Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers Doesn't Read His Own Press Because It's Often Wrong
Trevor Powers doesn't really get it.
Force Field PR
The musician -- who performs under the moniker Youth Lagoon -- caught the ink of critics back when his debut record, The Year in Hibernation, was released in late 2011. The album is a sprawling, introspective sonic and lyrical examination of crippling anxiety. Pitchfork gave it their esteemed Best New Music. Allmusic noted its "vulnerability and empathy." And the AV Club called his songcraft "intimate-yet-epic." Blogs and tweeters celebrated the immediacy of the music, and how emotional it was, and how all of that probably had to do with the fact that it was recorded in his bedroom after a break-up. Except now we're back to what Trevor Powers doesn't get -- because, well, Hibernation actually wasn't recorded in a bedroom.
"That's a press fantasy or something," the 23-year-old musician says. Like most things on the Internet these days, the story of Youth Lagoon seems to play a major role as to why people enjoy Youth Lagoon. But also like most things on the Internet these days, the story of Youth Lagoon has taken on a life of its own, being twisted, shaped, and pushed to fit whatever "Bon Iver cabin tale" is appropriate to tell at the time.
But aside from all that hoopla, the music is pretty good too. Powers just released the second Youth Lagoon LP, Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum), a bigger, swirling record of indie pop that feels like a natural next step. He recorded this one (also not in his bedroom) down in Georgia with Ben Allen, a producer known for his work with Cee Lo, Animal Collective, and Deerhunter, among others. It took two months to come together, and now the musician sets out on tour, and stops by the Bowery Ballroom tonight to play for a sold-out crowd. We talked with Powers over the phone while he sat on his front porch in Boise, sipping on a Dick Danger Ale (a name he can't say without laughing), addressing his growth in popularity over the past year, the new album, and how Boise isn't--believe it or not--in the middle of nowhere.
You're prepping for SXSW. Last year was your first time. How are you preparing yourself for this year?
Yeah, SXSW is crazy but really fun. I'm taking it all with a grain of salt. I don't ever feel like putting pressure on yourself is necessary. As soon as that happens, you set yourself up for failure, you know what I mean? I feel like at SXSW, it's funny because there are all these press people that are expecting whatever and they will just tear bands apart because you get, like, two minutes to soundcheck, 20 minutes to play, and then rush all your gear off stage. It's definitely one of those things that's more fun than anything. You have to take it as it is.
Talking about critics, your first record was loved by many and blew up (as much as you can) in the indie world. Safe to say that took you by surprise?
It definitely did. My original plan was to release it for free.
What has your experience dealing with the press over the past year been like?
For the most part, I don't read anything anymore. It goes back to taking everything as it is. I find it interesting because you put out a record and all these people are writing all this stuff. Everyone interprets things differently and they make you out to be someone and then other people who know you will read it and be like, "What the hell are they talking about?" I just find it humorous. You go on stage or you do interviews or whatever, but then sometimes when you see the end product you're surprised. How did that get interpreted that way, you know?
Your new record is already getting positive reviews. How do you stay focused?It comes down to tuning it out. Going into making a record or even playing a show, you can't try to see yourself through other people's eyes. Like I said, the interpretation of others is so across the board so you would drive yourself crazy trying to present yourself in a certain way. You have to stay real to whatever you believe in. Whether or not people latch onto it, you have to believe in it. That's the most important thing.
If you find yourself too involved in that stuff you can get brainwashed. You find yourself with some certain agenda or whatever. At first, when Year of Hibernation got press and people were attaching themselves to it, you know, from that point on whatever you create, at least some people will listen to it. To me, it's a really beautiful thing. But your motives always have to stay--not selfish, but you really have to focus on why you're doing it for yourself. Everything else is just a really big bonus.