After winning last year’s Mercury Prize, Young Fathers angered a number of journalists by refusing to speak to the more right of centre publications attending their victory press lap. Writers from The Daily Star, Sun, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror were asked to leave the room entirely. Reflecting on the incident in Drowned in Sound, John Earls, who has freelanced for the Star, among others, wrote: “We refused [to leave]. We have jobs to do.”
He went on to state that not smiling in photos and excluding some members of the press wasn’t principled, but “childish...Being principled would have been refusing to accept a nomination in the first place.” Even so, it’s clear the guys in YF were sticking to whatever it was they believed in.
As this took place in 2014, one think-piece was bound to begat another. And sure enough, YF’s then manager, Tim Brinkhurst, also took to DiS to defend his band. While he wholeheartedly disagreed with Earl’s gripe, he did concede that “it’s hard to get regular work as a journalist and even the most ardent commy will happily start writing for her natural enemy.”
Young Fathers perform at last year's Mercury Prize.
Tim, you’re not wrong there. While I didn’t get into journalism to puke out copy for distasteful publications, doing so has helped me get my name in a few I actually like - and paid my rent. In an industry as competitive as this, you take your bylines where you can get them. Principles be damned; a man’s gotta eat. On that note, I did get into journalism for one other thing: All the free shit! Not only has a man gotta eat, he’s gotta eat canapes and drink free booze at various events.
And this is how I found myself at a collaborative ‘product launch’ between two enormous brands in Shoreditch last night. One is a popular speaker company, the other is a globe-beating streaming service that has essentially changed how we listen to music, and how artists get paid. Hint: It’s not TIDAL. When I arrived a PR told me that Young Fathers would be performing later in the night. My gameplan that evening was to drink as many Peronis as possible and locate the catering temp most willing to ply me with pulled-pork sliders. I had no idea YF would be playing - the invite merely mentioned a ‘special guest.’ I was psyched.
I’ve seen Young Fathers before and I think they’re great. Their music is great, their voices are great, their dance moves are great. I like the way the white guy looks like someone who’d deal ket at a former polytechnic. I like their bad attitude. Fuck the media, we’re all shits anyway. Their performance last night was also great. Sadly, if you don’t mention on the invite that Young Fathers are playing, the people at the show aren't going to be fans, but brand employees, PRs, and goons like me: Wasteman journalists who only came for the booze.
So the crowd was dead. Really dead. In our defense, there were probably only about 35 of us. About halfway through the set, singer Alloysious Massaquoi said something along the lines of “this is the shittest party I’ve ever been to and the most boring crowd I’ve ever seen.”
I did feel bad for him, at first. No one wants to be Spinal Tap at the puppet show. Sadly for the dudes in YF, you can’t expect the tr00 madheadz to fill the floor when you’re performing at an ultra dry product launch - one you’ve probably been paid a tidy packet to play.
Worse still, the streaming service paying that packet is probably the reason why bands can’t make money off their music anymore, meaning they have to supplement their income with this sort of dreadful corporate gigging. Twenty years ago this would’ve have been the definition of selling out, now it’s just survival.
It’s barely been a year since Young Fathers stuck two fingers up at the establishment at the Mercury Awards. I guess they can’t afford to do that anymore. If you’re looking for principles, you won’t find them here.
After all, a band’s gotta eat.
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