Young Turks Exclusive Interview with Matt Koenig

Today, a majority of people are eager to claim that very few artists represent a message that they believe in. However, for the Portland-based hardcore band Young Turks, utilizing the platform that they now have to employ their beliefs and speak about their concerns is something that they consider an obligation. Composed of all-vegans, Young Turks prides themselves on vocalizing their thoughts concerning animal rights, amongst other causes. The hardcore band exists purposely, straying from portraying negativity and continues embracing their responsibilities as a band to exude positivity and purpose. Even when their music sometimes echoes of anger, Young Turks continues to prove the possibility of conveying altruism within aggression.

Earlier in November, Young Turks released their Where I Rise EP. Released via Animal Style Records, the four-track EP differs from the band’s previous releases in the way that it appears less angry. Redefining their artistry, Young Turks focused on conveying positive messages that’ll remain embedded in listeners’ minds versus solely dictating purposeless aggression in which some musical predecessors set as hardcore’s standards. Consequently, Young Turks strays from following those influences, opting to follow the example that late 90s and early 2000s punk bands set with positive messages.

Finding themselves is only a part of the musical process, as doing so demonstrates the band’s progression since its beginnings in 2010. As Young Turks continues to progress, the band members are accomplishing tasks that they originally strived for during the band’s beginnings. While the achievements include a certain performance for the band on December 14th, Matt Koenig, the band’s frontman, continues to strive for more success, looking to European touring as the next step. Though Young Turks has already seen most of the U.S. and seek to also travel to Canada, the future is gleaming with possibilities for the Portland-natives.

Matt Koenig generously took the time out to speak with Substream Magazine about Young Turk’s latest release, what this band strives to achieve, amongst other topics concerning the current state of the music industry.


Substream Magazine: On November 5th, Young Turks released Where I Rise. Tell us about the release, how proud are you of it?

Matt Koenig: Quite a bit. We wanted to put out something short and catchy. The last record was really all over the place musically and it was kind of long. It just had a lot going on in it. Like a lot of people say about the current release they’re talking about, we really love it. You don’t get a lot of people saying, “Yeah, well – it’s okay.”


SM: The release before this one was Where I Lie. Are you purposely continuing this theme of Where I…?

MK: Well, yeah. That was definitely intentional. It’s just not so much with something like a concept album or a big storyline or theme. It’s just representation titles. This new batch of songs kind of symbolizes, represents or shows how things have changed, really in my personal life. We picked a title there that speaks to progression and to pick yourself up when you are down.


SM: A lot of reviews are claiming that this album is a lot less angry than previous releases. Were you trying to promote positivity with this release?

MK: Definitely. We’ve had the luxury of playing with a lot of cool bands like Focused Minds from Milwaukee. I just see a lot of guys who are aggressive and energetic but they are promoting a more positive message and not one that is so much self-loathing or depressed and angry. They’re yelling around about different stuff and I’m like, “I can do that.”


SM: You now have this platform to speak your mind and have your voice heard. Being so, what do you hope people gain when they listen to your music?

MK: Well, a lot of things. That’s a really great question. I’m sure a lot of people say that I have a strong feeling that when you have a platform and people are listening, it’s not just your right to be able to say something, but it’s your duty. I remember hearing punk bands growing up in the 90s and in the early 2000s that would say that it’s [their] duty as musicians and artists to speak out. I connected to that when they were saying it then. So now, in this band, we’re very strong on our animal rights beliefs: we’re an all-vegan band. We also like watching sports and listening to hardcore so it’s across the board as far as what kind of people we are. Definitely, though, this vegan lifestyle is one important message. But, ultimately, continuing a story of honesty. Sometimes, people feel that they have to put on different fronts for different things. But, at the end of the day, you’re left with you and that’s what I think a lot more people should focus on. So, leading by example in any of these things is the best way to go about it.


SM: Unfortunately, a lot of bands don’t take advantage of the platform they have in the right way. Does it disappoint you when bands use their popularity negatively?

MK: Totally…or using negative things that have happened with them – like in the press or out in the world – and letting that be a measure of gaining more popularity. Some bands just have no message and half-heartedly scream about nothing: their aggression is coming from false places. A lot of that was the big, semi-stadium filling screamo bands in the late 2000s. It was just awful. You’re just saying nothing and these kids, especially for that type of music, [their] minds were ready to be sculpted. And the direction these bands pointed them in was Hot Topic and eyeliner. As much as I want to embrace people who live whatever type of lifestyle that they want to live, I think there’s more that we can do.


SM: With 2013 coming to a close, we know that Young Turks has a lot in store. Tell us about your remaining plans.

MK: For sure. The biggest thing we have coming up is on December 14th. We’re playing one of the two American Nightmare Christmas shows that they announced. We’re playing with them up in Seattle. When our guitarist wanted to start this band, he was like, “Dude, we’re going to do this American Nightmare thing.” I was like, “I’m ready, let’s go for it.” We wanted people to know that we are big American Nightmare fans. Now, we’re playing with them and we couldn’t be more excited about it.


Interview by Alexa Spieler

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A self-made journalist, Alexa Spieler started contributing to the world of music journalism at the mere age of 13, after founding her own promotional website, Seeking out local acts, Spieler was captivated by the world of music, predominately through smaller, intimate shows featuring local artists on Long Island, NY. As the business expanded, Spieler found herself still seeking out 'the next big thing' through Long Island artists, but as the website burgeoned, she grew to interview and cover the likes of Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, the Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Cody Simpson, Fall Out Boy, The Janoskians, Carly Rae Jepsen, LMFAO, amongst others. Now, a Media, Culture and Communication major at New York University, Spieler continues running ALM Promo (, but also serves as the Music Editor of NYU's paper – the Washington Square News, a contributing writer for Substream Music Press, the NY Music Examiner for, and a reviewer for