Sydney quartet Gang Of Youths is already having a massive year. By the time you read this, its debut LP, The Positions, released on April 17, will have done the rounds as both FBi and Triple J’s coveted Album Of The Week. This is off the back of its electrifying performance at Secret Garden Festival in March and Easter’s Bad Friday at Vic On The Park.
The Positions is an emotional and propulsive rock record from a band that’s been likened to everyone from Arcade Fire to Bruce Springsteen. Songs regularly push the five-minute mark, with school. Dedicated to frontman David Leaupepe’s experience of romantic entanglement with a terminal cancer sufferer, it’s a straight-up belter of a guitar record that could well be one of the best Australia will see this year.
Leaupepe grew up following hardcore, metal and punk bands across the Sydney all-ages scene, as well as playing in multiple groups himself. “I gravitated towards music that the kids in my little church Sunday school didn’t like,” he laughs. “I was really into hip-hop, but there wasn’t a big Sydney hip-hop scene in the early-to-mid 2000s that I was aware of, especially for kids. So what do you do? You listen to Black Sabbath and you drink Jaeger out of your shoe after sweaty shows.”
“It was hard to buy shit from any of these bands,” he explains. “You could maybe find them on MySpace or community radio if you were lucky. But most of these bands just toured a lot and sold 7” vinyls, cassettes and burnt CDs.”
“I did this thing called School of Rock, where I was basically in a bunch of bands playing guitar and drums. At the end of every school term, these bands had a concert at The Annandale.
My parents made a conscious effort to invest in me. It was $300 a term and that was a lot for us.
There was this band I really liked called The Wahas who went to my school. Their bass player, Jack, ended up playing in Jagwar Ma, they played there a lot. Basically, my way into the Annandale was by playing in shit bands. I was in a hardcore band, two power-pop groups and some really wanky indie bands.
I didn’t do any homework, I was committed to being a 15 year-old rock cliché and that was my whole life.”
“Manning did a lot of all-ages hardcore shows that were on during the day. When the Sydney scene was thriving with the whole emo, post-hardcore thing, I remember going maybe once a month to see some new band. Most of them never survived, but there was some really great music that went on there.
All the bands that we listened to, like Under Oath, Brand New, Thursday, they played there. The straight-edge bands had shows there too, like No Apologies, Bad Blood, lots of guys who signed to Resist Records.
The Bald-Faced Stag
“There was this Glebe/Broadway scene where all the kids used to hang out and talk metal. And I remember seeing this deathcore band called Point Below Zero at The Bald Faced Stag, The Annandale and the Agincourt Hotel. My friend Red sang in it, he works at Frankie’s now and they just broke up. They were brutal, they were probably one of the most aggressive metal bands out there.
I used to bring my own booze. I’d sneak in my mum’s sacramental Jewish wine and we’d get drunk off that.”
Oxford Art Factory
“I went here under-age, a lot. I was 5”11 by the time I was 16. They didn’t close the bar for all-ages gigs, but you’d need ID.
There’s not really a whole lot that you can do now [as a young fan] except travel out to the suburbs. The scenes have started conflating; places like Hot Damn (Spectrum) and Oxford Art Factory – the kids found newer, cooler shit to be into. The ones who still wear Xs on their hands are super-committed, but the rest grew up and went to uni or write folk music like Bon Iver.”
Gang Of Youths’ The Positions is out on Sony, April 17.
Images taken at The Rose Hotel.