Alloysious Massaquoi is one third of Young Fathers, a group that first met at an under-16s Hip Hop party in Edinburgh. Ten Years down the road they have developed a style of music that has been described as siting elements of De La Soul or Massive Attack, but in truth the Scottish threesome have a distinct 21st Century sound that amalgamates numerous points of musical history and throws it back at you with a clenched fist.
Five years ago Young Fathers caused a stir with their debut album Inconceivable Child… Conceived, however the lack of releases in between that and the recent album Dead , on Anticon records, did not mean the band had stopped working. Far from it, the incessantly toured the UK and Europe, building up a rabid fan base that has followed them the entire way.
In 2011 and 2013, having left their previous home of Black Sugar Records, young Fathers released two mix tapes, Tape One and Tape Two. These added to the development of a loyal number of followers and continued to excite with a darker direction. Alloysious attributes this to a strong Young Fathers attitude of ‘Growing up, trying new things, new experiences you find yourself in. Wanting more and being prepared to work for it and working out any problems that arise. Learn to keep learning.’ The animalistic war cry of ‘For A Revolution’ on 2014 single Get Up sends images flooding through your mind, from students on the streets of London protesting against fees, to the Arab Spring uprisings. No Way similarly evokes the worldwide instability of the past few years with the line ‘Never find peace the war is too pretty’. Young Fathers begin a discussion that is all too important, and offer us comment that is hopefully enough to provoke thoughts and maybe, eventually, individual change. Like the greatest of musical acts, they define and document the feelings and events of their time without force feeding the listener with opinion.
With Alloysious’ roots in Liberia, G Hastings’ in the Drywall estate of Edinburgh and Kayus Bankole’s from Nigeria, Young Fathers have a broad base of inspiration to draw from the environments they inhabit. ‘Taste changes all the time. You get it from your family home to begin with, at school, and then you venture out into the world deciding what you like and don’t like.’ says Alloysious. ‘I guess when there’s a lack of something in your surroundings it pushes you to think outside the box and think worldwide. We are ambitious,’ This attitude of embracing the world and attempting to convert themselves into people who can confront subjects on that scale translates into the sources of inspiration they find. ‘Films, books, conversations with people. I can’t filter inspiration. It comes when it comes. There’s no set place.
During their extensive touring, Young Fathers have visited numerous festivals and Alloysious is conscious of the environment they face as performers, ‘The fact there’s a huge gap between you and the crowd, usually where the security is standing, means you have to perform differently, test yourself to an unpredictable crowd in a non intimate environment, It’s challenging and exciting. Win or lose.’ The energy of their shows has been a defining factor in galvanizing an audience. ‘It’s just a gig at the end of the day. Depending if we are headlining or not, you get more time and a sound check if you are, if not, you put together a set with a beginning, middle and end that best shows off how special you are.’
At Glastonbury this year, Young Fathers brought their fellow Edinburgh resident and collaborator LAW out on stage, having their own ‘festival moment’ and at Latitude they may well have another, ‘I’m looking forward to us performing at Latitude and we will be doing a cover of a William Onyeabor song courtesy of Luaka Bop records.’
The experience of playing at a festival is not however just limited to the performance itself and Alloysious recalls a particular event that highlights the convergence of creative individuals from different worlds. ‘There is one event we did in London that comes to mind now, where G was very ill and he still managed to continue. We also met Marc Hawker for the first time. Who was a lovely guy. He was a film director, he produced the ‘Rize’ documentary about the ‘Krumping’ dance craze in America and also did work on the the Amnesty International short film ‘Unwatchable’ He was a fan of ours as we were of him and he was interested in a collaborating with us. Sadly Marc died. R.I.P’ But do these combined festival experiences influence the music a band makes? ‘If any artist knowingly did that, they are the worst kind. I’d find it hard to sleep at night and look at myself in the mirror if I did that.’