Launderette electro to soundtrack you spin cycle with math-rock disco

Photography by Kelda Hole

Launderette electro to soundtrack you spin cycle with math-rock disco

July 4th is a day of independence; a day to celebrate the autonomy of the individual; a day where a self-governing community can prosper. Not in Camberwell-based launderettes though. Dominik Salter-Dvorak and Pierre Vaux of Young Athletes League are playing to South London’s stylish lot, tight between tumble dryers. However, independence is about to be put on spin dry. Police vans a plenty arrive just as their first track comes to a glistening closure. Playing gigs with peoples panties in sight seems to have rubbed the man up the wrong way. Not all attempts at individualism and self-control seem to work then – looks like you need a pub and PA system to play music in 2009.

“Part of the reason we are playing these places and doing the house parties is we find it quite annoying when you have bands and DJs,” muses Pierre as we convene on concrete in their South London neighbourhood. “This is something you watch and this is something you dance to and don’t watch, but that doesn’t really work anymore.”

Young Athletes League aren’t about to hurdle out of sight but they are indeed young. Having only really begun making music last December, it’s a band in bloom. The two UCL-based language students have developed a blossoming, luxuriant sound that captures the spirit of acid house for a new generation. It’s wall-to-wall decadence and dance and unabashedly blatant in its use of influences. “We were both massively into drone music, minimalist repetitive techno,” Pierre says shuffling to get comfortable. “This project is getting us back into that.”
“Although it’s a lot more direct,” chips in Dominik.

Both members live together in Camberwell, bonding over Arthur Russell, literature and a love of grammar. “Working in a two-piece is so much easier,” they say “we don’t have to organise people to come from Wiltshire, we can just head into our room and practice.”

The two met at Truck festival back in 2005 and haven’t looked back since. Oxford-born Pierre and London-bred Dominik have been in bands since they can remember. With a culture of drone, math rock and industrial styles informing the duo they developed an astonishing array of skills. Live they switch between samplers, synthesisers, guitars and a laptop as Dominik breaks out shimmering repetitious vocals. A love of language also serves to inspire – Dominik studies Chinese, having spent time in Beijing, and Pierre combines Russian and Swedish. This fierce intelligence seeps into their music and they are happy to keep things challenging both on and off stage. “We are very wary of doing anything pre-recorded or with a backing track,” explains Pierre. “It’s always really disappointing to see that happens. It’s labour intensive because everything that has to come out has to be made on the spot. Lots of mouse clicking,” he laughs.

The theme of language continues in their Arthur Russell-quoting blog, Surfing-Swimming. It’s a kaleidoscope of colour, art, design and music, written with their friend and collaborator Matthew Joseph McGough. Full of local artists and droll social commentary it also showcases some of their musical tastes and is a shining example of the burgeoning scene in South London. With Camberwell art college close by and collectives such as Off Modern creating nights that combine art and music there was never a better time to live south of the river. Young Athletes League remain pretty pragmatic though. “For one thing it’s much cheaper,” says Dominik “it’s also somewhere you can walk down the street and recognise each other.”
“We are new to this area and what we do is a slightly separate thing,” adds Pierre. “South London is about art – that sets us apart.”

“Although we aren’t anti art,” insists Dominik.

A myriad of multi storey NCP’s attached to shopping malls, South London lacks a lot of things, venues certainly being one of them, which is part of the reason the duo have also been holding their own Surfing-Swimming parties. Finding the warehouse scene a tedious set-up, the twosome are pioneering new ways to witness live music. Laundrettes have so far dominated the landscape with some already legendary shows (although the party-pooping police from the night before was organised by another promoter privy to the perks of laundry). Chiefly, Young Athletes League want to make music, but for now this is a stimulating addition to their Surfing-Swimming output. “We were playing backed up against the washing machines, if I moved my guitar forward an inch I’d have whacked my computer screen.” Dominik clearly likes to live dangerously.

Where to now? Just four shows in the band have already headlined White Heat. Trips to Beijing and an abundance of live shows lie ahead and with the two of them constantly crafting their art it seems south London could have another gem up its sleeve. Young Athletes League are just looking ahead to the next party though. “We were thinking about a hairdressers,” Dominik says as Pierre nods approvingly. They’d need a big independent one.


Originally published in issue 8 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. July 2009

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