The Brazen Youth
Interview & Photos by Sophie Minello
Meet the Brazen Youth, an indie band hailing from Lyme, Connecticut and more specifically, Ashlawn Farms, the place they call home. Living on a farm has proved to be a big influence to their unique and experimental sound. Their debut album, The Ever Dying Bristlecone Man, was written and recorded by Nicholas and Charles over the period of two years. Sunlight sat down on the steps of a church with Nicholas (vocals, guitar), Charles (keyboard, vocals), and Micah (drummer) before their set at CODA in Tremont, Ohio.
Today is the last date of this tour, how would you describe the experience?
Nicholas: I think we all made new discoveries about ourselves, about our individual intentions, about the intentions of our tour bands and band mates and...
Charles: ...group dynamic.
Nicholas: And also we discovered a lot about...
Charles: ...how to have a good tour.
Nicholas: And even just the lifestyle. Subscribing to a lifestyle of instability and seeing if it’s something that’s worth doing.
Are there any quirky/strange stories you’re going to take away from this tour?
Charles: We were playing this one venue in DC and the guy who was running the show, at the beginning of the show he opened up a two liter bottle of coke and he killed the entire thing by the end. He sat at the door and just chugged it. The second he opened the bottle he looked determined to kill it. And he did.
Nicholas: And it was with these dixie cups. They were so small.
Charles: He took like 40 shots of coke all night. It was crazy.
Telling stories through your music seems like a common thing for you guys. What stories have inspired you?
Nicholas: Honestly, just stories that every human encounters, like romantic stories, or emotional deprivation that exists and is unavoidable, or family structure.
Charles: We like writing about stories that have timeless themes. Like Little Red Riding Hood.
Nicholas: We live on a farm so we consider the farm to be sort of timeless in a way just because agriculture has existed for thousands of years and the technology of agriculture is more or less fundamentally the same. We kind of just live on this farm and detach ourselves from civility and constructs of civility like time and anything that’s socially normative. We just kind of escape it. I think that manifests into our songs a lot because it’s almost like we feel inclined to challenge social norms not because of who we are but because of where we are. It feels obligatory in a weird way.
Charles: I would say also who we are, it’s a nature vs. nurture kind of thing. Having the influence of where we’ve been writing and producing out of has burned a place into us.
Talking about the farm, I think it’s really interesting how living on Ashlawn farms has influenced you guys so much. Last year Nicholas, you were at school in Boston. When you were there did the different location influence you?
Nicholas: Yeah, it was very difficult to find time to be alone. There are practice rooms but when you’re alone in a practice room you’re sort of surrounded by 30 other students who are trying to do exactly what you’re doing. It’s way too much stimuli to write. Charlie took the first semester off from school so he was on the farm first semester and I was up in Boston. It was so interesting because for the first time there was a divergence of our writing styles because he was writing a lot of songs that talked about the natural aspects of the world and the discoveries he was making while living on the farm while I was more writing about city life and how deprived I felt. It (Boston) wasn’t a good place for me as an individual.
You seem really interested in experimenting with your music, in what ways have you pushed yourself and tried new things?
Charles: You don’t really try to do anything you just do what you feel, you do what you hear, you kind of just see if you can turn what’s in your head into something on a daw screen. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but if it doesn’t you just put a chorus effect on it and call it indie.
Nicholas: Throw in some distortion.
Charles: Run it through tape and you’re just like, ‘this isn’t bad, it’s experimental’.
Nicholas: We’re always experimenting.
Charles: We don’t listen to very conventional music either, so most of our influences kind of push us in that direction.
Micah: There’s a nice blend.
Nicholas: I feel like we all have one collective taste in music but we also have our individual taste in music. Charlie’s into rap, he loves Kendrick. I really like classical music and Micah really likes film score. We all just take those influences and we put them together in this pool and then we just take out little bits that might match up.
I think it was I Call to You in Dreams where there were over 100 tracks?
