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In Glasto's circus, we're the Animals

Gabby Young and Other Animals are turning into one of this year’s top festival attractions

    Gabby Young’s eclectic band
    Gabby Young’s eclectic band

    Gabby Young and Other Animals are having a good summer. In June they played at Glastonbury and are now looking forward to several more festival appearances over the next couple of months.

    Their single, We're All In This Together, was picked by Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis for the Storm the Charts competition, which aims to boost the profile and sales of 40 independent artists. Other Animals were the most downloaded band among all the groups chosen.

    Assembled gradually by their frontwoman, songwriter Gabby Young, the eight Other Animals range in age, from 18 and 30, and in backgrounds - their drummer Adam Lucas is Jewish while their youngest member, trombonist Yusuf Narcin, is half-Jewish and half-Muslim - a "Juslim", as he cheerfully describes himself.

    Based in London, the band members play double bass, guitar, mandolin, clarinet, saxophone and trumpet, producing a refreshing brassy, jazz-inflected sound.

    Narcin describes it as "swingy, circus-y, kind of strange. It's an act rather than just the music. When Gabby comes up with an idea, elaborating on it is the band's job and everyone has an input."

    It's swingy, circus-y, kind of strange — an act rather than just music

    The strains of klezmer in the band's songs come courtesy of its Jewish members. Narcin had taken a course in eastern European Jewish music, song and dance a few years ago at the Jewish Music Institute's KlezFest summer workshops.

    Says Lucas: "I think klezmer is something I'm quite used to hearing because of my background and the same with Yusuf. We really enjoy playing it and I think that's why it works."

    Narcin, who is a member of Finchley Progressive Synagogue, grew up attending both Hebrew classes and Koran classes at a Turkish mosque. "As I got older I stopped the Koran class," he says, preferring the atmosphere of the synagogue. "There was a massive community - it was a great place to be." He observes the festivals of both religions. "Mainly, I'm a follower of Judaism, but I'm a Muslim as well."

    His parents met in Istanbul where his mother spent a year of her university degree.

    Growing up in north London, Narcin was regarded with interest by his school friends. "They would always think that other people would have problems with me - like you can't be both religions, choose one - but it wasn't hard for me at all. I think I've got both sides of the story."

    Adam Lucas's childhood also involved trying to reconcile two opposing forces, but in his case the issue was strictly musical. Now 27 and working as a teacher alongside drumming in the band, he was taught to play guitar by his father and sent to piano lessons by his mother when he was five.

    "I was desperate to play drums. For a few years mum made me go to piano until finally I wore her down." When he eventually took up the drums - he spent his barmitzvah money on his first kit - the negotiating with his parents continued. "They gave me a window of time after school when I was allowed to bang the drums as loud as I could so the neighbours wouldn't get upset."

    When not playing with Gabby Young, Narcin is studying at the Royal College of Music, and starts a course in classical trombone at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in September.

    But for the moment, he and Lucas are still basking in the band's success at Glastonbury. They performed twice, doing their own show on the Avalon stage, and then with Al Stewart, the Scottish folk-rock musician, who invited them to join him in the acoustic tent. While Young was on-stage, the Other Animals were positioned among the audience.

    "Stewart played in 1970 at the first Glastonbury and this was the 40th anniversary and it was the first time he'd been back, so it was quite a big thing for him and there were lots of people there to see him," recalls Lucas. "As a surprise, in the middle of one of his songs we all struck up and became his band. It worked really well and the audience were so surprised. They loved it."

    In September, the Other Animals' album is being re-released, while the long-term plan is to drop the day jobs and focus on music full time.

    "My dream is to be able to do it full-time and everything else above that would be a bonus. That's what we're all working towards," says Lucas.

    For Gabby Young and Other Animals festival dates, visit www.gabbyblog.unboxtcreative.com

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