Music Interviews
3:39 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Connections On A Dance Floor: The Musical Brotherhood Of Young Fathers

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 10:17 am

Even in music's melting pot, Young Fathers are an unlikely trio. Alloysious Massaquoi is originally from Liberia, Kayus Bankole has Nigerian parents, and producer Graham "G" Hastings hails from North Edinburgh, Scotland, where the three first met as teenagers in the early 2000s.

In a conversation with NPR's Audie Cornish, the members of the genre-mashing group say they connected instantly — even though, under the circumstances, they couldn't actually speak to one another:

G Hastings: When I met these guys, it was on a dance floor. You walked in and it's too loud to talk, so there's no point trying to say hello to everybody. They were in a circle, and I just couldn't believe how people were dancing and no one was, you know, pointing and laughing at them.

Audie Cornish: Did you end up dancing with them?

Hastings: I just joined in. I joined in like it was nothing — like, "I'm cool." But really, that was one of the moments in my life that I'll always remember.

Can you remember what the song was?

Hastings: It was probably Sean Paul's "Gimme The Light." The DJs that played there, they had that record probably about six months before I first saw the music video on MTV or whatever. I didn't even know what Sean Paul looked like; it was just a great song.

After two well-received mixtapes, Young Fathers is currently on tour in support of its debut studio album, Dead. Hear more of the group's conversation with Cornish at the audio link.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOW")

YOUNG FATHERS: (Singing) Mmm, did I see you planting seeds in the forest? Is it for the green of the dollars?

CORNISH: One paper, the men of the group Young Fathers would seem an unlikely trio. They're hip-hop, sort of. They're Scottish, sort of. They're not actually fathers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FATHERS: (Singing) Faking like a charlatan. It's easy now it's challenging. (unintelligible). Shaking like a charlatan. (unintelligible).

CORNISH: On their new album "Dead" the three showcase the unconventional mix that drives their music, which is dense multi-layered and heavily influenced by their family backgrounds.

Alloysious Massaquoi is originally from Liberia, Kayus Bankole, his parents are from Nigeria, and producer Graham Hastings, he hails from North Edinburgh, where the three of them met as teenagers back in the early 2000s of a hip-hop club dance floor.

GRAHAM HASTINGS: When I met these guys, it was in a place where it was like something I'd never ever experienced anything like that growing up. And, I used to spend hours on my own by dancing in my room, you know, just as into music and singing and stuff and no one would know. So when I met these guys, it was on a dance floor. And you walked in and it's too loud to talk, so there's no point trying, you know, say hello to everybody. They were in a circle, and I just couldn't believe how people were dancing and no one was like, you know, pointing and laughing at them.

CORNISH: Did you end up dancing with them?

HASTINGS: I just joined in. I joined in like it was like nothing, I'm cool. I was just trying to be cool. But really, that was like one of the moments in my life that I'll always remember. It was just me and the guys.

CORNISH: Can you remember what the song was? I mean when I think back to the music at that time, the kind of hip-hop that was playing...

HASTINGS: It was probably Sean Paul's...

CORNISH: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST GIMME THE LIGHT")

JEAN PAUL: (Singing) Just gimme the light and pass the dro. Buss anotha bokkle a moe. Gal dem inna mi sight and I got to know, which one is gonna catch my flow. 'Cause I'm inna di vibe.

HASTINGS: Sean Paul "Gimme The Light"...

FATHERS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

HASTINGS: It used to play like five times...

CORNISH: Yeah. Very, at the time, kind of a pop moment for a dance hall, I think.

HASTINGS: Yeah, this was, the DJs that played there, they had that record, you know probably about six months before I first saw the music video on MTV or whatever. So it was like at that time, that song was just a song. I didn't even knew Sean Paul looked like, it was just a great song.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: And so when you're putting together the music, it's a dense. Do you start with the beats and just kind of playing over that sound?

