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Interview with our BOTW: Young Man

As part of our BOTW feature on Young Man- a.k.a Colin Caulfield- Tim Robins catches up with the (young?) man himself to discuss nostalgia, solitude and gender politics…sort of. Here’s how it went:

PN: You were a drummer in previous bands before you began writing your own material under the Young Man moniker. Can you explain your motives for picking up the guitar and singing? Was it mainly just to have control over the entire sound of the songs?

Young Man: To say that I wanted to control the entire sound is an interesting way of putting it, but, yes, I wanted to be able to write songs and I realized that my interest in drums had peaked. I originally started learning piano and guitar when I got to college (where I couldn’t bring my drums). I approached those instruments primarily as vehicles for songwriting, but slowly got more serious about improving technique and all that. As for singing, I actually didn’t begin to understand the voice as an instrument that I could become better at until pretty recently. Up until that point, I knew I liked to sing and that it was a natural accompaniment to those other instruments. What I’m trying to get at is that I didn’t initially set out to sing – it came about naturally in the creative process.

PN: Was the music you were making previously different to the sound of Young Man, or is there some logical progression?

YM: I think there are definite similarities in my understanding of theory and melody, but Young Man is pretty different. My first songs were reminiscent of a quirky Beatles – short pop songs with clever/weird lyrical subjects.

PN: You have said that your previous EP- ‘Boy’- is about the carefree nature of being a child, and is wholly conceptual. Do you see your music as lamenting the fact that we must move out of this period, or more of a celebration of the fact that we have that time? Would you say it is nostalgic?

YM: The general idea behind the discussion of youth in my music is this: as we grow and pass certain defined periods in youth/life, it’s easy to romanticize circumstances or memories and wish we could relive them; however, I think it’s more appropriate and valuable to remember those times and focus instead on the ways they impact your life in the present. Living in the present is one of the most difficult things to do when becoming an adult, but it’s so important. Boy was therefore a way to detach myself from childhood as well as revert to it psychologically. I was at a point where I was reminiscing about that time and also wishing I was done with school and older. This got to be very troubling and problematic. I was essentially ignoring myself as I was existing and thinking instead about how I had been and how I was going to be. So, that’s that.

PN: In new single ‘Up So Fast’ you also sing the lyrics: ‘I’m a boy / I’m a little boy’ and your band name is Young MAN. Is the idea of growing from a boy into a man- the specifics of that male experience- something that’s important to you? Or is it the movement from childhood to adulthood in general that you are concerned with?

YM: I often think about this, especially because I’ve entertained the idea of adding a female member to the group. If that were a good fit, I’d have no problem with a girl being part of the project. I write everything under Young Man because that’s what I am and that’s what informs the concept and lyrics. However, the music is intended to be universal, at least in terms of gender. For instance, my next album is about love and being in a long distance relationship; while I’m singing and writing in the first person, the role of the character is intended to be ambiguous – the ideas presented could vocalize either person’s experience. These next three albums will, unlike Boy, try to better avoid gender distinction.

PN: You mentioned in previous interviews that you’re writing new material while at college. How are you finding balancing it all (inyour final year especially) or is college all done now?

YM: It’s really difficult. I write most of my songs while walking around or sitting in class, which is entirely beneficial for the music, but really problematic for my mental attendance in class… Likewise, I can’t always be working on music because of obligations to school. It has been a great experience and I’ll be glad to have finished, but right now it sucks.

PN: Lots of your songs seem to allude to the idea of solitude (‘Home Alone’ , or being surrounded by ‘Strangers’ etc). Do you write alone, and do you feel that you invest a lot of yourself in your songs?

YM: I haven’t really thought about that, but, yes, I write alone. I think there’s a definite sense of isolation in solo projects. That feeling isn’t necessarily sad or anything, but I find that I relate to The Graceful Fallen Mango or Morning Better Last! by the Dirty Projectors in a very different way than I do to Bitte Orca because of that idea. I find it really interesting that circumstances like that affect end results to such a degree.

PN: How do you feel about Bradford Cox’s compliments on your ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ cover? Admittedly it’s an accolade, but is it something that you want to move away from now that you’ve released a load more of your own material?

YM: That was really great to see for a couple of reasons. It’s my hope that the artists hear the covers I put online, but also because I think he and Deerhunter make really fantastic music. But yes, I wish it hadn’t have been used in such a dramatic fashion during the beginning. It’s something I’ll always remember and appreciate, but I hope other people can forget it.

PN: What was your decision to post all of your covers on the net? Most people who put covers up on the internet just stick to that, and don’t ever end up releasing their own material. Were they a way for you to get noticed- as people were familiar with those songs already- or were they uploaded for a more practical reason that you could have some gauge of how you were improving as a musician?

YM: It was originally just a way for me to get feedback on my recordings. At that point I was writing originals, but covering songs was a great way to learn about progressions, melody, and recording techniques. I don’t really do it all that much anymore because I’m so busy with my original material. That’s ultimately more important, but I think I’ll always cover other music for fun.

PN: You’ve spoken in the past about your respect for Dirty Projectors, who have a relatively quirky/psychedelic sound going on. Do you think that what some people are picking up on as the Animal Collective/Deerhunter/Panda Bear psychedelic element to your songs might come out a bit more in future? The material released so far has (for me) been rooted in traditional pop sensibility…is it going to get weirder?

YM: I think the idea of psychedelia in music is changing really quickly right now. It’s easy to label something as psychedelic, but I find that there’s often not a sufficient reason for doing so. However, things are definitely going to get weirder. I’m experimenting much on these new albums and I think it shows. The music will always be grounded in a pop framework that emphasizes beauty, but the way I present that will change.

PN: You’ve just released your single ‘Up So Fast’, with ‘Strangers’ as a B-side, on Chess Club in the UK, and you’re booked to play End of the Road festival, which we’ll hopefully see you at. Do you have any other UK dates booked for the near future?

YM: I know were doing stuff over there in the summer including playing the End of the Road festival. Hopefully we’ll get to play some shows leading up to that. I’m excited to go back!

PN: Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions, and congrats on being our Band Of The Week!
YM: No problem! Thanks so much for the support.

What an evidently lovely and intelligent chap…

-Tim Robins

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