Sometimes, four years is an eternity. The last time Trevor Powers (Youth Lagoon) and I spoke, the “Boy-see,” Idaho-based musician was 22 and touring the hell out of his excellent debut record The Year of Hibernation in dive bars throughout America. Though younger then, his music was weary beyond his years. In the intervening years, Powers has experienced, created, and endured a great deal: he released a second album, he grieved the loss of a close friend, he got married. Youth Lagoon was explicitly and complicity there for everything, a way to process.
Thinking about how Youth Lagoon has metamorphosed from a quiet, insular project into one that is philosophically urgent, I couldn’t help but review the highs and lows of the last four years of my own life, in between my two conversations with Trevor. Though our trajectories are vastly different, there is a universality about Powers’ introspection that has become more pronounced with each record. His latest album, Savage Hills Ballroom (September 25), contains his most fully realized and resonant music yet.
Today Nerdist is premiering “Rotten Human”, the sixth track on Youth Lagoon’s forthcoming third LP. Though initially dark derision of societal norms–“Our foods diseased by altered seeds and dyes / so we take a pill and trust the doctor’s lies”–“Rotten Human” becomes, at once, a reflection and projection, assessing the degree to which we all fulfill the song’s title.
Below, check out the track and read a quick interview with Powers about “Rotten Humans”, his favorite TV show, and his devotion to Ciara.
Nerdist: Can you tell me a little bit about what this song means to you?
Trevor Powers: Throughout the process of writing this album—about two years—I’ve gone on this spiritual journey to learn more about myself and my faults and all this stuff that I’ve tended ignore for a really long time. It’s so much easier to go through each day and forget the previous day or forget the hurtful things you said to someone or whatever it might be, just the shitty parts of your life. This song is addressing that. It’s really examining what it is that makes me who I am, and what parts of that are disgusting.
N: What’s the most effective way to combat feeling like a rotten human? Is there anything that you practice to get outside that feeling?
TP: For me, I’m still at the phase of realization, and I think there’s steps that I’ve taken, whether it’s books I choose to read or people I try to surround myself with. Then comes the “okay, what can I do to work on this?” and I think that’s a constant process.
N: I imagine that sublimates itself into your songwriting process.
TP: I really try to bundle my thought process and make it really 100-percent creative. I think when you have a really overactive mind, which I feel like I do, it’s so easy for it to be destructive rather than constructive to your art and what you’re trying to say. I always try to change my environment, whether it’s physically or mentally, so that I can have the ability to use things from a slightly different perspective and talk about ideas differently. Which is one of the reasons why I chose to record the new record in Bristol [with producer Ali Chant], because I was like where in the world can I go that A, I’ve never been, B, I don’t know a soul, and C, I have the opportunity to feel as uncomfortable as possible. Bristol was that place. It ended up being so beneficial for the way that I wanted to approach this album and just where I was in my life. I think that’s the way I deal with it. I’m never at a place where it’s like I’m completely okay with who I am as a person, or I’m okay with who I am as a musician. I just always “okay what kind of place can I put myself in now so that I can feel challenged?”
N: Who were some artists you were enjoying while making this record?
TP: I’ve gotten really into Glenn Branca. He’s phenomenal. Just the way he utilized instruments and his orchestral percussion. I guess like approaching things from this view. I’ve always had the view of music where it’s like all right–what is music? I think some people have a very opinionated view of what should be perceived as okay. I look at my older brother and he takes everything extremely literally, which is amazing because it just means that he has this different personality than I do. As far as art goes, he might perceive things different than I do where something sounds more like noise to him than it does to me, and I get a totally different experience from it. I love music like that where it really pushes you. I also got really into David Axelrod and This Heat.
N: Did you binge watch anything?
TP: I love Netflix. I’ll find myself in an endless pit…I’m a huge The Office person. I love The Office.
N: If you had to dance to one song for the rest of you life, what would it be?
TP: I’d have to say Ciara’s “Goodies”.
Savage Hills Ballroom is out September 25 via Fat Possum Records.
Matt Grosinger is the music editor of Nerdist.com and an unabashed Youth Lagoon fan. You can follow him on Twitter (@MattGrosinger)