Q&A: Youth Lagoon

One of this year’s bright lights, YOUTH LAGOON aka Trevor Powers has crafted a debut with a lot more feeling than one would expect. Critics and listeners alike have noted The Year Of Hibernation is an album, but it’s also a book on being in love, going through heartache and going through life as a young adult. Before his sold-out show at The Garrison in Toronto, Powers shed some light on his personal life and how music is a speaker for his emotions.

Coming from Idaho, what’s Boise like?

I think Boise is beautiful. It’s a small city, but it’s surrounded by hills. If you drive a few hours away from there’s mountains and in the winter it gets all snowy.
 
What do you feel are the benefits/downfalls of growing up there as opposed to a bigger city like New York or Toronto in relation to making music?

I don’t know if there’s any benefits so much as there’s just a different mindset. When you grow up in a more rural area where everything isn’t so fast paced and more relaxed I think your creative outlets may be a little different.
 
Well it has been suggested your music comes from anxiety and your inability to talk about how you feel. What is it about making music that makes the translation of your emotions seemingly easier?

I don’t know… I think it’s some kind of filter. It’s almost like a translator. Sometimes I’m not the best at wording things or speaking what’s on my mind but music is something that I know how to do better. I know how to speak better through music than I know how to speak through words. It’s just a better translator than my talking voice…
 
Your music is rather eerie and evokes a really nostalgic listening experience. I find your lyrics seem to hide behind your music and we really have to strain to make out the words. Is that intentional?

It was intentional. It just seemed to fit this record in the way that I wanted to present it. When I was writing some of the songs on the album, some of the ideas sounded kind of hazy in my head if that makes sense. Maybe it was the different subject matter of each song but something about it was more distant so I wanted to portray it that way.

I wrote this record for myself and I think that’s an important aspect as an artist when your create anything. If you don’t do it for yourself first..
it doesn’t mean anything.”

 
That worked perfectly because there are songs, specifically “Montana”, that I had to look up the lyrics to understand what you were saying.

Yeah (laughs), and they’re probably incorrect. Most people that were posting lyrics were completely wrong. One time someone sent me a link for some video they made on YouTube of the lyrics for “Seventeen” and some of the lyrics were right, but most of the lyrics were so wrong.
 
At times it sounds like you have a full band backing you, but Youth Lagoon is a solo project. Was there any reason you decided to work independently?

Well, it’s something that I want to be in control of creatively- especially songwriting. I guess I’m really protective of how I want to portray my music and how I want to put myself out there and I don’t want to have anyone else in control of that. It’s like my baby or something.

As far as the live set goes I have a friend of mine who plays guitar and he learned all his parts before touring – his name is Logan and we’ve been friends for like four or five years now. It’s worked well because we click really well on the road and live. When its appropriate, I want to maybe hire more players and things like that but right now I think this works fine. As far as keeping Youth Lagoon just me, that’s really important because it’s part of me.
 
As a 22-year-old artist, one might say your career has only just begun. You seem to have a great momentum going – I mean, tonight’s show is sold out. Can you speculate as to what’s brought you so far at a young age?

I don’t know it’s still weird to me too. I don’t try to paint myself out to be someone I’m not – I just kind of put myself out there. I wrote this record for myself and I think that’s an important aspect as an artist when your create anything. If you don’t do it for yourself first then it doesn’t mean anything. This is something that I do for myself and I think that other people can see that.
 
When you need to feel inspired, what do you do/where do you go?

I think for myself it’s somewhat of a period of isolation. I feel like when I’m caught up in everything and seeing everyone I usually see and seeing all the places I usually see, things just get kind of mundane and it bleeds into what you create. Spending quiet time is important. There are places back at home that are very calming as far gathering my thoughts and things like that.

I understand you were at Boise State University working on your English degree – what has come of that?

I got my associates degree and bachelors degree. I’m really thankful for the education that I did have because I did learn a lot from it and as far as lyrically it’s helped me… being in that English world and studying what I did study and writing all the papers that I didn’t want to write and things like that. I don’t regret any of it but I feel much more strongly about music and even when I was going to Boise State I skipped so many classes to write songs.

There’s this building that was meant for music majors with practice rooms and stuff but anyone could go in; so I would always skip class and go and write music instead… but I always balanced it out. I was smart about it but I just think music was a priority.
 
What is your connection with Tyler Williams, the director for “Montana”?

We’ve been friends back home – I think we met though another friend of mine. I’ve known him for years and he’s always been doing things with film. I’ve always admired him and looked up to what he does so it was cool to work with a friend on the idea because I trusted him.
 
The video kind of reminds me of Tree Of Life – was it influential?

Yeah a lot of people have said that. And actually me and him saw Tree Of Life together when it first came out and we both really liked it but it wasn’t intentional. We had talked about the initial idea and discussed everything, but in the end Tyler took the direction and ran with it. Film is what Tyler does well so I respected what he wanted to do.
 
Who are some artists that you appreciate/listen to?

As far as current artists, Bradford Cox from Deerhunter is a song-writing machine and there’s something lyrically about how his mind works and how he interprets the world that makes me look up to him a lot as a songwriter. As far as older music, Townes Van Zandt and Cocteau Twins- they’re a band from the 80s’ and they really pushed the whole dreamy music movement with drum machines and things like that.
 
What plans do you have for the future?

Just working hard and making sure that I get enough time to myself to breathe so I can keep creating is my main focus right now. Balancing between working hard and playing shows and traveling and then at the same time, taking time to myself to be able to keep creating.

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