The Young Rapids are, for the moment, true to their name. The genesis of the up-and-coming band reaches back three years, when guitarist Joe Bentley and keyboardist Dan Gleason began working through song ideas together, but it wasn’t until the winter of 2010 that they solidified a line-up with lead guitarist Nick Martin and then drummer Colin Kelly. They’ve spent the time since then carving out a colorful and dynamic blend of art rock, a sound that’s been preserved on Day Light Savings, its often stunning debut LP.
The album received a digital release this week following six months of recording – funded, in part, by a Kickstarter campaign – and the benefits of such an extended incubation period are immediately evident in its thoughtful details and myriad sonic flourishes. It’s a record that casts a wide net, pulling in songs that will appeal to fans of Deleted Scene’s mope pop, the Antlers’ anthemic melodrama, and the Walkmen’s swaggering rock alike. For a young band, there’s also a remarkable sense of chemistry in their all-hands-on-deck approach. You can have a listen for yourself at their Bandcamp page now.
Outside the studio, the Young Rapids have been paying their dues and exercising some useful exuberance, seemingly playing any venue in the District that will have them. In the past six months, that’s included gigs at Black Cat, Rock and Roll Hotel, the Kennedy Center, the Dunes, and DC9, as well as a trip to Austin’s SXSW as part of the DC delegation corralled by one of the scene’s biggest champions, Listen Local First. And now, this Friday, the Young Rapids will return to the Dunes to celebrate the release of Day Light Savings. They’ll be joined by Baltimore’s Strange Fur, along with a preview of Nicole Bourgea’s “AS IS: An Urban Portrait Project”. Looking forward to it, we chatted with Joe and Dan about their busy 2012 and creating Day Light Savings.
Let’s start with the obvious: what exactly is a young rapid?
Joe: HAHA. We honestly just tried to come up with something original. We didn’t want to be a band that named ourselves after some other object or place, etc. Dan and I sat down at a restaurant on 36th in Baltimore and had taco bowls and swapped ideas. Later that week, everyone came into the bar that I work at in Bethesda and we just crossed stuff off. Young Rapids was the only one left. Funny enough, we didn’t know at the time how many damn “Young” bands there are. Turns out though, Young Rapids is actually a place in Canada, so we ended up naming our band after a place after all. On accident, of course.
All of Young Rapids’ members bring experience from other bands. Did anyone come from one that made music that’s particularly at odds with what you’re making now?
Joe: To be honest, all of us have been in different kinds of bands, but we’ve managed to sort of smash all of it into our sound. I used to play with a few art rock bands, and had a sort of americana garage rock band with my brother. Nick used to play in a pretty heavy alternative band, but he still SHREDS on our album so that carried over nicely. Colin was in a sweet pop punk band in high school, and also used to play with this badass blues rock band in Delaware. They’re still good friends of ours, and he still plays pretty heavy rock style drums in our songs. Dan was always into jazz piano and played in some more instrumental bands. All of that stuff has definitely been incorporated into our sound. Things have been tweaked of course over time, but those influences are what made our songs sound the way they do. We’re very influenced by each other.
How did you all meet? When did the band start to take shape?
Dan: Well, Joe and I started playing together 3 years ago or so, and started trading ideas. After awhile, we realized we needed some more bodies, so we hit up Nick. We knew him from high school, and knew he was a mean guitarist. He was interested, so we all got together and started fleshing out ideas. We played some shows under a few different names but never really recorded anything outside of some eight track demos. About a year later, we were at a concert in Baltimore and were introduced to Colin. He was a multi-instrumentalist, which was exciting for us. Up until then, Joe was doing most of the drumming, but once Colin entered the picture we were all able to move around a bit more. He would play the bass on some songs, drums on others. Eventually, we worked out a great way to get everyone where they wanted to be on certain songs. He was really the perfect person to find, because it gave us more possibilities structure wise. Joe and Colin still switch around on stage so that has greatly affected our live dynamic.
