From Rehab To Embracing Love & Life: A Gang Of Youths Interview

From Rehab To Embracing Love & Life: A Gang Of Youths Interview

David Le'aupepe on embracing life and not being dick.

When I first interviewed David Le’aupepe for Pilerats in 2014 Gang of Youths were a band with three songs and an album that seemed like it might never be released. In the same interview Le’aupepe told me that he was 101 days sober after spending time in rehab. A point he later got in trouble for publicly sharing. It was also the same year that the events detailed in Magnolia – Le’aupepe’s attempted suicide – happened, June 3 to be precise.

Three years on Le’aupepe no longer lives in the same continent, he has two albums and an EP under his belt and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Although he says the band is ‘based’ in London because Jung Kim – keyboardist of Gang of Youths – wasn’t granted a visa to remain in Australia.

I ask Le’aupepe to reflect back to then and ask where he is now, “I’m not a fucking neurotic drunken drug addict anymore. I’m embracing love and life,” he replies with a mix of quiet determination and pride.

This embrace continues into his latest album Go Farther In Lightness but he explains music, “…can't be my whole life. It will destroy me if I make it the prime fixation of my life… my life isn’t a way to facilitate art, art is a way to facilitate my life.”

This difference, living for himself and not for something else, is key to Le’aupepe because, “I don’t want to be that self-indulgent coward who was so afraid of anybody, who was afraid to make any connections.” 

Looking back at the events Magnolia Le'auapepe says, “If you want a distillation about the beauty of Magnolia, it’s in the success thereafter in that there was beauty in the attempt [to live]. I decided to live.” This decision and in turn open himself up to the world through his music is a bold one. 

However, this is what Gang of Youths have always tried to do, their music has always been an attempt to break the fourth wall between the act and their listeners. But this is their most powerful to date because of Le’aupepe’s decision not to make something stylistically ‘poetic’ or ‘beautiful’. Rather for Le'aupepe Go Farther In Lightness, “…exists in a total flux for me, for many people it’ll just be an album but for me it’s a living and breathing document of my innermost.”

This charges the album with a power rarely imbued in contemporary rock music let alone Australian contemporary rock music. And while music for many is a deeply personal experience Gang of Youths’s music seems to say even though you can feel alone at points in your life there are so many other people out there who feel the same way and are fighting their own little battles.

Le’aupepe's decision to lay it bare on Go Farther In Lightness stems from, “contributing something that on some subjective level means something to somebody that isn’t me.”

The messages he weaves throughout this album are many and varied but the one that gave this album its name is the Czech novel of the same name by Milan Kundera. To understand Kundera’s message you first need to understand the philosophical view that time is cyclical and everything that has happened will happen again. Both the novel and in turn Gang of Youths’s latest album rails against this instead asking, “…what if everything we did was unique…that is never repeated.” Which Kundera and in turn Le’aupepe see as imbuing every moment with ‘lightness’ compared to the weight of knowing it will all happen again.

It’s heady stuff but at its core Le’aupepe is encouraging each one of us to embrace life. Which is why Go Farther In Lightness ends with the track Say Yes To Life. “Invariably it’s the answer to all the questions I’m asking. There’s a Neitzschean view called Life-Affirming which basically says don’t be a dick.”

And perhaps that’s all you really need to take away from Go Farther In Lightness, don’t be a dick and embrace life because if every moment is unique then go out there and be a part of it.