A front row seat to Blood Youth’s festival day on and off stage
It’s dark and a few people gather around one decently sized stage, beer in hand. We are at Le Transbordeur, in Lyon (that’s in France) and this is the clubstage (understand: The smaller stage in the room/bar next to the mainstage of the venue)
A bunch of young people are busy setting up the stage and doing the necessary checks. While everything on stage seemed ordinary, my eyes couldn’t help noticing the one man pacing nervously everywhere: along the bar, on the stairs warming up vocals, on stage, off stage, on the stairs again and fiddling with his water bottle. This is Kaya Tarsus, who fronts a band called Blood Youth. The other protagonists? Sam Hallett (drums), Chris Pritchard (guitar) and Max Dawson on bass duty. Also appearing : Cameron Farrell (tour manager), photographer Grant Macdonald (he documents pretty much everything this band is doing) and of course Longlive Rockfest’s devoted team.
Blood Youth are the guys who played a successful set at Download festival in Donington last year, shortly after forming, with no music out. Had Download spotted the potential already?
“Within three months being a band, we played Download. I Still got shivers” recalls Kaya. “When we walked out on stage, the whole tent was packed […] it was crazy. It’s those moments…”
The Harrogate boys did all these cool things like touring with Beartooth and Architects and also playing a ridiculous number of shows. The crowds always give them a warm welcome, their rise is clear and it makes them exciting.
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If you’re even half serious about your band, it won’t take you long to notice that it’s first a lot of work. One year ago, Blood Youth were a new name in the British musical landscape. They had only played a handful of shows and released a solid EP called ‘Inside My Head’. What happened next is just a succession of little milestones: a short summer run with Architects, Download festival appearance, the release of sophomore EP ‘Closure’, Slam Dunk festivals and a few shows with Every Time I Die recently.
Showtime in 3h15min
When I first join the group, the guys are sitting in a tiny dressing room in France, gathering with serious faces around a handful of papers – performance contracts if I’m correct. See, even music is a pretty serious business. “Treat them well!” tells me Cameron before leaving me with ¾ of the band. There’s that whole discussion on who is doing what now. In fact, Blood Youth have only arrived to the festival site around an hour ago. According to the schedule, which is now hanging next to the mirror, they are not playing until 6:45pm. There is clearly some off time, but there’s never “nothing to do”. The guys are tired, but they’re in a surprisingly good mood. It only tells me I’ll be spending some time with chilled people. Good.
“It’s gonna be really cool and we love being on the same line up as really cool bands […] I really like Landscapes. We’ll try to check as many bands as we can. Roam as well, of course” notes Kaya, who is standing against one of the dazzling orange walls of the room.
“I wanna see Trash Boat and Lonely The Brave, as well”
As chance would have it, the gentlemen sharing the dressing room with Blood Youth today are no others than Lonely The Brave. We heard earlier they preferred having a walk in a nearby park, rather than staying indoors the whole time. But they also have to do press, so we all agree on leaving the room to give them more space. Chris yet takes the chance of meeting them to mention how he enjoys their music that he discovered on TV. He doesn’t want to miss their performance. Spoiler alert: they won’t play Victory Line, but at least Pritchard is warned.
Now it’s time to leave, beer in hand for some, and it’s not a problem after all, because merch needs to be set. Outside, at the “market area” of the festival, right next to Trash Boat’s table. Another band on the rise in the UK right now, who happen to have toured already with Blood Youth. As Chris and Max stop by the clubstage for their set, they don’t hesitate a second to bother James Grayson while he’s playing. Trash Boat and Blood Youth are good friends. At the merch stand, Cameron and Sam join again and keep themselves busy. While they set up everything, everyone else is happy to be able to chat with friends and sip some beer.
“France has always been cool to us”, says Chris “We played in Bordeaux and Nantes last year…”
Not so many bands – let alone newcomers – get to play big cities in France. They know it. So Kaya simply mentions that the shows they had played in the country with Architects were crazy.
“Obviously when we got asked to come back to France, we were like hell yeah!”
Their presence here results from their early success. For Blood Youth, it has something to do with the fact that their band has an approach of doing meaningful music they like and having fun. “You got to do it and have fun with it”, “I mean this is what’s real with this genre.”
