Q&A :: Young Cairo
September 5th 2012
Long after the split of Kid Confucius, Andrawis George still hasn’t unstrapped the guitar from his body, nor stopped his vocal chords from vibrating – but pretty much everything else has changed. Now embarking on a solo venture as Young Cairo, a newly bearded, wiser George decided to create a two-pronged project; pairing pastel-coloured, Egyptian-style design with bright, densely layered indie pop. This coming Thursday at UNM, The Young Cairo Pop Shop project rises in preparation for your brutal judgement, following which Young Cairo will take on The Presets head-to-head by releasing a single also titled ‘Ghosts’. I now present to you the words of the man whom you should probably consider having sex with.
You’ve been on quite the post-Confucius globetrot over a number of years in order to bring this project together. Was this lengthy journey a case of meticulousness in wanting to create the most diverse and expressive art you could, or were there setbacks?
The two-and-a-bit years spent creating Young Cairo, musically and visually, was actually self-enforced, for a couple of reasons. The first is that I was adamant not to go broke making the album I wanted to make; I just wanted to be able to do it and keep living as if this thing wasn’t always on my back sucking me dry. After 9 big years of Kid Confucius in which deliverables were frequent, timelines were tight, and the money tighter, I suddenly had no one sweating on me to make any music at all, except myself. And I felt like that was a positive thing.
The second reason is the fact that I have an all-consuming career as a graphic designer. It’s not just a job that pays the bills, it’s a line of work I’m passionate about just as much as music, probably even more so. There was no chance I was giving up being a designer for music, especially if the money I made from design was going to be the entire source of funding for the music. Is this all sounding really fucking practical?! Sorry! Well, the lighter, less practical side of it was certainly the 5 weeks I spent in Europe in late 2010 where I was not only able to write and record in some great studios in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, but also travel. It was definitely a defining moment for the rest of the making-of, as I realised the sorts of great experiences I could have if I took my time and didn’t just book 2 weeks in a dark hole somewhere to try and get everything done as quickly as possible.
That all said, I am a meticulous bastard and there were one or two super minor setbacks, but not any major spanners. So I feel lucky to have emerged after 2+ years of making with not only good work to show for it, but stories and new relationships.
What strikes me most about the Young Cairo project is the incredibly vibrant design aspect of it all. What influenced the motif of these pieces?
I guess the biggest influence on the design aspect of the project is my Egyptian heritage. It’s never really driven my art before. I mean, I’ve always felt an affinity with my ancestry and part of my everyday get-up is a neck chain with a small pharaonic tomb and pyramid pendant, but that’s sorta the extent of it. I think what really brought it to the surface for the first time in 2010 was that I had started playing around with some designs that mashed together Egyptian iconography with bright colours and it sparked this idea for an exaggerated persona that was a sort of indie pop reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince.
It wasn’t until I began workshopping ideas with ace photographer Cybele Malinowski that the design work really started to get ‘delicious’. She suggested the awesome idea of making Egyptian craft pieces out of paper, which was all the more awesome because a friend of mine, Kitiya Palaskas, is a great paper artist! Boom. Done.
Was it always the intention to combine a design project and a music project under the same moniker, or did one inspire the other?
Funnily enough, the blatantly obvious solution to combine music and design came quite late in the process. I think for so long I had been envisaging Young Cairo as a band and so I was always mentally framing the design aspect as secondary and supportive to the music, which seems ludicrous to me now! It just shows that one of the toughest things about being a one-man operation is stepping outside of your own brain from time to time and seeing things from other angles. So it pains me to admit that the epiphany was sparked by someone else – my best mate, who suggested that I think of Young Cairo as a brand more than a band; as an outlet for creating both music and design or any damn thing I feel like making and selling. It was like the clouds had parted and it all suddenly made sense. Music, design, life, EVERYTHING.
I turned into some autistic savant, just putting triangles on every spare bit of paper and every blank Illustrator file. I even got a triangle tattooed onto my right arm.
I’ve listened to a few of the songs from your upcoming album. With one tune in particular, it’s not overly outrageous to think that a slightly cheerier, alternate-dimension version of James Blake has discovered major chords and Auto-Tune. Can people expect to hear more of this playful experimentation with sounds on the rest of the album?
Yes, there’s more on the album where that came from, but I don’t know if I’d call it ‘playful experimentation.’ I think it’s more like creating layered cakes of indie pop, while still trying to keep the album sounding consistent as a whole. The two things that define the sound of the album are the vocals and the drums. They’re the parts in every song I probably spent the most time on. Extensive vocal layering, in a Beach Boys sort of way, is definitely my thing. I’m one of those annoying people who’s always singing along to songs in harmony, even if that harmony isn’t in the song. And as for drums, before I even recorded a note for the album, I promised myself that my drums would have a sound and that every track would have a beat as well–considered as the vocal melody or lyrics.
I believe you once rocked a soul patch. Does the memory of this traumatic period of your life still affect your music today?
Not as much as the fact I USED TO RAP!!!
If you could design and manufacture one item of Young Cairo merchandise, no matter how ridiculous or impractical, what would it be?
WHAT: The Young Cairo Pop Shop
WHERE: UNM, 118 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
WHEN: September 6 – 9, 6:30pm – 9pm on opening night.