Before their electric gig in Leeds, I sat down with the 5-piece from Liverpool rapidly gaining momentum with their optimistic tracks, saturated lyrically with melancholy. Having released Home Is Where The Heart Is – another nostalgia-driven track, the boys explained how they’re reached their current musical mindset, and hint towards their plans for their future.
You’ve been around for about four years –
‘Call it three, maybe? Four sounds a bit long’
‘We can’t just lie, can we!’
‘Law of averages, three and a half.’
Stunning. So what have you learned since then?
‘That the music industry is very hard.’
‘Don’t write that!’ [laughter]
‘Nah we’ve learned lots. We hope that we’ve improved. A lot. Or written and learnt to write better songs and how to be better on stage, and how to be a better band. I think the thing about being an artist is you can always be better, even if you’re Arctic Monkeys I suppose. They’ve got things they want to improve on so, I think for us as long as we’re progressing and improving and setting our standards higher and higher, we’re happy.’
Do you still like your band name after this much time?
‘I do actually, yeah. it’s probably one of the best things about us. I do think a lot of people probably think, oh I wish we hadn’t called it that – I get like that a bit with song names. But, no I like the band name.’
‘Do you like the band name?’
‘I don’t understand it, to be completely honest …‘
‘Question number three!’ [laughter]
Well I didn’t just want to ask like, oh why is your band called Paris Youth Foundation!
‘There is a story isn’t there?’
‘Yeah I was in a Metro station in Paris and it was graffitied on the wall – in French, but I didn’t know what it was so I just put it in my phone, and a couple years later we needed a band name. And it was that or something really shit.’
With your new track; did you decide a direction for it or did you just go straight in and write it?
‘I don’t think so. I think we overthink everything to do with the band but probably not songs. I think that’s probably one thing we’re actually quite okay at. Because when it’s just you and four of your mates in a room, that’s probably what I enjoy the most. And, you know, when you’re playing music really loud you don’t really have time to overthink it. Sometimes we will say like, you know that needs shortening, but I think there are aspects we analyse and overthink far too much – and it might hurt us. But as far as songs come I think it’s quite natural. If it works it works; if it doesn’t it doesn’t.’
We wanted to go on love island and didn’t get it.
Do you think a lot about your image as a band?
‘I don’t think we – it’s just dark colours isn’t it?’
‘Black, light black.’
‘Light black? What colours that?’ [laughing].
‘To be fair there was one photo shoot – the label said you need a little bit of colour.’
‘So on the day – [laughing]’
‘Yeah, red t shirt –’
‘Yeah, we do then. Not as much as some. Like, you know Sundara Karma have gone all eyeliner and all that, it’s not that far but I think we do.’
You did a piano version of Hold Onto Your Heart, and that was really beautiful – what made you decide to do those piano sessions?
‘Uh, the real honest truth is that –’
‘Which you won’t print!’ [laughing]
‘- is there was a possibility that our publisher was pitching for Love Island. But our songs were too heavy so she said we should put them – transpose them on to piano. So we did it. Never got love island.’
‘This was from the past love island as well so they’ve had a chance.’
[Laughing] ‘Yeah – on the new ones.’
‘But what’s our real answer?’
‘That’s the real answer. That’s a good answer. We wanted to go on love island and didn’t get it.’
Do you tend to prefer your old music or your new material?
‘I think every band on the planet says new, don’t they. It’s just better isn’t it. I just think everyone thinks that though; it might not be. Arctic Monkeys always have to play Dance Floor don’t they, but I’m sure they like Casino a lot better.’
‘We enjoy playing the new stuff but at the same time Losing Your Love, everyone knows it. You’d rather play a song the crowd knows than a new song that no one knows. Part of its – obviously I’ve just come in a bit sooner, I love playing the old stuff because I’ve not been playing it as long.’
‘It’s the crowd reaction, isn’t it.’
Would you change anything about the old songs?
‘A couple of them. I guess most bands get to a point where they start really despising certain songs – so we get asked for a few songs on tour and we’ve barred people from ever talking about them sort of thing. People say, well why didn’t you play blah blah and that sort of thing and we say, you know, we want to be successful.’
‘And sometimes it isn’t even the music. Jessica for example is a good song but just like, the way it came out, there were so many issues and it’s just spoilt it for us. So we just shut it out of our minds.’
‘So I guess there are certain old songs we would change. Or go back in time and not write.’ [laughter]
There’s a really high level of honesty to all your songs; do you ever regret this?
‘A few times. Yeah they are very, very honest actually. But I think if you try and write stuff, especially about heartbreak and stuff, you can’t fake it. Cause I don’t think anybody – you know if you’re not being honest with the listener, why should they care? All of the songs that we all grew up loving, especially the sad ones that we go towards, they’ve all been really honest.’
‘The chords and lyrics are Kev, and then he’ll bring it to band and we’ll sort of –’
‘Spoil it.’ [laughing].
‘Make it noisy.’
Are you ever gonna write a happy song?
[All laughing, for quite a while. At this point their manager cut in to say, ‘I’ve been saying that for years.’].
‘From your point of view do you go, oh fucking hell this guy needs to change his tune?’
Well no, because they do sound really happy, it’s just when you look at the lyrics – it is quite melancholic.
‘That’s what I think we’ve – well for a few years now I’ve always said that we’d try and write sad songs, but that you can dance to. And they’re really fast, upbeat, major-key indie songs really, but I didn’t wanna sing about how great everything is and that the suns out … which works, but I just don’t really think I can do that. I think what I can do is write about desperation and stuff. To be honest I can’t write happy song. I can’t do it.’
‘‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ – that isn’t sad. That’s probably on the cusp of slightly less desperate.’
Finally, is there an album coming this year?
‘Yes. There’s no date set yet; the idea is single, single, single – see how the singles do. Basically if they flop then –’
‘Don’t write what he just said! It will be out this year though.’
Hearing such sorrowful tracks, and seeing them play in uniforms of black t shirts and jeans, you might expect a pretentious band. However, Paris Youth Foundation are easy-going, playful, and happy to tease each other and laugh at their process as a band. Keep an eye out for their 2020 album, and their slots at numerous festivals this summer.