The four of them’s previous experiences before Blood Youth gave them a lot of comparison material on how to handle things, and on what they really want now. “We fell under a lot of pressure to write songs [before] and it’s definitely not like that with Blood Youth.” It is also obvious that their vision of this business is mature; they’re growing as people, and also as professional musicians. Thus, allowing them to find the right balance within the band and everything that surrounds it. “There was a lot of freedom when we were writing as well, because […] we just go with that mentality where we’re like “let’s just write songs that WE like”, adds Kaya. This is a band that is not scared to do their own thing and it’s good that people like it. “We’re not gonna be scared to do a song that’s really, really heavy and we’re not gonna be scared to do a song that’s really melodic […] That pretty much sums up us, as a band where we write songs that we like.”
Showtime is approaching and the band members start busying themselves again, first walking around the venue, sometimes stopping by the clubstage to check what’s going on and often times hanging out backstage again to get ready or grab the occasional food.
Being in a band can also be physical, if you ask me, between carrying heavy stuff and running everywhere possible. We’re not even sat for two minutes that it’s already time to go to the car park and proceed to load in.
For the rookies here, Load in = The time during which musicians start carrying all their gear into a venue for a show. The time should be pre-arranged and schedule is tight, especially for busy events like this festival. What usually follows next is soundchek, so better be on time! Pro tip : Pack your van well. Blood Youth know their stuff and they even have extra minutes at the van before moving it at the entrance of the venue to proceed. A precious time during which the band members pick their drummer’s outfit for the show. This time, I’ll have the honor to do it and – ladies and gentleman – Sam Hallett performed Longlive Rockfest in a black “muscle tee” (is that what you call it??), with pink print.
Joking aside, it’s time to carry all the gear inside the venue and pile it in the dedicated area right next to the stage where the band will be performing. That’s when things start to heat up. For the first time of the day, these moments before soundcheck and stage time will be spent individually, each one of the musicians concentrating with methods of their own, stretching or even collecting their breath. The Earl Grey have just finished their set and the room is empty again: it’s time to set the stage.
Showtime in 20min
“I think we just get a little bit anxious, especially with that Electric Ballroom show [editor’s note : with Beartooth last year], I remember being in the dressing room and we were all like [breathing heavily]. We weren’t even nervous.
– About 10 minutes before getting down we were actually pretty nervous.” corrects Chris, laughing.
Somehow, I can feel a slight tension slipping through and enveloping the whole team, tour manager and photographer involved. Every tiny little detailed is supposed to be adjusted, but even with that, unfortunate disruptions can occur. Sam will spend most of the set trying to play on drums trying to slip through his fingers, despite Cameron’s several interventions, which will even cause him an injured finger. That’s also what it takes to be in a band. Everyone else handles things professionally, though, (or doesn’t notice?) and the quality of the set isn’t affected by any of it. Honestly, Sam himself doesn’t show much and that’s honourable.
Not so many people show up, but the few in attendance are definitely having a good time. Blood Youth open angrily with the strong 24/7 and switch between tracks off the two Eps the band has released so far. Piece By Piece, Mood Swing, Dead Space, Closure and Failure follow and there’s not even a minute during which anyone seems bored. Tarsus decides to go further during his performance, leaving the stage to go into the “pit” to spend a few minutes with the audience.
“I’m so tired but it was so great! Some people were singing the lyrics!” marvels the singer, after the show, as the band is once again on a carrying-stuff duty. In fact, it’s already time to load out gear, which is basically the same process, the other way around.
Live performances must shape up the band’s music, in some regards: “Sometimes, the way I write a song is because I think it’s gonna be sick and fun to play live as well and that’s what I can take out in a performance”, reflects Chris, before adding that it’s because it’s something that he always has in mind because it takes into account both aspects of listening and performing.
The performance and the way fans reacted to the music made me realize that Blood Youth have the ability to sound both accessible and relatable. And that goes beyond the quality of their releases alone.
Furthermore, the smoothness of the records and how everything seems so effortless from their side, has probably something to do with the solid bond between the four of them. When you create and play music together, it is important to make sure you do it with people you feel good with. It is important to not feel any kind of negativity and it starts with the sort of relationship you develop with your fellows. Luckily for our Northeners, it seems that what links them is solid. For various reasons, they don’t like spending time in the studio. But being all in the same room for days isn’t really what bothers them. Just as losing their mind for countless hours in the van won’t always bring tension between them, only collective madness. Spider webs can make them laugh and they like to drink Jäger (especially when it’s free!), and Kaya and Chris even say similar things in chorus. So when they say that all the songs on ‘Closure’ were “fresh songs that came out real quick”, rather than songs that didn’t make the cut to the first EP, I won’t doubt it.
