Young Rapids:
The TVD Interview

For bands starting out and navigating the music industry, the trek can be a daunting journey. Funny enough, my journey with DC’s Young Rapids to find a local venue with a table and four chairs on the day of our sit down posed a bit of a challenge itself. We spent a couple of minutes thinking we’d conduct the interview in an upscale furniture store (with a really expensive baby lurking around), yet soon enough, Dan, Joe, Collin, and I found a place to talk shop, their recent release, and being a young band in DC.

Catch Young Rapids for yourself, TONIGHT at DC9, headlining their last DC show of 2012!

You’re all from the DC area and have been together since 2011. As a newer band in DC, how has that experience been?

Joe: Before we were Young Rapids, we had a band called KEDS as a three-piece. And before that, Dan and I played together and in different bands, but yes, we’ve been Young Rapids – a 4 piece – since 2011 when Dan and I added Collin and Nick.

Dan: It’s challenging starting out as a band in general. We put a lot of time, effort and emotion into it all, it’s taxing on all three of those levels. We don’t make any money and we’ve kind of had to swallow the fact that we won’t be making money for a long time. We’ve been putting all of our creative energy into something that we feel really fulfilled by and it would be a great accomplishment for ourselves to put that out. As far as being a new band, you’re always hopeful for bigger and brighter things, and that’s not a sure thing at all.

At this point, after a year and half of playing, it’s still very exciting but I think after a year and half, I’ve also started to think about what my adult future will be, so that has crept in. At least for me, that’s something that I think about. Right now, if this is something that doesn’t go anywhere, at least we are being really honest with what we create. Our creation is an honest thing, it’s not like we are trying for anything, so that in itself is rewarding.

Does it ever get overwhelming? I’m not a musician, but I understand that being in a band is a lot of hard, tedious work and even more so when you are just starting out—especially when you don’t have a label backing you. I don’t know if the majority of people realize how much work it is. What keeps you going and excited about it?

Joe: At least for me, a lot of time has been us working the side work—booking shows, buying a van and the insurance that goes with that, recording—everything that’s involved with being in a band is exhausting, but when we just get the chance to sit down and play, it always gets me re-excited about why we do this.

Dan: The business side of things is definitely taxing, but every show is exciting. On Wednesday we played a show, and on our drive down there, I was like why the fuck are we playing this show? I don’t even know this band, it’s a Wednesday night, and then 10 minutes before the show, we get there and someone walks by and tells us that they are really excited to see us play, so that got us pumped to play. And being able to play the new material we’ve been working on at shows is also exciting to do.

You guys have recently moved in together. How has that enhanced your creative process?

Joe: It’s been good. Living together has definitely helped a lot as far as logistically working out time to spend on things we need to do to stay busy.

Dan: We wanted to get a place further away from everything and be somewhat isolated, so we are rented a place near Columbia, Maryland which affords us more land and can be very much a band house. Living together has made the creative process even more collaborative. Before we were working on ideas individually and bringing it to the table when we could all get together, but now it’s all four of us getting together and working creatively at the beginning of an idea, so it’s changed that process.

Your latest and only record Day Light Savings was released on August 31st of this year—congratulations.  What are you doing now that you have accomplished such a feat? Are you working on new songs or does it just give you more time to practice together now that you live together?

Joe: Definitely a little bit of both, most of the time we go down to play shows. The more we play the old songs, the more we find things we can tighten. When we play live, we try not to repeat the same thing every night to keep it fresh for us. So, when we aren’t doing that, we are working on new material, which we also play live. We try to do both.

The last time I saw you guys at the Red Palace, you opened for Snowmine and you seemed to have a pretty good following in the audience. I read that you guys would just play anywhere and everywhere you could. Do you feel that helped you or is it something that you advise new bands not to do?

Joe: Yes and no, we’ve gotten really lucky with the amount of people who come to our DC shows.

Dan: There were people who came to see Snowmine and came early to see us. Most of the people there we didn’t know. We played a lot of DC shows in 2012 and whether that was because we couldn’t get to other cities, we knew we wanted to play a lot of shows. While it was good, because of that, it sometimes hurt the amount of people in DC that came because they thought they could come whenever. But now that we have the album out, we won’t be playing as much locally, so when we do play it won’t be as often as we do now.

We didn’t build the greatest fan base that way, but we became much better at playing live shows. At this point we feel that we put on a really good live show and we are really psyched about every single show we play. If a band is pumped about playing, then they should just play their music. But if they are more concerned about just building a fan base, then they should probably try to curate which shows they play. That’s what we are going to do now. We are hoping to draw people to very specific shows from here on out. At the end of the day, it’s fun to play music.

When you play so many shows your band is exposed to new audiences that come for the different headliners. Do you feel that helped Young Rapids garner new fans?