Charles: It’s funny you say that because we don’t usually listen to our music very often but on the way here we just decided to listen to I Call to You in Dreams. I think that had about 178 tracks by the end of it and then we condensed it into 50 tracks and sent that to mastering.
Nicholas: That song was a shit storm. We worked on that song for over a year to record it, and we were continuously restarting and reimagining it. I made probably 17 demos on my own of that song. It was crazy. That was the kind of song where me and Charlie just had to sit down and completely reimagine it. It got stale after a while since we both had this image in our heads of what the song should be and once we realized that it was impossible to meet that standard we were just like ‘okay, let’s restart it.’
Charles: It got to a point where it was mostly damage control. The song was 6 little songs combined into one song.
Nicholas: And not to mention the last portion wasn’t added until the end of recording it. We were just fucking around one day and added it.
Charles: It got to a point where it was just so hectic, there were so many tracks that my computer was crashing every time I opened it. We didn’t know what to do so one day me and Nick were up late at night and we put this distortion plug on it and turned it all the way up at the end...
Nicholas: ...and we tried to call it art.
Charles: We were just like, ‘alright, this is where we’re at. We’re sending it to mastering.’ It turned out a little better than we thought, I thought I was going to hate it within a week. It’s been a year and I only hate it a little more.
Nicholas: It’s weird because with the old songs, I feel really detached from them in a way. When I listen to them I don’t feel like I’m listening to us, I feel like I’m just observing a former version of myself. I don’t feel regret or hatred towards those songs because I feel like it was the best we were able to do at the time.
Charles: Like ‘he didn’t know.’
You guys are into the film and music video process, yes?
Nicholas: Oh yeah we’re really into film.
Charles: We all just take footage throughout the tour and send it to Nick and at the end of those sections of time he puts these little compilations together, these little movies or films that kind of represent that time. We’ve been releasing those on the internet for a couple months now.
What would your dream music video be if you didn’t have a budget?
Nicholas: I would film a time lapse of the beginning of the universe to the end of the universe and put it within the time frame of a wild song.
You’ve mentioned before that the Ever Dying Bristlecone Man is a concept album which I think that is incredibly interesting. Can you explain the whole idea behind it?
Charles: It’s very interpretive.
Nicholas: It changes so much.
Charles: It can be whatever you want it to be, but the idea behind the ever dying bristlecone man is a man who was experiencing death and reincarnation, but then still vividly remembering his past lives. Learning to live, die, forget loved ones, move on.
Nicholas: He slowly becomes a psychopath.
Charles: Yeah, this crazy ass deranged dude. And then at the end he kind of just outlives all the humans and becomes this weird spiritual being. I feel like that’s the energy behind the ever dying bristlecone man’s concept.
Nicholas: Then it became a lot more conceptual because we were like, ‘how are we going to put this tangible character into these songs, we should make it a little more conceptual and more non-physical’. So we turned it into the primal man vs. the modern human and how certain instincts like a desire to procreate or a desire to preserve your body by eating, it’s all about preserving a species which is procreation and preserving yourself which is feeding your hunger. It became that, to me at least. It became a lot more conceptual.
Charles: It’s just such an interpretive album. We have that baseline idea behind it and we like writing about timeless themes and that’s kind of what that was.
What’s in store for the future of The Brazen Youth?
Nicholas: We’re working on an album right now, it’s called ‘Primitive Initiative’. More touring in the fall and winter and spring. We’re not sure, we’re still deciding what’s going to happen after this year. We won’t know until May.
Charles: We’re just going to dive into this album as soon as we get back. This is our last date and we’re driving back home tomorrow. As soon as we get back to the farm we’re just going to dive into this next record. It’s a much bigger project, a lot more tracks. We’re just really eager to get some singles out for people to hear.
Nicholas: For sure, even on this tour we’ve been playing mostly new songs that we don’t have out. It’s kind of weird that we’re promoting something that doesn’t exist.