Words: Miljan Milekić
The last time I interviewed Blood Youth, it was quite a chaotic experience. It was in Brussels in 2017 during their tour with Neck Deep, and I caught them somewhere between their soundcheck and set. Don’t get the wrong idea, they were super-nice and super-polite, but the pressure of the busy backstage took the best of me, and I don’t feel the interview did the band justice. This time, however, it was very different. Although we did it via phone call, and the band is in the middle of the tour, it felt a lot more chill and relaxed. I spoke to singer Kaya Tarsus about their new album ‘Starve,’ touring life and mental health in a conversation that felt more like a chat with a friend than an official interview. Just the way it should be.
Hi Kaya! First of all, thank you for doing this, and finding the time to do it while on tour. So, how’s the tour been so far?
Kaya: It’s been amazing. Every show has been very busy and very crazy, so, we’re just really enjoying it. In the UK, we know what to expect. We had some sold-out shows, which is really cool. And then, in Europe, we never know what to expect, but every single night it’s been really, really crazy. So, that’s cool. Yeah.
Yeah. But I know Europe really loves you guys. I’ve seen you twice, and it was amazing both times.
Kaya: I know, but well, we like to kind of go with the idea that, if you go into something not expecting a lot and then you’re surprised by it, it just feels a lot better.
Yeah, I can actually agree with that. So, this is your biggest European tour so far as a headliner, right? How does it feel to, play bigger venues, and headline some places you possibly played as a support in the past?
Kaya: Yeah, it’s really cool. You know, when you’re playing as a support, you’re never sure, you never know if anybody’s there to see you. You just go – everybody here is just to get to see the headline band. And what is really cool is that when we play these headline shows, we’re seeing people that were at those shows when we supported the bigger bands. So for us, it shows that it’s working and that we’re doing something right. And like I said, the venues have been really full. So it feels really good.
And I like how you manage to gather all these different people on your shows. As I said, I saw you twice, once with While She Sleeps and once with Neck Deep, and were a great fit for both tours very well. Do you think the diversity of people at your show is more because of your music itself, or all those different shows you played?
Kaya: I think it’s a bit of both, really. Everybody in the band was influenced by lots of different types of music, so I think that comes out in our songs as well. And we’re the type of band where we do not say “no” to anything. We’re not scared to be put in front of any crowd, we’ll support Justin Bieber if you ask us. We don’t really care because we know that we can win a crowd. And that’s how you have to be. That’s worked for us because our shows now are, kind of, half heavy metal moshers, and half pop punk and Neck Deep fans and stuff like that. So, it’s really cool ’cause it feels like we’re bringing communities together. And if we can keep doing that, that’s really cool.
And about that diversity in your sound – release after release, you constantly explore, you constantly change and offer something new. How hard is it for you to explore all those different influences and to keep your sound, to still be what Blood Youth is and what Blood Youth is supposed to be?
Kaya: Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s all about writing. We realized that we write music that we like, and I think that’s very much the Blood Youth sound. Everything you hear is very real. It’s very honest, we don’t put out music that we don’t like. There will be some bands to only do it because they want to be famous or they want to be popular. They want to write songs that other bands are writing ’cause that’s what’s popular at the time.
If you remember, in maybe 2015-2016, everybody was in a pop punk band, there were like millions of pop punk bands. And we’ve never been that type of band. We’ve known what was popular, but we’ve just always written things that we like. I think that’s what’s coming across in our music. Obviously, there are lots of influences in our music, but we liked that music, and that’s what we want to play. So, I’m just really glad that people hear it and people really appreciate it.
What do you think, what is the main reason behind the fact that the new album is so different and so much darker and heavier?
Kaya: Well, we just didn’t want to become a predictable band. After our first album, ‘Beyond Repair,’ I think everybody thought they had us figured out as a band, and they thought they knew what we were going to put out next. Then, you know, I read some magazines that said that our next album was probably going to be very melodic and pop punk and things like this, because we’re going to try and get into the mainstream and blah, blah, blah…
And we said – no, we’re just going to go heavier and darker. That’s always what we wanted to do because we love shocking people and we don’t want to become a predictable band. After ‘Beyond Repair,’ we wrote half of an album, but it sounded exactly like ‘Beyond Repair,’ so we just throw it all away and started again. So that’s where this new album came from – it’s us just flipping everything on its head. And it’s really exciting when it comes to the next album because that’s going to be really different as well. So that’s how we always want to be.
