Cruising southbound on I-84 and pumping the Jurassic Park soundtrack from a weathered stereo system, Trevor Powers doesn’t have much but freeway on his mind. How could you expect him to? Up until now, on his debut tour around the country as Youth Lagoon, everything he has ever experienced – for better or worse – has been right at home in Boise, Idaho. And if home is where the heart is, then Powers fucking needs this vacation.
With a cherub-like face bordered by nocturnal curls, the 22-year-old frontman is remarkably approachable: he makes a concerted effort to learn your name in conversation and asks again if he forgets. During his show at the Empty Bottle, a beloved dive bar in Chicago, he goes so far as to dedicate a song to “those of you in the crowd that haven’t spoken to me yet” – clearly a minority.
But this composed geniality belies a restiveness that prompted his debut album, The Year of Hibernation. Powers suffers from chronic anxiety, and last year it got the better of him. After finally seeking a counselor to allay his overactive mind, he had to quit his sessions due to a lack of funds. “I had to choose between making the record and seeing the counselor, and I chose the record.” So Powers spent the rest of the year at his piano instead.
Thus, convalescence was a process that began in earnest with Youth Lagoon. The bulk of Hibernation’s emotive force arises from a cathartic purge of his self-scrutiny: songs that deal directly with the isolation he felt little less than year ago are at once disaffected and therapeutic.
“If I just play and sing, for me, it is almost like a form of therapy in the sense that I am getting the past out of my system. ” Powers explains.
You would have no suspicion of these anxieties save that Powers wears them so starkly on his person. Five tattoos decorate either of Powers’ arms, each one a discerning reminder to stay grounded — “Be Still,” reads the ink on his left hand.
Most prominent however, is the depiction of the Idaho state lines on Powers’ left forearm. “Boy-see” is the epicenter after all, where Powers dropped out, broke up, stowed away, and recorded the consequences on his 35-minute opus, a deceptively quick album that radiates battered wisdom. “I feel like I can say a lot more by saying a lot less.”
Recalling the first time he heard the songs from Hibernation, Logan Hyde, Powers’ close friend and only touring band mate, says that it was a challenging listening experience.
“He’d play some songs for me, and I instantly knew exactly what he was singing about.” Hyde, 21, remembers. Powers was singing about his year – all of it – and it must have been hard to hear at first. However, this is the same material both are growing accustomed to performing on a nightly basis.
Powers admits that sometimes presenting such deeply personal material can be awkward, just as sharing intimate reflections with anonymous audiences should be. But by having such brief dalliances with so many cities, he has learned to summon strength from his roots.
“I need to keep myself in check,” Powers says. “To even think about where I was when I wrote certain songs gives them meaning again, and I hope that is evident to other people too.”
Youth Lagoon is Trevor Powers, but not the reverse. It is an alias, a deep-seated mode of presentation. Trevor Powers still lives at home in Boise; Youth Lagoon lives with his buddy Logan, somewhere on I-84, in a 2006 Chevy Trail Blazer.
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