While their first meeting may have been mere coincidence, the success of Sydney’s Yours Truly since then has been anything but. “I was on Facebook and I saw this guy standing there in a muscle tee playing guitar and I thought that muscle tee has gotta go but he’s kinda cool,” vocalist Mikaila Delgado says. Turning out to be the band’s now-rhythm guitarist Teddie Winder-Haron, the interaction set off a chain of events that now sees the four-piece preparing to release their debut album Self Care, out September 18 through UNFD.
Having attended Big Music School alongside the band’s lead-guitarist Lachlan Cronin, two soon became three, while numerous lineup changes eventually saw drummer Bradley Cronan join the band in late 2018. Yet it was three years before that the first seeds were planted. “We were only 16 when we met in 2015, but we didn’t really do anything until 2016. We didn’t even have the band name until 2016,” explains Winder-Haron. Chiming in, Delgado quickly recounted the story that saw the band find their name: “Teddie just fell asleep in class one day and when he woke up just said ‘Let’s call the band Yours Truly!’”, laughs Delgado.
Despite the casual beginnings, things quickly turned serious for the group. “It was pretty full on straight away,” comments Cronin. While naive kids might always dare to dream, the band never showed any intention to wait for things to come to them. “I remember a phone call with Teddie and we were just talking about where we wanted to play. We were saying we wanted to play Warped Tour. We were going to play everywhere. We were both in high school at the time but we both knew as soon as it was done we were just going to go for it,” says a starry-eyed Delgado.
While they’d all had experience playing live music before, it was only Delgado who’d had previous band experience. Yet they all were quickly in agreeance that something special was brewing from the band’s beginning. “It felt different having friends in the band,” says Mikaila, adding, “I had never experienced playing music with my best friends and I feel like every other musical group I had been in, my bandmates were never my best friends.” While it’s an approach that radiates a wilful youthfulness, it was this early connection that motivated the band to continue to work hard.
And their hard work paid off. Releasing their debut EP Too Late For Apologies in early 2017, the band immediately sent ripples through the local Australian music scene as they worked to garner the support of fans across the country. “I had no idea there was even a scene at that point, so to get the exposure to a whole group of people in Australia that gave a shit about us was incredible,” says Winder-Haron. It also saw the band receive radio play for the first time. Delgado shares, “I remember Josh Merriel playing us on Short.Fast.Loud and thinking ‘Oh shit we’re on triple J!’ That was the first time we realised we could maybe keep doing this. To get played on triple J was a huge step for us.”
Where that EP may have been the first spark from the band, the breakthrough was undeniably “High Hopes”, their first single following the release. Sitting at over 5 million views on Dreambound and counting, the band can still hardly believe just how instrumental the song was for them. “I expected it to do the same kind of numbers as “Strangers”. We all thought the song was hectic and we all believed in it, but I didn’t expect it to do what it did,” remembers Teddie. Despite being released over two years ago, the song continues to rack up the views, something which still surprises Cronin, “It’s the second most played video on Dreambound ever. People are still finding out about it and watching it for the first time which is so weird.”
For Mikaila, recognising the influence of “High Hopes” has been something she hasn’t begun to forget. “In ten days we had 100,000 views and then all of a sudden it was a million. At that point we got a manager, we signed with a label, it was crazy,” she says. Acknowledging it was the catalyst for the band’s success, she continued, “I don’t think we would’ve had the opportunities that we’ve had if it wasn’t for that song doing what it did. We’re always going to look at that song as a very special thing for us.”
Amongst numerous tours and shows, including a sold out release show for “High Hopes” at The Lair in Sydney, 2018 was a year of monumental change for the band behind the scenes. Along with signing a record deal with UNFD and joining Capital Artist Management under the watchful eye of Daryl Pryor, it also saw the addition of Bradley as a permanent fixture of the band’s lineup. Described by a giggly Delgado as “The worst part of the band’s history”, in addition to Cronin commenting that “It’s all downhill from here,” Cronan was quick to announce his tremendous impact on the band. “All I’m saying is as soon as I joined the band that’s when they got a record deal and things started kicking off,” he adds proudly and confidently.
Yet for Cronan, after initially just being a live fill-in for the group, his intentions were never to join the band full-time. “I actually talked to them at the start of the year asking them if I could play more shows with them so I could grow my portfolio. I was going to play in a band for a year and then go be a session musician on a cruise,” he recounts. Clearly grateful, he says, “Halfway through the year they asked if I wanted to join the band full time and I said yes. I wanted to do something to help myself and obviously they were doing something special. It’s not like they were just playing pub gigs.”