“When we finished ‘Inside My Head’, we definitely got to a point where we wanted to do probably another EP before we did any sort of album and when we finished ‘Inside My Head’, it kinda felt like it – hard on the pun – needed some Closure!” excites the singer. At this point of the day, he allows himself to indulge with some alcohol (he did not drink before playing.) Longlive Rockfest turned into a gigantic playground where the guys walk pretty much everywhere nonstop, enjoying some music (Lonely The Brave, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!) or hanging out with some mates (hello Roam!) before they leave. Blood Youth have to get back on the road early that day (9:30pm), to drive up north to a hotel in France, before crossing the channel the next day. It’s not always fun, it’s not glamourous, it’s not an easy life.
“It takes a lot of patience. No security, no finance”, acknowledges Chris Pritchard, before Max balances things : “But it’s just life, isn’t it? You’ve just got to take risks and do things.” The bass player is sitting a bit further back and speaks calmly. He doesn’t speak much, but he always does it accurately.
“You know, we wanted to wrap up that era with Blood Youth with just two Eps, that’s why we did also similar artwork […] this is one stage and this is the next stage.”, mentions Kaya, reflecting on the future. A future where another record will see the light, although from their perspective, as much as they love creating, recording isn’t the most exciting part of the process.
“I don’t enjoy recording.” states Chris. “It’s pretty fun when you get out on stage with this band. Studio is more of a time limited thing, which obviously puts a lot of stress on everyone’s heads. You know you have so many songs and you barely got 5 or 4 days to do it and that’s when real stress kicks in.”
“Love writing, hate recording”, Kaya adds. “I did most of the Closure recording the vocals in like a day and a half. Obviously it’s not one huge take. You’ve got to do the lines over and over and over again. But then you get to perform and that’s the best bit.”
The sun is setting gently in Lyon and we are pretty satisfied with how this day turned out — for different reasons, I assume. The guys start packing their merch, this very place where they had people come check out their stuff, ask for photos or for an autograph. There were also more unique requests such as this girl wearing a shirt that says “I prefer the drummer” and asked the drummers she met to sign it – to which Sam kindly obliged. Despite the tiredness, the blood youth boys go for a few more drinks, before heading back to the dressing room where they finish packing their belongings. In a corner of the room, Grant has already started editing his photos of the day, which Kaya quickly checks out to find out which one will -probably- make the cut to his social media.
This day at Longlive looks like it was equally satisfying for them, and it was only the beginning of all the exciting events they had lined up after it. Starting off with Slam Dunk a few weeks later, but also the release of their double EP on vinyl, the past few weeks have been quite eventful for the band. In fact, to celebrate this release, which is basically their two EPs gathered on only one record, Blood Youth were gearing up to play their first ever In-store show, at the already infamous Banquet Records in Kingston.
It was the only place that physically sold the vinyl, since they released ‘Inside My Head’ and for them, it was a way to “support places that support you”, which precisely matches the mentality within the band they kept mentioning throughout the day. Max highlights the fact that this is a place where they have history, especially as far as he’s concerned: “I went to university in Kingston, and I used to go and buy records every day and spend money I shouldn’t spend on it. I got really good friends with the people running it. and then I left uni to join the band. And now we’re playing banquet, so for me it’s a bit of a mad circle.” While they thought maybe 3 people would make it to this show at the time we discussed the event, the tiny place was actually decently filled and Blood Youth did well.
Shows with Every Time I Die, who are quite some legends in their genre, followed suit. Lovely way to start the summer, isn’t it?
“We want take this as far as we can. We set no limit as a band, with anything we do, with music, with playing shows. We’ll take it as far as we can. When someone starts a job – like if you’re working in a bank or something you don’t wanna be an accountant your whole career, you want to be the bank manager. So that’s how I see this band. Everything works in levels. We’ll probably set a few benchmarks. For example Warped Tour”, explains Kaya. Chris Pritchard agrees, additionally bringing this idea of traveling the world and playing music to people who haven’t heard it before, to the table. He sees this as a goal for his band.
This is also where our paths diverge and Blood Youth now have to drive again for a few (long) hours to their F1 Hotel, somewhere near the English Channel. Spending so much time in the van sometimes makes them lose their minds so much that it all becomes “just like a weird dream.” For now, this is definitely not a weird dream, because there will come another chapter and as the guys put it themselves:
“Something else is around the corner.
Learn more about Blood Youth :
On Blood Youth’s Evolution, Closure, And Everything In Between
More photos will be published soon.