Youth Code Becomes a Machine of Harmony and Hate on Their New Album 'Commitment to Complications'
Stream the first song from the record, "Transitions," and read our interview with the band.
Photo courtesy of Nick Fancher
For the past few years, Sara Taylor and Ryan George of Youth Code have done everything in their bodies to make aggressively contemporary and captivating industrial music. The LA-based duo started as a sort of experiment to see whether or not their relationship would make a poignant transition into music. Luckily it worked, combining George's past in hardcore bands with what Taylor absorbed after being a roadie for metal bands for years to create an industrial power house of sound. It caught on quick, landing the band on tours with the likes of Skinny Puppy, AFI, and more who would soon experience their brand of heavy machinery havoc.
The duo are releasing their second LP, Commitment to Complications, on April 8. The record builds on Youth Code's back catalog of hyper-aggro industrial, imbuing it with a sense of almost-beauty. It's their most fully realized music to date, capitalizing on Taylor's tense, snarling vocals to create a dichotomy between her harsh vocal harmonies and newfound melodies in production. That's not to say they've gone soft whatsoever, as seen with the first track from the new record, "Transitions," which we're premiering below. Synthesizers get wirted to sound more frenetic than music from the duo's past, creating a high-paced, ultra sharp tone and sound. The music twists and whirls into a loud, slamming breakdown of steely drums and political samples. It's a machine of a track to put a hole in something along to, taking pleasure in the bruising.Read our interview with the band below, and listen to "Transitions." You can pre-order Commitment to Complications right here.
NOISEY: So you guys are at what’s the most exciting point for a record I imagine, when the record leaves the headspace and enters the public where you see people really reacting to the music. Because it’s an awesome record.
Sara Taylor: Yeah, it’s weird because I think every artist has this moment or feeling where you create this, similar to a child, you create this idea, sort of harbor it and let it birth, and it goes into the world so you get feedback on something you’ve been spending so much time on to let manifest. Yeah. It’s like a child. And now we have a couple children.
It becomes a different beast. The other thing that’s interesting as well has been seeing not only the interpretation of like, the immediacy of a record and being like “fuck yeah,” but when people come up to you and talk about lyrics or textures in sound, it’s really interesting to see how other people listen to and interpret it on their own thing. Sometimes people get it super wrong, but it’s super cool to see how they get to where they do.
What’s been the most wrong interpretation?
Sara: Fuck, I don’t know. Lyrics have always been interesting to me because I just try to write as personal as possible. I guess since I’m so vocal about my belief system, people assume every song has to do with a belief system and they’re like “fuck yeah, political stuff!” A lot of people thought “Consuming Guilt” because of the video pertained to animal abuse, I think a lot of people thought that since we’ve been vocal about being vegan, I was basically saying “you should feel guilty about eating animals” which is completely not the case in lyrical content of the song.
When writing lyrics, do you try to make things more on the ambiguous side rather than make things super specific?
Sara: I think for me, I don’t know if I want to write things as literal as I feel them. Because that thing makes for a cool hardcore record, or like a Morrissey record where these people are talking about something happening in their lives. But I like making things a little more poetic and less obvious. On this last record, I think I wrote a lot of things that anyone can take to their own interpretation of stuff. I don’t know, I don’t want things to be like Mark Kozelek or whatever. [laughs] That shit’s not interesting to me.
I think in this genre of music especially, from a kid up to now even, it’s always been that kind of non-specificity in the hurt or emotion from guys like Trent [Reznor] or [Nivek] Ogre that always had the most impact.
Sara: It’s interesting. I tried super, super hard when we toured with Skinny Puppy the first time not to be a fucking complete Chris Farley interview kind of person. [laughs] I tried to be like “oh cool” kind of person. Then the second tour we did, Ogre was like “oh here’s the setlist” and he’d tell me what songs were about, even without me asking. “This is what this song is about, this is how this song applies to this that and the other” and it was “wow this is really cool you’re telling me this without me having to ask.”
Man, it’s wild that in four years, you two kind of started off this project as sort of an experiment to see if you’d work in a band together, and now it’s become something where you’re touring with fucking Skinny Puppy.
Ryan George: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I feel like this full-length we just did is the best representation of us musically. That first LP, like you said it wasn’t like “let’s be a band,” it was that Sara booked us a show and said “let’s do this” and we didn’t really know what we were doing. The first LP was more that we just needed an LP and it was like “I don’t know what I’m fucking doing at all,” so I just threw shit together. This one, we’d been a band for a while and we’ve been able to soak in our music influence, and get a blueprint of what we do. This record is obviously our second LP but in a lot of ways feels like our first, real record. Like, this is what Youth Code sounds, this is what we do.
With the new record, I think in my head the idea of Youth Code’s sound was this heavy, aggressive electronic kind of thing. But the stuff in this record that stood out and affected me was like this dichotomy of Sara’s voice still being aggressive, but the music itself there’s these spots of “almost-beauty” and melody that accentuates everything
Ryan: That was a real, conscious thing. It’s kind of weird to say, but I’ve been telling Sara since forever that on the next LP we’d introduce something we’d never done before, which is the kind of melody, strings and choir patches. It gives it another depth, because this record really, we weren’t trying to mimic anything, it’s like “let’s sit down and make music that we listen to.” And that can be like, a whole spectrum of things. We listen to a lot of pretty music, punk, metal, industrial, techno stuff, and it kind of put everything into a blender without trying to mimic Nitzer Ebb or whatever.
