I keep choosing to believe that when I discovered Australian rock band Gang of Youths in 2017, it was by fate. I was late to the news of what great musicians they were, but when their second album Go Farther In Lightness won the ARIA Music Award for Album of the Year, I found myself listening and hypnotized and enchanted by lead singer-songwriter Dave Le’aupepe’s lyricism that I couldn’t pull away even if I tried.
I found pockets of my life in those next few years where Gang of Youths songs became a therapeutic sentence, a temporary relief – a saving grace for me. Now the band is chasing the release of their first new single in four years, more human than ever, and in true Le’aupepe fashion, it’s not a song just about falling in love. It’s about how love saves you.
Paying tribute to both the band’s families and their new home, “the angel of 8th ave.” seizes listeners through gutting rock forwardness – the kind Gang of Youths fans will surely recognize. Comprised of Max Dunn (bass), Jung Kim (guitar, keyboards), Donnie Borzestowski (drums), Tom Hobden (keyboards, guitar, violin), and Dave Le’aupepe (vocals, guitar), Gang Of Youths are entering a new phase marked and celebrated by the release of their latest progressive-poetic love song. With fervent rhythm, acoustic guitars, and a bass line that reels you in, Dave Le’aupepe’s voice remains the driving force it always has been – and one that I missed dearly for years.
Directed by Joel Barney, the song’s music video features the band dancing, strutting, walking through the North London towns they now call home. After relocating from their native Australia to the UK, the band’s new music is showing new signs of life, love, and creativity born out of the time they spent planting new roots in London.
While watching, I recognized buildings and street signs from my own time in England, and I found myself again staring at the singer on the screen thinking, “I don’t know how he knows me, but he does.” I left London five years ago with an ache in my heart, and suddenly I have a band reminding me that while you can find love in London, you can find love anywhere.
There’s always going to be poetry with love in the big city, and the metropolis is like a microcosm for a global human experience no matter where. Being with my wife and being here mean a lot. London really shaped the character of the band. Life happened to all of us, and that was a reflection of the city that we’re in.Dave Le’aupepe for NME
Love songs are often quite difficult for me to listen to, as there’s a tinge of longing and loneliness that seems to seep into everything I consume, no matter what everyone’s words or implications are. It’s that, “I’m happy for you,” with a sad smile that I feel I’m always saying out loud, but when Gang of Youths writes a love song, it’s not about the love or being in love. It’s about how it saved you. Acknowleding your brokenness and all your fails and falls before you are actually falling. It’s about finding love in any capacity – in someone, in a city, in yourself.
“You called each of my sorrows by name / And a tide of tender mercies / Shook my body from the grave,” he sings, and for the first time in a long time, I’m reminded that love exists in more ways than one. Le’aupepe’s lyrics soar, as they usually do, only this time there’s a new light and life within them. After recognizing the band for their songs about disregarding damage and yearning for light, “the angel of 8th ave.” is a juxtaposition. It sounds like they’ve found the peace and solace they’ve been praying to find – and the thrill its music creates from it is exciting. The song paints the worn down streets of London with charm and vibrance, the kind you feel when you discover new love, and amidst all of that, it still exudes an honest humanness. If you didn’t hear, Gang of Youths are back.
Teasing the release of the band’s upcoming third album, Le’aupepe says the new record could be polarising for some people, as it might venture away from what the Gang of Youths audience is normally used to. As for when exactly, it’s still in the works. “It’s ready when it’s ready,” he hints.
We waited four years for a new single. It truly doesn’t matter. I’d wait a hundred more, but it’d be nice if it was soon because it’s getting hard to tell now whether the saving grace is love, or if it’s just Gang of Youths.
Photography by Amy Heycock