With the release of a single song on his bandcamp page a few months ago, Trevor Powers rose from total obscurity to musical prominence under the Youth Lagoon moniker. The track “July” starts small and hushed and builds to a sound that could fill the rafters of the loftiest cathedral. The few songs Powers has released since then have only served to heighten the anticipation of his debut album The Year of Hibernation.
Powers’ music does not sound like the work of a single person, let alone that of a relatively inexperienced 22 year-old. While the solitary and obscure nature of his recording process had earned Youth Lagoon the genre label of “bedroom producer,” his sound is colossal and begs to be heard live. In this Spectrum Culture Q and A, Trevor Powers tells us about the cathartic nature of his song making process, and the personal experiences that made this year of musical catharsis necessary.
What is the Boise music scene like? Could you have made this music in a bedroom anywhere or is there something specific to Boise that went into it?
Boise’s music scene is definitely slow moving but it’s growing. I don’t think there was necessarily anything from Boise that had a dramatic impact on my music but there is something of substance considering that it is my home. It is where I lay my head, so at the end of the day, these songs are going to reflect that in some way.
Your upcoming tour, as I understand it, will be your first. Are you excited to tour? Have you traveled much before?
I’m extremely excited but also nervous. There has been so much going on in my life the past four months that when I reflect on it, it is literally unreal. I never would have imagined I would be in the position I am now so more than anything I am grateful. I really haven’t traveled much before. I haven’t even been outside of the West except for a little trip I went on recently to Hawaii.
If I may, I’d like to break down the title of your forthcoming album, The Year of Hibernation. First, did it actually take a year to make? Does it take you a while to make music? How do you go about making songs?
I named it this because the year I worked on these songs was one of the most difficult of my life. I was seeing a counselor for my anxiety and my mind was affecting the relationship I had been in with my love of four years and things kept getting worse. I ended up deciding that I needed to record an album even if it was just for me. Contrary to what most people have been saying, I did not actually record the album in my bedroom. I had to save up money for months to record with a local engineer named Jeremy Park. One of the ways I saved up money was playing keyboard on the side of the street in downtown Boise late at night. I made this album my project. Even this album affected my relationship with my girlfriend because I ended up needing to stop seeing the counselor in order to put all that money towards the record which took a toll on us. So I invested all of myself in it with no idea of what would happen. In some ways I was selfish with myself because instead of investing in myself and making myself healthier, I decided that I needed to record an album. But as I come to find out, everything happens for a reason.
Now the “hibernation” part… was the time spent recording the album a solitary time for you?
Definitely a solitary time for me. I can never write unless I’m completely alone.
Your songs that I’ve heard so far, which start small and end big, feel very cathartic. Is making music therapeutic for you?
Making music is something I need to do. I have so many things that build up inside of me and it is my way of getting it out. So I would say that it is most assuredly a means of therapy for me.
Do you prefer this small-to-big song structure over verse-chorus-verse or other song structures? Why? Should we expect some different types of song structures on the album?
Honestly, I don’t evaluate my music that way. I have never been a big fan of the verse-chorus-verse structure because it seems too expected and forced to me, although I do still use it sparingly even on the album. But when I’m working on a track, instead of evaluating a certain kind of structure I want to write it in, I just start playing and if the finished product is me then I’m happy.
Your music sounds far-away to me. It seems to have an almost indirect quality… like I’m hearing it through the walls while you’re in your bedroom with the door shut. Am I imagining this or is that something you were going for?
I like distance in my music. I’m not exactly sure why except that it seems to add a certain feeling or aesthetic that feels really detached. I guess since sometimes I feel detached from my surroundings, my music tends to feel like that too.
Does your music sound any different live? What help do you have in your live show? Is there any live instrumentation?
It sounds much larger live. My live show also consists of one of my best friends Logan Hyde on guitar. I use synthesizer bass boosts while I play keys so, in my opinion, it creates a much larger sound live.
Your music sounds like it would translate better to a live show than many other bedroom producers. Did you consider a live audience at all when you made it?
I really didn’t consider a live audience while I was making it. I just focused on making the record the way I wanted with not much in mind other than putting it online for a free download when it was finished.
Many bedroom producers and solo artists choose to adopt a name other than their own, like Washed Out or How to Dress Well. Which I find odd in your case, considering your badass given name of Trevor Powers. Why did you choose to release music under another name?
Although I consider my music being very personal, I like to keep it separate from myself. I don’t want it to be the type of thing that is all about me, but rather it about the music. I feel like not attaching my own name to it helps accomplish that.
Why specifically the name “Youth Lagoon?” What does that name mean to you?
When I was thinking of what to name the project, the idea of youth kept coming to mind. As much as the word is overused nowadays, “nostalgia” plays a huge part in my music. I’m dealing with specific memories. A person’s youth is often the most memorable time of the entire human experience. Sometimes I think in terms of images, so when I was thinking of a name I pictured this waterhole with all these teens playing around in the water and some sitting by themselves. The scene seemed to hold a lot of substance in comparison to my music.
Do you think the recording of your next album will in any way resemble “The Year of Hibernation”? Do you think it will sound at all similar?
I have no idea. I’m not going to try to “out-do” this album. An album exists as a certain place and time of the artist’s life who created it so that should never be something that should be out-done. I’m just going to make another record.