2015 Artist Survey: Youth Lagoon

Trevor Powers on 2015's Best Albums, Music Streaming, the Election, Disastrous Dates, and Early Childhood Memories

Feb 08, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Photography by Matt de Jong Bookmark and Share


For Under the Radar's 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from Trevor Powers, who records as Youth Lagoon. Youth Lagoon's most recent album, Savage Hills Ballroom, was released last September via Fat Possum. This interview was conducted before Powers announced he was retiring the Youth Lagoon project. A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1. Grimes: Art Angels
2. Tame Impala: Currents
3. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly
4. Oneohtrix Point Never: Garden of Delete
5. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell
6. Jamie xx: In Colour
7. Björk: Vulnicura
8. Justin Bieber: Purpose
9. Julia Holter: Have You in My Wilderness
10. Young Thug: Barter 6

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

The highlight was eating specially made Youth Lagoon donuts in Minneapolis. The low point was when the box was gone. 

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

Finishing up touring for Savage Hills Ballroom. And after that, I have a lot of stuff in the works for the futureso trying to start figuring out that shit. And writing like a madman.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

What I think is that it's criminal that artists aren't being paid fairly for their work. Even with a million-plus streams, the revenue is completely laughable. My preferred streaming service purely based on browsing/listening is Apple Music, but something drastic needs to be done soon with the way these companies are treating artists or else musicians will continue to flail and suffer financially. Everyone wants music free nowadays and it is the only form of art where that is expected. Absurd. People pour their souls into making albums, years of their life, personal money, loads of risk, and then listeners want you to just hand it over.  And it's a vicious cycle now because the only ones who can really get away with not streaming are the kings/queens of the industry. Taylor Swift. Adele. The ones who don't have to worry about their gas bill. The smaller artists are left with the decision to stream and make one month's rent on Spotify and hope people attend shows or not stream and risk no one listening because people don't want to pay you for your work.

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

I honestly have no idea. I like it being on Friday though because it makes the most sense to me. Buy an album and listen to it over the weekend.

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

Music is music. It shouldn't matter what form. Pop has been one of the most exciting genres for the last 60 years. There's songs on top 40 stations that are some of my favorite tracks of all time. And same goes with the bizarro world. I'm the kind of person who could listen to Justin Timberlake immediately followed by Glenn Branca. Music is just organized or disorganized noise. Some of it is pleasant and some isn't. That's it. Also, it's phenomenal how personal of an experience it is. No one has the same emotional reaction to a record because we are all uncommon people. No person shares a mind with another. 

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

I'm very nervous. In lighter news, Donald Trump would look much better with a face tattoo. 

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift's 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist's album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

I would cover Tom Waits' Rain Dogspurely because the tones on that record would be so intense to try and reinterpret. It'd be a blast but I'd ruin it, so I'm not gonna touch it.

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

I've never been fired. There was a time I came close, but I talked my way back into the job. Usually if it's an awful boss or a shitty situation, I'm not one to stick around. I'll peace out and find something better. A lot of people stay at jobs they hate because they're fearful of the unknown, which I've never understood. The unknown is a hell of a lot better than hating every day of your life. 

What's your earliest music-related childhood memory?

Pretending to be Elvis in my parents' living room. We had this old karaoke machine, and I used to put on Elvis cassettes and sing along. There's a picture I found a while back of me at age three or four holding a mic and swinging my hips. 

What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?

A stunt double. Someone who looked like me and knew the entire set well enough to perform while I took a nap in the green room. 

What's the most disastrous date you've ever been on?

That one that ended with me in my underwear eating mac 'n' cheese alone by a dumpster. 

Which Star Wars character are you most like?

Bren Derlin, a member of the rebel alliance. He's played by John Ratzenberger who also played Cliff Clavin, the mailman from Cheers. I, too, enjoy a good drink.

Following the terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris do you think that security at music venues should be improved and do you now worry about something similar happening at one of your shows?

Security not only needs to improve but we as individuals have no choice but to never let our guard down. Our world is chaos and it is ridden with tragedy. But the answer isn't in worry, that doesn't cure anything. We must continue living and breathing and loving and working and being passionate. That is the cure.

www.facebook.com/youthlagoon/

www.savagehillsballroom.com



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