Dave Le’aupepe doesn’t like his voice. “I like my speaking voice,” he clarifies. “It’s deep and rusty … [but] every time I hear myself sing I feel nauseous. It’s not my forte. I have never considered myself a singer, for the most part, I still don’t.”
To hate one’s own voice is a familiar sentiment, but when you’re the lead vocalist in one of Australia’s most prominent indie rock outfits the revelation is more than a little surprising. Especially considering that Le’aupepe’s vocals, those deep growls and the explosive baritone, are integral to the appeal that is Gang of Youths: guitarist Joji Malani, drummer Donnie Borzestowski, bassist Maxwell Dunn and keyboard player Jung Kim and singer-songwriter Le’aupepe. Five friends (“they are actually my parole officers” Le’aupepe laughs) who met as teens through church and went on to craft the 2015 debut album, The Positions. The record garnered industry praise for its intimate subject matter – Le’aupepe’s ex-wife and her struggle with a cancer diagnosis – but it’s their just-released sophomore album, Go Farther in Lightness, that has brought us together today.
“The new [album] is about the feelings from that moment. It’s about trying to find, I guess, humanity, and answers in myself and in the world,” says Le’aupepe. “It’s about trying to empathise with others, trying to capture something new about my existence that I had been missing for a long time.”
“I want people to ask questions of themselves and questions of their own life and find healing and hope in some of the shit that I’m talking about.”
Did he find the answers he was looking for? “No,” he muses. “Then came more questions, but questions that I am okay with answering for the rest of my life … there is never going to be any unequivocal response to the question of ‘what is this?’, and it’s OK to keep pursuing that, its OK to … pursue being grandiose to those things.”
The 16-track album is certainly full of questions – lead single What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out? asks “Do I throw my clothes in the fire? Do I throw myself in the fire? Do those things grow in the fire or burn just to keep me compliant?”. The songwriting is decidedly more introspective than Positions, the urgency and insistence of the previous recordings still very much imbued within the album, but the new release is, if possible, more realised – a three dimensional examination of what it means to be human, to be confused, to be broken and mended, and loved and loving. Where the debut was intensely personal, a sonic imprint of Le’aupepe’s own experience, Go Farther In Lightness extends its reach even further beyond the life of the young singer.
“Over the past six to eight months I had a pretty radical shift in perception,” he explains. “I began to realise how insignificant and worthless a lot of my career makes me feel, in light some of the more boring attributes and components of it, and how much more valuable it is to care for and be cared for by others.” A profound comprehension for a man of just 25 years. “I think most people stumble across it at one stage in their life, I just came across it pretty early. Some people have to wait until they have partners and children or fucking long winded-story careers or acclamation … to realise the same,” he says. “I just happened to stumble across it quite early and I’m happy with that.”
Le’aupepe hopes the album might have the same effect on audiences that it has on himself. “I think I want them to feel a little bit lighter, maybe a little bit more empowered. I want them to feel more empathetic and more considerate of the world and the lives of others and I want them to be able to identify with things in this record on a thematic level that otherwise would have meant nothing to them before. I’d like to feel like I’m trying to let them in on things that I care about.”