Out of the Darkness: An Interview With Kaya Tarsus From Blood Youth: “Writing Starve was literally one of the darkest moments of my life”

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Blood Youth December 2019 Promo Photo

Blood Youth are one of the most exciting bands in British metal right now. Their current album Starve struck a nerve with audiences upon release and fans have really embraced them off the back of it. 2019 saw Blood Youth go from strength to strength with some incredible highs along the way including European Festival appearances, covering Slipknot, releasing a standalone single Playing The Victim and finally ending the year on a tour bill with Employed to Serve and Bury Tomorrow.

We caught up with frontman Kaya Tarsus to discuss the year that was and what 2020 has in store for Blood Youth.

2019 has been a big year for you guys. You dropped Starve at the start of the year, covered Slipknot, toured all over the place, dropped Playing The Victim and have ended the year on tour with Employed to Serve. So what have been the standout moments of the year for you?

Kaya: I think putting out Starve this year was the biggest thing for us, because we worked so hard to make that one entity and it’s own thing. So much work went into the making of it both physically and mentally, so getting to release that was amazing, we recorded it in the summer of 2018 and released it in February of 2019. So there was a few months where we had it, so finally getting that out has been huge. We did a headline tour off the back of it which was incredible for us, we sold out our London show, and they actually oversold it, they sold too many tickets for it, and if you told us that 2 years ago when we played to 10 people in London, it would have been like “What the fuck?” So as Yorkshire boys getting to sell out a show in the big city was incredible for us, and so was getting to play Reading & Leeds Festival for the second year in a row. Any time we get to do anything like this is always sick.

You did the European leg of the tour with Bury Tomorrow prior to finishing the year out on the UK part of it. What is it like as a band to be out on a tour like this with bands like Bury Tomorrow and Employed to Serve?

Kaya: It’s been really cool. We’ve had the opportunity to tour with some really cool bands in our four years of being a band. We have always wanted to tour with Bury Tomorrow, we have been fans of them since we were in school. We actually met Bury Tomorrow in the end of 2017, we did a tour with them and Caliban over Christmas that year, we ended up having Christmas dinner in a service station in Munich. That was the first time we met them properly and said that we should do something together, we should set up a tour in the future, and this is the tour now 2 years later. I have always looked up to Bury Tomorrow as a really important band for heavy music in the UK, you have the pillar bands like Architects and we see Bury Tomorrow as one of those bands, so touring with them is amazing but being friends with them as well is even better.

You talked about pillar bands there, and I think heavy music in the UK has really taken off in the last couple of years, and that is really starting to be reflected in magazine covers, bands like yourselves, Architects and Bury Tomorrow playing Festivals like Reading & Leeds which are considered to be mainstream festivals. To be a part of that and to be breaking through in that scene must be an incredible feeling?

Kaya: Yeah definitely. The bands that we grew up with and looked up to we now get to tour with, so to even be thrown into those conversations is a big honour for us. I know how cheesy and corny that may sound but genuinely we have always considered ourselves small town guys from a little town in Yorkshire. I used to listen to Bury Tomorrow on the bus on the way to school, so to be a part of this big thing now is so sick.

Looking at the other side of it as well, prior to this interview I looked at your Spotify streaming numbers and Playing The Victim has been smashing it in streams, but I think streaming is a bit of a false equivalency, because even though thousands of people are accessing and listening to your music that then isn’t translating to thousands of people at shows or increased record and merchandise sales. How do those things effect you as a band?

Kaya: It’s a really weird thing, because you are really stoked on how many people are listening to you, and you can see where they are listening as well. I think our Spotify numbers for the year came in at 4.6 million listeners, so for us that was really cool, but we don’t see any money from that, and we don’t do this for the money, but it is a very strange think to see how many people listen to you, but as you said it’s not there in merch or ticket sales. If this was the early 2000’s we would be killing it (Laughs) but it’s fine, we will never complain about getting to do this.

It’s a lot harder for bands nowadays because a lot of people do put a lot of stock into things like streaming numbers, social media likes and all that, but it doesn’t translate to anything tangible in the real world.

Kaya: Yeah exactly. We were talking about this the other day, we were saying how weird it is that laptops don’t come with cd players anymore and we were getting bummed out because it means people aren’t buying cd’s anymore, and you see HMV closing all over the place as well. The one in the centre of Leeds where we live has just closed and that’s really lame. But I’m guilty of it myself, the last time I got up and went into a shop and waited for a CD to come out was Grey Britain by Gallows, but it’s so easy now to just go on Spotify and listen to music. It’s quite depressing.

You mentioned a moment ago that if you were around in the 2000’s you would be huge. I’ll be honest with you, Starve is one of my favourite albums of 2019, and I think that is largely in part due to the fact it sounds like a lot of the albums and bands I grew up listening to at that time. How was it for you as a band to make an album that sounds so nostalgic, but also so fresh and current in today’s scene?

