Interview: Years & Years take us behind the world of Palo Santo

The Courier Music listen to Years & Years' sophomore record, Palo Santo, and chat to the band...

Toby Bryant
4th July 2018
Image: Chuff Media

“Life is pressure,” Emre Turkmen from Years and Years jokes as he speaks to The Courier, two weeks before the release of the band’s sophomore record, Palo Santo.

After the draw-dropping success of 2015’s debut, Communion, there are high expectations of a group who are fast becoming Britain’s pop-pride. Emre plays down the achievements of Communion, a plaque in his own small studio the only nod to the record, although he takes deserved pride in being able to say, “me and my friends did that”. It’s an album that broke the pop mould and Palo Santo is a rip-roaring return that will please fans to no end.

Singles ‘Sanctify’ and ‘If You’re Over Me’ have gone down a treat, that latter’s feel-good, tongue in cheek lyrics delivered by frontman Olly Alexander with a wink as it shot up the charts.

“It does seem like a happier album and every track is very different to the other. There’s also quite a lot of stuff we haven’t put on there, one particular release that isn’t so happy. The idea was to make a big pop album, one that’s grander in scale.”

Everything about Palo Santo boasts a grandeur, every detail carefully planned out, even extending into the cinematographic with the music videos released to date. The world of Palo Santo is the brainchild of lead-singer, Olly Alexander, and a short film is set to come out with the record, the trailer for which narrated by none other than Judi Dench.

“It was the idea to do that from the very beginning, before there even was music. We all love sci-fi, video games and fantasy. The idea to create a world is an awesome one for us, down to the video details like our own currency and ID cards.”

“It happened because Olly did a part in a Judi Dench play several years ago, so he knew her from then. She’s just a great woman who has a great sense of humour. We almost worked with her on Communion, she was going to be in the ‘Desire’ video but it fell through as she was doing another film. It was a brilliant bit of casting as the mother of Palo Santo, she’s got that voice!”

On Palo Santo, after ‘Sanctify’ opens, ‘Hallelujah’ is a groovy celebration of dance and once it’s got you moving, there’s no sign of the band letting you stop, as the percussion of ‘All For You’ starts to throb. ‘Karma’ may see the band’s infamous synths slow down, but the result is a superbly catchy chorus. ‘Preacher’ is another standout which sees Alexander’s vocals soar in what has all the hallmarks of a top track live. For Emre, it’s either ‘Rendezvous’ or title-track, ‘Palo Santo’, that are closest to his heart:

“I kind of go into the darker stuff personally. ‘Rendezvous’ was one that we did in a very Years and Years style, with the three of us. We’ve started playing that live as well and it’s a lot of fun too. It’s cool when songs translate well to the stage.”

The live show is where Years and Years thrive. The three-piece recently announced their UK tour for later this year which sees them stop off at The SSE Hydro and Barclaycard Arena before a huge night at The O2 in London.

“The size of the shows is mad… MAD. I don’t know what we’re doing. We played Wembley at the end of the tour last time and that was 11,000 people which was insane. Now it’s going a level up and it blows my mind, I don’t understand where these people come from. These big shows are a different vibe, it’s a blockbuster thing, you’ve got to go in all guns-blazing.”

Anyone who tuned into Radio 1’s Biggest Weekend this year will have seen Olly hoisted into the air with a long cloak draped from his costume, later removed to reveal a green, chest-baring number. We asked Emre if fans can expect more trademark extravagance on the Palo Santo Tour:

“They can expect Olly dicing with his life every night, hoisted up however many feet it is. We’ve got a really cool set design and visuals. Essentially, the concept is to bring Palo Santo to the people and have a night of sci-fi cabaret.”

Everything that surrounds Palo Santo is an exciting growth from Communionwith a clear direction. We already know that Years and Years have something special going on and Palo Santowill cement their position as THE pop-group to beat.


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