Young Guns’ Simon Mitchell on the death of British rock, the American dream and moshing to Taylor Swift

It’s no secret that rock music is on the decline in Britain. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Radiohead are legends of our time, and could fill out a football stadium with their holograms. But despite this rich history and an influx of new bands, the genre has been forgotten.

None can attest to this more than British band Young Guns, after their rise to fame in America.

The five-piece ‘new wave’ band from Buckinghamshire and London have supported rock bands aplenty in their active six years: namely Enter Shikari, Bring Me The Horizon, and All Time Low, before signing for Virgin EMI records in 2014.

But arguably, their greatest accomplishment (with a tinge of ambivalence) arose with their single, Bones.

It reached number one in the US mainstream and rock charts, yet only managed to reach number 130 in the UK charts – an achievement that only tends to happen in a parallel universe.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that rock music is much bigger in the US,” says bassist Simon Mitchell, who is currently with Young Guns in America supporting Breaking Benjamin on their US tour.

“We play to a predominantly younger audience back in England, but here you get their parents showing up!

“We’re playing to three to five thousand people every night and it’s all sold out.

“It’s more accepted here as a style of music, so you have all of these rock festivals.

“We played at the Rock On The Range festival recently, and it was just the biggest ever. But it’s all rock – it’s huge.”

Rock music has been on a steady decline for years. Government funded Australian radio station, Triple J, compiled the genres of each song in their annual top 100 list.

Between 1993 to 2006, 50% of the charts were dominated by rock bands.

But in 2006, the proportion of rock dropped abruptly to 35.5% and the percentage continued to drop, falling to 12% in 2012 – demoralising to say the least, for an upcoming band.

Maybe to the people that have grown up listening to the genre in its multifarious forms, it was new, experimental, almost from nowhere and going somewhere – but now, electronica and pop have taken its place.

Simon however talked of the encouragement Young Guns – a name they may come to regret when they’re old and wrinkly – have received in the US, notably after meeting Slipknot guitarist, Jim Root.

“Like everything else in life [being in the band] can be extremely difficult at times,” said Mitchell, who joined the band in 2008.

“But a couple of years ago we were playing at Carolina Rebellion and we met Jim Root. He was extremely complimentary of the band.

“He said, ‘you should realise that it’s amazing that you came over to America, and to achieve something like you have from a UK band is really, really great. You should be proud of it!’

“And I was thinking wow? This is coming from Jim Root from Slipknot – and I was a huge Slipknot fan – so coming from him it was hugely encouraging and helped us realise that what we were doing was great.”

Saying all of this, Young Guns haven’t fared badly in the UK.

Their debut album, All Our Kings Are Dead, reached number three in the UK rock charts in 2010. And their second album, Bones, climbed to number two in 2012.

All of which suggests that their newest album, Ones and Zeros – set to be released on June 8 2015 – could be destined for a number one spot.

But what is the album about?

“From a lyrical standpoint, Ones and Zeros is about the interactions between humans in this digital age that we find ourselves in,” said Mitchell.

“1s and 0s are a core element of that communication between humans, or the lack thereof, so we thought the title was appropriate.”

Probably a reference towards binary code, but more importantly, a culture of digital distraction that inhibits human interactions.

Rock is about emotion, feeling – an expression of a confused generation.

Are we less interested in modern rock because we are numbed by the repetitive thumping of that 4/4 techno beat?

“People might not necessarily look that much into it, they’ll just see 1s and 0s.

“They can take it how they wish. People do read into it and think, but we don’t mind,” he said.

“More than anything it’s just really simple, really bold. We liked how it looked on the album.

On this particular album it’s less introverted and more about experiences that we’ve had as a band in the past three years, as well as our views on things.”

Young Guns are described as a new wave rock band with melodious, strong choruses by the shedload.

They’re comparable to The Killers and Lostprophets – musically that is. But amazingly, their taste in music is as eclectic as it gets.

Mitchell talks of the band’s love of Taylor Swift.

“We always play Taylor Swift before we go on stage,” admits Mitchell. “For some reason, Bad Blood by Taylor Swift is such a tune.

“It’s one of those tunes where you don’t have to take yourself too seriously and you can just dance.

“It gets us into a really good mood before we go on stage. People don’t expect it but we love pop just as much as we love rock, hip hop, and electronica.”

Apart from moshing to Shake It Off, or thrashing about to 22 before their gigs, the band have also been on the receiving end of some bizarre tour experiences.

“I signed a coconut the other day, which was a little weird,” said Mitchell.

“I’ve never had someone come over to me and say, ‘can you sign my coconut?’ I was like, er… alright I guess, sure? That was a little odd, but apart from that everything’s fine.”

Mitchell looked towards Young Guns’ upcoming performance in Manchester as part of their UK tour.

“Manchester shows are always great because for some reason, the Manchester crowd always have that extra energy. They always want to go wild,” he said. 

“We headlined at Manchester Academy last time and I remember the crowd being absolutely incredible. The crowd absolutely brought it.

“Right now all the focus is for Ones and Zeros, and as long as we can continue touring the world, writing music and keep doing what we’re doing already, then we’re happy!”

Young Guns will be performing at the Manchester Academy on Friday June 5. Tickets, initially priced at £13.75, can be found hereBring coconuts.

Image courtesy of Chloe Chaplin, with thanks.

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