Congratulations, you’re proud parents of a debut LP. How does it feel to have it out there? Have you guys been sitting on it long, or was the idea to get it out there as soon as possible?
Dan: It definitely feels like a weight has been lifted. We spent almost a half a year on it, so it’s nice to be done. Now we can concentrate on playing shows and traveling around. We worked really fast at the end of things studio-wise so that we could get it out before September. So to answer your question: No, we haven’t been sitting on it at all. It was just finished.
The album covers such a wide range of styles and moods. How you would you describe it to someone who’s never heard a note?
Joe: I think we’ve come to realize that we’re more of a rock n roll band than anything else. Obviously we have a big pop influence, and there’s a few songs on the album that hit a sort of mellow vibe. But, I say rock n roll because of our live show. We try to be as passionate and honest as we can, and our energy is pretty much at 110% the whole time. If we had to describe it to someone, we’d say we’re an experimental pop rock band that brings the ruckus and gets people moving.
For an album that was presumably recorded on a tight budget, Day Light Saving often sounds big and lush. Was that something you were consciously going for? How did you accomplish it?
Dan: In the beginning of our recording process, we all shared records that we loved sonically. Nowadays, a lot of what makes a band’s sound is production value and mixing, so we knew that was important. Nick did all of our mixing, but we all had our input. I think he managed to do exactly what we all wanted, which was to have things sound nice and warm and huge, but not overdone. We wanted to be able to play the songs live, and have it sound the same. So he really hit the nail on the head with the finished product. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to self-record and have him mix. It’s definitely something to be proud of, and undeniably makes our songs sound unique.
Money aside, what was the biggest challenged you faced in recording it?
Dan: It was challenging to keep going with Young Rapids at times. We were learning how to work together in a creative way and that took a lot of patience. We have definitely become better friends because of how much we had to push each other. But each time we would crank some song out and get a moment to listen to it together, it was something that always recharged our batteries.
It seems like you all put a good deal of thought into the cover art. What’s the story behind it?
Joe: We had sort of a tough time at first coming up with ideas. Everyone brought different things to the table, but it’s always hard to all agree on some image when there’s four dudes with opinions. So Dan and Colin came up with this concept that we would all be responsible to design our own square with a specific color and shape in mind. We split things up, and got together with these wood squares that Dan and I cut in my parents backyard. We bought paint, and searched around for objects that corresponded with our colors and just threw it all together. Colin painted the logo on the same night and we took some hi res pictures. Our good buddy Matt works with Pick Up Productions and does awesome design work, so he helped set it all up for us. The best thing about it was that everyone felt like they contributed something and it just worked well for us.
What’s next for the band in the remainder of 2012?
Dan: We plan to stay busy busy busy. Moving in together is definitely in the works. That will make it way easier to keep things moving, and keep writing songs. We’re going to buy a van in the next couple weeks and we’ll definitely be doing some touring. We can’t wait to get on the road and play in other cities. There’s also some really sweet things we’ve signed on to play in DC, like STPP Fest, The H Street Festival, and some other secret ones we can’t talk about yet…
It seems as if you’ve played every venue this city has to offer this year, but now you have to choose: favorite venue in DC?
Joe: Geez! This is a tough one. We love DC’s venues. They’re all great, but if we had to choose one? I think we’d probably say The Velvet Lounge. That was the first place we ever played as Young Rapids and we’ve got some history there. They have awesome sound guys, and the room is nice and tight. We love to be close together and close to the crowd because we totally vibe off of the room. But they’re ALL great!
What can we look forward to this Friday at the Dunes?
Dan: A great night! There will be projections done by my cousin who is a filmmaker that works with a lot of parks, so expect some cool nature stuff. Nicole Bourgea has an awesome painting series that she is displaying and she will be painting us while we play(!), which I’m really excited about. And Strange Fur is going to be opening up the night. They are a great band from Baltimore and they will set a really nice tone to the night. And I cant say what exactly, but we have some surprises planned and we cant wait to get on stage. I’m excited as hell.