Tommy Wright (Third from the left), lead singer with Young Kato chats with Kevin Cooper about his love of Nottingham, being influenced by The Smiths, their new album Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, and their forthcoming UK tour.
Young Kato are a British six-piece indie pop band from Cheltenham, England. Formed in 2011, the band consists of Tommy Wright, Jack Edwards, Joe Green, Joe Lever, Harry Steele and Sam Henderson.
Releasing their debut four track self-titled EP in 2012, the band have gone from strength to strength; supporting the likes of Bastille, Peace and You Me At Six. Notoriety followed when they featured on TV show Made In Chelsea performing a gig at The Barfly, Camden, which resulted in the band’s huge popularity on the social media sites.
What followed was the release in 2013 of their second EP, Sunshine; with the lead track, Drink, Dance Play, getting regular airplay on BBC Radio 1.
With the release of their new album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow due out this May, together with a sixteen date tour of the UK, Tommy took time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Tommy how are you today?
I’m great thank you Kevin, it is a very sunny day here in Cheltenham, so all is well. How are you?
I’m very well thank you for asking. So how is life treating you at the moment?
Well Kevin I have to say that it is beginning to get a little more stressful as we are getting closer to the start of the tour. We still have a lot to do. But overall things are perfect thank you (laughter).
I have to ask you; Young Kato, where did the name come from?
When we first formed the band some three and a half years ago now, we gave ourselves a week’s deadline to find a name (laughter). During that time the name Kato kept appearing in different formats and in different ways, so we all thought that would be a great name to have. However Kato didn’t sound perfect so we thought that phonetically, Young Kato sounded better and more to the point, looked even better on paper so we just whacked a Young in front of it. So whilst the name Young Kato really doesn’t mean anything (laughter) it is quite unique as it can only mean us.
All of the members of the band are from Cheltenham with the exception of Joe (Lever) your bass player. How did you get hold of Joe; how did you find him?
Well actually Kevin, Joe did go to school in Cheltenham all the way up to the sixth form and then he and his family moved back to Birmingham. So we started the band with Joe in it, and so he is stuck with us now, even if he moves to Glasgow (laughter). That is where we are with that.
The album Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, I have been playing it and I have to say that I really do like it.
That’s lovely Kevin, cheers for that.
How would you describe the album to me in a few words?
Vibrant, colourful, eleven tracks from six lads, big pop tunes. That is what we were aiming for.
I have heard people describe your music as Indie Rock, Indie Pop and even Australian Electro-Pop. How would you describe your sound?
I would have to describe our sound as Indie Pop Kevin with an 80’s influence I guess. That is what I would put it down to.
I have to ask you, who is Stephanie; there has to be a lady behind Stephanie.
(Laughter) I wish there was Kevin, I really do wish that there was. Unfortunately, we were all sat around on our way to Devon where we were staying for a week, and where we were staying in could only be described as a shed (laughter). Whilst we were there we wrote Stephanie, Children Of The Stars and Runaway which were all very late additions to the album. I can’t remember what Stephanie was originally going to be called but the whole concept is that it is a love song but it goes in too far. It’s a bit like the movie Psycho really (laughter). I know that the film is about Norman’s mum and stuff, but we wanted the song to be about a girl.
It’s a really weird old story Kevin but it’s about Norman absolutely and utterly fantasizing about this girl. We didn’t have a name for this girl until Jack (Edwards) the lead guitarist said Stephanie just before we recorded the song. So the outro in which you can hear; Stephanie can you hear me calling, was just an ad-lib which I put in on the very last take of the song. And that is really how Stephanie came about (laughter).
I particularly like Ultraviolet as I think that it has a much darker feel to it than the rest of the album.
Yes definitely Kevin, we all thought that too. Potentially track eleven as well; Just Say The Word would be classed as slightly darker too. We quite like that as it is good to throw spanners in the works every now and again and give people something a little darker to listen to on an album (laughter). We all thought that we didn’t want to make an album which sounded very similar all of the way through. We felt that it would be good to change it around a little bit (laughter).
You have mentioned Just Say The Word and I have to say that when I first heard it, the band A-Ha sprang to my mind.
That is fantastic Kevin. Me and Joe are the key songwriters and we both absolutely thrive upon 80’s music and when sounds like ours were hitting the charts back then. We love all the crazy hair and stuff like that as you can probably tell (laughter).
Listening to you speaking about the album, you are obviously pleased with how it has turned out?
Yes we are all really happy with the album. It has taken almost two years to record, because we have recorded it in different chunks. As I said earlier Stephanie, Children Of The Stars and Runaway were all very late additions to the album. For a good year and a half now we have been taking things out of it and have been putting things back in (laughter).
But there then comes a time when you have got to stop tinkering and be prepared to take that leap of faith.
Yes most definitely. We all see the album as a really important thing but we also appreciate that it is a photo of the time of where you are as a band at that precise moment in time. So things can only go upwards from that point, I guess.
Obviously it’s hard work but are you looking forward to the tour?
Yes most definitely, that is why we are all still in the band. We are all absolutely still loving it every day. We always look forward to a tour; there is always one around the corner and that is what we live for; that is why we started the band. We used to look at our idols and heroes playing in front of all of these people who were singing their songs back, and that is why we formed the band. We are all very excited and we can’t wait to simply get out there and do it. However I have to say that there is a lot of waiting around when you go out on tour. You usually sleep for about six hours per day, and then you spend around seventeen hours in the day doing nothing. But then you get that hour on stage which makes it all worthwhile.
