Words & pics by Ed King
The Courtyard is covered in cables. I walk through The Rainbow fire doors into a squall of mic stands, monitors, guitar cases and flex; the furrowed brows of sound engineers directing people and equipment one way or another. I am obviously not in Young Kato.
Floating around like busy islands, the five members of Young Kato are unpacking (or possibly packing, I’m not ‘technical’) their tour kit and setting up for tonight’s gig. I look around and recognise Joe Lever’s face and Tommy Wright’s hair, the latter tiptoeing through the obstacle course to extend a hand over the carnage. “It’s all our pleasure, we love doing things like this.”
Young Kato formed in 2011 and have spent the past four years gigging, touring, appearing on the odd TV show or festival stage, then gigging some more. Tonight is “day five, or six..?” in an 18 date UK tour – which started out in Cardiff, “a tough place if you’re not sitting pretty on radio play listings or you’re not a local band,” and culminates in “the home town show for us” at Gloucester’s Guild Hall on May 2nd. The day after the Gloucester finale sees the duel release of their debut album, Don’t Wait Tomorrow, and the LP’s lead single, ‘Children of the Stars’. It’s a busy time for Young Kato.
“It’s been great because we’ve got a good mix of old and new,” explains Tommy Wright – about the set list for their headline, album promoting tour. “But we do say on stage, ‘thanks for your patience with the new songs’. We’re a band who likes to craft hooks and melodies, and grow toplines as much as we can, because that’s kind of the way in which we write music. We like it to be a communal thing, for people to get involved.”
Young Kato are arguably a home spun success, with their constantly extended arms of social media and live shows nurturing an audience who are not afraid to join in. But on the cusp of eleven new tracks being released, how have their established supporters responded?
“We understand when people are at a gig and the band are playing a few new songs, if you don’t know them, it can take a while to get into,” says Joe Lever, “but people have been coming up to us after the gigs and saying ‘I loved the new songs’, and ‘I can’t wait for the album’ which is what it’s all about at this stage I guess.
“We released that (Sunshine EP) last summer, the end of August/September, and we’ve not had a chance to see it live in the way which we’d like,” continues Wright, “we did a support tour and a few sporadic dates, but we’d never actually played it to a headline crowd. Then we walk out (in Cardiff) and on the first verse of ‘Ultra Violet’ people are singing along. We’ve never had that feeling before.
Young Kato’s debut album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is an unashamed summer soundtrack in the making. Gloriously ‘Balearic’, as copywriters would once have proudly declared, its lead single is even called ‘Children of the Stars’. Somebody get perfecto on the phone. But what steered a band, who were busy being born in the early 90’s, towards an homage of the second summer of love?
“We didn’t write the album as a whole collectively,” says Wright, “we didn’t think all the tracks would intertwine, we just wanted eleven big songs. The biggest songs we could write by six lads from Cheltenham; a big, Pop feel, 80’s kind of thing.
It wasn’t like a concept album, each song we approached with a different mindset. So with ‘Children of the Stars’ that acted as a bit of a time portal, where we could go back and be children again – that’s the vibe that we went for with that.”
“We’ve been working on it for 3-4 years now,” adds Lever, “so our song writing and understanding of music has come on a lot since the first song we wrote. I was probably about 16 when we wrote ‘Drink, Dance, Play’. Now we’ve all got older, listened to different music and broadened our influences – which I guess reflects on the album.”
Recorded in stages, from the initial 70% to a final six day writing bender in “what can only be described as a shed, in an abandoned golf resort in Devon,” Young Kato’s debut album will be reassuring news for a patient fan base. And with Dan Grech commandeered to produce, having worked across the board from Lana Del Ray to Moby, did the band have a specific direction in mind once they started recording?
“We actually have three different producers on the album,” tells Wright, “Dan Grech was that first 70%, so there’s six songs on the 11 track album that he recorded. Then we went with Paul Stanborough who had been shadowing Guy Chambers through the whole Robbie Williams thing. He has a great ear for Pop music; we wanted to write mature songs but with that Pop feel to it so we found it worked well with him.”
And producer No3? “At the last minute we wrote a song called ‘Runaway’ and we felt there was only one person we wanted to record it, Peter Miles. He’s done lots of alternative acts, bands we know and love; with his authentic feel we thought we’d get something brilliant out of it.”
Embarrassingly for my ego and ears, after listening to Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow a fair few times, I didn’t notice the change of hands – a swing/miss Tommy Wright seems happy I made. “It’s good that you don’t realise it,” says Wright, “in a way, as we wanted it to be one whole journey. We know all the little details they (producers) have individually, but it’s great that you as the listener didn’t realise.”
Time is catching up on us; Young Kato’s tour manager comes into the room needing to “cut down the guestlist. It’s going to be a busy one tonight.” The rest of the band follow suit and names start being suggested, saved and shelved – with Joe Lever’s home town becoming a more prominent point of discussion. Once again, the Young Kato machine grinds into action.
I sneak in a final question about life beyond the tour. “We’ve been confirmed for Kendal Calling,” says Tommy Wright, “and the Isle of White festival – which confirmed yesterday. We just want to play as much as possible.” A reassuring statement from a band with an already full calendar.
But with the sound, feel and ambition behind Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, a strong festival summer feels more like the turning point for Young Kato. “And our agents are still working,” continues Wright, “hopefully, tirelessly, to get us as many (festival gigs) as possible – especially with an album out. We’ll play any festival that comes our way.”
Not a bad idea lads. And I leave Young Kato staring at lists on a computer, wrestling with one of the more positive problems you can encounter on tour.
Don’t Wait ‘til Tomorrow is set for release on 3rd May 2015. For more form Young Kato, visit http://www.youngkato.com/