Years & Years coming to The Showbox on October 30
In the five years it took from conception to completion of the debut Years and Years album Communion, frontman Olly Alexander did a lot of growing up. Part of this was the simple, pleasing physical experience of seeing huge success at close range. ‘When the album started I was 23,’ Olly notes. He will be 28 this year. ‘I’ve discovered a lot about myself.’ With Communion, Years and Years made a palpable new tribal impact on pop. They mapped out something of the treasure trail of pop’s special inlet, locating a loyal band of brothers and sisters for whom Olly meant more than someone to look up to, glistening on stage. He felt like a friend.
‘I had three years of mind-fuck, crazy experiences travelling around the world,’ he continues. It all came as something of a shock to Olly. ‘I genuinely thought that those things would never happen or that people would respond to a gay pop star slut-dropping on stage.’ When he stepped aside from touring the record at the end of 2016, he began to think a little harder and deeper about his purpose. ‘It’s changed my beliefs in what I am capable of doing.’
When he began performing, Olly used to take the magical leap of faith all performers must de facto rely on, that they might have a place up there reserved for themselves. ‘I always used to go out on stage and be a bit scared,’ he says. It was all guesswork at that stage. ‘I was nervous, connected to my experiences growing up as a queer kid at school. I was always wary of enemies, of thinking people were going to tear me down or hurt me.’
He felt the fear and did it anyway. ‘Going out on stage is a bit like putting on this armour for me. Applaud me now. I can do this.’ By the close of the album campaign, he’d very nearly started to believe it. ‘It started to change when I’d see so many queer kids in the front row. They were just having the best times of their lives, making friends with each other. I had never experienced anything like that until I’d become the singer of Years and Years.’
This summer, Years and Years will release their hugely-anticipated second album. All of Olly’s newly minted creative ambition will find its pure physical pulse. And already, at the early listening stage, it feels stuffed full of meaningful hits, a transitional leap from the lay-lines of the homespun pop majesty of Communion toward something of the crystalline magic that ran once through the Jackson family fingertips. Throughout, Years and Years have crafted their own special landmarks that feel intuitively connected to great British pop classicism while standing bolt upright on a world stage next to Drake, The Weeknd and Rihanna.