Sara: Not that we ever tried to mimic Nitzer Ebb.
Ryan: They were kind of a guide when we first started though. At the beginning, I’d been doing electronic stuff on my own for at least five years before I met Sara but I’d never done it in a band. I kind of looked to old EBM and industrial music as a guide in the beginning, but now I feel a little more confident where I’m able to just sit down with the machine and write stuff. And adding melody on top of it, it really opened things up and it made us able to do a lot of things lyrically that a lot of industrial bands hadn’t touched on before, and the record is more emotional.
How did Industrial kind of weave its way into your life?
Sara: I guess when I was really young, my mom and dad divorced when I was like four or five or something like that. And my dad had always been, like my number one no matter what. Between my mother’s and father’s relationship on their own, I always looked to my dad as the coolest person that ever existed in the entire universe. Even still, I mean my dad’s crazy, but I still think he’s super cool. When I was younger, my dad had a drug problem when I was really young. So I don’t know if it’s something about old Nine Inch Nails or old Ministry, but it’s this futuristic kind of going as fast as possible with a lot of electronic music, and my dad really liked electronic music. So he got me into Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and he’d always have CDs in the jewel case like the “Jesus Built My Hotrod” single, or Nine Inch Nails’ Broken, or Marilyn Manson’s Portrait of an American Family.
So all this stuff intrigued me, like “oh my dad likes electronic music, I like metal, this stuff is a rad hybrid.” So growing up in LA, it wasn't something I talked about with a lot of people. I just kind of told people I liked metal, but I was always super into industrial because it was the stuff my dad listened to. So probably when I was fifteen or sixteen I’d sneak into goth clubs, and around nineteen I’d started touring seriously with metal bands. And like any time I saw a kid that was kind of goth, or had a Bauhaus tattoo, I’d always be like “tell me where you hang out.” Because I wanted to see this sort of shit and go to those kind of clubs. Growing up and being into industrial, it’s cool that it’s a thing people can talk about and stuff now, but when I was younger it was something I never really spoke to people about.
Ryan: It’s funny, when we started this band, like now you can’t not see someone in a Godflesh shirt or whatever, but then it was so crazy how many people we’d known forever, band dudes or friends of ours, that were just like “holy fuck I love industrial music, it’s so rad you guys are doing this.”
Sara: I thought they were lying at first because no one I knew liked industrial! [laughs]
Ryan: Yeah, I don’t know if it was a dirty secret or something that got forgotten about but it was fucking rad to see people just stoked. Now, there’s so many bands that have been around that are starting to put electronics in their band, like The Body’s doing crazy shit, and Full Of Hell. It’s crazy seeing what’s happening now. Like 90s industrial music, it’s so forward thinking to mix samples with full-on band, it’s something that was definitely ahead of it’s time.
Do you think electronic music is getting any more dangerous?
Sara: No. [laughs] There are things that are cool and cutting edge, but I don’t feel a lot of authentic aggression. In the same way that like, if you look at old Nine Inch Nails, or old Ministry, or old Skinny Puppy.
Ryan: Or older power electronics stuff.
Sara: Right, like William Bennett taking his shirt off, screaming about sexual abuse. That’s like terrifying, you don’t want to walk into a dark room of a hundred sweaty men seeing a guy screaming about rape. That shit’s fucking dark. I don’t see a lot of that with electronic music. There’s cool stuff going on, but nothing seems dangerous.
Ryan: Especially with noise, like there’s so many noise bands and there’s a lot of good stuff, but every tape looks the same, it’s the same fucking edgy photo. Like there’s some really cool shit, but that’s how it goes. When something gets really big the cycle comes around, there’s a lot of mimicking and a couple people do some really awesome shit. So hopefully we’ll see that this year or next year. Plus with a lot of techno dudes getting back to industrial roots.
Sara: I think it’s hard for any type of musician to make something dangerous.
Ryan: Yeah, maybe because I’m older and I’ve seen a lot of shit, but I never go to shows anymore and I’m like “oh holy fuck that was insane.” Like, I’ll see a band and it’ll seem kind of dangerous, and then the next time it’s like, well that’s there thing. I mean I don’t think we are either. I guess you have to have faith that cool shit will happen, but danger will probably reappear in a different medium.
Sara: As far as danger in music, I think it’s kind of unavoidable with technology. I’m sure everyone has a fucking diatribe about this, but I think when things are too accessible, everyone knows the score. Nothing is dangerous if you can preview it on YouTube. And I’m really psyched on the advancements in music and technology and things of that matter. But with this constant yearning of “how do I get the first scoop, how do I post these things” you kind of cut out the “oh I heard a story about this band where they like threw light bulbs at the audience” or whatever. The only way that can be is if you don’t have a social presence, but then it stagnates because if you don’t have presence nobody will find you. It’s a weird catch-22. There could be elements of danger in the future we don’t see, and I’m just going off of my head, but what if an artist did something like they put their record in your phone without your knowing? And not on a big format like U2 with an Apple sponsorship, but what if something put it in front of you without your consent? Things like that are going to be scarier than live performances. Commitment to Complications is out April 8 via Dais Records.
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3. Commitment to Complications
4. The Dust of Fallen Rome
7. Glass Spitter
8. Lacerate Wildly
10. Shift of Dismay
11. Lost at Sea