angel in realtime.
Gang of Youths frontman David Le’aupepe’s life was turned upside down in 2018 when his beloved father, Tattersall, passed away. Dealing with his dad’s loss was one thing—uncovering the secrets that came to light in the wake of his passing was another. His father was born in Samoa in 1938, not New Zealand in 1948, as Le’aupepe had believed. Tattersall also had two sons in New Zealand before faking his death and moving to Australia—half-brothers that Le’aupepe was, until his father’s passing, unaware he had. “[These] were things that my dad hid or made sure that we didn’t find out about because, I think, there was a lot of guilt and sadness and scandal around his life before he came to Australia,” Le’aupepe tells Apple Music’s Matt Wilkinson. The singer wasn’t, however, angry when these revelations came to light. “My dad was amazing, but he was a complicated man,” says Le’aupepe. “He was my hero. And naturally, when you find out more about your hero, you get excited. Also, I wanted big brothers growing up, and I just supplemented them with the band and people from church and stuff like that. So, I was actually able to claim a part of myself, a part of my heritage, a part of all this stuff, while also simultaneously reconnecting with these two blokes who I just loved instantly. It was a really, really cool thing.” Tattersall’s passing is a lyrical theme that binds Gang of Youths’ third album together (“I prayed the day you passed/But the heavens didn’t listen,” begins Le’aupepe on opener “you in everything”), but the events of his life and death are captured most concisely in the sparse, poetic piano ballad “brothers”. “There’s a sense of the storytelling traditions of old,” says Le’aupepe of the song. “I listen to a lot of Paul Kelly, Archie Roach—the greatest songwriters who wrote and told stories. Joni Mitchell’s ‘Cactus Tree’ is another one. I love a cinematic slow reveal of what the story’s about. And obviously, cinema’s played a huge role in influencing where this album’s gone visually and sonically.” So, too, has the singer’s Polynesian heritage. While songs such as “the angel of 8th ave.” and “the man himself” merge the band’s penchant for big-tent indie rock with a distinct hint of Britpop (“spirit boy”), and “the kingdom is within you” flirts with UK garage, the album is rich with a mélange of Polynesian musical influences. Witness the presence of Cook Islands drum group the Nuanua Drummers and the Auckland Gospel Choir on “in the wake of your leave”, or the spoken-word verse in “spirit boy”, delivered in the Māori language te reo. “the man himself”, meanwhile, features samples of Pacific Island hymns, captured by British composer David Fanshawe. “There was a sense of wanting to make the record feel like it wasn’t just us mining my people’s past or our people’s collective past for inspiration,” says Le’aupepe, “but that we were in a mode of wanting to move forward and [take] what’s happening now in terms of a creative direction.” That the London-based, Sydney-born band managed to largely self-produce (with occasional co-production from Peter Katis and Peter Hutchings) such an expansive album in their rehearsal room in the East London suburb of Hackney is nothing short of remarkable. “It felt like this anarchic confluence of values,” says Le’aupepe. “It was really, really interesting seeing how together we are, and working in that close, confined space has given us a unity of opinion, or a unity of ‘this is where we’re going to go with it.’ And I think that was all cultivated in the sessions for angel in realtime.”