Kaya: We did an album before Starve and we wrote an album at that time that we knew the people that were following us then would love. All the Blood Youth fans at that time loved that album because it was our formula, it was an extension of what we did on the e.p, but after we did that album people started to figure us out and thought we were going to go way more melodic. Someone said they thought we were going to sound like You Me At Six because we had a lot of melodic parts. We hated that, we absolutely hated the fact people had figured out our whole career from that. We went away and we wanted to make an album for us, and who gives a fuck is no one else likes us. We like bands like Slipknot, Korn and Every Time I Die, so we set out to write an album that we liked and would want to listen to if we were teenagers. The day after we finished recording Starve we went on tour with Stone Sour and Corey Taylor…I feel like such a fucking name dropper (laughs). He was stood around talking with us about the making of Iowa and it was so strange that we had written an album that is kind of based around what we like to hear and now we are here talking to one of the guys that started it all for us, so that was a real full circle moment for us. So, to answer your question we just wanted to create something that was personal, dark, just something that wasn’t predictable because we felt that we had become quite predictable at that time.

Before we move on, I have to ask, did you hear any feedback from Corey on the Slipknot cover you guys did?

Kaya: I’m not sure if maybe our management did, because the tour was before we did the Slipknot cover. I feel like he interacted with us online in some way, but he was great to us, he’s such a nice dude. I haven’t heard anything personally about our Slipknot cover but he retweeted it onto his personal page so I’m guessing he listened to it and liked it. I’ve had this conversation before where we have been in front of those types of people and they have always been so sound because they have nothing to prove because they have done it all before, and because they have nothing to prove they aren’t going to be an asshole to you and he wasn’t, he was so sick to us.

Back on topic. When I listened to Starve I found it to be one of the most relatable albums I have heard in a long time, they could be down to the headspace I was in at the time, but I think a large part of it is down to the emotion that comes through it when you listen to it, As a band you clearly right from a very personal place for yourselves, but it also creates a very personal and relatable experience for your fans as well. So how much of that goes through your had when you write music and do you consider how it will be received by the fans when you write it?

Kaya: Because I always write the lyrics, I always wrote like it was it from a diary, especially our first e.p, it was straight up from a diary I was keeping at the time. I would take sentences and make then the first part of a verse of the chorus until I had formed a song, and I think that formula of having a diary has just continued and that is why I think people can relate to our songs because it is like someone is writing something down in front of them. Writing Starve was literally one of the darkest moments of my life because i was going through a lot of things and I have really bad health problems, I had a really bad stomach ulcer when we first started writing the album, and I was waking up in the mornings coughing up blood, just in this really weird space, especially the song Nerve I wrote that sitting in my room in the dark. I hadn’t left my room in the 3 days, so it was this really dark head space, and I think it’s somewhere we all go to at some point and we have all been at some point and I’m really glad people can relate to it and it gets them feeling something.

There are various lines on it that were written where I walking down the street and I can feel something and I’ll have a need to write it down, there is a line in Nerve where it says “outside your house I’m dying” and I was walking through Leeds and I realised I was walking an ex girlfriends house, and it made me feel like shit, I felt like I was dying and that line is about that exact moment, so I put it on my phone, wrote it down and it’s in the song. I feel that people that can relate to our songs because of that because it’s all real stuff, but I’m glad they can though, and I’m always that when I’m writing and I’m asking myself if it’s relatable because I would never want to put out anything that’s fake or forced.

Let’s talk about the most recent single Playing the Victim. It’s a stand alone release, was it originally intended to be part of Starve or was it released in conjunction with the tour to close out 2019 with some new music?

Kaya: It’s a bit of both, originally we wrote it for Starve, but when it came to recording we didn’t feel it was ready along with the other songs. We wanted Starve to be perfect and we wanted it to be one start to finish thing where you felt something from every song, and we just felt that it wasn’t ready, that it needed something else, so we didn’t want to put an album out and then realise we could have done more with that song, so we decided to leave it and finish it at a later date. So with Playing the Victim, we didn’t want a whole space of time without new music coming out, we did a whole festival season playing just Starve material, so we decided to release new music for the end of the year and it’s quickly becoming our biggest single.

You have certainly ended 2019 on a high note. So what does 2020 hold in store for Blood Youth?

Kaya:I don’t know how much I can talk about it, but we will be doing new music and more touring. We have had some very exciting conversations about going to parts of the world I never imagined we would ever get to go. Over the last 4 years we have really built our fanbase up, and we have just done a really successful UK and Europe tour, so we would like to do more headlining stuff and just do some more touring, so I hope that is what is going to happen.

This is the part of the interview as we wrap up where I get to ask some less serious questions. So firstly, if someone had never heard of Blood Youth and you had 3 songs to get them interested in the band which 3 songs would you pick?

Kaya: Nerve, Starve and Cold Sweat from the first e.p because I think you can still hear bits of that first e.p in the new album.

We talked a little bit about your Slipknot cover earlier, so I’ll ask you now…which Blood Youth song would you like to hear Corey Taylor cover?

Kaya: I’d say Playing the Victim because i think he would absolutely kill the chorus.

If Blood Youth ended tomorrow, how would you like the band to be remembered?

Kaya: Just a very passionate and real band that never faked anything, that’s all we have ever wanted to be. If we ever became fake assholes then we would just end the band I think.

In closing do you have a message out there for your fans going into the new year?

Kaya: Thank you for listening to our music and there is more on the way.

The album Starve is out now and for more information on Blood Youth head here https://www.facebook.com/bloodyouth/.

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