​years & years dream big and predict the future

Ahead of their brilliant set at Helsinki’s Flow Festival, we hung out with the nicest boys in synth pop.

by Francesca Dunn
25 August 2015, 12:30pm

Having released their debut album Communion a month ago, Years & Years just spent a well-deserved week off escaping to various Balearic islands. Olly went with his bf (Neil from Clean Bandit), Mikey with his gf, and Emre missed his flight so stayed at home. Thankfully, he did make it to Helsinki and we joined the trio in their fake garden backstage at sunny Flow Festival. "If it weren't for the wink, I wouldn't have been born…" begins Mikey. You what, mate? "My grandfather was playing cricket and my grandma was making sandwiches at the cricket club and he winked at her just before he was about to hit the ball. And then they got together, had my mother, and that's how it all happened," he explains. Feeling an affinity with i-D, to the far-away sounds of Tyler, The Creator's set, the band get stuck into important topics like the future of genetic modification, the need for gay popstars to use same-sex pronouns in songs, and which SATC characters they're most like.

First things first, which fictional crew do you reckon you guys are most like?
Mikey: I reckon Buffy
Olly: Oh my god, Buffy! Yeah!
Mikey: Emre, you'd be Xander.
Emre: Olly, you'd be Willow I think…
Olly: Willow's the best! And she's a lesbian! She's gay! This is so great. There's no way you'd be Buffy though Emre…
Mikey: I'm not saying I would be! Maybe I'd be Seth Green, Oz, the one who turns into a wolf sometimes. But then we'd have to go out for a while Olly?
Olly: But I turn out to be a lesbian, so that's fine.
Emre: When does she come out? I remember her dating the witch, but I don't remember her ever actually coming out or discussing it with Oz.

Maybe she's bi…
Olly: Oh my god, what about Sex And The City?!
Mikey: I'd be…
Olly: You'd be Charlotte, for sure!
Mikey: Which one was she?
Olly: The prissy, posh one. Emre, you'd be Miranda. Hrmm, I'm not sure if I'm more Carrie or Samantha?
Emre: Actually, maybe you'd be Miranda? I'd be the slutty one…
Olly: Maybe now…
Mikey: Yeah, that's true.

Oh wow! It's all coming out… Olly, you recently spoke out about the need for more gay pop stars to use same-sex pronouns. What sort of response were you met with?
Olly: Mainly supportive. I think some news outlets tried to spin it that I was hitting out at other gay popstars though.

Which you obviously were, right?
Olly: Exactly. I'm always trying to start fights with everyone. No, I wasn't aiming to do that at all. And most people were like, yeah, actually, why isn't that happening?! Which is nice. It's boring just having one voice, one dynamic and relationship represented in pop music, right? And it's not just male gays, it's women too and gender neutral artists, everyone. That kind of stuff is out there, but mainstream music is always a little bit behind I think.

And are there any musicians in particular that you guys respect for using their platform for good?
Olly: There's an electronic producer called Lotic who wrote something really brilliant on being queer in the music industry.
Mikey: Rage Against The Machine are pretty good… they give quite a lot of their profits to charity.
Olly: I was actually kind of on the fence about Miley Cyrus until fairly recently when she started using her platform to raise issues that no-one is talking about, like transgender things. I feel like she really does believe in these things and I respect her for that.
Mikey: Chris Martin's doing a lot for tinnitus… he hands out earplugs to everyone who comes to his gigs.

Oh no, is it really that awful?
Mikey: Good one!

What were your teenage dreams?
Olly: I wanted to be a singer! I wanted to be famous!
Emre: I wanted to be in a band.

So you're living the dream. And what was the last actual dream you had?
Mikey: I dreamt I pissed on a cat last night!

Your cat?
Mikey: No, just a cat. It was black and white and it was in a sink and I just pissed on it.
Emre: I've actually been having really vivid dreams. The other night I had a dream that Olly and I had a big argument. I woke up feeling really annoyed at him.
Olly: Last night I had this dream that I was a mechanic and I had this mechanical mole machine and I was tunneling really fast through the earth.

What do you think it means?
Olly: I dunno… I was tunneling away from something though.

And what do you want that you don't have?
Emre: Oh god, peace of mind? And a D.A.B radio.
Mikey: A Ferris wheel! I'd just have lunch on it and stuff.
Olly: I really want a machine that downloads your dreams so that you can watch them back.

That'd be good.
Mikey: They should make a headset and you put it on another person that you're sleeping with and you both get to be in the same dreams.
Emre: That would be amazing but sort of like Nightmare on Elm Street.
Olly: Yeah, you'd kill each other or something.
Mikey: But you'd only kill each other in the dreams so it wouldn't matter.
Emre: You'd be too busy pissing on a cat! I don't wanna see that!

But Emre, you're the cat…
Emre: That's really dangerous though, cause you probably don't want your girlfriend or boyfriend to know what you're dreaming about.

It'd be fun though to both wake up and be like, shit that was mental!
Mikey: Like, fucking hell! What were you just doing to Daisy Lowe?! Or maybe you can select on your iPad what you wanna dream about? You'll be like, where shall we go honey? And she's like 'let's go to France!' And you press France and…
Olly: That sounds like a boring scenario…
Emre: … yeah and you're both just sat eating baguettes.

Dream big, Mikey! Yeah, that'll definitely happen though.
Emre: And soon you'll be able to choose the gender of your baby.

I'm pretty sure that's possible now.
Emre: Really?!
Olly: Yeah, and you can choose the eye color of your baby and stuff. What you have to worry about is when it gets privatized and rich people start choosing how their kids look as a standard.
Mikey: Like Gattaca!

And rich people will get even fitter…
Olly: Yeah and in the future you'll be able to class people based on how they look because all the rich people will be really beautiful - I mean, it's happening now with plastic surgery - but there'll be all the genetic modifications too in the future. And nobody else will be able to do that do so they'll be normal, ugly people like we are now and people will be like 'you're poor, you're not allowed in."
Mikey: Have you seen Gattaca?
Olly: Yes! Stop talking about Gattaca!
Mikey: But you're just describing exactly what happens in it.

What's the best advice that you've ever received?
Mikey: Never rub your eyes after you've been chopping chillies.
Olly: I dunno… always wear a condom? That's good advice.
Emre: Always?

Olly's wearing one right now…
Emre: Just in case.
Mikey: Permanently sheathed!
Olly: Use a condom, that's what I mean. And get tested.
Mikey: Just as important: always keep a bit of pasta water after boiling, then rinse the pasta, and put the water put back into it with the sauce.
Emre: I don't know why The Guardian think we're middle class…

synth pop
years and years
francesca dunn
music interviews