Young Jesus described their new home LA like some kind of scene out of a Marvel comic book: smog, drought, earthquakes. Chicago rockers Young Jesus are soon finding out that LA isn't all about the golden beaches and music making heaven many bands first anticipate, but then that suits these musical prophets just fine. Third Outing caught up with realists about all things music.
3rd: Young Jesus, you're in LA and no longer Chicago! What are the latest happenings?
Young Jesus: Well, there's a drought and we don't flush the toilet. Los Angeles feels like a post-apocalyptic city; barbed wire, helicopters, smog, drought, earthquakes. The sun's always out and it's always the same temperature though so it's all like one long weird dream day. A lot is going on here all the time and it's totally incomprehensible which is unsettling in a good way, but it also feels like absolutely nothing happens here. A lot of nastiness right up against a lot of beauty. The two blur and shift constantly. It's very different from what we expected when we moved here from Chicago and that's good.
3rd: I bet! It's refreshing to hear a realistic view about LA. So now give us a realistic view on Young Jesus. Define your sound in one sentence?
Young Jesus: Killer Tofu by The Beets meets Jesus Christ by Brand New.
3rd: Most bands today have day jobs as well as their music. What makes you do music? Do you live by it or do you live for it?
Young Jesus: Writing/playing music is the closest thing to sense-making we do. At this point, we've been playing together for so long that it's our natural impulse. The older we've become the less things have fit together neatly and music (and writing/'art') has been the best way to sort out all the scattering pieces. It's the comfortable way to confront uncomfortable things.
3rd: Let's talk about Home, the voice works perfectly with the band. Some bands have the melody but not the right lyrics, you seem to have both. Are the melody and lyrics both as equally important?
Young Jesus: We just write a sort of song skeleton on a guitar first, then let word sounds guide the rest. There's always the spine of a story running through our records, so that helps guide it a little. Just go through a break up, think about unanswerable questions, read weird books, eat rice, take the S.A.T.s, quit smoking and go back to it and quit again and go back to it, maintain your Hingus, work full-time, grow up listening to Chicago pop-punk/emo and The National and you will have written a Young Jesus album.
3rd: 'The cooler kids don’t give a shit, they only care for carelessness. They’re only style, no substance'. Remember when you said that? Is this a protest against the current DIY "cool indie" scene?
Young Jesus: I think it's very important to distinguish between the DIY scene, which is full of hard working, caring, self-sufficient, community-oriented, nuanced weirdos, the best people, and the now-commodified idea of "indie". We help run a small DIY tape label called Hellhole Supermarket and we're super proud of it and the bands on it. Lots of amazing, supportive, creative friends help that thing be what it is.
The "cooler kids" are the people that take DIY culture and commodify it. They are the end point of a lot of hard work and they have no awareness or don't care to have the awareness of where that comes from. Still, I wrote that like 3 years ago, and feel a bit bad about even distinguishing between cool and uncool. It's a little judgmental for me these days, but you gotta stand somewhere sometimes. Trying to be more open-hearted and see people as individuals. But I also hate everything so we'll see.
3rd: So in what way is your music like this? Or are you shoegaze? Or are you neither?
Young Jesus: When the guitars come a-rippin' the shoegaze comes a-kickin'.
3rd: Here's another for you then, don't worry it's not one of yours: 'People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss'. What is your view on the meaning of music? Do you want to make people think with your music?
Young Jesus: I want people to do whatever they want with it. I hope they find something to relate to because I think that's a powerful feeling and can help with a lot of anxieties and depressions. At least that's been our original intent: to be sincere and allow people a space to feel the same, or different! My view on the meaning of music is that it's meaningless but I will keep trying to find meaning in it until I die.