the young – Brooklyn
Tearing down the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows down on a hot summer day? Trapped in your apartment with a bottle of wine after a massive blizzard? Just found the love of your life? Just lost the most important person in your life? For all of these scenarios and more, Brooklyn-based musician Michael Isley has got you covered. At twenty-two-years-old, Isley has lived a lot of life, and every ounce of it is squeezed out into his sincere music. No irony or tongue-in-cheek curtains to hide behind. It’s all there in front of you.
Isley began writing music at an extremely early age and over the years has honed his sound to an unselfconscious blast of honesty that is largely a scarce commodity in music circa 2012. Only in his early-twenties, Isley has released two full-length albums (under the named The Michael Isley Band), plays multiple instruments more than competently, and lived in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and now his band is based out of Brooklyn. As I mentioned, the guy has lived his share of life for a young adult.
While Isley has found a band to play live with in each one of these cities, he has always been the primary songwriter, allowing space for his own personal style to grow without the distraction of having to compromise with other members in a band democracy. The bands he’s formed recognize this, and it’s made for a more cohesive sound overall.
The Michael Isley Band survived moves from across the globe (literally), but after graduating from college in Los Angeles last May, Isley moved back to the East Coast to reevaluate his musical ambitions. In that time, he realized he needed to do away with the eponymous moniker and changed the band’s name to the young (no caps necessary). The new band is comprised of Isley, Nanjo Lee, Colin Hinton, Mike Squitieri, and Paween Utanun. As explained on the band’s website, “The title ‘the young’ comes from a rebellion against society’s pressure for imagination and creativity to be abolished at some point in our twenties.”
This newly-minted philosophy grew out of his re-appraisal of his intentions as a musician. It’s a bold statement in this era of capital interest to throw caution to the wind and declare that dreams don’t die in the face of responsibility.
While Isley’s two previous LPs, It’s All About Love and You Have Me, draw from piano-heavy rock, they ‘re different beasts in terms of theme. It’s All About Love had a naivety that screamed optimism in the face of adolescent confusion, but was the perfect soundtrack to a sunny Saturday morning road trip to the beach. You Have Me, which boasted a denser sound, also conveyed a sense of lyrical maturity. The major chord progressions may have got you singing along; but lyrically, Isley was exorcising the demons of a rough year being homesick and dealing with a messy breakup. One of the best exemplifications of this comes through in “Just Take Me Home.” An upbeat rocker who indeed reaches for the sky around the 3-minute mark, Isley’s guess that, “You’re probably not stoked that I moved to LA/Cruise Sunset Blvd blowing kisses on the way/Twenty bucks says I fall right apart for being the fool who’s breaking your heart,” expresses an honesty that’s easy to connect with.
Although Isley may have changed the band’s moniker and moved back to the East Coast, the sound is as genuine and fun as ever. This month the band released two new singles in the form of the guitar-driven “Separate Ways” and the massive ballad “Stay With Me,” which has an accompanying video. With new shows booked in New York City, the young look to take a bite out of the Big Apple just in time for summer. You can checkout and purchase the young’s music here or checkout their entire page.
Bangstyle had the pleasure of talking with the young’s primary songwriter and vocalist Michael Isley about the band’s plans and his musical beginnings.
BANGSTYLE: While the young is a new incarnation, you’ve been writing music for a long time. When do you remember writing your first song?
MICHAEL ISLEY: The first song I wrote was at age nine about my second grade crush. My brother still sings it to me to remind me how terrible it was. It was terrible.
BANGSTYLE: What would you say is your biggest influence lyrically? Sonically?
MI: Most of my lyrics come from real-life situations…so I guess “life,” as cliché as it sounds, would be my biggest lyrical influence. Sonically, I’d have to say the sound itself is the biggest influence. I’ll play a series of chords until I find one that plays harmoniously with what I’m looking to express at the time. The sound of that specific chord is really what helps recall a story worth writing.
BANGSTYLE: You’re a multi-instrumentalist, but what is your instrument and why?
MI: I’d have to say piano. It is the universal instrument – the master of music. It aids me in my expressions more than any other instrument I’ve explored.
BANGSTYLE: Once you have a sketch of a song, how long does it take you to flesh it out? Are you a quick worker or a perfectionist?
