You The Living

You The Living Terry Tyldesley
You The Living Terry Tyldesley
You The Living @ Number 3 London Terry Tyldesley
You The Living Terry Tyldesley
You The Living Terry Tyldesley
You The Living Terry Tyldesley
Fender Jaguar Special HH Kitmonsters
Novation Launchkey 49 Kitmonsters

You The Living make compelling darkwave music that fuses post-punk, electronic and cinematic vibes. Their huge guitar sound works brilliantly live, and their tunes have caught the eye of plenty of critics. You The Living are Aidan James Stevens - vocals, guitar, synth, programming, percussion, and Natasha Stevens - vocals, synth, samples, programming, percussion. Their compelling debut album XXXI is out now on Obscure Alternatives Music, and they showed us round their favourite gear, including jaw-dropping DIY instruments.

Hometown:
London
Debut:
2013
Homepage:
www.facebook.com
Twitter:
@you_the_living

You The Living

Dark post-punk electronic

You The Living make giant complex tracks that penetrate deep, and hypnotise. They fuse massive guitar sounds, synths, layers of atmospheric noise and vocals that are often whispered. Aidy told us more about what he is trying to do.

I try to be a mix of beautiful and ugly, of very aggressive and ethereal and dreamy all at the same time because I love shoegaze and I love post-rock but what frustrates me about those genres is that they can be too nice, they can be too pleasant. It’s mostly like a glass of water, you know, a cool refreshing splash of absolutely nothing in particular. It doesn’t make you feel anything, at least anything of any kind of real emotional depth besides woah, this sounds big.

Natasha relates their sound to some of their favourite artists.

I always say we’re like a mix between the Cocteau Twins and Einsturzende Neubauten, I love that abrasive sound but we also like to be quite dreamy and wishy-washy - Head Over Heels by the Cocteau Twins is our favourite album and you know we’ve tried to kind of put our own spin on things.

Songs from a bleak time

Their work is very cinematic, brooding, and emotional. That’s no accident - a lot of the songwriting was informed and inspired by a bleak period when Aidy was very ill, says Natasha.

We couldn’t even do a gig. As Aidy’s health deteriorated we couldn’t do anything, we couldn’t even go out of the house, it just gave him a lot of time to write the music and it got increasingly darker and darker and darker. I would say that last year was the worst year of my life.

But that difficult time battling illness made Aidy intensely focused, and he wrote and recorded a whole album.

If I started writing a song and I didn’t feel it was up to scratch I would abort it straight away. That’s why this album has no B-sides, it’s the eleven songs that I recorded and they are the best ones of the lot - it had to be the best album I could possibly record given the equipment and the facilities I had.

Songwriting

That equipment was compact - including an iPhone, iPad and GarageBand, but the resulting layered sounds are intense. Aidy talked us through his songwriting process.

Sometimes I’ll be sat with my guitar and I’ll come up with a riff and I’ll write everything around that, sometimes I’ll be sat on the iPad and I’ll play with the synth and I’ll come up with something. It generally comes from an idea, when I’m jamming, I mean I’ll flesh that out, or there’ll be a mood that I want to convey. Sometimes I write the lyrics first, sometimes I write the music first. Especially when I was sick, I was really trying to convey a mood of desperation.

You The Living Kitmonsters

Natasha says that things have really turned around since then though, with a string of great gigs under their belt, and support from critics.

He got better in October and since then it’s really given us a new lease of life and we made a lot of changes in our life. I mean, I wake up every morning and I’m so happy to be awake and I’m so excited to see every day and to know that everything is fine.

Natasha and Aidy are married - and got hitched to the sound of Stagger Lee. She says she tried to persuade him for ages to quit his previous band, and strike out in a new direction. Eventually he started You The Living, enlisting her as his bandmate. Natasha and Aidy both sing. She knew how to play cello but had to pick up synth playing very quickly and is experimenting with bass now too, as it’s a key part of the sound.

It’s always been extremely important to me that the bass sounds huge but tight and focused and very dirty as well.

Kitmonsters

DIY instruments and trains

You The Living make some of their own instruments and and use some pretty unusual gear, including a vibrator. Aidy told us about how crucial certain sounds are to him, and his multi-layered approach.

One thing that’s really important to me is that I’ve always loved trains and I’ve always wanted to convey, not just actual train sounds, but the ambience of railways and railway architecture. I wanted it to sound like Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s sounding arches in Maidenhead. I want it to have the vastness, the screeching, the clanking, everything that I’ve always loved about trains since I was a kid, I wanted to convey that through the music. And a lot of people who really love trains are really into our music, and haven’t even heard the songs that have got trains in them like ‘31’ and ‘Sleeper’.

We go in-depth with them about their more DIY and eclectic kit here.

