wood that people burn, and it has a lovely smell, the idea is it cleanses your soul of evil spirits or something and is translated to holy wood, many layers there for you! But that’s why we called it that.
“The album itself has a lot of tracks with other people in collaboration, so it wasn’t quite the same as Communion where it was just the three of us
What was the writing process like for this album? Did it differ from the last album or was it similar?
It differed in the sense that the album itself has a lot of tracks with other people in collaboration, so it wasn’t quite the same as Communion where it was just the three of us. There’s quite a lot of songs we worked together on the album that will be released after as well. There were quite a lot of other people involved and a lot of it was written in LA, whereas the first album was kind of Olly in a room or all three of us in a room which was a bit more indie and this album is a bit more, you know, you’re a big band now you have to go to LA.
Was there anything that influenced this album in particular? Any music genres or anything in real life?
Actually, the opposite, in terms of music it was kind of a pick and mix as a lot of the songs are very different from each other. We had no problems with anything sounding different as it doesn’t seem to be a right way to think about it anymore, I hate to say it but the album as one piece is not where we’re at as it’s all sorts of music. It’s quite poppy and a bit more happy on the surface but still deals with all the usual traumatic stuff – relationships; it’s all Olly’s heartbreak.
“It's all Olly's heartbreak
Do you have a favourite memory from touring?
There are loads, but there’s one particular one after we played a show in Minneapolis and then we had a day off. Our tour manager in the US was from Minneapolis herself and she introduced us to her tattoo artist friends, and we all got tattoos. We then all got drunk and ended up in a bar where drag queens were performing and there was a singing competition and I ended up on like, you know those mechanical bulls, on one of those and we watched the competition and that was a good night.
What music are you currently listening to?
I’m trying to get into the new Arctic Monkey’s album but I’m struggling a little bit, it’s not because I’m like a meathead, like give me rock and roll man, but I’m just hoping it’ll grow on me. I really like the new Ariana Grande song and Courtney Barnett, she’s pretty good. I listen to a lot of old music, like 90’s music. I went to go see Bruno Mars the other day. I saw him in concert and that was ridiculously good. He was so good live, it was crazy, we were like woah, that is one big show he puts on.
What can we expect from you guys in the future?
Who knows, because we don’t know, but in the immediate future we’ll be on the road to a town near you.
Palo Santo is released on July 6th, Years & Years are touring the UK in November, you can get tickets here.