As the torch is passed, we chat in-depth with Kaya and Harry about the past, present and future of Blood Youth.
Photos: Nat Wood
As one chapter ends, another one begins.
Following the announcement last week of Kaya Tarsus stepping down as vocalist of Blood Youth, and two final performances at Slam Dunk Festival over the weekend, it is our honour to introduce the band's new vocalist Harry Rule.
Known for his savage howls fronting God Complex, Harry is a perfect fit for the chaotic catharsis of Blood Youth's music and a welcome addition to their family. Oh, and you know the masked figure in all of the band's recent videos? That was Harry, so he has been a part of the band's story for a lot longer than you thought.
But before things kick off properly, we sat down with both Kaya and Harry for a conversation about the passing of the torch. A chance for Kaya to further explain his reasons for parting ways with the band and talk a little about his future, and a chance for you all to get to know Harry that little bit better.
So without further ado, here we go....
So, where do we begin? Where was the first moment that you felt as though things were changing?
Kaya: "I guess it would be whilst we were recording this new album that we have. We went in the studio in February 2020, literally just before the pandemic. Whilst we were in and working on it, there were these whispers of something going on, and we were all like, ‘Yeah whatever’ and got on with it. So we recorded the album, and the minute we came home, we were all in full lockdown. Every tour cancelled, every festival cancelled, everything put on hold, and we’re all stuck at home.
"Being in lockdown took its toll on everyone. Every single person I have talked to had their lockdown moment. I remember talking to the band and saying, ‘When are we ever playing a show again? When will we get to do this again?” Suddenly, being in a band started to turn into a thing that we used to do. That was in the air when we talked about what would happen next, but I think that feeling wasn’t just for us. Every band felt that way at some point. All I’ve ever wanted to do in my life is be in a band. That was it. We then got put in this situation where you start looking and think, ‘Oh shit, am I going to have to do something else’.
"So in December 2020, unfortunately, my Dad passed away. It’s still quite hard to talk about. He got Coronavirus, and he died of that. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m leaving the band because my Dad passed away. That’s not it at all. But with his passing, my whole perspective on life changed. I changed as a person the day after. I was immediately a different person. I saw the world differently. I saw life entirely differently. I had panic attacks, anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep or eat. In those moments, life keeps ongoing, and you have to keep on going on too. Talks then started happening about what was going on with the band and touring and everything. I took one look at the schedule from our manager, and I had a full-blown panic attack. I brushed that off initially, but the more I thought about the band, the more dread I felt. The more anxiety I had. I was up all night thinking, ‘Why is this thing making me worry so much?’ The fact of the matter is that I just saw everything so different to before.
"Then the thought that I never thought would ever come into my head came into my head. I don’t know if I can do this anymore, and I don’t think I can be comfortable doing this anymore. Since Day One of Blood Youth, I’ve said in interviews to always look after your mental health, and if something doesn’t feel right, you should do this or this. For the first time, I was trying to listen to my advice.
"The hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make was telling Chris [Pritchard, Guitarist] that I was done. Originally I had said, ‘This is going to be my last album with the band’. Then the talks turned to us going on a hiatus, but I hated the idea of the boys sitting around waiting for me. It wouldn’t be fair on anyone. It wouldn’t be fair on them waiting, and it wouldn’t be fair on me having this ticking clock over me saying, ‘Are you better yet?’ I wasn’t comfortable with that at all. Though selfishly, I still wanted this album to be released because we had worked so hard on it and didn’t want it just to get scrapped.
"So I wanted to do everything as we usually would. This is why we have been releasing so many videos and songs so quickly because we have had these songs for nearly 18 months now. Then when it comes to going on tour, that’s when I’m going to have to step away.
"Here we are now, and I’m so relieved that I can comfortably step away from the band and let it have its next chapter without just ending or fading away. Blood Youth doesn’t deserve that. We’ve worked so hard and scraped to get to a place where Blood Youth is a firm name in the UK heavy music scene. I was very nervous about who we could get next as a vocalist, though. It’s not just about screaming and singing the songs. It’s getting along with the band and carrying the same message that we have always carried. We needed to find the right person for that. We’re very lucky that we already knew Harry; he was close to all of us anyway."
So Harry, how did it feel when the band approached you? It’s a lot for you to take on at once, but what do you remember about those first conversations?
Harry: “I remember it quite well. My old band had come to an end, and I had posted a status on social media saying, ‘Here are my influences, I’m looking to start something from scratch or join an existing band’. Chris immediately messaged me, saying, ‘Yo, I might have something for you. Bare with me’. Even though there’s only one thing it could have been, I still didn’t think it would be, ‘Do you want to come and jump in Blood Youth?’ I deleted my status straight after because I was hopeful that I would rescind my interest in being involved in anything else and that I was optimistic of that 5% chance of being offered this job.
“So Chris got back in touch and said, ‘I’m sure you’ve figured out what I’m going to ask you’, and I replied, ‘No, but ask anyway’. He explained the situation, and I immediately said, yeah. He was like, ‘Are you sure? Is this what you want to do full time?’ and I just said, ‘Lad, I’ve got a skull tattooed on my neck, what else am I going to do?
