In some ways, 2019 was a quiet year for Gang of Youths. They released no new music. They didn’t do a proper Gang of Youths tour. They spent time in the studio working on a new album, but announced nothing official about when it’ll be released.
But in other ways, 2019 was the most tumultuous and important year in the band’s history. There wasn’t a ton of Gang of Youths news during the year, but the news that happened is stuff that will change the band’s trajectory from this point forward.
So, just like we did one year ago, let’s end 2019 with a look back at the biggest Gang of Youths news of the year.
1.) Gang of Youths signs its first international record deal.
Seven years in, Gang of Youths finally landed a much-needed international record deal with Warner Records. You heard the news first right here on Deepest Sighs, when we discovered a Warner social media post that welcomed the band to the label, and again when we reported on a Dutch radio interview where Dave confirmed the news for the first time.
This means that GOY will have a level of international support (financial, logistical, etc.) that the band has never known. The record deal should open the door to the kind of promotion and distribution that bands generally can’t get on their own.
Still unknown is how long and/or how many albums the contract includes. But I suspect we’ll hear at least some of those details in the new year when Gang of Youths releases its next album — the first on the Warner label.
2.) Joji Malani leaves the band.
Still scratching your head about this news? You’re not alone. In October, just before the end of a tour supporting Mumford & Sons, the band announced that Joji was leaving to “move on into the next phase of his professional life.” Since then, keen social media observers have no doubt noticed a few posts from the band’s friends and associates hinting that Joji will have a solo album coming out in the new year.
But why did he leave, especially when the band has a new record deal and could be on the precipice of new levels of success and visibility? That hasn’t been explained by anyone yet, and may never be. (Although Joji will surely get asked about it repeatedly if and when he does promotion for that solo album.)
Related to all this is the question of how the band replaces Joji. They’ve been working in the studio for much of the past couple months, and from what we understand, the new band member is with them. We thought there’d be an announcement by now, or even just a social media post introducing the newest GOYer … but so far, crickets.
3a.) Gang of Youths tours with Mumford & Sons … twice!
In 2018, Gang of Youths introduced itself to a bunch of new fans when they toured briefly in the U.S. with Foo Fighters. In 2019, it happened again but with Mumford & Sons — and it happened on a much bigger scale.
In the spring, GOY supported M&S for 16 shows across Europe on the latter’s Delta Tour. They visited 12 countries, five of which Gang of Youths had never played before. In the fall, the two bands did seven shows together in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico — the latter was another country where GOY had never played.
The coolest thing about these two tours is that Gang of Youths didn’t just play to arenas that were only 25% full as fans shuffled in to see the main act. On both tours, Mumford & Sons invited GOY out for a live performance of “Blood” during Mumford’s encore. In doing so, Mumford guaranteed that pretty much everyone who bought a concert ticket saw Gang of Youths on stage. It was incredible exposure night after night, show after show.
3b.) Mumford & Sons releases their “Blood” collaboration with Gang of Youths.
It wasn’t just those 23 shows where Mumford & Sons promoted Gang of Youths to its own fans. Twice during the year, Mumford released an official version of that “Blood” cover collaboration. The first release happened on YouTube, where the video has now been watched more than 373,000 times.
Several months later, M&S included “Blood” as the b-side on a limited edition vinyl single.
Together, the two tours plus the YouTube video and the vinyl single were a series of incredibly generous gestures from Mumford & Sons that gave Gang of Youths the kind of publicity that most ambitious indie bands can only dream about.
4.) Gang of Youths plans a new album and tour for 2020.
In late 2018, Dave told radio host Zane Low that he wanted the next Gang of Youths album to be finished in 2019. But as the year progressed (and things like Nos. 2 and 3a above happened), it became obvious that the band wasn’t going to meet that unofficial deadline.
While fans like you and us speculated and assumed that a new album would happen in 2020, Dave himself finally confirmed that plan as the band played a pair of September shows in Los Angeles. What was unspoken then — but you can count on it — is that the new album will be followed by a tour, the first backed by Warner Records.
So that’s my take on the biggest moments of the year. Somehow, Gang of Youths managed to have both a quiet and a monumental year in 2019. Together, it all sets the stage for what should be a very exciting 2020.
Wanna add your thoughts on the band’s changes in 2019? Click the “start the discussion” link below.