Interview with guitarist Denis and vocalist Julien | By Janelle Jones
Montreal’s Hopeless Youth should maybe be called Dogged Determination after going quite the distance to get their music heard. Their first full-length, Disgust, has been released on Candlelight Records.
So you started this in 2012?
Denis: Originally, me and John [guitar] had tried starting it I think a couple years ago and then Julien tried starting a similar band but none of them ever panned out. Then pretty much me and John in summer of 2012 we decided to mesh [the two bands] together and see what would happen and we’ve just come up with this so far and it’s pretty good.
You had the EP out first and self-released it…
Originally we wanted to do this to have fun because we were all in a bunch of other bands at the time and we wanted something more to rock out and have a drink while doing it, and John just really liked the style and always wanted to play it. And pretty much that’s how it started and Anthony kinda stumbled his way in from showing up to all our practices and forced his way on bass. I’m not even sure how he got on bass.
Okay. [Laughs] Is this everyone’s full-time band now?
Yeah. Pretty much me, John and Yann have another band together that we do on the side for fun just for a couple shows a year. But for everyone this is the full-time band.
When was that EP out?
How’d you get with Candlelight?
We pretty much just wanted to see what’d happen and we sent out the EP to I think every record label we could come across and we were just going through old CDs and records and 7”s, even if it didn’t exist [anymore] we’d send it just to see what would happen. And Candlelight was the first one to hit us back and really wanted to put us out so we started talking to those guys and we seemed to get off on the right foot so we decided to go with them. It seemed like a good fit.
You think of some of the bands they’ve put out like Vision Of Disorder and Corrosion Of Conformity…
We were big VOD fans and pretty much like little schoolgirls [when we got on the roster]… I grew up listening to them and Orange Goblin and those are the kinds of bands that influenced us growing up, so to be on the same label as them is unreal.
That’s good to know though, that people can still send in demos. Sometimes we do interviews with labels and I’ll ask if they accept demos or listen to ones sent in and sometimes they say no. Weird. I guess sometimes it’s just word of mouth or if other bands on the label mention bands or seeing them live…
That’s what we thought too. Originally we thought we’d probably only do anything by playing live and I think John said, “Fuck it, let’s hand it out to everyone and see what everyone has to say about it.” I think we gave it to a bunch of websites and people we knew and everyone seemed to like it so we sent it to labels. We were kinda surprised they picked it up.
Were you working on the full-length before you got signed?
We got signed I think six months after we put out the EP so we weren’t even thinking about a new record at the time.
About this record, it’s really powerful. How long did it take you guys to write the material?
I think we wrote it over three or four weeks. It was more the recording and making the actual album come out that took a long time. For recording it took us probably a couple months for the whole process to be done and get what we were happy with to present it to the label. So we worked quite hard on it and it took a while to happen.
So I guess it was a different experience from when you recorded the EP.
Yeah, the EP we went in writing it more like me and John wrote a bunch of riffs that we thought were cool and at the time Anthony wasn’t in the band and neither was Yann, so it was just us three. We just mashed up cool riffs into songs. For this one everyone went home trying to write a full song and coming in with it and then going over it together and editing it.
I saw “Ghost” is the first single. How’d you pick that one to be the first thing you want people to hear?
Julien: That’s the first song we’d actually written for Disgust. It was a good song to show people.
Denis: We felt that represents [how we sound] live. We really like our EP but when we play it live it’s two different things. We really love distortion, and that kind of was lacking on the EP. The EP we thought sounded too clean. We never actually played a show before recording that EP. We’re still trying to find our sound. We like what we have now, we just wanna get it more dialed and more touched up. So for this we went in knowing what we like live. “Ghost” we thought was the best one, it was more brash, it just felt like us personally.
What influences the lyrics?
Julien: For the record every song essentially talks about what was going on in my life at that point. And I was trying to put that into words in a way that the reader could actually make out their own [interpretation]. He could read it and think it’s that even if it has nothing to do with what I was feeling while I was writing the song. I didn’t want to say it in a really obvious way.
About your artwork, you have this symbol you had on the EP and Disgust. Do you wanna get into who created that and the meaning to you?
Denis: Actually I came up with it because we were talking about what kind of imagery we wanted to represent us as a band. And I had this book that was a lot of ancient symbols and languages and I remembered this one language, medieval Runes. Basically it’s the letter H and Y put together.
You think about some of those iconic bands you see that logo, like Crass and Black Flag…
Julien: Yeah, exactly, a lot of iconic bands have a logo and you see that logo and you definitely know it’s that band, it represents them. That’s what we wanted to try to do with our own logo, so people will know; it’ll be obvious it’s us.
Denis: We basically wanted to do a t-shirt without putting our name on it and having it look good.
I was talking to a band from Canada recently and they were saying how hard it is to get into the U.S. It’s like you’re our neighbor! But I guess after 9/11 and especially when you’re in a band maybe they think something, I don’t know. They said it’s easier to go to Europe than here.
Denis: A lot of our friends from Canada, I wouldn’t say have given up on the States but are going less often just because Europe is so much easier. But a lot of times we get offered one-off shows and to actually get in there to play is such a hassle and you can sneak in but if you get caught you’re banned for pretty much the rest of the band’s life or you do it by the books and you’re losing like two grand or something for one show. So there’s really no sense. We don’t have that type of money to play it.
Do you guys all have jobs that you can easily take off for a couple of weeks to go on tour?
Denis: Some of us do have jobs we can come back to. The rest of the guys pretty much have to keep moving from restaurant to restaurant. That’s where it becomes a bit tricky. We wanna do it badly; it’s just trying to work out details like that. We all have rent to pay, we all have bills we have to pay. Most of us if we leave for a month and come back at least two of us won’t have a house.
It sounds a lot sadder than it is. It’s not that bad but when you’re starting out and new its’ difficult.
Is it coming out on vinyl too?
We’d love nothing more than for it to come out on vinyl. We all collect that and love that. Candlelight has said they’d put it out on vinyl but I’m not sure about the details.
Julien: We actually made a mastering of the album for CD and a mastering of the album for vinyl. I guess it’s different settings for the vinyl printing so everything is there we’re just waiting to hear more news about that from the label about exactly when it’ll come out. But we definitely want the album to come out on vinyl.
Yeah, sometimes I like talking to bands about the track order, I was thinking on vinyl “Faithless” would be the half-way point and would be a good point to turn it over, ending with that slower, really powerful part.Did you look at it that way when you were putting it together?
Denis: When we were putting the track list together that’s where we started bumping heads on, what to end on and where because I think we were looking more at the actual vinyl than the CD.
Can you talk a little bit about that song “Faithless?” That’s just one of my personal favorites…
Julien: Well thank you. “Faithless” was I think one of the last songs we’d written for the album. We just wanted to do something, not that different, but different with the middle part of the song. We wanted something really aggressive which is on every other song and still have a really nice atmospheric-type song.
Denis: We try to have fun writing and try to come up with different styles. We don’t wanna get stuck into how a lot of pop music is pretty much the same as being verse-chorus-verse-chorus and the last riff. We wanted to make it a little more challenging and have a little more fun with it. I think it came out really great.