“It’s unfortunate circumstances for this being a thing, but as Kaya said, I’m comfortable with the guys. I’m also a road dog. I tour with bands for a living, so I know that touring is my long term plan. It’s very much a dream come true, though. I grew up listening to all of these big riff nu-metal bands, and it was amazing when I drove for Blood Youth in 2019. That’s where we became friends, and that’s continued through to now. The whole thing has been so nice and natural.”
Another thing for you, Kaya, is that you want someone to understand what these songs you have written within this recent version of Blood Youth represent. And when you’re out on the road together, things get very open and honest. So having someone who has seen you at your most vulnerable and understanding of where you’ve found inspiration, was that just as important as well?
Kaya: “100%. I want the person who would fill this role to understand how hard we have worked to get here. Blood Youth has so much further to go as well, and that’s another reason I didn’t want it to end. Its story is far from finished yet, and it has so much more that it needs to do. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I knew I was the reason I couldn’t do those things.
“Harry has been in every single one of our new videos as well. He’s been at every shoot, and we have all laughed and joked and had a great time together.”
Harry: “I’ve spent hours sat in a dusty basement covered in fake blood, so I consider myself an actor now.”
Kaya: “One big thing about Blood Youth is that the band is important, but our friendship is the most important thing. Blood Youth originated from Harrogate, and we’re proud of where we come from. But we are even prouder of the fact that we have been friends from there for so long as well. We talk to each other every day. We hang out. We do so much together. That’s going to happen even when I’m not in the band anymore. The number one priority is that friendship. We are in close quarters a lot, very much in each other’s faces constantly. We bicker and fight, but we are friends first and foremost. It needed to be somebody who fits in with that.”
It’s that friendship that has also allowed you to do what you need to do in the middle of these very big and defining life changes. Being able to share those things and make these decisions, and know that they will still support you is so huge…
Kaya: "Honestly, I was so nervous to ring and tell the band. But that’s when I realised that I didn’t need to be nervous. No one at any point argued or said anything against it. It was me saying that I had reached that point, and they understood. But the other thing is that I still love writing and putting out music. I don’t know what the future holds past this point. I’m not drawing a line on myself as an artist. But this gives me the chance to make music for fun, not that Blood Youth isn’t fun, but it's without the pressure."
There’s another thing here that you both respect each other not just as friends but also as musicians. Being aware and interested in each other’s work and style and everything in between. You rarely see that creative camaraderie in the scene these days…
Harry: "That’s the thing. It’s amazing for me to be even considered for this in the first place. It was a properly life-changing moment for me. It validated a lot of things for me. In a world where a thousand vocalists are doing the same thing as you, having someone confirm what you're doing is right made me feel that I had been spending my time wisely."
Kaya: "A big thing in this band is how we don’t have any time for any ego. We are all fans of music in this band, and we are fans of bands around us. You have to appreciate music and appreciate people making it to function in this Blood Youth. Harry probably doesn’t even know this, but we would be playing Harry’s old band God Complex in the van whilst out on the road. It’s so funny to think that we’re at this stage now, and that’s why it feels so perfect."
And another thing is that just because circumstances change, that support and friendship doesn’t change with it, does it?
Kaya: "I made sure that Chris knows this. Just because I’m not in Blood Youth anymore doesn’t mean that I’m just going to disappear. We’re still going to chat every day. When the band play in Leeds, I’m going to be there, and I’m of course going to do a guest spot. It’s all fun. Friendship is never going to end, and that’s what I’ve wanted to get across more than anything. But at the same time, you need to listen to your body and your mind when it’s telling you it’s time to change."
It’s almost not worth thinking about where we could be if you had just ignored what your body was telling you…
Kaya: "I dread to think how I would be out on tour if I had just ignored it. I dread how I would be as a person and how I would act towards my bandmates. It’s the last thing I wanted ever to happen."
Ultimately, when you look back on what the band has done over the last five years, what is it that makes you feel the proudest?
Kaya: "The thing is that all of this has been beyond my wildest dreams. My favourite band is Every Time I Die, and one of the things that blew my mind the most was when we did a three-day run with them. I think back to that feeling of, ‘This is fucking insane, and I’ve had that feeling so many times throughout my time in the band. Those moments where you wish you could go back and tell 16-year old Kaya what you’re doing. The fact we have had so many of those moments makes me so proud."
"Me and Chris are the only members of the band now who are initially from Harrogate. I met Chris when we emailed me and asked if his band could support my band at the local bar in Harrogate. That’s how we met, and we’ve been friends ever since. The fact I’ve stood on stage next to Chris doing so many of these crazy things is incredible. We’ve reached so many milestones as people and as a band and made our dreams come true through it. Those dreams will continue to come true, even more so in the future. I can watch Blood Youth as a proud father from the sidelines, which makes me happy. I know that they are going to smash it."
And Harry, you must be so excited to get started?
Harry: "Oh, so much. Now it’s time to put theory into practice. It’s all felt a lot like Christmas Eve up until now. There’s a child-like excitement of what could be around the corner, and it’s getting more and more real as the days go by."