Youth Lagoon is Trevor Powers, who recently release his debut The Year of Hibernation on Fat Possum. Powers' music comes to life like old forgotten livejournal or makeoutclub posts with piano-keyed monster ballads fed through reverb-affected fuzz boxes. We talked recently about his approach to songwriting, sound crafting, keyboard selecting and the benefits of solitude.
As the album title suggests with The Year of Hibernation, how does any period of solitude inform your own creativity?
When we are constantly with people, our lives often lack a sense of self-reflection. I am one of those people that loves being around people that mean something to me in my life, but after a while, if I don't get any time to myself, I find some of my senses almost dulled. There are some people out there that are recharged by others, and others that are recharged by their time of being alone. I am the latter.
I enjoy how your songs like “July” and “Montana,” etc take the time to build as the last couple minutes blend the guitars, drum machines, overdubs and vocals into an ecstatic space. How do you begin writing and working songs of that sort?
Usually I begin with the root of the song itself. When I start writing, usually its just a piano and I.
The track “Afternoon” reminds me of a vague melody from an old music box I once heard years back. Amid writing coming of age songs, how does nostalgia factor into your music?
It's huge. My music is fueled by moments I try to recapture. I think growth occurs when we face things, good or bad, that we've encountered.
“Daydream” seems begging to be remixed further for the dance floor. What is your take on remixes? That RemakeReverb remix of “July” is beautiful.
Yeah I think some remixes are rad! I would definitely be down to having more of my tracks remixed because it's always interested to hear other artists take on music.
Who would you want to mix or remix your work if you had the choice?
Are there any musicians that you identify closely with right now?
Umm.. not too sure. There are plenty of other current artists whose work I adore, but sometimes its hard to see where my music fits in.
Love the synth choices on “Posters,” how do you select what keyboard sound you want for any part of a song?
The way I see instruments or specific sounds is that each sound has its own voice. Just like lyrics, even sounds have their own way of speaking. So sometimes there are certain sounds I stumble on or create on my synth that seem to fit exactly the mood I'm trying to create.
You have compared your music to diary entries; what challenges do you find in transcribing emotional material into intimate music you can share with the world?
Telling a story or being personal through music can be a challenge because each sound put together needs to reflect that main idea. If people could see the notebook I write songs in, they would see a lot of things scratched out. Most songs don't just come out perfect the first time; they have to be crafted and developed to express a certain mental state. I'm still learning how to do that.
How would you respond if your diary was intercepted by one of Julian Assange's cronies and posted on Wikileaks?
People would probably think I'm super weird. (laughs)
How is it as a one man band?
I enjoy having freedom. I know that at the end of the day, whatever I create can be me. I do have a lot of help from friends though, and I love that. One of my best friends Logan Hyde is currently playing guitar with me on the road so it's been great having another body with me on stage to enhance the show.
How does it compare to the collaborative and democratic or autocratic rule of playing with others?
For me, it's nice to work alone and bounce ideas off of friends and even my girlfriend to get other opinions. I think sometimes people can be so wrapped up in themselves that their work ends up missing out.. so I am always open to people around me on what their opinions are. But it's nice to have the freedom. Even in the future when it comes to working with other producers and such on future albums, I'm excited to see what kind of affect that will have on what I create.
How have you been able to express yourself with Youth Lagoon that you couldn't in your previous bands?
I feel like I can express myself by just sharing some of my thoughts through music. I never would want to pinpoint my music to a certain sound or direction, but try to purely be open to let my thoughts go where they want to.
With rehearsals do you prefer the company of others, stand in musicians or just yourself?
I like writing by myself because there's something about being alone that usually inspires more creativity, but when I'm rehearsing, I enjoy being in the company of friends. It adds another aspect to the music that is harder to achieve alone.
How is performing your Youth Lagoon work live versus the comforts of recording at home or in a studio?
Definitely takes a lot of practice. Like I said earlier, my friend Logan has been playing the guitar live so we were meeting almost every other day before tour started to prepare.
“Montana” and many of other of your songs have an almost unconscious hypnotic quality that lingers long after the song and album has been played. Is this on purpose and if so how is it done? Your secret is safe with us.
I think it just comes down to telling a story. When I hear a story told by someone else, I'll find it lingering in me and often thinking about it later.
What else is new in Boise that rest of us out here on the coasts and in between are absolutely clueless about?
May sound dumb but one of my favorite things about Boise is you get to fully experience all four seasons: beautiful summers, haunting autumns, snowy winters, and blooming springs.