Joe: That definitely helped us opening for bigger bands and exposing us to new potential fans—so yes, that’s a plus for getting out there like we did.

Talk about your SXSW experience as a new band. I would think it would’ve been overwhelming?

Joe: It was definitely overwhelming, it was cool though – we had a good time. We didn’t go there with any expectations. We went there to have fun and play music. To practice for our shows, we played our songs in random parks and people just showed up, so that was cool.

Collin: Our first night there we didn’t just want to hang around to play the next day, so we walked to the center part of the city where all the food trucks were and went by a little creek out-of-the-way, and over the next 15 minutes there were people hanging over walls and on the sides listening to us. That was probably my favorite part.

Joe: Then we did another street performance for our friends at Listen Local First. Those street performances were really fun.

You mentioned that you all shared records that you loved sonically…

Joe: Yes. Deleted Scenes was definitely a big one for us. We loved how vast that whole record sounded. And that was right at the time when we were immersed in writing our own record that they put out Young People’s Church of the Air. We are also all big fans of certain producers in the game, like Chris Cody. He’s done a lot of production that’s really forward thinking and that has always attracted us. Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear too.

Dan: Originally a lot of lo-fi records came to mind but we learned pretty quickly that we weren’t all attracted to that.  We all enjoy the type of clarity Chris Taylor brings to sound, so that was always at the forefront while we were making our record.

Which DC bands do you look to as inspirations or think are doing cool things right now? You mentioned Deleted Scenes…

Joe: Definitely, Deleted Scenes is a big one. As far as bands we think are doing cool things, we are fans of Pree – they’re great. Their experimental genre is really cool. They exist in the folk realm but they don’t stick to one kind of thing, which is something we try to do ourselves.

Dan: Frau Eva guys do some cool stuff.

Joe: Shark Week puts on one of the best live shows in the city. The first time we saw them play, we were all pretty much wowed by them.

Collin: As far as inspirations, The Walkmen have always been huge for all of us and have rubbed off in what we are doing.

How do you see yourselves in the DC music scene and what can DC do to make the scene better in your opinion? 

Collin: All of us are deeply rooted to this area. I hope that is something that comes through in our music. If you interpret our music correctly, we’d hope that somehow in the sound, it comes through.

Dan: When you go to another city that has a problem getting emerging artists to blossom, I don’t think it’s up to another city to recognize DC.  I think it’s up to the city itself – it’s up to the city to become bigger than what they are. From seeing the way Baltimore exploded, a lot of DIY, a real tight-knit community and everyone supporting each other,—I think there are pros and cons to it. It limits or excludes some people.

I don’t know the answer or how to fix it in DC… So many amazing artists have come from Baltimore, Beach House, Wye Oak, Dan Deacon… in the past decade so much came from there. Dan Deacon and his collective started free shows and the free show thing really took over the city. That was possible in Baltimore because police don’t break up parties like they do in DC.

Joe: DC was the birth of people doing it themselves. The history of DC was free shows, starting your own record label—it was all in the post punk era, but it’s strange to think that they were able to do it back then, yet still nowadays there’s kind of a lack of that in DC.

Dan: I think there’s slowly more of that popping back up…

Joe: Yeah, like Paperhaus, Subterranean A had, for a little while, a good run. I think it’s slowly improving.

Dan: I think a tight-knit community that works together is a good thing. People are friends and are friendly in DC. You definitely see that happening.

Joe: Dismemberment Plan is getting back together. Deleted Scenes is doing well, even nationally, so I think people are slowly turning their heads back toward DC again.

What are your plans for 2013?

Joe: To try to play as many shows as we can outside of DC and work on recording our new songs. Probably a 5-song EP and hopefully on vinyl this time around.

What are your thoughts on vinyl?

Dan: We have a vinyl collection. It’s a lot of stuff our fathers, mine and Joe’s, collected over the years. Some we’ve added to it. It’s the centerpiece of our living room.

Joe: We have no TV, so our vinyl and foosball table are the centerpieces of our living room.  Vinyl is a million times better because when I have my ipod on, it’s easy to listen to one song and start searching for that next song you want to hear, but you don’t really pay attention as you should. With vinyl you drop the needle and let it roll. It’s a lot more of listening to things all the way through as they were intended.

Collin: There’s more of a ritual to vinyl too, you dig out the record and take it out of the sleeve. It’s not a huge process, but it’s nice to have to go through something. Also, I always notice that whenever music is happening on itunes, you just sort of play something, whereas with vinyl, every time there’s a record put on, I feel someone in the room asking, “Okay, what are we in the mood for?” There’s always that question. That doesn’t happen with any other form of music.

You think about what you want to hear and you get really into that particular record…

Right on… Don’t forget to catch Young Rapids at DC9 tonight, December 5.

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