“We really try not to be a laptop band”

Now Aidy is a lot better they are back to regular gigging.

I go crazy onstage I give it all my energy, and Natasha is stoic and angry-looking and people say she’s like the female Ron Mael. And people come up after the gigs and go ‘Oh my god Natasha, your stage presence is so amazing’.

I used to be really concerned about how I played the songs live but that kind of fell away as I started recording more of the album. It’s always been important to me that when we play them live they feel live but towards the end of recording the album, when I was recording these massive, epic tracks like ‘Grief’ and ‘Rituals’ I was just throwing everything in the kitchen sink into it. So the whole idea of it being a live band was less important to me because I’d gone through phases of wanting to get other members in, and then wanting to keep it the two-piece which I think suits us really well.

We really try to not be a laptop band even though we are pretty much a laptop band. So we try to play everything as organically as we can. And I think the only real way to kind of get what we want is to have pretty much absolute control over everything.

You The Living @ Number 3 London Kitmonsters

I love Failure - not actually failing, but the band - Ken Andrews has a mixer onstage where he controls everything and I thought, if they can do it and it works well for them then we should be doing the same thing. We’ve a very similar approach to sounds and sonic spaces even though our instruments are very different. It’s more conveying a mood rather than conveying our performances.

We’re quite different to a lot of bands in that we’ve a silent stage, we don’t use any amps, the sound’s usually very unusual. So the guitar sounds are not guitar sounds, they’re something between guitar, bass, synth, piano, and you can’t really EQ them the same way as you could a regular guitar. Or a bass or whatever. Natasha’s synth sounds weave in and out of our mix.

The Little Grey Gerbil Test

Aidy and Natasha have two gerbils - they’ve nearly featured on a track, but mainly act as a form of quality control!

We tried to use our gerbils chirping on a track, but this was a bit too happy for our songs. They have an impact on our songs - we have the Little Grey Gerbil Test where whenever we finish a song we show them to the gerbils and if they stand up on their hind legs inquisitively and chirp and get all excited, it’s a good song and we keep it, otherwise we bin it. And every single one of our songs has passed this test. But half of them we chucked away because they didn’t.

Visuals and design

The band’s visuals play a very big part in their work, and Natasha creates and designs them.

I don’t want it to just be OK we’re a band and this is what we look like, I want it to be a whole world - everything incorporates together in this world that I created that’s black and white and very visually striking. Even from the very beginning, down to our logo - it’s not some shitty writing like they do with metal bands where it looks like they just chucked a pile of twigs on the ground. I want to do a lot of collaborations with designers, either jewellery or clothing to do customized stuff for You The Living.

Natasha’s dad is a rock photographer and she grew up helping him out.

As a little kid I used to follow him and follow shoots and I’d hold his stuff while he was shooting the Buzzcocks or Dennis Hopper or Björk or David Johansen or Nick Cave. So for me I think the biggest influence is seeing not only these legendary music figures but seeing how art is created. My dad was very good at quickly adapting things and I always use that philosophy in whatever I do. Use what I have, and adapt what you need to in the environment. It’s made me love anything black and white, from old films to really cool fashion photography and portraits.

You The Living Kitmonsters

Musical influences

The band’s musical influences range from Nick Cave and Killing Joke to authors says Aidy, and it was through Reza and Youth from Killing Joke hearing their music, that they got their first gig - Reza asked his friend, Andrew Trail if You The Living could support Black Light Ascension at Electrowerkz.

Nick Cave, he was definitely a big one, also Cocteau Twins, massive influence, Depeche Mode, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Nine Inch Nails. Marilyn Manson and Muse when I was younger, in terms of my guitar playing Matt Bellamy was a big influence. Killing Joke were one of my biggest influences because Geordie is my favourite guitar player of all time.

Failure as well are a big one. Anything that Steve Albini’s done, you know Shellac, Big Black, McCluskey as well, even Radiohead. In terms of non-musical stuff as well I’d say Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, HR Geiger, Salvador Dali.

You The Living Terry Tyldesley

Vinyl plans

You The Living have just launched their debut album XXI as a digital download, and are planning a vinyl release.

We want people to be able to buy it and for it to be a work of art that they can listen to as well. The artwork that Natasha does is extremely layered and detailed and I want that to be conveyed in everything we release.

The possibilities and challenges are very appealing adds Natasha.

I think more and more bands are releasing things on vinyl and they’re also adding little secret things here and there like a download code or stickers or something interesting to make you want to have that physical copy. I like the fact that downloading and piracy has almost made the record labels and the industry step up their game a little bit more because I think they were getting a little bit lazy, sitting back and waiting for the money to come in and now they have to try a little bit harder.

  • You The Living’s debut album XXI is out now on Obscure Alternatives Music as a digital download on iTunes, Amazon and other music sites.