By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of The Young Leaves
It’s refreshing to hear a band that doesn’t give a shit about being categorized or pigeonholed for drawing on older sounds for inspiration.
Every artist has to pick a well to draw their water from, and the three young leaves blowing in from Holliston, MA won’t be running dry anytime soon. Imagine a young Elvis Costello becoming motion-sick as he lurches out melodies over a Dinosaur Jr. versus Lemonheads game of tug-of-war and you’ll be getting close to the mark.
The Young Leaves have been around since 2006, when the trio’s guitar player Christopher Chaisson was only 17 and still playing all of the instruments by himself. Seven bassists and three drummers later and the trio have finally cemented their sound–coming to a lovely and abrasive fruition on 2014’s Alive and Well.
BTR tuned in with Christopher to hear a little bit about what the journey has been like.
It’s been eight years since The Young Leaves first formed. You’re definitely not so young anymore–what are some of the biggest changes you’ve undergone since the beginning?
The biggest change in this band over the past eight years has been the personnel. I started this band by myself when I was 17 years old. I’ve always viewed it like an Evan Dando or J Mascis situation; I would write songs and play them in a “band” context with whoever was down at the time. With that said, I’ve played with 3 different drummers and 7 different bassists. We even had a second guitarist for a few months starting out. It’s been hectic finding people to play with because everyone has jobs or moves or just ends up getting burnt out; but I’ve found a way to make it work somehow.
How did you come together?
The current lineup is Rico (drums), Lindsey (bass), and myself (guitar and vocals.) Rico has been playing with me since 2011 after I met him randomly at a Best Buy where he commented on a Lemuria shirt I was wearing. Lindsey joined the band over a year ago and we met by working at a cafe in my hometown of Holliston, MA. They both like 90’s indie rock and sludge metal so we bonded pretty quickly.
Influences like Dinosaur Jr. are readily apparent in your songwriting process. What about some other big influences, both musical and otherwise?
Bands like Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du, and The Lemonheads are definitely the fundamental influences for what we do; but I’m also into a lot ’90s indie rock like Pavement and Archers of Loaf, which I feel translate pretty well into our sound. I’m also obsessed with the whole Slumberland Records discography too. Rocketship’s A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness changed my life.
How do you go about writing songs? Is the process something you return to again and again, or does it very from tune to tune?
Songwriting has always been a pretty easy process for me. Mainly, I’ll either come up with a vocal melody or a guitar riff and then I’ll keep it in the back of my head for a bit. If it resonates and I can remember it days or weeks later, I’ll try to form it into an actual song. The process is “easy,” but it doesn’t guarantee great songs. Usually I’ll write a whole batch at a time and only come out with three or four that I really want to pursue with the band.
The best thing you can do to improve your songwriting is to learn to edit yourself and realize that not everything you do is going to be fantastic. As much as I absolutely adore a band like Guided By Voices, it’s frustrating to have to skip over half of their records in order to get to the brilliance. Keep it concise but pack a punch!
You guys have some pretty remarkable cover art for all of your releases. Do you generally work with the same artist, and what’s that collaborative process like?
Each record has had a different artist handle the packaging. The last record was done by an incredible artist named Tom Lowell. He and I are good friends and I was very familiar with his work, so I pretty much just let him come up with an interpretation of the record and he portrayed it in his illustration. I like the idea of the visual artist applying their process to the music.
Album art for Alive and Well
Alive and Well marks your third full-length release. How does this one differ from your other two offerings?
I think Alive and Well was more of a pop record than the first two. I was going through a brutal break-up and for some reason, despite being miserable, I couldn’t help but write catchy/poppy material. It’s weird because it’s simultaneously our most sonically abrasive record. We wanted to make an aggressive, heartfelt, pop record and I feel like we successfully did that.
Do you plan on pressing future releases to vinyl as well?
It is the most in-demand medium, so we will absolutely be pressing our albums on vinyl. Even if you don’t own a record player, having the huge album jacket and artwork is rewarding!
What’s in store for 2014?
We are currently wrapping up a 30-day tour throughout the Midwest and east coast, and when we return we are recording our next album entitled Burial Dreams. It’s going to be released on Jump Start Records later this year. Other than that, we’ll be playing a few local shows and then playing Fest 13 in October.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you while on the road?
Back in 2012 we played a house show in Duluth, MN with our friends Rational Anthem. The house was packed with people and everyone was into it, but there was the woman taking a piss right next to Rico’s drumset, a fire extinguisher got thrown and exploded all over me and my gear, and this bald dude kept hugging me and trying to lick my face while I was playing. I’m sure if that’s not all that wild in comparison to other bands, but it was somewhat weird for us!
Or check them out live:
June 27 2014- Tom’s House- Smithtown, NY
June 28 2014- Capetown- East Hartford, CT
June 29 2014- AS220- Providence, RI
June 30 2014- O’Brien’s- Allston, MA