Yung Life’s indie-pop brilliance shines through on new album
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
Rewind to last summer: The members of Yung Life straddled an indie-rock fence staring down at two distinct groups of influences.
On one side was the synth-heavy New Wave sounds of the 1980s, and Yung Life founders Elliott White and Will Farner lifted the best of those bands, groups like Depeche Mode and Thompson Twins, and cut it with the influences on the other side — contemporary electronic artists like Millionyoung and Toro y Moi.
The result was a hazy, dreamy soundscape of songs on “Youth’s Hours,” the band’s full-length debut. But with the new self-titled full-length Yung Life will celebrate with a release show this weekend at The Pilot Light, White, Garner and White’s two younger brothers (Gabriel and Judah) have scrubbed off some of the haze and delivered a wonderfully quirky, eclectic album of songs as fun to listen to as they are for the band members to play live.
“We’re just trying to have a lot of fun and not really do anything too seriously,” Gabriel White said. “I think we’ve progressed and transformed ...”
“... and we’re definitely appealing to a broader audience,” Farner added. “People seem to be dancing more. If I wasn’t in this band, I would like our band; that sounds corny, but it’s the truth.”
Striking a balance between what the members enjoy playing and what audience members enjoy hearing can be a tricky thing; go too far in either direction and those on the other side feel alienated. And if the guys in Yung Life — all in their late teens or early 20s — thought too seriously about the reference points that writers assign to their music for the sake of easy classification, then certainly “Yung Life” wouldn’t have the breezy, devil-may-care attitude that makes it such a delight.
But Elliott White and Farner have never been much on pinning themselves, or their influences, down, they said.
“We weren’t really trying to be like any other band,” Elliott White said. “As weird as that might sound, we were making up stuff. We were listening to bands like Animal Collective and Ariel Pink and Lightning Bolt and Sonic Youth; we were just really all over the place.”
At the time, he and Farner were just a couple of guys at Farragut High School, experimenting with sounds and textures. Gradually, they began piecing together longer and more complex elements into songs, and as the songs developed, they found themselves increasingly enamored with working the sounds they had created into traditional song structures.
Gabriel joined the band next as Elliott and Farner began seeking ways to flesh out Yung Life into a fuller-sounding project.
“They were practicing in the room next door, and I was hearing what they were doing, and it made me want to be a part of it,” Gabriel said. “As they started going with more of a full-band sound, it sort of transformed from experimental music to more structured songs with more of a pop feel.”
Before Gabriel joined, Elliott and Farner generated bass sounds on a synthesizer; with Gabriel playing the real thing, and Judah joining two years ago, the electronic elements struck a balance with live instrumentation, and the music took root in traditional indie-pop sounds that give each of the guys room to express themselves individually.
“I had been playing around already with some of my friends, but I realized these guys knew what they were doing, and that was more inspiring to me,” Judah said. “We’ve all tinkered around on instruments before, and the three (White brothers) have all had bands growing up, so doing this together was an easy transition to make.”
Now, Yung Life has earned a bit of an Internet buzz on various blogs; the band’s first show, in fact, was opening for Knoxville-based indie-rockers The Royal Bangs, and through association with acts like Coolrunnings and other like-minded indie projects, the band has earned its share of fans both in East Tennessee and on the road.
“There definitely seems to be a following now,” said Cameron Crowson, the band’s sound engineer. “Usually I’m in the back of the venue doing sound, so I get to watch the whole audience, and there’s a lot more response these days. The crowd just explodes when these guys play.”