Album cover art for gang of youths with orange vinyl record popping outVibrant with the kinds of scalpel-precise profundities for which lyricist and frontman Dave Le’aupepe is known, angel in realtime. sees Gang of Youths grasp at the turmoil of a life event – the death of an adored and secretive father – and turn it into expansive, high-brow-low-brow beauty.

“I’m someone who’s made a career out of saying sh-t of that ilk,” Dave Le’aupepe says of a lyric from Gang of Youths’ third album angel in realtime. The line in question goes, “I’ve not been in the greatest place/ Think I will get better/ I dunno.”

“I don’t know if there was power behind it, man – it felt pretty weak,” he continues. He’s fine with admitting weakness, of course, because he’s “never far away” from self-deprecation. “And if I’m this much of a pr-ck while I’m being self-deprecating, can you imagine what I’d be like if I believed the hype!?”

Dave and bassist bandmate Max Dunn are Zooming from London, though Dave attests he’s a “Cro-Magnon” when it comes to video call tech. (“Gang of Boomers,” Max jokes.) The two cheers their “famous Australian battery acid” Victoria Bitters, before Dave quotes the “Matter of fact, I’ve got it now” ad in a yammer before adding, without a breath: “Yeah, clearly I don’t miss it at all!”

What he truly misses since the formerly Sydney-based band moved to England in 2017, are the people. “I miss my mum, my dad’s grave, and I miss this: the great Australian temperament,” he says, gesturing to his screen. “I miss [the] accents. We didn’t flee [Australia]; we had to go to do what we wanted to do. I wanted to leave on a high. I’d rather stay here and miss those things, than come back and… learn to resent those things, or even worse, forget why they were so amazing in the first place.”

And so, after the multi-leg international tour for their multi-ARIA-winning second album Go Farther in Lightness (2017), the band began the process of creating their third record in London, with the aim to infuse it with “[their] DNA, but not try to replicate past glories,” according to Dave. The LP was, Max says, a “three-year process of literally going into the studio every day, trying to make this massive vision from crazy influences. It was a crazy vision that five dudes chased for three years.”

If that’s the mission statement, they’ve clocked it: angel in realtime. eddies and bursts with lush guitars, frenetic drums, Dave’s incomparable vocals, and strings which pull everything up another echelon – something Dave and Max are at pains to point out is the incredible work of newest bandmember Tom Hobden, who joined after founding member and guitarist Joji Malani left the line-up in late 2019. “I need to stress how much of a genius Tom Hobden is – he saved us,” says Max. Explains Dave,“Strings are [a] way to burrow into someone and tear their heart to shreds. And they’re a big part of the live stuff. To pass up the opportunity to completely emotionally manipulate people live?” he laughs, and Max adds, “It’s what we do!”

Dave points to the way angel in realtime.‘s rich orchestrals and the record’s occasionally janky techniques create a desired conflict: “I love the contrast between the high brow and the low brow, in that regard,” he says.

(His admiration for mixing the brows comes out in both speech and lyrics, where he often pairs a big word with a swear: “Superfluous as sh-t”, for example, in Spirit Boy.)

“I’ve been playing guitar for 25 years and I can’t play G chord without my fingers bleeding,” he adds. Says Max: “Some of the engineering [on the album] is just unbelievably bad, like pointing a mic at something that should be plugged in.” But, it worked: “[It] was so free, man,” he smiles.

The track Brothers lays out just how raw Dave is willing to get. Accompanied only by piano, the singer tells the story of his family, just like a narrative in a book – about his sister, her husband, their life in New York. About the brothers whose existence he discovered only after he and his wife went looking for information about Dave’s recently deceased father Tattersall Le’aupepe, in Samoa. About little details of how each figure in this story interacted with his father, or – as Dave explains further in conversation – the space he left in their lives after he’d left them. “I hate myself for stealing all his love, when my brothers thought he was dead,” Dave sings in a particularly gut-wrenching line.

“Yeah, they thought he’d died in the ’70s – in a bombing!” he exclaims with a laugh. “He’d managed to convince his whole family he’d gone up in smithereens.” In truth, the things Tattersall hid from Dave – his real age, his true birthplace, the details of his youth – are common amongst immigrants and “Black, Indigenous men, especially of that generation,” says Dave, who cradle shame around their heritage and want to give their children a better chance at life. “It was impossible to be a man of that depth, emotionally, and not have had a pretty profound story to tell,” Dave adds.

The vocalist says of the song’s recording: “It was in our sh-tty makeshift [studio] in Hackney. You can hear the minifridge in the background the whole time: ‘EEEEEEERRRR’”, he mimics, as Max laughs and adds: “So many takes [across the album were] ruined by police sirens, hospital sirens, rain…” Dave offers, “In Spirit Boy, you can hear a kid firing a shot, and shouting, ‘F-CK!’ It really is a London album. You can hear life going by. There’s a lot of sonic artefacts that weren’t intentional.” Max nods contemplatively, and adds quietly: “We really should’ve turned the fridge off.”

To flay your own life – and especially that of your family, considering some of the objectively cruel choices his father made – like this is a courageous thing. But Dave sees it is part of that ‘career-making’ tendency, and again, he’s shruggably cool with it. “Scrutiny: it just happens,” he says simply. “Do I cower in the face of scrutiny? I wanted to demystify something true, and something real. We definitely have the ‘integrity, vulnerability’ branding. ‘So earnest, so sincere!’” he imitates the critics. “Like Ted Lasso,” Max nods sagely. Dave guffaws, then continues: “Am I just going to stop saying the things I want to say, and trying to embody values I care about, because some f-cking jetski wants to…”

We must admit, we’ve never heard ‘jetski’ used as an insult before – but it makes instant sense.

Dave laughs, “You’ve seen the SBS sh-t. I’m not exactly subtle about being vulnerable, and showing my life.” Suffice to say on behalf of legions of fans: we’re here for it.

angel in realtime. by Gang of Youths is out now, including on JB-exclusive orange vinyl, via Sony.

TOURING IN FUTURETIME

Last month Gang of Youths announced their headline slots at their own curated festival, A More Perfect Union, which comprises one date each in Tasmania and Queensland. These shows join the four already scheduled for WA, SA, NSW and VIC. Get all your ticketing info here.

Sat 30 Jul 2022
RAC Arena, Perth, WA
Wed 3 Aug 2022
Adelaide Entertainment Centre Arena, SA
Sat 6 Aug 2022
Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, NSW
Fri 12 Aug 2022
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
Sun 14 Aug 2022 (A More Perfect Union)
Regatta Grounds, TAS
Sat 20 Aug 2022 (A More Perfect Union)
Sandstone Point Hotel, QLD