When was the last time you guys had a day off?” I tentatively ask a tired-looking Years & Years before our interview. They glance at each other, unsure, and shrug. No one can remember. They may be working overtime, but it’s paying off — last month, Years & Years topped the BBC Sound of 2015 poll, previously won by the likes of Adele and Sam Smith, which leads us to two conclusions: one, we’re rather smug that we blasted Years & Years throughout the office months before the hype began, and two, the music industry has got something very big on its hands here.
They’ve been lazily compared to Disclosure, but Years & Years have something that the house brothers don’t: a secret weapon in the form of frontman Olly Alexander, whose pure and soulful voice gives the band the heart that so many other acts dominating the charts lack. Add infectious pop hooks and an intriguing aesthetic to the mix and you’ve got a winning formula.
But the path wasn’t always so clear. The band formed in 2010 when Mikey moved from Australia to London and met Emre online after putting up an ad looking for members to join a band. They then went through several unsuccessful line-ups before meeting Olly at a party. “You weren’t quite sure about me at first,” Olly remembers. “I don’t remember not being sure,” Mikey says, “I rememberbeing quite drunk and trying to be cool actually.” “And I just thought, ‘Oh, god, he’s such a hipster!” Emre adds. Olly’s break came in an unlikely place — the shower. “Mikey heard me singing in there and said, ‘Yeah, you’re quite a good singer, you can come and jam.’”
That jam led to a debut single, “I Wish I Knew”, followed by a couple of songs released via trendsetting French label Kitsuné, but it wasn’t until one of those tracks, “Real”, hit the internet in early 2014 that the penny really dropped. As well as being ridiculously catchy, “Real” was accompanied by a music video inspired by Twin Peaks, which featured Olly’s actor mates Ben Whishaw and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett throwing some, shall we say, unusual shapes on the dance floor. People started talking. Follow-up single “Take Shelter” received even more attention, attested to by its eight million YouTube views, and the trio were signed to a major label. Fresh from a tour with Sam Smith, their next port of call is an album expected later this year. We sit down with Years & Years to find out why the notion of “being popstars” is one that provokes howls of laughter.