The Brit pop act fronted by Olly Alexander began as a three-piece, triggering beats through Ableton, before they decided they wanted more of a live feel from the drums. Through some fortuitous meetings and connections Dylan had already made gigging and playing sessions for up-and-coming London producers, he met Years & Years, who found in Dylan the perfect fit for their tightly triggered electronic pop shows. Dylan revealed to Rhythm some of those key moments in his development as a player, that have led him to success with Years & Years.
Deciding to go pro
Dylan’s hunger to go pro was fuelled when he was pulled out of the crowd at a Green Day show in Brixton Academy to play the drums…
“I remember sitting behind Tre Cool’s kit with his sticks that were just huge and playing the beat he told me to play and looking up at the crowd and saying to myself, ‘Yes, I need to come back here and do this.”
Taking the initiative
Dylan took the initiative to learn about sounds and electronics…
“At uni I started to fall in love with electronic music. I started to build hybrid kits from old Roland V-kits. I had a little studio in East London and I would basically make electronic kits and then put them into my old Pearl kit and just mess about with it. I spent my student loan on equipment and monitors and different sound cards and would invite people to my studio to have a jam, anything from UK hip-hop to house to industrial punk stuff.”
Learning to play to click
When Years & Years came calling, Dylan’s ability to play with a click got him his big break.
“It was really nice getting an email from Mikey a couple of years ago saying that they were looking for a drummer. We got into a room and jammed and it was actually my ability to play to a click really well that got me the gig. A lot of drummers couldn’t play to a click, they were really having trouble doing the whole electronic thing because they couldn’t sync anything up and it proved problematic. We got a kit together, bought a Roland SPD-SX and started working on ideas. They signed to Polydor a month later and it’s just gone off.”
As Years & Years began to take off, Dylan and the band knew it was time to get serious…
“There was a week right at the beginning of my career with Years & Years where it suddenly got really serious. We were doing stuff for Radio 1, we had just been booked for Jools Holland. We were looking at each other going, ‘We can’t mess up any more. It’s just not possible, there is too much riding on this.’ But it was because of the six, seven, eight years I spent playing anywhere and everywhere in a variety of different bands and genres that allowed me to be a lot more settled with that. I felt a lot more confident because I had done the boot camp.”
Loving the four-to-the-floor
Being in Years & Years allows Dylan the scope to develop his creativity, but he still has love for four-to-the-floor…
“The great thing is that when we get into a rehearsal room, I’ve got a lot of creative freedom and a lot of scope. The way that I play is very tight, punchy, I love a lot of disco and old funk, I really like the four-to-the-floor rhythm and keeping it really lively. When I was in America I got the 4/4 time signature tattooed on my arm by a lesbian biker chick in Minneapolis. A lot of it is grounded in the kick and the snare and I’ve got a lot of mesh pads and I put loads of electronic sounds on there. I layer the snare with a clap sound or something like that. I interpret it in my own way and it seems to really work with how the guys like it.”
Putting the time in…
Dylan is grateful that he put in the time on his way up… because it's tough at the top.
“When you get to this level there is no real time for rehearsals… you really don’t have a lot of playing time in between the shows. You’re on a high pressure stage, you’ve got to get it bang on. I mean I still get a kick out of getting onstage and people being there because for so long I played to no one. I played at fetes, I played pubs, all of it, and I think that you have to realise if it does happen for you and you do get into a band that’s signed or your own band is signed, the playing time between shows reduces massively. You don’t get a lot of rehearsal time. You have to pick up a track maybe in an hour, you get a morning and there is a new cover that needs to happen, you’ve got to pick it up quick, you’ve got to learn it, get the samples in, you don’t get a week’s rehearsal sipping on warm lager and eating pizza. Every gig when you’re younger should be treated as going to school, as boot camp, because you don’t get the luxury of time when you get to this level at all. That’s why when it does happen it feels that all that time you put in was worth it.”