A Conversation With Young Jesus
Young Jesus is an indie, post-punk band from Los Angeles, led by John Rossiter on guitar and vocals. They are currently on tour with New Orleans-based, Lo-Fi/Grunge-Pop band, Pope, through June 22nd, and meet up with experimental/emotional hardcore band, Alaska on June 26th for a string of dates ending in Los Angeles July 1st.
Young Jesus’ two-track EP, Void as Lob, was released May 19th through Funeral Sounds. This is the first release since the band’s relocation to Los Angeles. The addition of L.A. natives, Marcel Borbon and Kern Huag on bass and drums respectively give the band a jazzier feel while Midwestern boys, and original members, Eric Shevrin and John Rossiter retain the original indie melodies of the Chicago-based Young Jesus.
Void as Lob moves away from the well refined, indie-pop writing structure seen in their last release, Grow/Decompose, and incorporates open spaces for live improvisation. Don’t worry, Young Jesus hasn’t turned into a free jazz band, as cool as that would be. These moments of improvisation are written into the structure of the songs and leave each song to be completed or rewritten with every new performance. They give the audience a chance to play along as the band explores, embracing a moment of uncertainty instead of predicting the next verse or bridge.
“You are listening and trying to focus, but you’re letting go at the same time,” Says John, “There can always be this on the verge of collapse feeling, which is very exciting. It’s like what am I supposed to do here, well not stop. It’s a decision to keep going and find yourself.”
At Cheer Up Charlies, in Austin, Texas, Young Jesus invited the audience to really let go and enjoy the moment in whatever way you chose to enjoy it. John and Marcel danced around the stage while shredding guitar and bass. The whole band radiated a genuinely carefree appreciation to be doing what they love.
When I spoke with Young Jesus before their show in Austin, they described what it’s like playing with the new lineup and Conceptual Beach, a zine he made and the abstract cassette the guys in Young Jesus made to accompany the zine. You can pick up a copy of Conceptual Beach or the accompanying tape at any of the Young Jesus tour dates.
Do you have any times where you reach that improv stage and don’t know what to play?
Marcel: We trust each other enough and we have enough confidence in our own abilities.
John: There was a big break, at least for me as a player. I’ve never felt like a good musician. I realized through listening to certain things that mistakes and not perfect playing and not knowing scales is fine. Especially if you allow that to breathe, so when you’re letting go in those free spaces, you can’t fuck up. If I fuck up, it’s not really messing up, it’s a different understanding of the moment.
What is Conceptual Beach?
John: I made a zine called Conceptual Beach. It was this sort of zone of thought that I was interested in. I try to talk about this idea of ambient gestures towards meaning where you’re just kind of like doing a thing that you let go of the idea that you have to say this thing. You just kind of make something that goes towards it. I never understood conceptual art. It was something that I felt I never got. I was never the cool kid in art school that was like, “Oh, I’m making this art and it locks in in a certain way and it’s so amazing and everyone else gets it.” I’m still sitting here making a bridge out of blocks or something.
So conceptual Beach is making something vaguely with avant-garde tendencies, but it is also uncutting itself, while having empathy with those that don’t get it and those that do. I think people have made stuff that I love that I don’t fully understand. Conceptual Beach is trying to embrace all of that and having a sense of humor about it too.
It’s almost like a memory palace. It’s not a real place but it’s there. It’s strange and goofy, sad and fun.
Is it something that you’re working on during tour?
John: The zine is finished. I was like “Yo guys, check out this zine I made, would you want to do a tape to accompany it,” which is significantly more abstract music than what we usually put out.
Kern: It’s like flowy headspaces kind of thing.
John: Kern and Marcel have more abstract tendencies as players and as listeners. So the tape creates a space where we can create stuff like that instead of pop structures.
Do you see that as what Young Jesus is moving towards?
Marcel: I think it was more of a chance to express ourselves in a different way. John said, “Yo I made this zine, what do you think.” I immediately reacted by playing my guitar after reading it and making something. We all do our own things outside of Young Jesus and we all have our own histories of playing music outside of playing Young Jesus and it all comes together. I think that’s one of the reasons why we sound like we do right now because it’s very different.
Kern: I think it’s a continuation but not a supplanting.
John: I feel like there are bands where a side project will split off from the band members, “oh man I had no idea that guy wrote songs.” Usually with every band, everyone writes songs and cares about music that could be completely different from a band. This is like trying to embrace the nuance of being an artist. We all have our own things and this is a platform to express our individualities as well as our collectivity to show that we’re different people, but we all care about a lot of the same things.