Is the UK's most thrilling live band, Young Fathers, playing at Latitude Festival

New fathers

Young Fathers is unlike any live band you have ever seen.

You don't even need to know their songs to be overcome by the sheer power of their musical attack as they headline the BBC Sounds stage at the Latitude festival.

This performance is all about propulsion.

I Saw has a loping glam rock beat and a playground chorus; Geronimo is all coiled, sinister tension; and the anthemic hook of Get Up is so incendiary, it nearly sets the mosh pit on fire. The band's music is a blend of soul, gospel, hip-hop, and tribal chants.

Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and Graham 'G' Hastings, the band's founding members, are joined on stage by two female vocalists for this tour. At times, each of them appears to be singing their own rendition of the same song, lost in the music, before they abruptly roar back into synchronization.

They have earned a reputation as Britain's most thrilling live act with a performance that is thrilling to both watch and take part in.

They value having that title.

The Edinburgh trio drew a chart of the bands they wanted to imitate before recording their most recent album, Heavy Heavy: Talking Heads, Massive Attack, Suicide, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Backstage at Latitude, Hastings told the BBC, "What I was trying to do was write a list of bands who have created their own artistic thing.".

They sound unique compared to other people. They have a separate place to live. That is what we set out to accomplish. ".

According to Massaquoi, it was almost as if they were lacking in aspiration.

"Over the months, you'll notice that you have more energy and can run farther if you train yourself to run a mile in under five minutes. While it can be challenging to determine when you've improved in music and creativity. ".

They made the decision to trust their gut.

According to Massaquoi, they set up their unkempt studio in Scotland's windowless squat next to a cemetery so they could start recording "as soon as we came through the door.".

A decision was made after the pandemic, when "everybody had time to reflect and gain a little appreciation for what we do," with the intention of capturing the spontaneity and joy they have always exuded on stage.

In actuality, it meant that the album was made in a manner that was very similar to how they had begun, rapping into a karaoke machine in Hastings' teen bedroom.

Collective singing took place near the microphone. When one of the three made a mistake, the other two were willing to accept it and incorporate the chaos into their creative process.

We don't even talk much, Massaquoi claims. "A lot of it comes naturally. ".

In the end, they produced music for more than four albums, mixing together African melodies, improvisational percussion, political hip-hop, and group vocals.

They cut that music down to 32 minutes, which, in their words, betrayed their beginnings as a "weird kind of boyband.".

Considering how blunt the conversations in the studio could be, Hastings says, "As people who love a pop song, we're pretty brutal with ourselves: Just take that out. Cut to the chase. The best option is this. ".

He says, "We like short songs and hooks and sweet things.

Even for a band accustomed to receiving high praise from critics, the reviews were gushing.

According to Andy Kellman of AllMusic, "Heavy Heavy draws in the listener with an empathetic lust for life that never wavers.".

According to Will Pritchard in Pitchfork, "Heavy Heavy bursts with overwhelming momentum, as if to say, "Keep up, if you can," from the opening woody drag of the bassline on Rice to the chug and claps of Holy Moly.

The NME's Dhruva Balram concluded, "Succinct and supported by a catchy melodic structure, it further cements Young Fathers' as one of the more distinctive acts to exist today.

Young Fathers
In between singing, rapping, and playing percussion, Alloysious Massaquoi performs.

The success of the album has propelled them to the top of this summer's festival lineups, and it is already expected to receive a nomination for this year's Mercury Prize (they previously won with their debut, Dead, in 2014).

However, despite being a semi-mainstream prospect in 2023, they have never truly felt accepted by the sector.

The three were signed at the age of 15 to what they have previously described as "a nasty, horrible production deal," after meeting in a high school youth group.

They finally found their distinctive sound over the course of two mixtapes, Tape One and Tape Two, the latter of which earned them the Scottish Music Prize, after a number of false starts.

Hastings says, "When we were young, we were outsiders in Scotland. We felt alienated on hip-hop nights and every other night. ".

Massaquoi continues, "None of our friends used to attend the shows.". Even though I enjoy the music, some of them didn't. That is sincere. ".

They continue to have a strong sense of self-belief despite, or perhaps precisely because of, those difficulties.

In reference to that list of iconoclasts that Hastings compiled in the recording studio, Massaquoi says, "We're one of those bands that comes around every 15 or 20 years.".

People will eventually realize that, but you have to hold onto the vision and promise that it will happen.

Although it is upsetting while it is happening, the world owes you nothing. The only thing you can do is put in the time and effort to raise your chances of luck. ".

Young Fathers
The band gained a new legion of fans thanks to their high-profile Glastonbury performance; Graham can be seen on the left with Kayus between the backing singers.

After dedicating their song Shame to Home Secretary Suella Braverman and leading the crowd in a chant of "Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here," the band made headlines with their Glastonbury performance last month.

Young Fathers' protest was born out of experience, just like everything else they do. When Massaquoi was four years old, his parents fled the Liberian civil war and arrived in the UK.

He doesn't recall much about the change, but hearing Maxi Priest's rendition of Wild World in a refugee camp in Ghana sticks with him.

Even now, the song's message of hope amid the sorrow of leaving home speaks to him.

He wants Young Fathers' music to have the same effect on their listeners because, they claim, being outside of pop's elite makes this easier.

Hastings notes that historically, a lot of bands deteriorate over time.

But as you become more at ease, as things become simpler, and as the record label provides some funding, you begin to understand why the lifestyle can trump the music. Not that I lead a crazy lifestyle, but you can see the beginnings of it.

But I hope that the fact that the three of us can work independently in a room with no windows and other distractions makes us somewhat impervious. ".

Massaquoi continues, "We're a working class band at a time when there aren't many of them, and that's a totally different mindset to have.

"We come from a place where we have to find employment if we're not doing this.

. "

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