Taking geek chic to another level, the UK’s Young Knives are back with their sophomore release, Superabundance, which, with its surprising electro flourishes, has more than met up to expectations of well-heeled fans on both sides of the pond. A hefty schedule of gigs and festivals has currently been taking the band around the world and back, but the Knives found some time to chat during their New York gig stopover. I chatted to gregarious front man Henry Dartnall who, despite being stuck amidst a backdrop of all the chaos and clamor of New York City (and its other various trademark noises), still managed to retain his British wit and eloquence in the style of a true Young Knife.

I read that you’re doing a rare gig in Bethnal Green [London] soon.
We’re doing a small warm-up gig for Glastonbury. We normally play quite big venues in London, so doing a gig in front of 150 people is pretty rare for us. But here [in New York] it’s what we do. You’ve got to start somewhere.

How many times have you played Glastonbury?
This is our second time.

So have you moved up in the ‘stage factor’ since there’s different sizes and such?
[laughs] We play the indie stage, the John Peel stage. I like it better, there’s more atmosphere. When you get to the big stages, not so much. I’d rather do a late gig on a cool stage and a really early gig on a big stage.

Is Glasto one of your favorite days of the year?
It’s kind of a nightmare. They make it so hard. We want to do one thing and you’ve got this radio thing to do, then you want to go here, and there’s some guy holding you back, especially when it’s miserable weather it’s just horrible. You get nowhere fast. But the shows are great. The downsides are offset by the upsides, and it kind of negates itself totally. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride.

It’s your job so of course it’s going to be stressful.
It’s where everyone is, so everyone wants something- whether it is an acoustic show, etc… It’s like South by Southwest, when everyone is enjoying themselves and you’re running around trying to entertain as many people as you can in a small space of time.

Do you feel like festivals are a quintessentially British thing to do during the summer?
Well it depends on what kind of English person you are! I guess some people prefer Wimbledon, then there’s Glastonbury and some people just like getting smashed in the pub and being sick in the road. Horses for courses! It wouldn’t be on my essential summer guide. I would say you can see so many better things elsewhere and a lot easier. I want to be chilled out and not herded around like sheep. It sounds really bad! But there are so many more festivals that you can choose the vibe you’re going for. It’s like picking a house! Choose wisely or forever regret your choice!

As for you this summer, are you going to be toting around playing festivals and promoting the new album, or are you going to be taking some personal time off?
We’re going to be writing the new album really. Festival season is really good for writing. I’m going to be relaxing as well because you can’t do anything but festivals, aside from the one-off around the world or the a couple of little shows. But there’s a big gap, and we’re just excited to be writing again. We have so many things we want to achieve. We want to keep everyone happy and keep ourselves happy by continuing to write. It’s the best bit. Writing is good to do alongside when you’re playing live or then you become desperate to do it. You play the same songs so many times and then you’re like ‘get me something new!’ The sooner we start [writing] the sooner we’ll have a new album under our belt. It propels you along and keeps everyone’s brains active. It keeps it all fresh.

It’s your brainstorming that keeps things fresh.
If you’re playing the same songs, surely you get good at them, but you need to keep your creative edge going too. Otherwise you’ll get stuck in a rut. Bands that spend their life sounding the same might be happy with that, but I’m not. Every time we do a new record I want it to be new and exciting- like this time we’re going to be Led Zeppelin!

You’re touted as being a very intelligent band. Do you feel as though you have to live up to that challenge and that makes each album difficult? Or do you feel you can take more creative liberty?
Well you have to watch yourself because you can get self-indulgent pretty quickly and that’s the challenge. I’m still writing pop songs because I love melody. The more comfortable you get the more good things that can come out of it- like simplifying your music. It’s so easy to get over-complicated. There are unique challenges that come with it.


–Andrea D’Alessandro, photos by Tear-n Tan