MI: If it’s a good one, I’ll generally finish an entire song in one sitting. If it’s just a good chorus, verse, or bridge, it usually takes me forever to find other parts I like that match it – happens very rarely. I’m definitely a perfectionist when it comes to making sure the song works in my ears before it reaches your ears.
BANGSTYLE: The young is based out of Brooklyn, but you spent a decent amount of time on the West Coast. What are the differences, better and/or worse?
MI: Everyone’s trying to get exposure everywhere. In parts of the West, I find more bands that are motivated to go for big labels, big agencies, and big lifestyles; and they’re cool with it. In parts of the East, I find more bands that have this deep animosity for big labels, big agencies, and big lifestyles; they seem to prefer to be known as “indie.” Oddly enough though, “indie” (independent) seems to be the new target of big labels – as the hype of this rebel is starting to bring in mainstream-equivalent numbers in cash. Indie is becoming the new mainstream. So, as I said, we’re all chasing the same thing – exposure.
BANGSTYLE: You’ve released two albums so far; and though there are two new young singles, are there plans for a new LP?
MI: I can only hope for inspiration to write another full-length – it’s definitely a heavy task. There will be a couple more new songs this month for sure, though.
BANGSTYLE: What do you look for when you’re auditioning players for your band? Is it friendship first or technical skill?
MI: Definitely technical skill first. Friendships are indeed mandatory in a band, but with a lot of skill comes a lot of respect; and with a lot of respect, generally a friendship is formed.
BANGSTYLE: What’s been your proudest moment as a musician? Your worst moment that put things in perspective?
MI: My proudest moment as a musician was witnessing a girl cry at one of my shows. I was really touched by that. My worst moment was being called a jerk (PG) for naming my own music after myself.
BANGSTYLE: You’re exiled to a desert island. You’re allowed five albums. What are they and why?
MI: Incubus – Make Yourself
This record is such a great reflection of how a band can successfully grow without losing a sense of their core. It’s also got filthy guitar licks, a ton of vocal presence and energy, and a lot of messages that could be interpreted many ways.
“You should make amends with you” – “Make Yourself” – Track 7
Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
So brilliantly depressing and painfully real. Can’t live in the shadows. We have to always remember to acknowledge fear. It clearly makes fantastic music.
“The ice was getting thinner under me and you” – “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” - Track 11
Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind
A groundbreaking record. So influential. Came out right in time for an exciting new millennium. Taught me about the importance of linear narration and balance in a record (hot and cold, happy and sad, and heavy and soft).
“And I’m hanging on your words like I always used to do.” – “The Background” – Track 12
Saves The Day – In Reverie
Chris Connelly is such a fantastic lyricist, player, person, and performer and such a huge inspiration to me. Chris and I grew up in the same town J (irrelevant/ bragging). This album is so rocky, groovy, lick-y, and just like all of Saves The Day, honest!
“Wind blows through a hole in the roof brings your perfume like lilies to me and all I can do is remember you” – “Tomorrow Too Late” – Track 12
The Beatles – Greatest Hits
It’s about time I discover The Beatles.
BANGSTYLE: Would you say the music industry is a necessary evil, or do you feel like you can function as a musician successfully without it?
MI: The industry seems to be capable of helping acts in many ways. I have a lot to learn before I can say it’s evil and I don’t need it.
BANGSTYLE: Writing/recording or performing? Why?
MI: Each one has such excitement associated with it. Love the creative feelings of writing, the solidification of that writing into the digital realm of ear-goodness, and of course the faces of an audience experiencing all of your dreams coming true. Gotta say they’re all great. Sorry!
BANGSTYLE: Do you have an interest in producing at all, or are you keeping to yourself these days, only recording the young’s material?
MI: I’d love to do my best at producing anyone who comes around. I don’t like to call myself a producer, though. My friends in production (Scott Silletta, Justin Chapman, Alec Henninger) work and study very hard to understand the complexities of music production – and do so very well. It is indeed it’s own art, and hopefully someday I’ll have a well-rounded understanding of it.
BANGSTYLE: Is there a distinct change in sound that the young is aiming for from that of the Michael Isley Band?
MI: No. There is no intention for a distinct change in anything musically. But wow, life has changed so drastically in the last year, so I wouldn’t deny that there could be some change.
BANGSTYLE: What’s the plan for 2012? Shows? Record release?
MI: Shows, new songs, new video, t-shirts, stickers, and hopefully, new fans!