Interview | Introducing…The Young’uns

We normally give a little bit of info about our ‘Introducing…’ bands, but thanks to large quantities of free German beer, this really wasn’t necessary in the case of The Young’uns’ David Eagle….

Hello, please introduce yourself and your music to the uninitiated.

Hello, well firstly we just want you to know that we really don’t want you to feel embarrassed about being uninitiated and not knowing who we are. Take solace in the fact that over the next few paragraphs you will gain some kind of an insight into the band; albeit a slightly warped insight from a tired and bedraggled group member who has just spent an extended weekend at a German Shanty Festival and who has had no sleep, and who ultimately failed to decline any of the free German beer provided by the festival. The word “ja” just seems so much easier to say than “nein”.

We are a three-part male group in our mid-twenties who come from Teesside. We sing a mix of unaccompanied and accompanied songs, including shanties, traditional songs, local songs and self-written songs. We sort of stumbled across folk music about a decade ago when we were in our local pub, the Sun Inn in Stockton, where the Stockton Folk club takes place. We were completely wowed by the fact that people came together on an evening to sing songs and tell stories. People at the folk club were very hospitable and encouraged us to sing and so we began to learn the different songs that people at the club were singing. We’re called the Young’uns simply because we were the youngest people at the club by far, and this is how people at the club referred to us.

Tell us a bit about your latest release.

Our new album is called When Our Grandfathers Said No. The album’s name comes from one of the songs on the album called ‘The Battle of Stockton’. The Battle of Stockton occurred in 1933. Oswald Mosley was on a recruitment drive for the British Union of Fascists. Stockton was an area of deprivation and high unemployment at this time and Mosley hoped that he could take advantage of people’s disgruntlement and concerns. He bussed 200 blackshirts into Stockton. But 2000 people were waiting for them and drove them out of town. We therefore decided to call the album When Our Grandfathers Said No in reference to this local historic act of defiance.

What was your best ever gig?

One memorable gig was a performance at Shrewsbury Folk Festival a few years ago. We’d been doing largely unaccompanied sets all that summer, but we decided that at Shrewsbury we would play our new album in full. I decided that the keyboard I had wouldn’t be good enough for the gig and that I’d need something that felt better to play.

So we drove to my brother’s house in Huddersfield to pick up his keyboard. This particular keyboard was full-size, meaning that the instrument only just fitted in the car and made for a very, very uncomfortable travelling companion.  After about half an hour of pushing and pulling and cursing, we got the keyboard into the car. After another half an hour and a lot more cursing, we managed to get into the car with the keyboard. My brother then decided that this was the right time to inform me that he had lost the power supply for the keyboard. We drove around Huddersfield for hours and eventually we came across something that kind of seemed to fit the bill. “There is a very slight chance that it might blow the keyboard up,” said the man behind the counter, “but it shouldn’t really happen.”

At the gig the sound check went brilliantly; it was all working fine. We introduced the first song and I took a deep breath. I put my hands on the keyboard and pressed down on the keys. And … there was a little pop, and then silence. The damn thing had blown-up. There was a little bit of silence and then we burst out laughing. We ended up telling the whole sorry saga about our adventure with this keyboard and everyone in the audience began to laugh. Our stress and nervousness evaporated and the rest of the gig went brilliantly.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician?

Why the “worst” thing? Why the negativity all of a sudden? we were having such a good time I felt.

One reason we like singing unaccompanied so much is because you can just turn up and sing. There are no instruments to carry or set up. There are no wires or technical things to worry about. You can concentrate on the meaning of the song and the experience the visceral thrill of just singing together, just your voices. That’s one of the reasons I love what we do so much. You can just walk into a pub and sing, without any prior setting up.

What inspires you?

In terms of the songs we sing, we are inspired by great harmonies and stories. Sean, who writes our songs, lived on the old part of Hartlepool and this inspired many of his songs. Old Hartlepool has a fascinating  history and is home to some great and very interesting characters with some brilliant stories. Sean and I worked on a heritage project in Hartlepool a few years ago. We taught school children about the history of Hartlepool and the children spoke with Hartlepool’s older residents about what life used to be like in the town. The children then made songs and wrote stories and poems about what they had learned. Incidentally, you can hear the recording of that project on the Internet. Go to HERE and look for the 102nd podcast called Hild’s Tales.

If you won a billion pounds what would you do with it?

Well firstly I’d go into a pound shop and buy the place out, one item at a time, and repeatedly ask the shop assistant “How much is this please?” But perhaps that’s a bit too predictable: I mean, who wouldn’t do that? But on the plus side, it was a short and concise answer, and I get the feeling I might have written a bit too much in the other answers, so that will do.

Which of your songs is your favourite and why?

I can’t specify a favourite song. However, out of all the songs we have written, I really love singing ‘Jenny waits for Me’. It’s the last track on When Our Grandfathers Said No and we often sing it at the end of a performance. It’s a slow, lingering unaccompanied song that I find really amazing to sing. The three of us are really comfortable singing it, and it feels like one of the most intimate and naked songs that we sing. It was inspired by a conversation Sean was having with the wife of a fisherman. She was telling him that her husband had been on the phone lamenting the fact that he could see his house in the distance from where he was positioned out at sea, but he knew that he was in fact miles away and that he wouldn’t be home for weeks. Sean was so moved by this idea that he wrote a songs about it. He also took the fisherman’s wife home and gave her a good night which took her mind off her loneliness. No, the latter statement was a joke. Sorry.

What are your plans for the future?

Well I might need to find another folk group to sing in when the other two members read my German-beer-fuelled answers to these questions.

We are very lucky to be doing what we’re doing and meeting and singing with amazing people on a regular basis. In the last year we’ve performed at loads of great festivals, been to Germany and Holland to perform, taken part in Peter Bellamy’s folk opera The Transports, featured in an Aadman Animations film singing a song about pirates with Vic Reeves. It’s amazing when we  think that it all started by accident in a pub in Stockton. Who knows what will happen next?

Finally, we’re always looking to expand our musical horizons. Do you have any recommendations of bands or artists we should be looking out for?

You should definitely listen to a Polish Shanty group, because they sing sea shanties completely differently to how we are used to hearing them sung. We’ve just been in Germany with an amazing Polish group called Brasy. And if you’ve never heard the Wilson Family, then they are definitely a group to listen to and were major influences on us in the early days and remain good friends and supporters of us to this day. You should also check out the Kisser Chiefs (not the Kaiser Chiefs but the Kisser Chiefs) and their amazing song, ‘The Eskimo Kissing Song’. But don’t get carried away with discovering all these new groups and forget about us. Thanks.