We catch-up with Young Old Man to discuss serious girl power and being busy with business school
Young Old Man is a 3-piece band comprising singer Runson Willis, guitarist Neema Sadeghi and drummer Kiran Gandhi, who also provides the distinctive rhythmic backbone to rapper MIA’s live shows.
Hailing from the US, the trio blend a mix of tribal, rock, psychedelic and indie influences, which interplay with a bluesy beat and stirring melodic vocals, resulting in a unique soundscape. Their translation of personal narratives into music is heavily influenced by their Iranian, West African and Indian roots, powering their vibes into the listener’s consciousness with reverberations that communicate soul and emotion.
We caught up with Kiran to talk about magical times in the desert, studying at Harvard and how she sees drumming as a tool for empowering women.
How would you define Young Old Man’s sound?
How different is it performing in the band to performing as MIA’s drummer?
Young Old Man is emotional, raw and messy. MIA is precise, specific and wild. In Young Old Man, I play reactively – my music deeply incorporates how my bandmates and I feel that day, how they interact with me on the stage and how the audience is experiencing our music. When I play with MIA, I am focused on her needs, my volume and how I lock in with the track. I play a supportive role and therefore accuracy is key.
How did the collaboration with MIA come about?
I was working at Interscope Records (MIA’s record label), and she was looking for a drummer and I was recommended for the job!
You played at the 3rd annual Desert Daze festival in California this year, what was that experience like for you?
Desert Daze is always a magical time for me. Our band wrote a lot of the music we currently perform when we were in the desert. When you live in a place like LA, you are constantly being inspired and influenced by those around you, which inevitably appears in your music. But when you go to a barren place like the desert, where you are in solitude, the music you write comes only from within and from your bandmates. That is so beautiful and rare.
You’re studying for an MBA at Harvard Business School – how do you balance that with the music?
When you love something you just make it work. Last semester when I was playing with MIA, I had one week where there was a class in the morning and then I would fly to NYC in the evening. We had a rehearsal, two shows and the record release party in NYC, and I had a class on every one of those days, so I flew back and forth 5 times!
It was crazy and difficult but I had a mantra: school and drums, school and drums. I kept focused on my priorities and made it work. The same is true for Young Old Man. I am blessed to play with two really talented and supportive musicians who want to see me succeed in school and in our band. This summer, for example, they’re coming to live with me in Boston so that we can write and perform together more frequently.
What are your plans after graduating – is your vision to combine your business and music skills?
I want to continue working in the music industry and I fundamentally believe that being the best drummer I can be will make me the best contributor to the music industry I can be. I hope to finish my MBA and either join a company which is meeting unmet needs in the industry, or start a company on my own. I also hope to continue touring with my band and using music as a medium through which to abolish gender inequality.
You’re very keen on expressing your voice about female empowerment – so how do you plan to change things?
I see music as a medium through which we can portray diverse female personalities so as to change current stereotypical understandings of what it means to be female. I think women need to be responsible for that instead of men. I want to support initiatives, both educational and political, and support getting women into positions of decision-making power in the arts and entertainment industries. It’s the very reason I am pursuing my MBA at Harvard at the moment! I want to be one of those women.
And drumming is traditionally a more male-dominated profession, so has it been easy as a woman to break into that clique and alter perceptions?
I really admire what Tom Tom Magazine is doing. It’s a magazine about female drummers that showcases the most talented women drummers from around the world. What it taught me was that women bring something different to the skill of drumming – something more emotional, artful, caring, collaborative. Since it has always been a male-dominated field, the standards for success often tend to be that men are biologically better at it – speed and strength, for example – but I believe that women must carve out their own drumming world and define their own measures of success, instead of comparing themselves to the brothers before them.
So basically you want to take on the world – girl power all over again right?
My current goal is to put together a crew of creative, intellectual, bad bitches who want to make music with me!
And what’s next for Young Old Man?
We’ve just released the track “Do You Love” and we’re also playing various dates throughout August and September in the US, including San Francisco, Boston and New York .
For more information on the band, head to www.youngoldmanmusic.com and you can also find out more about Kiran via her official website www.kirangandhi.com
Words: Kate Lawson
Photography: Jean Claude