Whenyoung, consisting of Aoife Power (Vocals/Bass), Andrew Food (Drums) and Niall Burns (Guitar), began their adventures in Limerick, Ireland while teenagers. Having met through sneaking into Costello’s Tavern, the tiniest, if not only, indie bar in their city, they bonded over a passion for alternative rock, the 60’s aesthetic and “cheap vodka". The trio have a curated image paying homage both to 60s visual art and modern alt-rock . Through their signing with Virgin EMI Records, the band have managed to turn their artistic passions into musical success. Recent performances include Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday celebration alongside the likes of Nick Cave, Bono and Imelda May.They’ve also supported Superfood, The Vaccines and Peace on their European tours. Strand Magazine were privileged to interview Whenyoung on their UK tour stop at the Boston Music Room.
Niall recalls that his inspiration came from The Libertines, “It was when I heard them that I bought a new guitar. My passion also came from bands such as The Smiths, The Strokes and The Clash.” Alternatively, Aoife found a love of music through a passion of art and style. “When I was in school I was obsessed with Andy Warhol. It was definitely a visual thing. It was tough shopping in Limerick where they didn’t really have anything besides River Island. We really tried to find outfits that were different. From there I got into The Velvet Underground. That whole scene was so appealing. It wasn’t too chic. Anyone could do it.” Aesthetic is a considerable part of the bands identity, known for their outlandish outfits and courageous use of bright and vivid colours. The gig at the Boston Music Room was no exception, dominated by strobes of blue, red and white. “Pretty Pure”, had been slapped onto the back of Niall’s white boiler suit in thick red paint, paying homage to one of their singles and indeed summing up their authenticity.
Whenyoung seem to inject their own quirk into the indie-pop genre. They are able to find their own, rather than drowning in a sea of dulcet tones and lyrics dripping with adolescent yearning. Discussing the accessibility of the London music scene, Niall suggests, “there is loads of competition but also loads of opportunity. If you stick to what you want to do, believe in it and work really hard then you can be successful.” This acted as a mantra for the trio as they moved to London, with limited expectations and merely fulfilling the desire to pursue their musical passion. Up until last year all three members had to work alongside making music: as gardeners, waiters and shop assistants. Niall recalls that he was, “working in a bookshop for five years in Camden. I was told that it was closing down and I lost my job. Surprisingly a week later we signed a record deal. Really weird.” When questioned about their “back up plan” if they failed to find success in the music industry. Andrew spoke for the group, “we didn’t have one. We were just going to keep on going.” The trio emanates a lack of pretension, which is refreshing. On stage their punky performance as a group feels organic, as we witness Aoife and Niall humbly facing each other, tuning and strumming with one another.
There is so much which enables Whenyoung to stand out from the ‘indie landfill’. A major element of this lies in the other-worldly pixie, dream girl vocals of Aoife. Her incredible vocal control allows her to soar from highs to lows and from fast to slow, whilst also remaining true to her beautiful Irish twang. At the gig, her range encompassed the defiance of punk, the sweet retro pop of the 90’s and even an a cappella rendition of an Irish folk song, all of which possessed strength and resonance intertwined with a sweet delicacy. With lyrics ranging from navigating life in an era shrouded by social media, to the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and the disparity in the treatment of individuals. Whenyoung remind us of the necessity for humanity in what is often a selfish and individualistic world. Aoife mentions that the lyrics, “feel pure and true coming from us. What we’re going through and feeling and hopefully others can relate because that’s what we seek in other people’s art. If people see a piece of art or read a book they can relate to, that’s why they love it. Maybe we can do that to.” And while I watched an audience full of young adults embracing, dancing and chanting the lyrics along with Aoife, it was clear that there was a true sense of mutual understanding; a unity formed in the turbulence of youth.