Interview: Young Wonder

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When I ask how she is, it is with a ripple of laughter that Rachel Koeman, one-half of Cork-based duo Young Wonder, responds with the confession that she is a little bit hung over. She’d been to a gig the night before, and while she can’t remember the name of the band she says that they were very good, before proceeding to tell me with enthusiasm about what other music she’s been listening to lately: “Disclosure are unbelievable! Alunageorge as well – like, they’re amazing. Really good producer and her voice is just really different.”

Of course, Koeman herself has a singing voice that could be described as really different; on all of Young Wonder’s releases her vocal range is stunning to listen to – powerful, raw, and sometimes almost feral. Combined with bandmate Ian Ring’s slick production, Young Wonder’s music is kind of magic – fantastical, strange, glitchy electro-pop that isn’t quite like anything else out there at the moment.

“You know what, it’s really hard to describe our sound,” Koeman says with amusement when I ask her to do just that. “Everyone always asks us this question, but we don’t actually have an answer. Put very plain and simply, it’s electronic pop music but there are so many other sounds in there it’s hard to pin it down. There are a lot of cultural sounds – I think we’ve always just liked to experiment, [to] look at other cultures.”

On the subject of the influence of other cultures, we discuss the headdress that Koeman often wears in their music videos and photographs. How does she respond to YouTube comments accusing her of cultural misappropriation? “People are gonna find something, no matter what you do,” she says, a tinge of exasperation in her voice. “The way I see it, I just took a headpiece that I thought was really beautiful and I wanted to wear it and appreciate it. I’m sure if I wore a different headpiece people would find something wrong with it – that’s just the internet. It doesn’t bother me and, you know, I would never want to offend anyone.”

Other cultures aside, do they see themselves as being at all influenced by Ireland? “We’re definitely influenced by Irish artists and our friends in Ireland – so many amazing artists are emerging from Ireland. But I think on a bigger scale Ian is influenced by, like, Jamie XX and Disclosure – those sorts of acts. And as a girl in the music scene I tend to go towards acts that have a girl in them – Grimes, Purity Ring, Cults. It’s not like we’re modelling ourselves on boy-girl duos, but you do have to look at other acts.”

Fresh from a recent support slot in London for Alt-J (“It was amazing – like, literally, I was star-struck, it was kind of embarrassing”), March will see the release of Young Wonder’s latest EP, Show Your Teeth. “I cannot wait”, the singer gushes. “I guess it’s a more mature sound than our last EP in that I think it’s a bit more developed and thought-out. It’s maybe a tiny bit more experimental in some songs but more mainstream pop on other songs.”

The EP is sure to see a surge in interest for the exciting duo, but Koeman is hesitant to define popularity as success. “I don’t think you can base it on how many likes you have on Facebook – it’s a very personal thing. For me, if we’re making music and people are enjoying it and we’re enjoying it – then I think that’s successful in its own right.”

Originally published in tn2 Magazine.

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