I noticed that you did this time, you went even further in terms of lyrics, and you showed a side that you didn’t really show before in your music. How did it feel to open like that in your lyrics, and let people see deep into your personal thoughts and feelings?
Kaya: I think it’s always been very difficult, but it’s something that you have to do if you want to put out this type of music. We really pride ourselves in being really honest and open, and we always want people to use our music as some sort of therapy. And if it can help them, then that’s really great. And the only way you can be a source of therapy for people is if everything is 100% real. So, I didn’t want to hold back with the lyrics on this. A lot of the times when I’ve been writing lyrics, I’ve not used a lyric because they’ve been too honest, or they’ve been too brutal. And this time, I was like – no, I just want to be 100% real. If people like it, then they like it; if they don’t, they don’t. But it seems that people really like it, so I’m really glad it’s come across that way.
One of the topics you covered on this record is depression. A lot of times people just don’t get why musicians suffer from depression, and what’s behind it. And every once in a while we see people from the industry struggling with mental health, and even committing suicides, Keith from The Prodigy just being the most recent. How hard and how exhausting can it be touring for like ten months a year, hardly staying in contact with your family, with your friends, losing your social life. And do you have any idea why it’s so hard for fans, to understand that?
Kaya: Well, yeah, like you just said it, it’s the hardest thing you can do, but it’s also the most rewarding. The music industry has incredible highs and horrible, horrible lows because it’s just how it affects you. This life isn’t for everybody. Every single relationship I’ve had has broken down because of this, I’ve had friends, they don’t speak to me anymore because I’m away so much. My family, they understand it, but obviously, I’m away from them a lot. And these are the things that start to fuck with you. I found myself…
You know, we were doing tours with Stone Sour, we were touring with Prophets of Rage and everybody, we were playing arenas and things like that. But then, I would come home to my apartment after being on tour for three months, and I would just cry and cry, and cry because I was so sad. I imagine it’s like when people have spent their entire life away, and they come back to reality. It can really get to you.
But then, I walk out on stage to a sold-out show, and everybody in the room is singing our songs, and it’s just all 100% worth it. It’s all we’ve ever wanted since we were ten years old. And I think it’s hard for people to realize and understand the depression of the music industry because a lot of people just live the nine-to-five life. They work in the bank, they have a house, they have kids, and their life is very planned out for them. Whereas when you do what we do, you’re away for so long, and your life is traveling, your life is, you know, experiencing a lot of things. And it can get to you. Like I said, this life isn’t for everybody. And unfortunately, you see that with what’s just happened, and it’s very sad.
Yeah. A few years back, I did an interview with a musician from the UK who said that at one point he didn’t even have this home. He literally canceled his apartment because he was there like a month or two months a year, and there was no point in keeping it. It’s crazy.
Kaya: That’s what can happen. I’m very lucky because I have an apartment in Leeds in the UK where I live, and I live there with my roommate. He’s called Robin [Adams], and he is the producer of our new album. He understands, and he’s there now just on his own while I’m on tour. So, when I come back from the tour, I don’t come home to an empty apartment anymore. I come home to my friends, to my family, and everything like that. So, that’s really cool now, because I know that it’s not just an empty black apartment right now. There’s actually somebody living there, and I’m going to come back to, you know, friends and stuff like that. So, that’s really important.
Yeah, I understand. And totally unrelated information – your roommate has the same name as our cat. (laughs)
Kaya: Oh yeah, I’ll tell him that. (laughs)
So, what do you think, what’s next for Blood Youth? Do you already have anything in mind to push the band further forward?
Kaya: We’re just going to be touring and doing what we do. We’re a touring band, and we’re just going to be all over the place. We want to keep playing the biggest venues, the biggest crowds, the biggest shows we can. We don’t really set a cap on what we can do as a band; we’re going to do whatever we can do, to do what we want to do. Uh, so we’re just going to be touring a lot basically. Like I said to you at the start of the interview, we don’t say “no” to anything, and that opens so many doors for you. Hopefully, we’re going to get over to Australia and America soon and, and do all that. So there’ll be cool, it was just lots and lots of touring.
And hopefully, some of it with Every Time I Die, right?
Kaya: Yeah! Yeah, definitely! (laughs)