Gang of Youths frontman Dave Le’aupepe on honesty, tragedy and making something real

Gang of Youth’s Dave Le’aupepe doesn’t want to make shit that sounds trite. 

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John Tsiavis

He’s the kind of musician that is totally impassioned by his craft and is not satisfied making anything less than absolutely authentic music.
That’s why he let the band’s forthcoming sophomore album gestate for a good two years before he let it out into the world. Written sporadically between New York, Los Angeles and Sydney since 2015, Go Farther In Lightness is a mammoth 78-minute effort from the Australian indie-rock juggernauts that is a true outpouring of emotion.
“We weren’t trying to be cool with [the album] because we’re not cool,” says Le’aupepe. “I just had some shit on my mind and some shit on my heart and some sad things that have happened to me in the past two years that I wanted to talk about.
“If you’re looking for something cool, or for festival bangers, then this record is decidedly not for you. But if you’re looking for something that makes you feel a little more human, then I’d say give it a shot.”
But while trying to lay bare such intense emotions on the record, the singer/songwriter laments that it was some pretty drastic writer’s block that meant he couldn’t produce the kind of substance that he wanted for a long time. This album was certainly a tough nut to crack.
“I had a lot of trouble trying to squeeze these ones out,” he says. “I’m not short of inspiration, I’m just short of ways to articulate it. Sometimes it’s hard when I’m trying to deal with so much emotion, or a tragedy, or a moment in my life that seems transformative. Sometimes I don’t know how to portray it in a way that’s ultimately beautiful. Sometimes I just have no fucking clue.”
But while it might have been frustrating for him, ultimately it’s Le’aupepe’s commitment to making such raw and honest music – particularly with his lyricism – that is no doubt what continues to keep crowds coming back for more of Gang of Youths. You can’t fake that.
Keep Me In The Open, a recent taste taken from the record, is a prime example of the songwriter’s absolute craftsmanship. It’s a slow burning, tug-at-your-heartstrings ballad that completely embodies Le’aupepe’s talent for beautifully injecting such intensity into his music.
“That song is about the collapse of a very important relationship in my life. It was formative for me to recognise that the way it turned out was ultimately not how it should have,” he says. “But I needed to come to terms with the reality that I deserved more than what I was being given and I think it [the lyric, “I deserve better than this”] is a maxim that we can all repeat to ourselves.”
Go Farther In Lightness, like other GOY material, is an honest reflection of some of the most significant moments in Le’aupepe’s life. It’s his hope that by sharing his own experiences of tragedy and healing so openly in his music, he might be able to help his audience in their healing process too. But with each track being such an emotional and onerous effort for the singer to produce, when I probe him to choose his favourite song from the record, he tells me it’s just too hard.
“I worked too fucking tirelessly on this thing to be able to pick just one,” he laughs.
“This is my job and I pour my heart and my soul into my job. It really is my life, my livelihood, and it’s a way for me to be able to express my deepest and darkest thoughts and hopefully to help people. As corny as it sounds, it really is a blood, sweat and tears kind of thing.”
Soon after the album’s release, the band is set to step away from their new home in New York to showcase the offering on home soil. It’s something the frontman admits he is quite nervous about, because Australia’s reaction to the record truly means so much to him and the group.
“I’m fucking terrified of the home crowd reaction to be honest,” Le’aupepe says. “But who doesn’t like playing to a home crowd? It’s awesome, and we really owe Australia everything.”
Gang of Youths will then take Go Farther In Lightness to Europe and the UK for a spin, and it’s an opportunity that the band still can’t believe they get to do. They are by no means a band that has forgotten where they came from, and it’s this authenticity in their attitude, as well as their music that also continues to draw them so much local and international praise.
“I thought that as a poor kid from Sydney who came from nothing, I would never have gone to some of these places, and now, low-and-behold, I am,” says Le’aupepe. “But we’ve built something that allows us to go and see the world, to embrace people, and to attempt to make a difference in their lives through the thing that we love doing most, and we are so fucking grateful for that.”

Gang of Youths will release Go Farther In Lightness On Friday August 18 via Mosy Recordings/Verge via Sony Music. Theyll play Festival Hall on Wednesday September 6 with support from Gordi and Fountaineer.