Heavy Heavy

Young Fathers

Heavy Heavy

Young Fathers occupy a unique place in British music. The Mercury Prize-winning trio are as adept at envelope-pushing sonic experimentalism and opaque lyrical impressionism as they are at soulful pop hooks and festival-primed choruses—frequently, in the space of the same song. Coming off the back of an extended hiatus following 2018’s acclaimed Cocoa Sugar, the Edinburgh threesome entered their basement studio with no grand plan for their fourth studio album other than to reconnect to the creative process, and each other. Little was explicitly discussed. Instead, Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and Graham “G” Hastings—all friends since their school days—intuitively reacted to a lyric, a piece of music, or a beat that one of them had conceived to create multifaceted pieces of work that, for all their complexities and contradictions, hit home with soul-lifting, often spiritual, directness. Through the joyous clatter of opener “Rice,” the electro-glam battle cry “I Saw,” the epic “Tell Somebody,” and the shape-shifting sonic explosion of closer “Be Your Lady,” Young Fathers express every peak and trough of the human condition within often-dense tapestries of sounds and words. “Each song serves an integral purpose to create something that feels cohesive,” says Bankole. “You can find joy in silence, you can find happiness in pain. You can find all these intricate feelings and diverse feelings that reflect reality in the best possible way within these songs.” Across 10 dazzling tracks, Heavy Heavy has all that and more, making it the band’s most fully realized and affecting work to date. Let Massaquoi and Bankole guide you through it, track by track. “Rice” Alloysious Massaquoi: “What we’re great at doing is attaching ourselves to what the feeling of the track is and then building from that, so the lyrics start to come from that point of view. [On ‘Rice’] that feeling of it being joyous was what we were connecting to. It was the feeling of fresh morning air. You’re on a journey, you’re moving towards something, it feels like you’re coming home to find it again. For me, it was finding that feeling of, ‘OK, I love music again,’ because during COVID it felt redundant to me. What mattered to me was looking after my family.” “I Saw” AM: “We’d been talking about Brexit, colonialism, about forgetting the contributions of other countries and nations so that was in the air. And when we attached ourselves to the feeling of the song, it had that call-to-arms feeling to it, it’s like a march.” Kayus Bankole: “It touches on Brexit, but it also touches on how effective turning a blind eye can be, that idea that there’s nothing really you can do. It’s a call to arms, but there’s also this massive question mark. I get super-buzzed by leaving question marks so you can engage in some form of conversation afterwards.” “Drum” AM: “It’s got that sort of gospel spiritual aspect to it. There’s an intensity in that. It’s almost like a sermon is happening.” KB: “The intensity of it is like a possession. A good, spiritual thing. For me, speaking in my native tongue [Yoruba] is like channeling a part of me that the Western world can’t express. I sometimes feel like the English language fails me, and in the Western world not a lot of people speak my language or understand what I’m saying, so it’s connecting to my true self and expressing myself in a true way.” “Tell Somebody” AM: “It was so big, so epic that we just needed to be direct. The lyrics had to be relatable. It’s about having that balance. You have to really boil it down and think, ‘What is it I’m trying to say here?’ You have 20 lines and you cut it down to just five and that’s what makes it powerful. I think it might mean something different to everyone in the group, but I know what it means to me, through my experiences, and that’s what I was channeling. The more you lean into yourself, the more relatable it is.” “Geronimo” AM: “It’s talking about relationships: ‘Being a son, brother, uncle, father figure/I gotta survive and provide/My mama said, “You’ll never ever please your woman/But you’ll have a good time trying.”’ It’s relatable again, but then you have this nihilistic cynicism from Graham: ‘Nobody goes anywhere really/Dressed up just to go in the dirt.’ It’s a bit nihilistic, but given the reality of the world and how things are, I think you need the balance of those things. Jump on, jump off. It’s like: decide. You’re either hot or you’re cold. Don’t be lukewarm. You either go for it or you don’t. Then encapsulating all that within Geronimo, this Native American hero.” “Shoot Me Down” AM: “‘Shoot Me Down’ is definitely steeped in humanity. You’ve got everything in there. You’ve got the insecurities, the cynicism, you’ve got the joy, the pain, the indifference. You’ve got all those things churning around in this cauldron. There’s a level of regret in there as well. Again, when you lean into yourself, it becomes more relatable to everybody else.” “Ululation” KB: “It’s the first time we’ve ever used anyone else on a track. A really close friend of mine, who I call a sister, called me while we were making ‘Uluation’: ‘I need a place to stay, I’m having a difficult time with my husband, I’m really angry at him…’ I said if you need a place to chill just come down to the studio and listen to us while we work but you mustn’t say a word because we’re working. We’re working on the track and she started humming in the background. Alloy picked up on it and was like, ‘Give her a mic!’ She’s singing about gratitude. In the midst of feeling very angry, feeling like shit and that life’s not fair, she still had that emotion that she can practice gratitude. I think that’s a beautiful contrast of emotions.” “Sink Or Swim” AM: “It says a similar thing to what we’re saying on ‘Geronimo’ but with more panache. The music has that feeling of a carousel, you’re jumping on and jumping off. If you watch Steve McQueen’s Small Axe [film anthology], in Lovers Rock, when they’re in the house party before the fire starts—this fits perfectly to that. It’s that intensity, the sweat and the smoke, but with these direct lines thrown in: ‘Oh baby, won’t you let me in?’ and ‘Don’t always have to be so deep.’ Sometimes you need a bit of directness, you need to call a spade a spade.” “Holy Moly” AM: “It’s a contrast between light and dark. You’re forcing two things that don’t make sense together. You have a pop song and some weird beat, and you’re forcing them to have this conversation, to do something, and then ‘Holy Moly’ comes out of that. It’s two different worlds coming together and what cements it is the lyrics.” “Be Your Lady” KB: “It’s the perfect loop back to the first track so you could stay in the loop of the album for decades, centuries, and millenniums and just bask in these intricate parts. ‘Be Your Lady’ is a nice wave goodbye, but it’s also radical as fuck. That last line ‘Can I take 10 pounds’ worth of loving out of the bank please?’ I’m repeating it and I’m switching the accents of it as well because I switch accents in conversation. I sometimes speak like someone who’s from Washington, D.C. [where Bankole has previously lived], or someone who’s lived in the Southside of Edinburgh, and I sometimes speak like someone who’s from Lagos in Nigeria.” AM: “I wasn’t convinced about that track initially. I was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’” KB: “That’s good, though. That’s the feeling that you want. That’s why I feel it’s radical. It’s something that only we can do, it comes together and it feels right.”

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