On the heels of an east coast tour for their sophomore release Of Misery and Toil, Young Livers stopped in Wallingford, Connecticut, to play a somewhat-secret basement show at Redscroll Records. Despite an unfamiliar crowd of fewer than fifty people, the band’s powerful energy swept through the room with vehemency. After the show, after lugging equipment back into their van, we discussed touring, writing, and the new record.
I’m glad you did it, but why come to Wallingford, Connecticut, of all places, for a secret show?
MATT: Was it a secret? I don’t know. It was just on a good part of the route, and we’d never played Connecticut before and a friend of ours suggested that we play here, and he helped us out with the show, so it just kind of ended up here.
Of Misery and Toil was produced by Armand John Anthony, who also produced both Glass and Ashes full-lengths. Can you talk a little bit about working with him, and will he produce future Young Livers albums?
MICHAEL: Well, actually, it was produced by two dudes in Gainesville.
DAVE: It was produced by Armand because he had multiple guitars for us to use, multiple pedals for us to use. He had a lot of suggestions as far as combos of different kinds of amps to use for each song, and he just had a lot of gear for us to use, so yeah. It was produced by him, but probably not in the future just because he’s so far away.
MATT: The final product was actually done by Ryan Williams in Gainesville. He redid the drums and remixed the record and stuff like that, so it was kind of a collaboration between the two studios.
The record features a notable amount of dual vocals between Matt and Mike. Did the two of you compose your vocal parts separately or was it more of a collaborative work?
MICHAEL: I think every song was different. There was a song that Dave wrote. He wrote the lyrics and we kind of built on the harmonies together, and I think Matt and I both kept to our own ways of writing, and then we would talk about it and throw stuff back and forth, so it was definitely a collaboration, the same thing with the music.
Two songs contain clips from some depressing answering machine message. Could you tell me where those clips came from, and what was the idea behind their inclusion on the record?
MATT: It was actually a tape that I got maybe like eight, nine years ago. Some friends of mine went to a flea market and bought a bag of tapes. They came back and we were picking them out and I ended up taking a couple of tapes, and one of them was an answering machine tape, cassette style, so it was like 70s-era, something like that, and I just listened to it, and there’s a section on there where a guy is, I don’t know, stalking the lady whose answering machine it is. It’s really weird and creepy, and the guy sounds very desperate and very removed. Some of that stuff felt like it incorporated with what the lyrics were talking about.
DAVE: It’s all about stalking or just, you know, super crazy people, so we wanted to incorporate that in the samples.
MATT: The desperation that the guy is portraying in the message, the way it comes off, just kind of seemed like it incorporated with the record’s idea of feeling removed and disassociated from a lot of social things that are happening and stuff like that. Does that make sense for everybody?
Thematically, Of Misery and Toil seems very dark, yet in some places a bit optimistic. How do you interpret the lyrics? Would you say that the record is more hopeful or cynical?
MATT: I’d say probably more cynical, maybe with a dollop of hope.
MICHAEL: I think it’s all different. I think we cover a wide variety of things with what we’re talking about. I think with most things, it’s just kind of juggling a topic around. There’s good times and bad times… that sounds stupid. I really think it’s definitely a dark record. There’s a little bit of hope, but it’s a dark record.
MATT: I think it’s very cynical and dark, but I guess the hope part of it is… I think being cynical is because you want things to get better. You’re cynical because you’re unhappy with the way things are.
DAVE: I see it more as social commentary. It’s like watching everything around you and paying attention to everything that’s going on around you, and it comes across really dark, but I don’t think that we’re all dark people. We all like to have fun and we’re not super pessimistic all the time. The end is kind of like a critical analysis of everything that’s going on around us. I hope that in the end, people come out of it feeling that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not all just bad, and I think that’s where the music steps in. There’s a lot of positive progressions in the music and everything sort of peaks, and hopefully in the end it feels uplifting, as much as it is dark. I think that’s the mixture there. It’s the positive and the negative coming together.
In addition to the regular pressings, Of Misery and Toil was pressed on 180 gram vinyl with a full metal jacket. Whose idea was it to create such a thing?
DAVE: That was Var, the dude that owns No Idea Records. It was a surprise for us. I feel like we put a lot of time and energy into making the record, and in the end, I feel like because it was such a stressful thing, in the end he kind of wanted to do something special for us, so he surprised us with the full metal jacket, which was printed by friends and folded by his dad, and it’s real sheet metal. Actually, we have one in the van if you want to see one.
MATT: Not only did he surprise us with it, but he surprised us with it on April Fools, so we didn’t really think it was actually true, because he had put up that there was a new Hot Water Music record, and those links went to fake stuff. I thought he was messing with us at first, like “Oh, okay. Real funny, Var. You did cool vinyl. Not!”
