By Jordan Yeager
VANCOUVER – Sitting on the patio of the Slocan, a well-loved East Vancouver drinking hole, Alexis Young reveals there was a time she wasn’t sure music was what she wanted to pursue. Inherently, Young is not an indecisive person. When it comes to drink orders, at least, she knows exactly what she wants: a Bloody Mary (not a Caesar, because clam juice is gross), sub gin for vodka. Always interested in the arts, Young went to school for graphic design, a day job she still dabbles in when worthy contract opportunities present themselves. But while music was once a pastime, it’s now become the pursuit a majority of her waking hours are dedicated to. As the frontwoman of Youngblood, a five-piece dream-pop group, she explores the intricacies of human relationships, both romantic and platonic, digging below glittery, surface-level facades and revealing the bloody, oftentimes ugly truth within.
“I was in a band while I was in university and was playing shows and touring the whole time, but I didn’t really think it was what I wanted to do do,” she says, taking a bite of the spicy bean garnishing her drink. “And then it just kept becoming more and more of a thing that I wanted to do, and design was less and less of a thing that I wanted to do. After I graduated, I got a job in advertising and I hated it so much and just quit to start pursuing music full time.”
Since the release of their debut single, “Feel Alright” in 2016, Youngblood has toured extensively, taking time to shape and refine the sound debuted in their five-track premiere EP of the same name. Its members have musical pasts, but the band itself is a new one, still exploring their sonic potential.
“The name of the EP coming up is Fantasy Love, and I think that’s pretty apropos to its content,” says Young. “It’s very much about coveting relationships and overthinking it and building it up to being something in your mind that maybe isn’t quite what it’s going to chalk up to be in reality. I’m a feeler, and as much as I like to write about other aspects of my life, I always come back to human connection and human interaction because that’s something I find really curious. How people interact with each other, and how enamoured or disgusted you can become with another human. It doesn’t have to be a romantic thing – it can be a family thing, a love that’s based out of blood. But it’s so interesting how we are all just trying to figure out our relationships with ourselves and with other people, and that’s something that I’ve been continually trying to explore.”
“Fantasy Love is an evolution,” she continues after taking a sip of her Bloody Mary. “It’s more true to the type of music I want to be writing: disco shoegaze. It’s a term that I made up. I really like dream-pop and atmospheric, vibey, shoegazey sounds. But as a performer, I’m not very stoic. I wanted to do more of a Beach House thing when I first started performing, just kind of standing there and swaying. But as soon as I started performing, I did more of an energetic freak out thing, and that influenced the band because they were like, ‘Why are we doing all these slow songs when you’re freaking out?’ So we found more of a mélange of dreamy, atmospheric textures, but rooted in an upbeat, dancey, disco energy.”
When she steps onstage, Young is overtaken by an energy that comes from within. She thrives on the freaky and unexpected, making it a personal mission to bring audience members out of their comfort zones by “challenging perspectives and standards of what it means to be normal.” According to her, “it’s okay to unleash the beast.” Offstage, though, Young has a comforting presence – she’s open, funny, and opinionated, and cannot resist a good pun. It’s that same self-assuredness she most appreciates in audiences; her favourites are uninhibited, complementing her ability to step outside the usual.
“Oh my god, people in Europe love coming to see shows,” she says. “And there’s no cool factor of pretending you’re not enjoying yourself. If they’re enjoying themselves, they will express it. If they like it, they show you that they like it. And you know if they don’t like it because they don’t lie. There’s no front. If people aren’t dancing at a show in Germany, you’re doing something very wrong, probably. I don’t want to say this as a blanket statement, because obviously we’ve played some really, really great shows in Canada. But generally speaking, there’s more of a social acceptance for people to be on their phones, or to be in conversation with their friends and not paying attention to the person performing. As a performer it can get really frustrating, because you’re like ‘Why am I here?’”
“It’s just part of the culture of not giving a fuck, or pretending to not give a fuck,” she continues. “But it’s cool to give a fuck! It’s cool to care. Nobody is going to think you’re a loser if you’re like, ‘Man, this song really moved me! I have an appreciation for your artistry and craft.’ I think Vancouver can kind of get stuck in that.”
Vancouver is Youngblood’s base, and it’s a difficult city to succeed in artistically. There’s no shortage of creative talent, but increasing rent prices mean diminishing room for opportunity: smaller venues can’t afford to keep their doors open, all-ages shows become a luxury (it’s risky for a space to suspend its license and forfeit any profits that could have been made on overpriced Hey Y’alls), and rehearsal spaces get torn down and converted into condos.
“I feel like we’re in a weird pendulum swing,” says Young. “We’re experiencing the result of the real estate bubble. It’s increasing rent, so people have to work more, and they have less time to hone their craft. Vancouver is literally called No Fun City, and that’s frustrating because I know so many fun people, and I do so many fun things in the city. [As an artist], you have to be willing to stay and fight for the scene. I feel pretty torn, because the vigilante in me is like ‘You can put Vancouver on the map,’ but then the other part of me is like ‘Yo, you can just fuckin’ peace out. Look out for you, man!’ And it’s easier, arguably, somewhere else. There’s a slowness to Vancouver; it’s got that calm and quiet vibe most people really like. But for an artist that likes the hustle and the quick, fast-paced energy… I miss that hustle. I want that energy where people are doing shit and going hard. It’s infectious! That’s how you can build a community of people doing shit, when everybody is inspiring each other and wanting to push each other to become better.”
“It’s like that really cheesy quote that I love so much,” she concludes. “If you’re a star shining bright, it doesn’t make the star next to it shine less bright. It’s independent. Each star is beautiful, and then the whole night sky is beautiful. There’s enough space for everybody, because everybody is doing something different, inherently. You’ll never be exactly the same as somebody else.”
Youngblood performs at the Biltmore on July 6. Their second EP, Fantasy Love, is due out August 17.Alexis Young, disco shoegaze, dream pop, fantasy love, Youngblood