Trevor Powers on “Mulberry Violence” and Saying Goodbye to Youth Lagoon

Hoping You'll Listen

Oct 29, 2018 Photography by Chris Schoonover Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington
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To begin, a few things about mulberry trees. The mulberry has stood as a symbol of patience and wisdom throughout the ages, a symbol of calculated restraint. It is, by all present appearances, a necessary icon for our divided times, a present political state in which basic human dignity is often forgotten.

For Trevor Powers, the power of the mulberry was the results of pursuing a digital rabbit hole that culminated in thematic inspiration for his new album. For his first official release after setting Youth Lagoon aside (permanently, he says), Mulberry Violence is the timely statement he's committed to make.

"I go down a lot of rabbit holes, just like everyone, and I was reading about mulberry trees online," says Powers. "I couldn't even tell you what it was that I originally found, but I was very taken by the notion of how different they are than us as human beings, with their extreme wisdom and patience and that side of the spectrum. Every person ever is on the complete opposite end of that spectrum."

When it comes to the name change and the death of Youth Lagoon, Powers says it was always intended to live as long as it did.

"There has been a lot of confusion," he says. "Most people view it as something that ended. When I first started Youth Lagoon, it was never meant to be something that continued. It was a very specific state of mind. It was very reflective. It was self-analyzation. It was looking back, almost like a coming-of-age story. When that was done, I knew it was fucking done. There was nothing else to say. That's not to say I have an endless well of musical directions. I want to make music, just not through that specific avenue."

For Powers, the ability to be a catalyst for further thought or discussion is a major draw to the craft of songwriting. He relishes the challenge of pushing and prodding, even as he also admits the limitations of his role or the medium itself.

"For me, it's mostly starting the conversation," says Powers. "Say you're talking about a different medium like film and I'm a director who made a movie going over all of these grand themes. Even working within two-and-a-half hours or some absurd amount of time, you're still only scratching the surface of whatever that idea is.

"With music, on an album or even a song, you're looking at something so quickly that you're only starting the discussion or those trains of thought. I believe you can do a lot through that. It's important to even scratch the surface of some of these discussions. That's not to say that the album is necessarily socially or politically minded, but the songs are very much rooted in that as well as personal or internal conflict."

For Powers, the primary hope (and worry) is about the attention span of the listener. Even as he steers away from the audience he built over three full albums as Youth Lagoon, his only concern is not the commercial viability of his art or whether his longtime fans are still on board. He simply hopes you'll listen long enough to connect with your own conflicts.

"I've been in an absolute state of obsession with what it is that I need to say for myself. I'm only worried about whether or not people will have time to enter in and understand it."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.trevorpowe.rs

www.trevorpowers.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/trevorwpowers

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