Matt, you’ve mentioned that you don’t necessarily like the band being categorized as having a “Gainesville” sound. Var Thelin instead draws a comparison to Thin Lizzy. Would you like to offer your ideal comparison, or do you prefer to be acknowledged for your own unique merits?
MATT: (laughs) That’s a very direct question. Did I say that? I think every band wants to be known as their own thing. It’s flattering when people compare us to bands that have had such good, long careers and produced good music and stuff like that. I just think, a lot of times, reviewers see the No Idea logo and it’s like the instantaneous, “Okay, they sound exactly like this Gainesville band or this Gainesville band.” I think it can be a little bit frustrating but also it’s nice…
DAVE: I feel like maybe you said that because we’re not actually from Gainesville.
MATT: Yeah, none of us are actually from Gainesville. We’ve only lived there for about five years and Mike actually still lives in California and has never lived in Gainesville.
Speaking of that, Mike, is it difficult living on an entirely different coast? How do you find the time to work together?
MICHAEL: It’s difficult, but we somehow work it out, whether I come a couple days before a tour. There’s been stints where I come out and sleep on someone’s couch or in Dave’s garage for a couple months, and that’s where we wrote the meat of this record. Yeah, it’s difficult, but somehow I think it pushes us in some sort of odd way that we haven’t had to deal with with other bands. There’s so many bands that do it. I never understood it, and it’s just a part of us now. We talk to each other regularly. We miss each other a lot, but it’s okay in the long run.
Following these shows on the east coast, you’ll be touring Canada with Against Me! and The Flatliners. How did that tour come about, and do you have any expectations from the crowds?
DAVE: We were actually planning on doing a tour at the same time, and that was already being booked, but they just contacted Var and asked us if we wanted to do it. I guess we were a little bit hesitant to do it, because we were worried about the response and the crowd, not necessarily being our normal venue or normal outlet. But we decided to do it for the fun of it, and we get to go to Canada, so that should be pretty cool. If ten people like it out of twenty-five hundred a night, that’s pretty much what we’re looking forward to, hanging out with those ten people.
MATT: It’s also nice that a band from our town that’s in such a higher level of music, I guess, I mean as far as where they play. I’m honored that they would ask us, just another local band that plays smaller shows, and to be able to do something like that, it’s just nice of them to do that. So it’s cool.
Would you say that you prefer smaller basement shows to bigger venues?
MATT: I don’t, no, because I’ve never played a bigger venue. I mean, I really like what we do now, so I can’t really say which one I prefer because we’ve never really played on a level like that. I think it’ll be interesting. I know that it’s going to be a little weird because there’s going to be a disconnect from the people that we’re playing to, but I’ve never experienced it, so I don’t really know.
Would you like to make a career out of playing music, or do you consider it more of a hobby?
MATT: Chris, do you want to answer a question? We haven’t heard from you.
CHRIS: I’m gonna pass on this one.
DAVE: I think every one of us would like to have fun for the rest of our lives. All of us have been going to shows our whole lives, or our whole adolescent to adult lives, and I just don’t think it’s really realistic for a band to aspire to make a living doing it, especially when you’re a band like ours that relies so much on our friends and the kids in smaller towns to facilitate what we do, and I think that once you take it to that next level and you start playing these bigger places, there is that disconnect, and maybe some of the fun gets lost and more of the business steps in, and I don’t know if any of us really want to do that. I’m sure we would all love to be able to be on tour all the time and hang out with all of our friends everywhere in the world, but I don’t think it’s the overall goal.
What was the writing process like for Of Misery and Toil? Matt, was it any easier knowing that Mike was contributing half of the lyrics? How did the lyric contributions go?
MATT: We all wrote our own stuff. The writing was different. The first record was primarily myself and Dave, so it was awesome. It was super cool to have Mike contribute because I felt like it gave it a better dynamic.
MICHAEL: It’s always a lot of fun bouncing ideas with who you’re creating with. Writing lyrics is such a private thing. It’s private to you, but then somehow, obviously, it connects to everybody else on different levels, so it’s nice to be that private with somebody and show them what you’re writing on paper. It was interesting. We all had been in other bands where we bounce ideas back and forth, but this one seemed just a little bit more intense, and a little bit more, I don’t want to say important, but there was a sense of urgency with what we were doing. It weighed a little bit heavier with writing, with the lyrics and the music.
Where would you like to see Young Livers go creatively?
MICHAEL: Stand-up comedy club.
MATT: Foreign, mind-bending dramas.
MICHAEL: I’d really like to tap into the cruise ship world. I don’t know how much those bands get paid, but I like water and I like buffets.
Is there anything else you guys would like to add?
CHRIS: I think that’s about it, actually.
I can’t thank Matt, Michael, Dave, and Chris enough for taking the time to answer my questions. I strongly encourage all Canadians and midwesterners to catch Young Livers on their upcoming tour with Against Me! and the Flatliners, and to purchase what is arguably the best record to come out this year, Of Misery and Toil, out now on No Idea Records.
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