Rising out of Birmingham, UK, a city inextricably linked with generations of aggressive and rebellious musicians (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, UB40, Napalm Death to name a few), proto-punk trio Youth Man offers a fresh take on protest music that draws from the non-conforming spirit of generations past while pushing solidly towards a better future for all. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Kaila Whyte, bassist/vocalist Miles Cocker, and drummer Marcus Perks, the band has released a number of singles and EPs exploring radical anti-capitalist, sex-positive, and diversity-embracing themes that, combined with its reputation for amazing live shows, have grown the band a dedicated underground following.
Arriving today via VENN Records (a boutique label owned by members of Gallows), Youth Man’s latest EP, “Wax” is a 5-song explosion of angular, confrontational punk with plenty of hooks to go around and an urgency and rawness heightened by virtue of its being recorded in one overnight recording session.
Stream “Wax” in full below and read on for our Q&A with Whyte in which she gives insight on the band’s team-driven approach to music and how the Brexit decision will impact Youth Man and other British artists.
Birmingham has an incredible music history. Has that legacy impacted the sound or attitude of Youth Man? If so, in what ways?
Growing up in Brum, you’re never far from someone who went to school with UB40, roadied for Black Sabbath, used to do coke with Robert Plant, or has some other tenuous link to a famous musician. There’s a lot of pride in Birmingham’s music scene and the city’s legacy definitely plays a part in how we indulge in music. I don’t think we’ve been directly influenced by many of the bands to come out of the West Midlands but we’ve always found that people we play for really encourage us to continue what we’re doing, and in turn that has made us feel comfortable being ourselves. We don’t hold back and I guess part of that is the environment we’re in allowing us to do that.
All three members of the group contribute to writing music and lyrics. How do you think you’ve grown together as a songwriting unit leading up to the new EP?
I think we’ve really settled into writing as a team now. On our previous release, Miles was new to the band and we were still all adjusting to the new dynamic. Now I feel like we’ve really settled into writing as a team and vibe-ing off of each other. This new EP “Wax” feels a lot more natural.
What are some pros and cons for you in creating a record in one session?
No time to waste! It was really fun to just get it done. There was no going to the studio every day for a week, or spending 15 hours on getting the right drum sound, or trying out 7 different amps; we just did it! And that felt good.
Its not perfect. With recorded music, you can listen to it over and over and hear something different everytime. Your ear picks out bits you like and bits you don’t like and you really get to know a song when you can listen back to it. This record is littered with mistakes and dud notes and sometimes I wish they weren’t there but it all adds to the character of the record.
For our readers living outside of the UK and European Union, can you please break down some of the ways the Brexit referendum will impact independent musicians in the UK?
For us, the touring side of things will hit us hardest. We’re a small band with next to no money at all, and without free movement across Europe, touring the continent might become financially impossible. We can’t afford visas. We can’t afford a carnet [basically, a visa for merch]. Already, we often tour at a deficit and we don’t mind because we’re doing what we love but at the stage we’re at in our musical careers, Brexit is likely to make that unfeasible.
How are musicians in your community supporting each other or speaking out about what’s happening?
There’s been a LOT of discussion on social media. More than I’ve ever seen. We’re all pissed off and feel cheated. At the moment everyone just seems to be trying to make sense of the situation.
Lastly, what guitar / gear did you use on this record? What piece of gear is most important to you in creating your sound?
I used a fender strat, running through a Roland Jazz chorus 160 amp. With a few pedals, the one I rely on most being my beloved Proco Rat. Can’t beat a classic.