With a settled lineup that has remained unchanged since the addition of Cronan, all the band’s biggest achievements have been experienced together, starting with joining the prestigious UNFD family. Announced at 2019’s UNIFY, some eagle-eyed punters may have noticed signs welcoming Yours Truly to the label before any official announcement had been made. “It was so cool having it announced at Unify,” says Delgado, “As soon as we got there we just saw all these signs saying ‘Welcome Yours Truly to the UNFD Family.’”
While for many signing your first record deal may have been a daunting experience, let alone at such a young age, it barely seemed to phase Yours Truly. “It was a now or never kind of thing,” says Mikaila. “You see so many bands that are successful and their first albums came out when they were like 20. It was something we always wanted to do, so it just made sense. We finished school and went straight into it, we would worry about going to university later, there was always time to do it later but we had to do the band when we were young.”
After making the transition to a household name in Australia’s alternative scene, it wasn’t long before the band made their debut on the international stage. Playing their first international show at Download Festival in the UK, the band have since undergone tours throughout the UK and North America, supporting the likes of Senses Fail, Sum 41, and State Champs. “It was a big step but it felt natural,” says Winder-Haron. “We had done quite a bit of Australian touring already and this was just an opportunity to play more shows.”
Despite having a casual demeanour, it didn’t take long for the gravity of the experience to hit. “Once we got over there and saw there were people in a completely different country that wanted to come see us was when I think we realised it was actually a huge step,” says Winder-Haron. Agreeing, Delgado added, “You don’t expect to do something like that after an EP either. Maybe it was something that we thought we’d get to do after our first album, but because of the success that it did have we were able to. It was just a very surreal experience.”
Bursting onto the international scene while being a young band, the band detailed their willingness to prove they deserved to be where they were. “You don’t have the experience of all the other bands you’re touring with. You feel it and I’m guessing they see it too,” says Mikaila. Following the same train of thought, Teddie continued, “We knew we had to be on our A-Game, so we all put our heads down and buckled down to make sure we were playing the best we possibly could. We wanted to show we aren’t here to fuck around. We mean business and we want to be the best band we can be.”
As for age, the band were staunch in believing that it means very little when it comes to developing relationships with those they found themselves on tour with. “You don’t think about age, it just gets put to the side because everyone is there for the same reason,” commented Winder-Haron with Delgado saying likewise, “You spend 40 days with the same people, the ‘who is who’ gets thrown out the window because everyone is just working like it’s their job.”
Now with their US tour in September 2019 marking the last time the group graced a stage anywhere in the world, the band’s focus has been turned toward the release of their debut album Self Care. With a label on board, the added element of having more people involved in the release process was a new challenge for the band, but also one they welcomed with open arms. “What we wanted to do was the main priority, but there was definitely some label push because everyone wants to be involved but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. The label is putting it out, our manager helps us go through the songs and our producer Stevie Knight wants us to write the best songs we can,” remarked Cronin.
For Teddie, the presence of the label felt overwhelmingly positive, “You always hear horror stories about record labels pushing artists to be a certain way, and in the back of my mind I was worried about it happening to us, but it was only ever positive reinforcement from UNFD.” The issue for him however lay in the band continuing to prove that they deserved the opportunities they’d been given. “I think after the success of “High Hopes” and Afterglow, we really wanted to back that up. So whether we could was the question we were asking ourselves.”
It’s a solemn and draining process of making sure you are constantly performing at the right level, but it’s the dogged determination to overcome mental obstacles that carried the band through the recording process. Continuing from his previous point, Teddie remarked “You always worry that the last thing you did is going to be the best thing you do and a lot of creative minds have that fear. You do something and you could be really proud of yourself, but as soon as you go to do something else you start asking yourself ‘How can I top that?’. It’s just one of those mental battles that you have to overcome.”
While the majority of the band had undergone the recording process before with the release of their two previous EPs, it was an entirely new experience for Bradley who found himself working on such a large project for the first time in his life. Candid when asked about his experience, Cronan replied coyly, “I thought it was pretty cruisy honestly. The songs were already written and the structure was all there so I just did the rest in the studio. It all flowed well for me.”
Despite the recording process seemingly going well, the brand new challenge of a deadline loomed for the band. “We’ve never had a deadline before. With Afterglow we didn’t have one so we wrote and recorded at our own pace, whereas with Self Care we got told we had five weeks to finish an entire album,” chimed Delgado. Though declaring they were probably at fault for having to work with such a short deadline, it’s hard to blame them for being distracted considering they were supposed to be writing throughout their US tour in late 2019.
Describing the starry-eyed band seeing their dreams come to life Mikaila added, “We were experiencing a real tour for the first time and we were like ‘Yeah! Let’s drink White Claws every night!’. We just never sat down to write even though we should’ve been.” Despite the intention to spend the US tour writing, not doing so proved inconsequential, with the band turning down tour offers to block out time for writing. Laughing, she says, “In hindsight, with the way 2020 has gone, we should’ve just done the tours because we’re not playing shows now.”
