This week marks a very special week for the Albany band, Young Culture. They are releasing their first full-length tomorrow.
I had a chance to chat with vocalist Alex Magnan about how he has been dealing with all of the uncertainty, and how special this release is for him and his friends.
For him, this quarantine has felt like a stimulation, nothing has felt real. Getting a job again has given him some sort of purpose in the meantime, with not being able to tour or perform. At the beginning of all this, he thought “Oh, we have a tour in June, things will be back up and running,” as time went on, he realized how wrong that was.
“I had so much hope for the last three months and then I was like nope, the world is just canceled…all of it.”
When it comes to their growth between their very first release in 2016, to this full-length and everything in-between, Alex says that Young Culture was just this fun little project they started right out of high school.
“It was the total definition of young culture. From our first EP to Blue, to This is Heaven and getting signed to Equal Vision, and just like playing hundreds of shows to essentially nobody at the beginning- now we’re finally putting out our first album. It’s crazy, this is like a recap of everything we have been through. I always knew our first album was going to define Young Culture, but I never knew that it would kind of do it itself. We’re still young, but now I can take a second and look back. It’s everything up until this point. There’s a lot of progressions. A lot of things had to happen to bring us to this point.”
This album was initially recorded in October of 2019.
“We had these songs written a while ago. Initially, it was going to be released in the first half of the year, and then we planned for June…and then COVID happened. It really affected us and the release time. But now, it all feels really right. I don’t feel weird about it. It’s a crazy thing, unfortunately. I think a lot of other bands had a lot more planned, and they put out albums right as this was starting. I’m grateful that we are able to still put it out.”
When it came to choosing the first single to release, there was no doubt about “Holiday in Vegas.”
“I think one thing a lot of people will hear on this album is that I’m not saying this as a bad thing, but it’s a bit of a slow burn. It’s only 30 minutes and 10 songs, but the songs are all vibers. “Holiday in Vegas” is fun, it’s a party, it’s about vices. We were about to go on tour and were like ‘yeah, this is the song we want to play every night.’”
Magnan then took me track-by-track on the album.
“Track one is a song called ‘Bloodthin’ and it’s the intro track, it’s literally the Young Culture definition. It’s about youth, and from my perspective at least, things that I was doing and the shenanigans I was getting into, friendship, and heartbreak. It defines Young Culture.
Track two is called ‘Compass.’ We wanted that to be track two because it’s the most Young Culture-y sounding song on the album, so if you have been a fan of YC for a long time, that’s the song that you’ll hear be like ‘this is Young Culture.’
Then the next track is ‘Anywhere I Go, I’m Taking You With Me.’ That’s my favorite one, it’s about my girlfriend, my best friend, and that’s it. There’s nothing else to it.
There’s ‘Holiday in Vegas,’ which is about all the fun things in life that are bad for you but you do them anyway.
‘I’ll Be There,’ is a song that’s about just friendship and being there for your people, and loving and community, things along those lines. Which I thought is an important thing to talk about because it’s something we really believe in.
Then we have ‘Better Off As Friends.’ I don’t know how to explain this one, it’s a banger. It’s a fun one.
‘Hailey Beverly 2016’ is about young love and it’s a story that I had growing up. ‘Fantasy’ is another fun pop song that follows the same type of story, another personal story about messy love. Then we get to ‘American Idle’ which is a song about anxiety and depression and any sort of mental illness. It felt like something that was really important to touch upon, knowing so many people who deal with that- as hard as it is for me to talk about things like that, it’s such an important track. Then we get to the last track, ‘Laylo,’ which is just a soft closer, kind of like the goodbye. From top to bottom that one is the perfect way to close the album. The whole imagery of the fragile ballerina is what we were going for. That’s the album. I don’t want to say too much about Laylo, it’s a slow burn but I want everyone to take it in their own way. All those songs, that’s how it feels to me, each of those things is a piece of Young Culture. Whether it’s the song about young love or the song about vices or the song literally about young culture, or a song from our past, or a song about dealing with anxiety, it’s all things that are young culture. It’s all things that define those two words and who we are as people.”
When it comes to the takeaway, Magnan gets a bit selfish and just hopes that it’s a likeable album.
“I think a lot of people are going to hear it and be like ‘I was expecting more pop-punk.’ I think that for me and speaking on behalf of Troy and Gabe, this is all we’ve ever wanted to do, no matter what the outcome is, it feels so right because it’s 100% me. This is the album that I have been wanting to make since the first EP and it’s like ‘wow, we finally did it.’”
With Young Culture, the biggest struggle for Magnan was doing this band thing essentially right out of high school.
“I knew that this is what I wanted to do. It was really tough for me. Everyone knew what they were gonna do, they were gonna go to college- and that’s the thing society tells you to do right out of high school. For me, it was ‘I’m gonna go follow my dreams.’ That was tough because it was like ‘what does that mean?’ and ‘how do I do that?’ Nobody tells you how to accomplish that, there’s no rulebook. If you wanna go to college, you do it. But for me, it was like ‘okay, I’m gonna try to pursue a dream, but I don’t have anybody telling me how to do it.’ I had nobody guiding me, It was also hard seeing all my peers super stoked to go to college and I was just trying to be in a band trying to tour. Now being where I am and doing the things I have done and just meeting people I have met, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think that a lot of those really tough obstacles that you go through are all for a bigger reason, I know it sounds cliche but those are the things that build your character and just get you ready for life, and I love that.”
In terms of the future for Young Culture, everything has been put on pause due to Covid-19. Magnan said to expect more music from the band.
“During this quarantine we have already written better songs and just so much music in our free time. Shows are gonna come back, you’re gonna expect that, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. We’re three best friends in the world that have a common interest and this is genuinely just the beginning. This is number one. I’m very excited.”
Before things shut down, Young Culture was in the middle of a tour with Have Mercy for their farewell. “We were fortunate enough to be part of this very amazing tour. Going city to city and seeing people that we love, like fans and friends, and staying at new places, waking up then driving to a new city every day, then getting to play a show every night? For people to actually care? And all along while doing that, being with my best friends and partying? I can’t think of anything better. Honestly touring in general, the whole entire lifestyle is meant for me. Every second of it, even if it’s shitty, I love it. It’s heartbreaking to talk about, but I love thinking about it.”
“What’s going on is clearly heartbreaking, it’s devastating. People just have to wear masks, be precautious, and just do it until there’s a vaccine because it’s the people not wearing masks or social distancing who are ruining it for everyone else. That being said, I think in almost this weird way Covid happening has made a lot of room for people to think and topics to be dove into. For instance, with Black Lives Matter, and social justice movements, there’s so much going on in politics it’s given people some time to just stop and think about nothing else but that. We’ll look back on this year and think ‘remember when we were quarantined for a whole year? (or even longer)’ Everybody woke up so much during this time. There’s been some positive, but clearly a lot of negative stuff, it’s all growth. As far as Covid goes aside from all that, just wear a mask because I want to go see a concert as bad as the next person.”
“I know when everything is back in full swing it’s gonna be such an amazing thing, it’s gonna feel so good. So right now all we can do is just get out money up and stay positive.”