Entertainment & Arts

Years & Years: Sound of 2015 winners look back

Years & Years (L-R): Mikey Goldsworthy, Olly Alexander and Emre Turkmen Image copyright Polydor
Image caption Years & Years (L-R): Mikey Goldsworthy, Olly Alexander and Emre Turkmen

Pop group Years & Years won the BBC Music Sound of 2015 in January and went on to score a number one album with their fizzing, upbeat debut Communion.

Along the way they were trapped by a blizzard, hugged by Taylor Swift and overwhelmed by The Great British Bake Off.

The group achieved success after singer Olly Alexander gave up a promising acting career - appearing on stage with Dame Judi Dench, a role in Channel 4 drama Skins - to pursue music with Emre Turkmen (synths) and Mikey Goldsworthy (bass).

Communion was inspired by Alexander's teenage diary and his tumultuous love life ("they're rejection songs," he told the BBC last year). Critics praised his "angelic melisma" as well as the record's "ace melodies and emotional frankness".

Ahead of the announcement of the Sound of 2016 next week, the band visited the BBC to reflect on their breakthrough year.

Image caption The band played more than 100 shows during the year

We didn't expect to win the Sound of 2015.

Olly: It was nuts. We'd barely given anyone an interview and suddenly we were on Radio One and on the news. It felt like it was happening to someone else.

Emre: It was exciting. It was really exciting.

Olly: We were like, 'We're a real band!'

Emre: Now we know where everything is in this building. The coffee machines, the toilets, everything.

Our single, King, knocked Ellie Goulding off the top of the charts.

Mikey: Knocking Ellie Goulding off number one was the best part!

Olly: We were on tour in Glasgow when we found out and I was really sick. I was lying down in the dressing room and Emre leaned over and said, "It's going to go to number one!" I just cried.

Mikey: I have the statue on my bedside table, and I look at it every morning and every night. No one can take that away from us.

We went to the Brit Awards for the first time.

Olly: We were up for the Critics' Choice and we didn't win it - but Taylor Swift hugged me, so I'll live forever now.

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Media captionYears & Years talk about their creative process and the excitement of the last year

We got "trapped" by a blizzard in New York.

Mikey: We went over to New York to do two shows, but then they had a massive blizzard and we had to cancel.

Olly: I don't know if anyone's ever seen the news in America, but they really over-egg a lot of stuff. It was like: "Everyone stay indoors! Don't leave the house! People are going to die!"

Emre: But the blizzard didn't stop me and Mikey from taking a trip around downtown New York to find some donuts.

Olly: The next day we woke up and there was, like, an inch of snow.

Katy Perry came to see our show.

Emre: This was the rescheduled show in New York. Katy Perry was in the audience, but we didn't actually tell Olly because he was ill again.

Olly: I'm always sick.

Emre: He'd just come from the doctor who'd given him adrenalin shots or something.

Olly: Yeah, they gave me a shot in my bum. Loads of steroids. And then I was meeting Katy Perry. It was all very weird.

She was pretty casual. She had an entourage of, like, poets and violinists. All these cool women. But she was pretty low-key. She was really nice. She told me to take zinc, which I didn't do.

Image copyright Years & Years / Twitter
Image caption The band celebrated finishing their album with a round of pink champagne, then set about signing copies for fans

We realised our name was a hindrance.

Emre: We picked the worst letter to start our name with. Right at the end of the alphabet. The CD's hidden at the back of HMV. That's why Adele's so popular.

Olly: We should get ahead of her by changing our name to 00Aardvark.

Our album came out and outsold the rest of the top five combined.

Olly: It was just ridiculous. There were posters on the tube and everything. I couldn't believe people would actually go out and buy it. But they did, so thanks.

Emre: And now my parents have stopped bugging me about getting a proper job. That was a good result.

Image copyright Polydor
Image caption The video for King has been watched 118 million times at the time of writing

The video for King was watched more than 100 million times.

Olly: We got a special certificate for that! The video felt very serendipitous. We wanted to make it in LA with dancers. Then Ryan Heffington the choreographer got in touch with me over Instagram. I was like, "Oh my God, let's work together" and he was up for it.

I actually got the idea of the dancers moving us around because I'd seen that in an art piece before. I felt it represented the song very well because it's about being manipulated. It hurt quite a lot - but the worst bit was getting in the pool, because it was freezing cold.

Emre: We had some dancers touch us up. It was great. But my highlight video-wise is Mikey's acting in Shine, when he's looking at the fridge, puzzled.

Mikey: I've been nominated for a few awards for that. What was in the fridge? Vegetables and a few eggs.

Image copyright Polydor
Image caption Fridge confusion: An acting masterclass

We watched a lot of reality TV.

Mikey: These guys watch [The Great British] Bake Off late at night on the tour bus to wind down. I watch [The] Walking Dead.

Olly: I cried when Nadiyah [Hussain] won! I found it quite emotional when Nadia won Big Brother 10 years ago too. It must be something about people called Nadia.

Mikey: But actually the highlight of the year was The Apprentice: The Final Five. They used Shine and King over the highlights.

Our mums came to see us at Glastonbury.

Olly: It was the first Glastonbury for all of us - and we were all nervous as hell - but it was such a good moment. My mum loved it.

Emre: I had to watch it on the BBC iPlayer a couple of days later because it just went by in a blur. I was just dazed. I couldn't remember it.

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Media captionHighlights of Years & Years' set at Glastonbury 2015

Tentative work began on the second album.

Olly: We haven't really had time to write this year. Just tiny bits. I like to write by myself in a room with a piano, which never happens any more.

Emre: We're just gearing up towards thinking about writing, really.

We booked a gig at Wembley Stadium for next year.

Olly: We're going to try to pull something special together. Do some more songs, do some covers.

Emre: Get a hologram of Rihanna.

Olly: I want to get a swing so I can swing around the arena.

Emre: Some controversy and scandal would be great.

Olly: Some outfit changes. Nudity.

Emre: Mikey's going to show a nipple.

Mikey: Actually, I'll be naked.

Emre: With just a sock. On your head.

Years & Years' debut album, Communion, is out now. The top five acts in the BBC Music Sound of 2016 will be revealed next week.

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