With an impending deadline, Mikaila took the challenge personally, sometimes finding the pressure of the situation too much to handle. “We were racing against the clock and constantly asking ourselves if what we were doing was good enough. When you’re asking yourself that, you put yourself in a real horrible creative position where you put pressure on yourself and things don’t come out the way they’re meant to,” she says. Though the pressure got to her, she seemed proud as she admitted, “I know that I put a lot of pressure on myself. There were so many times I sat in the house and cried because I was so worried it was going to suck. But it doesn’t suck.”
While not celebrating the personal toll the album process took on his bandmate, Bradley was quick in his commendation of Mikaila throughout the process as he recounted, “After we’d written nine or so songs, we were leaving the studio and Mikaila just said ‘The songs aren’t good enough. The songs are shit.’. Everyone else thought ‘What the fuck are you going on about?’, but I just thought yeah, she knows what’s up. It’s good that she has that mindset.” Agreeing, Teddie joined the chorus celebrating Mikaila’s tenacity. “It helped the drive,” he said, “Mikaila gave us a huge kick in the ass by telling it wasn’t good enough and saying we needed to do more, so we did.”
It’s a youthful and candid tone that shines through as the band remarks on their recording process, laughing happily about mishaps now that the process is done. With the majority of the band’s songs first taking shape between Mikaila and Lachlan in a home studio at Mikaila’s family home, she was quick to share one of the funnier anecdotes of the recording process. As a recoiling Lachlan laughed, knowing what was coming up, Mikaila chuckled her way through the story:
“I messaged Lachlan to come and write and he said he was going to come over at 5pm. It rolled around to 7pm and I was really tired and I couldn’t get in contact with him, so I just assumed he wasn’t coming so I went to bed. Fast forward a few hours and I’m asleep, my door opens in the darkness and Lachy turns on the light at 9pm and just says ‘It’s time to write.’”
The band continued to relive their recording process, with Mikaila revealing that “Half Of Me” was written initially for the band’s sophomore EP Afterglow, although it never found its way onto the release. “It was the only song I got emotional over when I heard it done,” she reveals, “Not because of the song, but if we had gone back in time and told ourselves before Afterglow had even been released that this song was going to be on our debut album, it would’ve been a really special moment.”
Quizzing his bandmate, Teddie replied asking Mikaila if she’d go back in time and tell herself that it would be, given the opportunity. Replying mockingly she laughed back, “I would tell myself I don’t need to write about relationships twenty times on one album but I just couldn’t help it. It’s honest and that’s what I like about the album.” Yet it was a heartfelt Teddie quick to reassure her on her achievements on Self Care saying, “That’s what I appreciate about you as a lyricist though; you don’t write about things you think you have to, you write what you’re thinking and it just comes across as very authentic.”
Sitting back in my chair, it was hard to interrupt the two as they talked openly and honestly about the writing process from Mikaila’s perspective. As everyone fell silent, she began to recount her experience as the band’s lyricist, detailing the origins of numerous songs from Self Care and her own highs and lows of the writing process. “At the beginning of the process, it was really hard because at the start of writing I was going through a breakup so it felt natural for me to write about those things. But towards the end we were writing songs like “Funeral Home”, “Together”, and “Ghost”, which aren’t about relationships although they sound like they might be,” she said.
“I was finding who I was without someone, and when you’re used to being in a relationship and no longer are, you figure out who you are again. I think that’s what a lot of “Ghost” is about, that discovery, because I put this idea into my own head that I convinced myself that I was dead. All of a sudden I found these anxieties and flaws that I had about myself that I think that I was ready to talk about. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that there is as much strength in weakness as there is in your good qualities. It’s just as strong to say that you’re not okay.”
Moving on, she touched on “Funeral Home”, the album’s main single, explaining that it marked a change in her which saw her pushing to explore deeper things then she had ever managed. “I wanted to explore other things, not just about myself and other people,” she says, “”Funeral Home” is about how uncomfortable it is to go to a family and have this unity amongst so much loss and grief, and also how weird it is that you can be related to this whole bunch of people and not know them at all. I think it’s all about getting older. You learn a lot of things about yourself that you just didn’t know before.”
Perhaps due to the recount of Mikaila, it was the realisation from Teddie on the album’s title that prevailed as the last and fittingly, one of the most profound moments of the interview. “It just clicked with me why Self Care is such a good title for the album,” he revealed, “It’s about how you took care of the relationship with yourself while you dealt with all of these different outside things going on. It felt like I was reading your diary. It was an insight into what it’s like inside your mind because you’re not just singing about these things on the surface. It’s about every relationship you’ve had and how you’ve overcome certain obstacles and how things have been easier or harder for you.”[Yours Truly photo credit: Georgia Moloney]