ALLOYSIOUS MASSAQUOI: Alloysious speaking. There's never a right or wrong way to go about it. You know, it can start with a beat, banging away or, you know, synth or maybe a grunt, a cry or, you know, a whisper or a word. There's never, this is how we, you know, structure a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Buried in kind of the distortion and base of a song like "No Way," are really pretty personal lyrics. I'm thinking of the part where there's a line that says, got me feeling Presbyterian but I'm still Liberian. Never find peace. The war is too pretty.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO WAY")

FATHERS: (Singing) Got me feeling Presbyterian but inside I'm still Liberian. Never find peace the war is too pretty. I'm wired up wrong, the girls don't pick me. I run like someone's pulling me back, pulling me back, pulling me back. No way...

CORNISH: Can you talk a little bit about kind of where those lyrics came from? Who did the singing then?

MASSAQUOI: I wanted to put Presbyterian in a song for a long time and Liberian.

HASTINGS: And for me it's like the almost Scottish history of like, I mean I talk with my father all the time, it's like how I grew up around a place where to express yourself is not kindly acceptable, and that's the kind of Presbyterian that just...

CORNISH: You feel like it's sort of like it's very culturally conservative.

HASTINGS: Yeah. That is the overhand from that so I wanted to put in a song. And then when I said the line just rhymed with Liberia...

(LAUGHTER)

HASTINGS: ...you know, all that kind of stuff. And then it just, you know, it just moved on from there and...

CORNISH: I mean the thing that the music sometimes makes me think of, for lack of a better word, is a hymn. And I didn't know if and if you could talk about that. Are there hymns that you loved, church hymns. And is there any kind of influence like that in the music?

KAYUS BANKOLE: Yes. This is Kayus speaking. My parents are very religious, so I used to hear my mom sing like Nigerian songs. I could sing songs in Yoruba, but they were like church hymns. So they were never sweet. They always sound like, they sounded from the gut and it was never like beautiful singing. It was just like more of a chant. I don't know. It feels more passionate, to be honest.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FATHERS: (Singing) You (unintelligible) when I'm reaching your (unintelligible). You know it's time to settle your soul. This is (unintelligible)...

CORNISH: I can imagine when you first started out, people were really surprised by the music. And now that it's getting more attention, do you feel excited? Do you feel like oh, people are getting it, you know, what we do?

MASSAQUOI: I'm Alloysious. You know, I think a lot of what we're doing resonates to them. You know, it takes them back to a time where they say oh, that's the first time I experienced punk, that was the first time I experienced something like this. You know and I think that's a beautiful thing, you know, for our music to come across and...

CORNISH: To evoke that feeling of discovery. Yeah.

MASSAQUOI: To evoke that feeling. Yeah. Yeah. And that's it. That's the best way.

HASTINGS: It's like keeping the door opened and not letting it shut. And that's why we have no loyalties to any genres or anything. Because when you keep it open it doesn't restrict people.

BANKOLE: If there's a really cool band playing, the cool kids will go and pull kids don't dance. I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

BANKOLE: They don't...

CORNISH: Cool kids don't dance?

BANKOLE: They don't. It's not cool. You know what I mean? Where there is when we have a show the cool kids would come. The people over there are dancing, you see the cool kids start to dance, even though they feel uncomfortable. That's what I've never seen an actual before where you've got vast different people, you know, coming together and then it's making everybody act differently from where they normally would.

HASTINGS: It's making them be themselves, I think.

BANKOLE: Yeah. And that's what you want. You want to pull it out. You want to pull it out.

CORNISH: Well, congratulations on the new album and we appreciate you guys coming in. Young Fathers, thanks so much.

HASTINGS: Nice talking to you.

BANKOLE: Thanks, Audie.

MASSAQUOI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SONG, "GET UP")

FATHERS: (Singing) Come here and do the right thing. Get up and have a party. Get up, get up. Come here and do the right thing. Get up and have a party. Get up, get up. Get up, get up.

CORNISH: Graham Hastings, Kayus Bankole and Alloysious Massaquoi are Young Fathers. Their new album "Dead" is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SONG, "GET UP")

FATHERS: (Singing) Get up. Get up. Get up. Get up. Come here do the right thing. Get up and party. Get up. Get up. Come here do the right thing. Get up and party. Get up. Get up.

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.