Hailing from the rural countryside of Oxfordshire is a force of two young English lads equipped with a computer, synthesizers, a guitar and their own vocals. Working under the moniker of Young Athletes League, Pierre Vaux and Harry Sanderson create smooth electronic grooves that most would classify as house music, but there’s a lot more to the duo’s debut EP, We Only Feed Ourselves, out now on young Brooklyn label Ceremony.
Young Athletes League – Forget It And Go Home (DEMO) by Ceremony
“I started out playing in math rock bands in Oxford while making IDM-ish techno,” Vaux tells CMJ. “Harry was in punk and harsh noise bands,” a stark contrast to the duo’s current sound that befits an underground nightclub.
Both growing up in rural Oxford, Vaux and Sanderson met at a friend’s birthday party, but they didn’t start collaborating till they moved in together in 2008. With both of their solo projects coming to an end, it made sense to start working together, combining the minimalist drones they previously made with new-found rhythmic elements. The results paint a picture of what growing up in a small town was like for the two. “It’s more from the feeling of sensory overload of rural kids moving into cities than the sound of rural England itself.”
The minimalist approach serves the pair well, building and layering its sounds upon simple foundations. The title track begins with synth notes in a basic pattern that become more syncopated as the music progress, while adding ambient sound, steady percussion hits and sporadic incoherent vocals. This construction is attributed to Vaux and his laptop, his hub of creativity, while Sanderson joins in for jam sessions that will later be worked into actual tracks. “When we write I control the software, synthesizer, SK5, guitar and vocals. Harry works on synths, another SK5, sampler and sometimes a TR707,” explains Vaux. “It’s the exact same setup we use when we play as a two-piece.”
Vaux taught himself how to use the software to make music, as well as how to play guitar and synths. “I tried lessons but really had no interest in Rod Stewart covers over midi backing tracks, so I just detuned.” His eagerness to learn spills over into the academic world as a university student studying Russian. “It’s hard, but that keeps me interested,” he says.
Though the improvisational jamming is a joint effort between the two, Vaux is primarily in charge of the actual writing. “The writing process is way more accidental, improvised recordings scoured for good bits and then reconstructed quite mechanically,” he explains. “I very rarely succeed in taking some idea or inspiration to fruition once I sit down and try to play it.” The three tracks on the EP were all created at different times, “Monaco Sunglasses” being the oldest, followed by “Glossed Over” and “We Only Feed Ourselves.” “The tracks were rebuilt from different recordings and live edits in Ableton and then tightened up by a friend of mine in London through nice analog gear,” Vaux says. “It was a first for us, having only ever mixed ourselves.”
There are no tour plans as of yet for Young Athletes League, but Vaux has some ideas of where to take the project. “I want to streamline it a lot more,” he says. “Harry is also going to work on more live visual stuff” because “it’s far more exciting to flood a room with smoke and video walls than to watch people play songs.”