The five-piece LA group known for their vocal harmonies return with a new album and a tour, visiting Leeds Stylus, 7 Nov, and Manchester Academy, 8 Nov. Ryan Hahn explains how they’ve evolved since their last visit to the UK.
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
We’re a band with multiple songwriters and we tend to pull from a pretty diverse set of influences. For Sunlit Youth we let a lot of new and different influences seep in. We’ve been into a lot more R&B, hip-hop and electronic stuff lately.
How have you evolved as a band over the years?
Our songwriting process has definitely evolved. It used to only be five of us in a room – two guitars, bass, keyboard and drums – and we’d write songs live in that arrangement. Now things are a bit more scattered.
Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
I think at one point Gorilla Manor was in the running for a band name. I’m pretty glad we named our first album that instead.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
We found ourselves in a really productive, exciting period creatively while making this record. We’re trying to stay in that mode even while we’re on tour. We’re having fun at soundchecks working on new songs and reimagining some of our older ones. I’ve also been working on a lot of sample-based beat stuff on my computer on the bus.
How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
Funnily enough, I think the fact that we’re a band of five guys who play live music together is, in itself, something that stands out from the crowd these days. At the end of the day, I am proud that we’re able to explore all sorts of production in the studio but still be able to run it through the live filter of the five us playing together. I think our chemistry as a band, the human element, is a special thing right now. Apart from that, you can’t try to concern yourself too much with what everyone else is doing. We just try to keep pushing ourselves into new places and to chase what excites us artistically.
What’s on your rider?
Nothing too wild. Besides the essentials, I think we have some coconut water and guacamole on there. Some stuff for making nicer cocktails. There’s been talk of putting some lottery scratch cards on there. The riders for Europe and the US are different. You just shouldn’t ask for guacamole in most of Europe, ha ha.
Tell us about your best and worst live shows.
Immediately what comes to mind for our worst show happened a few years ago when we were just getting started playing around LA. We had managed to catch the attention of a few booking agents and record labels and we had invited them all to come see us at this tiny club called Silverlake Lounge. We really built it up in our minds for it to be this momentous night in our career. But basically, in front of a packed house everything that could go wrong went wrong. Almost like a cruel joke, my amp broke, then Taylor’s amp broke. Then the bass amp went out. Then Kelcey forgot a bunch of the words. It was a train wreck and, needless to say, no one signed us after that night. Thankfully there’s been a lot of great shows and I’m not sure I can choose a favourite. The best ones are always the ones where the crowd is the most into it. If the audience is giving us as much energy back as we’re giving them then it just feels sort of spiritual.