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Holy Youth – Photo courtesy of Holy Youth
I find that the best bands know how to take all their influences and synthesize them into a song that sounds fresh but familiar. Alabama’s Holy Youth is one of those bands. On their new single, “Off The Radar,” which Big Takeover is pleased to host the premiere of today, you’ll hear a wide variety of familiar sounds packaged in a new, exciting way.
Since their inception in 2012, Holy Youth has changed lineups multiple times. And though the lineup has changed, their unique brand of indie rock still carries on. Opening up for bands like Superchunk, The Fresh and Onlys, and Heavy Bored, Holy Youth have perfected their craft of writing earworm pop songs with intricate arrangements.
“Off The Radar” begins with a chorused-out guitar arpeggio and catchy, post-punk-infused bass line. It’s a carefree, early Fall vibe that’ll be sure to remind you of daydreaming around your college campus. When the melody hits, it sounds reminiscent of the Elephant Six Collective’s obsession with ’60s pop. The harmonies lend itself to the dreamlike vibes created by the band.
About halfway through the song, it moves into yet another territory. As the tempo quickens, it starts to sound like a ’90s alt-rock jam. The dreamy soundscape gives way to a driving, frantic interpretation of the melody. This is absolutely masterful songwriting — the king of songwriting that takes its listeners on a journey.
Holy Youth excel at creating an atmosphere. You’ll very quickly start attaching memories of carefree summer days to the guitar hooks and soaring melodies. Give “Off the Radar” a listen below, and be sure to check out their new album Clear Conscience on October 2nd!
By David Haynes
John Paul Foster, the band’s drummer, background singer, and producer/engineer kindly took some time to reply to a few interview Qs:
How have the lineup changes affected the sound of the band?
“I don’t think the lineup changes did anything drastic sonically, but I think Abby and Travis had some differences that made for some subtle shifts. Travis leaned a little more into the groove, with the bass and guitar locked together, while Abby’s bass lines tended to lean more into countermelody or something unexpected.”
We talk fairly often about the 1990s as a decade that influences a lot of modern artists. But, I hear a lot of 1980s vibes in your songs. What bands from the ’80s helped you craft Holy Youth songs?
“When we were first learning the songs together, I know Chris and I talked about having early R.E.M. on rotation, and that certainly informed the way I thought about the record as I worked on it. Like something that would have flown under the radar on college radio in 1984. Sonically I was thinking about everything from New Order to R.E.M. to Superchunk, to go from the early ’80s to the early ’90s.”
You are self-releasing Clear Conscience. Did you self-record it as well? If not, what was the recording process like?
“I became obsessed with making records at a pretty early age, and spent my teens and twenties teaching myself how to engineer the different steps of the process. I’ve lived in an old farmhouse in the countryside for the past ten years, which has been a perfect place to record. Even though we always wanted to actually track an album live in the room together, we ended up doing this one the same as the last two, with me recording drums by myself and then getting Chris and Stuart and Abby to swing by and record their parts individually.”
Too often, we tend to think of the centers of the independent music industry as New York and Los Angeles. What is it like being a band in the South?
“I’ve always thought the South as a region is pretty well-represented, with Athens, Oxford, Chapel Hill, and of course Nashville as major hubs. But although it’s gotten better in recent years, Alabama specifically has always felt a little isolated. I’ve always felt lucky when I don’t have to drive to Atlanta or Nashville when I want to see a touring band, because it’s rare that Birmingham ends up as a node on the schedule. That changed over the past decade-and-a-half as more and better venues like Bottletree opened up, and dozens of interconnected bands sprung to life. It still feels isolated, but it’s developed its own distinct aesthetic identity, which remains a pretty well-kept secret.”