What would you say that you have you gained from supporting the likes of You Me At Six and Bastille?
Well Bastille was a weird one because it wasn’t really like a full-length support tour, we just played a few gigs with them here and there. However we did a national support tour with You Me At Six and I have to say that it was absolutely incredible. I can’t speak highly enough of them as people. It was quite a rock tour as well, and we really don’t have too much rock in us, so we were all very nervous but I have to say that everything went absolutely perfectly.
You recently opened for Charlie Simpson at The Roundhouse in London. How was that?
That was great Kevin, really good. It was definitely one of the best venues that we have ever played. It was actually a dream to play The Roundhouse in front of three thousand people. The acoustics in there are absolutely great.
Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?
This may sound silly Kevin but professionally I would have to say The Smiths I guess. They were a really big thing for me. My dad would play The Smiths constantly (laughter) and so that is what I grew up with. It may sound silly but people are now comparing me to Morrissey (laughter). Somehow I have taught myself to have that vibrato in my voice just like Morrissey did. That could well be why (laughter).
How did you get started in music?
I first met our lead guitarist Jack (Edwards) when I was fifteen years old and he realised that I could sing quite well. Jack suggested that we go away, record some cover versions and the put them online; so we did. We did about fifteen covers of our favourite Oasis songs (laughter) put them up online and that is how it all started. From then we have both been in some terrible bands, and through trial and error whilst learning the trade, Young Kato came about around three and a half years ago now.
You have already mentioned The Smiths, who else were you listening to whilst you were growing up?
I have to say that The Smiths were played quite a lot in our house Kevin (laughter). I only really started listening to Oasis and stuff like that when I reached fifteen and that was all down to Jack telling me and showing me. I can remember that we were in a Religious Education lesson and he threw me his iPod and telling me to listen to it (laughter). It was so good. It sounds quite sad in a way but it was mainly chart music for me.
So tell me, what was the very first record that you actually bought?
I can actually remember that Kevin and it was Busted’s debut album (laughter). I am actually quite proud of that as it has got a few bangers on there (laughter).
Who did you first see playing live in concert?
Actually, I have got a great one. I was about thirteen years old and we went on our first ever holiday abroad as a family. My dad is a massive Simply Red fan as well as The Smiths and it just so happened that Simply Red were playing at the Coliseum in Palma where we were staying and so that would be my very first concert seeing Simply Red in Majorca (laughter). I am really proud of that as it is quite a good one.
What was it like when the band appeared on the very first episode of Made In Chelsea?
It was a weird experience although it was cool seeing them turn Camden Barfly into a TV set. It was very odd but it definitely helped us as a band. It allowed us to take the step up from being a local band to giving us a national profile. So we are still very grateful even today to the music producer on the show who chose us before any other band.
What has been the highlight of your careers so far?
I would have to say for me personally, the Unit Six Tour was fantastic. We supported them at the Nottingham Arena and that was absolutely incredible; it was the best night of the whole tour. People were entering the arena two hours before we went on stage. The place was absolutely packed and it was one of the best shows that we have ever put on. I guess that the second thing for me would be that I have just got the test pressing for our album, and that is one thing that I wanted, I wanted the album to be released on vinyl and I have got it (laughter).
You have mentioned Nottingham, did you get a chance to have a walk around the city?
Yes Kevin we really do love Nottingham. We have played there a few times now in the Red Rooms and stuff like that. We have played The Bodega a few times, and we love the city. It definitely does have a great nightlife. We have had a few good nights out in Nottingham and I’m sure that we will be having another one after the gig at The Bodega (laughter) if you are up for it Kevin (laughter). It’s great that it has two universities as that gives the city a good student base. Last year we played the Fred Perry stage at the Dot To Dot Festival in the city and that was fantastic.
What has been your single most embarrassing moment?
I have been quite lucky in the fact that I have not had too many mistakes (laughter). Let me think, back in October we were playing in Leeds and the venue was full to bursting. We went out on to the stage and I accidently said ‘this tour has been great and it can only get better from here’ but in the way that I said it, it sounded like I was saying ‘tonight is terrible, you are all terrible, and it can only get better thank god’ (laughter). It was all because of the way that I said it, but I think that I may have saved it, who knows (laughter).
What single event has changed your life forever?
Oh wow Kevin that is really tough. I guess that the Made In Chelsea TV appearance was crazy because we really did go from playing the Two Pigs which is a small venue in Cheltenham, to selling out the Islington O2. I know that it is only two hundred and fifty capacity but to us, well, we had played London the week before we went on Made In Chelsea and we literally played to zero people. To then get two hundred and fifty people complete with ticket touts outside, well that really was fantastic. I was really tempted to buy a ticket for our gig off a tout outside (laughter). I think that was the change in the band. Even though it happened two years ago, potentially we weren’t as ready for it then as we are now; it was a fantastic feeling that we can’t knock.
Tommy, thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
It’s my pleasure Kev, thank you. And we will see you in Nottingham for a night out (laughter) after the gig at The Bodega.
(Laughter) It will be a pleasure but do you and the boys like bingo?
Actually we do. We went and celebrated the album being finished at a Mecca Bingo (hysterical laughter). We were in London and it is cheap drinks.
On that note make sure you bring your dabbers with you (laughter). Take care. Bye.