With Angel in Realtime, the third studio album from Gang of Youths, the Australian indie band has built a sound that balances their signature stadium rock with singer David Le’aupepe’s personal meditations on family, identity, and how we process grief. A 13-track tribute to Le’aupepe’s late father, Angel in Realtime is Gang of Youths’ most ambitious and personal album to date.
Their upcoming show at the Majestic Theatre on April 21 will be the first time the Aussie group has visited Madison, and the audience should expect a high-energy, uplifting rock performance, as the band has always embraced emotion and Le’aupepe has always worn his heart on his sleeve.
The charismatic frontman often sings about his personal life with sincerity and an endearing vulnerability. It’s part of why the band quickly became a sensation across Australia.
Formed in Sydney in 2012, Gang of Youths gained traction with “Magnolia,” the third single off their debut album, The Positions. A track about Le’aupepe’s suicide attempt after going on a bender, it’s an anthemic, remarkably uplifting track that encapsulates the band’s sound at its very best: intimate but poppy, heavy but optimistic. The band has a knack for making the small moments in life feel intimate and universal at the same time.
The quartet — composed of Le’aupepe, bassist Max Dunn, guitarist and keyboardist Jung Kim, drummer Donnie Borzestowski, and violinist and guitarist Tom Hobden — has garnered accolades Down Under. Their sophomore album, Go Farther in Lightness, earned them a No. 1 debut on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) charts and four wins at the 2017 ARIAs, including best rock album and album of the year. That same year, Gang of Youths relocated to London.
“Recording in London is everything to this [new] album,” bassist Dunn says in a video interview with Isthmus. The band wanted to make a tribute to Le’aupepe’s father — who died in 2018 from cancer — with new instrumentation, but for it to still feel like a London album (the feeling comes across on track “Spirit Boy” especially). Much of the two-year process was experimental and self-engineered.
This is also the band’s first album with Tom Hobden, previously of Noah and the Whale and a touring musician for Mumford & Sons. Hobden’s close collaboration with Le’aupepe added an orchestral layering throughout the album, enriching songs like opener and standout track, “You in Everything.” “It feels like we leveled up,” Dunn says of Hobden’s role in the band.
Of all the sonic influences on the album, Le’aupepe’s Samoan heritage plays the most prominent role. After his father’s passing, Le’aupepe and his wife made a voyage to Samoa to learn more about him and secrets he’d kept. As a result, Indigenous music plays a big role throughout the album.
The band traveled to Auckland, New Zealand, in 2020 to perform with Cook Island drummers and the Polynesian Gospel Choir. This is their first record incorporating Island music samples layered into their tracks; many of these samples come from David Fanshawe, a British musician who traveled to the Pacific Islands in the 1970s to preserve indigenous music. Layering in indigenous samples and instruments felt like a fitting tribute to Le’aupepe’s father.
“It weighed heavy on me that it was a tribute to him,” Dunn says. “I feel very honored to be telling a Pasifika’s [Pacific Islander peoples] story.”
In the U.S., Gang of Youths are building a bigger fanbase, but it hasn’t happened overnight. Dunn remembers performing shows across the U.S. to almost no one, but that’s changing, in part thanks to Angel in Realtime.
At their upcoming show at the Majestic Dunn hopes to connect with fans and make them feel the same way they felt when making the music.
“This is someone’s Friday night, man. This is sacred,” Dunn says with a smile. “This has to blow their mind.”