Keeping creative talent out of the clutches of bigger cities like Leeds and inside the walls of York has always been a challenge.
But a young York record label is determined to turn that around and invest in the flourishing scene already on its doorstep.
Founded by Dave Greenbrown and Jonny Hooker in 2016, the Young Thugs label was born out of the desire to create a platform for what Dave describes as “an amazing, dedicated underground acoustic and punk scene in York”.
The label, now boasting five signed bands and many more collaborative projects, has become fertile ground for boosting home grown York talent.
“Trying to keep artistic creative people in York after they finish university is a real challenge for the city so hopefully we’re feeding into that now with what we’re doing,” Jonny says.
Both Jonny and Dave have been prominent on the northern music scene for well over a decade. Dave moved to York five years ago to get away from the band mania in Leeds.
“I was kind of looking forward to taking a break,” he admits. The ‘break’, however, was short lived, as they quickly found that York’s smaller scene provided a unique sense of creative collaboration that made its city walls home to diverse and inclusive music.
Young Thugs Studios are built into the top floor of the majestically retro South Bank Social Club. Tucked away outside the city walls the buildings red brick exterior reveals a surprisingly spacious interior filled with swirling Seventies-style carpets, multiple bars, and nestled around a snooker room the recording studio itself.
It’s here that Jonny, resident recording engineer, produces and mixes with Young Thugs musicians.
The space is also home to the now infamous ‘Hovel’, a room in which the label put on collaborative, interesting and unique gigs – like this one…
“Our whole ethos with live events is that they have to be interesting, so it’s a venue you’ve never seen before or a concept you’ve never thought of,” said Jonny.
Becoming a venue is not really their aim. Gigs have to be ad hoc, because “it’s a working men’s club and we want to stay true to that,” said Dave.
Instead, the two are keen to make the label and studio a place where they facilitate and collaborate with the best and brightest York creative talent.
“We want to help generate and be part of a creative scene in York,” Jonny says.
“We have poets and theatre companies we’re aligned with, and we work very closely with Coffee Films.”
Their next much anticipated Hovel session is due to take place at the end of March, containing spoken word and music created in collaboration with writer Hannah Davis and The Arts Barge.
They also have big plans for the recording studio, Dave said:
We’ve got big plans, not least on the community side of things, working with disadvantaged people, preserving South Bank Social Club as a centre, continuing to support the local arts scene, but also from a commercial perspective to turn it into a world class residential recording space over the next 5-10 years – this is something York doesn’t have.
Merging and swapping of artists and projects is an important theme for Young Thugs, and this is very much reflected in their five eclectic bands signed to the label.
Dave, featuring in South Bank Suicide Club and Washing Machine Repair Man emphasises that this type of musical intermingling is what makes York so special in the first place. Here we have a small countdown of Young Thugs talent…
Young Thugs bands
Founded in 2011, this Indie Punk outfit has already enjoyed some pretty big support from the likes of NME, 6 Music and BBC Introducing. Their fourth and newest album, DOG, has already been released and was introduced creatively through a Hovel gig where everybody in the room wore an origami dog mask.
With a raw and powerful guitar sound the band have already supported and toured with bands such as The Fall, The Undertones and The Damned. If your keen for a shot of musical adrenaline “…And The Hangnails” are well worth a listen.
Much like The Young Thugs label itself, this band have their roots very much in merging and collaborating. The three members of the band, already active in other York music projects, met at an open mic and came together armed with guitars, keyboards and flutes.
Self-described as “wonk rock” their quirky acoustic sound makes for both an amusing and eclectic listen. The band continue to feature and work with other York artists such as Bonnie Milnes from The Lungs.
Bingo Hall of The Dead, recorded at Young Thugs Studios, is their debut album.
Mischievous and fun, Washing Machine Repair Man Blend political satire with humour. Strumming boldly on their acoustic guitars half of this folk punk duo is comprised of one of Dave Greenbrown’s music persona’s. Their album, Live at The Hovel: I. is available and out now for listeners pleasure and amusement.
One of Young Thugs first ever releases, Theo and Bonnie met when they were still at school in York. Using a wonderful and interesting blend of soulful drawl and simple powerful lyric and chord combinations the two released their EP Julianna Buttermaker under the The Lungs.
Now renamed Gwen, the band name bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel and Leonard Cohen as their musical influences. Julianna Buttermaker is available here.
Bonnie has also recently released her own debut solo EP with Young Thugs and has been cited as one of York’s most beautiful voices.
Founded in late 2015 and signed to Young thugs later that year, ‘LUUNA’ have already had their first track ‘A Big Fat Something’ praised and promoted by BBC Radio 1, 6Music and BBC Introducing.
This dreamy and dark psychedelic pop has already been toured all over the North. Their EP iiMoonflower, launched at The Crescent in York is available on vinyl and CD at the link above.