Youth Lagoon: “things have never really been perfect”

Youth Lagoon is the moniker of self-effacing musician Trevor Powers who burst onto the music scene with his stunning debut album The Year of Hibernation late last year to high critical acclaim. With a substantiated cult following at his Australian shows earlier this year, Youth Lagoon returned to appear at the much loved Splendour in the Grass festival. Powers discusses vintage shopping in Melbourne, the music he grew up listening to and plans for a second record.

This 22 year old has been taking a well earned break after playing both support and headline shows across the states and abroad. “I’ve just been back at home in Boise, Idaho, just catching up on friends and family and taking it easy and enjoying nature,” says Powers, his unassuming nature immediately recognisable through his enthusiastic, yet softly spoken tone. “It’s been really busy, but it’s been a good busy.”

The ease that carries songs such as Montana and Cannons effervesces through Powers’ conversation, as his down to earth mentality quickly communicates why his songs are so relatable; a young guy being genuine about his experiences and emotions. “I’m not the best at wording things,” laughs a slightly demure Powers, as he begins to detail quite eloquently how he acquired such a unique sound.

It is a very personal record

“I wanted to portray the songs in a way the vocals were just another instrument, because usually when you hear a record the lyrics are up front,” says Powers. “If I have an idea for a song, and I’m trying to express it and write each element, like the time certain synths sounds would come in, it kind of just starts off in my mind, like I’ll kind of hear the feeling… The state of mind I was in when writing the songs for this record, those feelings didn’t sound like they wanted to be presented in a way that was crystal clear,” says Powers. “They were muted feelings, so the album was produced to capture that.”

The melancholic nature of songs such as 17 and Posters evoke the tender spirit harnessed by Power’s ethereal vocals in The Year of Hibernation, as the dampened lyrics cause the listening ear to meld through hidden nuances and interludes to unveil its exposed sentiments. “It is a very personal record, and people perceive things differently, but to me I know exactly what I was talking about at that particular place and time, so I guess an element of vulnerability lies in that,” Powers explains.

He discusses how his song writing translates to a live format, particularly when the meanings behind their wistful melodies may be delicate. “As soon as you start playing, those songs take you to a different place, so I don’t even think about it that much,” says Powers. “I love playing to people, but I mainly focus on myself during shows because music has always been something I have done for me and never for other people or opinions, it’s just the way I interpret my surroundings. It puts me in a certain headspace that I’m just alone in.”

A lot of the themes are things that have in a way haunted me

Despite wide critical depictions of The Year of Hibernation as a nostalgic album, Powers’ says the insight to his inner trepidations were not written to romanticise the past. “I think it’s mainly because the past is so present and it effects who we are now,” says Powers. “A lot of the themes are things that have in a way haunted me I guess, so it’s not so much looking back at things like ‘oh that was so perfect’, because things have never really been perfect.”

Powers’ musical inclinations are apparent in his own song writing, but also his dress sense, with talk of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s recalling a coat he purchased from The Lost and Found Market when in Melbourne. “I’m always across the board in what I listen to. I’ve always been a really big Flaming Lips fan, but I grew up on John Denver and The Carpenters, and a lot of Blaze Foley, who is an old country folk artist, so they were really influential,” says Powers.

“I absolutely love Australia. It’s so beautiful,” says Powers, excited about playing Splendour in the Grass, as well as his own headline shows. “At festivals, people are just there, roaming around like free spirits and it’s almost an escape from real life, whereas at a concert, people go and make a night of it. They have their own different heartbeats.”

With such a beautifully crafted debut that sound tracked the summer, Powers’ says he constantly has ideas and has been writing since the first record came out. “Yeah, I’m always planning the future, probably too much,” laughs Powers. “I feel like everything is purely based on the moment, like people change so much overtime and everyday you feel like a different person.

“It felt appropriate to write that way with those songs [on The Year of Hibernation ], but I feel as an artist you never figure out ‘your sound’, it’s more the want to take risks and try to speak in different ways, so I wouldn’t limit myself,” says Powers.