Introducing Young Aviators
Having relocated from Warrenpoint to Glasgow, the indie rockers have discovered an audience and released their debut album, Self Help
Glasgow record label Electric Honey know indie talent when they see it. Over the past two decades the small-but-august imprint has put out early releases by Snow Patrol, Biffy Clyro and Belle and Sebastian.
No wonder, then, that Decky McKay, lead singer with Young Aviators, is so excited that Electric Honey are about to put out the Glasgow-via-Warrenpoint three-piece’s debut album.
‘It’s incredible. This time last year we had literally nothing,’ McKay, 26, says over a cup of herbal tea in an achingly hip café in Glasgow’s fashionable West End. ‘Now we have a label, a press guy, a PR guy, an agent. It’s crazy.'
As well as the debut record, Self Help, 2013 has seen Young Aviators tour with Reef, Nine Black Alps and Subways. This month they also supported indie titans Travis in a series of gigs across Scotland. But success has not exactly come overnight. The band previously known as Black Alley Screens started when McKay was barely a teenager back home in their native Warrenpoint.
‘We started the band when I was 13, to meet girls,' McKay laughs. 'Anyone who says he isn’t in a band to meet girls is just lying. Dealing with emotions and the bad times in your life is just secondary.’
After cutting their teeth in south Down, McKay decamped to Glasgow along with bassist Kyle Haughey and drummer John Markey seven years ago. ‘We’d been to Glasgow a couple of times and we liked it,’ says McKay, who studied English literature at Glasgow University.
‘It’s far enough away to feel that you have made the big leap, but it’s close enough culturally and geographically. The west coast of Scotland has all the same problems as Northern Ireland – bad weather, alcoholism, sectarianism.’
After crossing the Irish Sea, the three bandmates moved in with each other, and that’s how their living arrangement remained until a domestic change a couple of months ago. ‘It’s a miracle we haven’t killed each other,’ McKay jokes. ‘We have fights and stuff but we’re not like the Waltons. We’re pretty easy going.’
In Glasgow, McKay started working in a popular West End bar, the Doublet, where the Bluebells’ Ken McCluskey (of ‘Young At Heart’ fame) was among the patrons. McCluskey encouraged the group to put together an album. Self Help was born.
Recorded in the Blantyre studio of fabled Glasgow label Chemikal Underground, Self Help is a lot like McKay – dynamic, energetic but also, at times, thoughtful and considered. There are echoes of big influences – Nirvana, the Jam – but also more recent guitar heroes such as the Strokes and the Artic Monkeys.
Discovering an audience for their sound was not always easy, says McKay. While many Northern Ireland artists have relocated and settled easily in Scotland, Young Aviators initially found the Glasgow music scene a tough nut to crack.
‘It’s much more nurturing in Northern Ireland now,’ McKay believes. ‘But Glasgow is like London, it’s super-saturated. It’s really hard to stand out. Everyone is in a band in Glasgow. If you’re not in a band, your girlfriend is in a band or your friend is in a band.’
It might have taken a while, but Glasgow is definitely warming to Young Aviators. It helps that McKay has something many frontmen lack – personality.
The previous week I bumped into him at a fancy dress party in a Glasgow warehouse where the Young Aviators were playing. Despite a heavy cold picked up on a tour of Germany and Austria, McKay was a livewire, engaging the crowd, inviting abuse and, ultimately, climbing off the stage to hand out jaffa cakes to assorted zombies, ghouls and goblins.
Now McKay has packed in the bar job, although he still travels back to Northern Ireland occasionally to work with his father. ‘I’m technically an international painter and decorator,’ he says, with no little pride. When we meet, he is not long back from a week on a building site in Lurgan.
The band maintains a strong connection with home, too. For the past decade they have played a Boxing Day gig in Warrenpoint. It’s a tradition they intend to continue this year – along with the 12 pubs of Christmas. ‘There’s only 13 pubs in the town but we don’t like one of them, so we don’t go there.’
The Young Aviators seem destined for bigger and better things, but McKay seems unlikely to get too carried away. ‘If you go on stage with the mantra that most people don’t care, you’ll be OK,' he concludes philosophically. 'If you can leave the room with some people caring you’ve done alright.’
Self Help is available to download now on Electric Honey records.