Alexis Young looks surprisingly bright-eyed for someone who admits that she’s been working 16-hour days.
Upon meeting the Straight for an interview at a Kitsilano food market and café, Young says that, in addition to her full-time graphic-design job at Lululemon, she’s been devoting many of her waking hours to her current musical project, Youngblood, which has a single and accompanying video out in early March.
The new song, “Feel Alright”, is a follow-up to Youngblood’s debut single, “Easy Nothing”, a darkly delicious concoction of throbbing electronic beats and powerful, emotive vocals. A self-described Air obsessive, Young has described her sound as “what the ’60s thought the future would sound like”, and it’s a markedly different aesthetic than the bombastic new-wave cyber-rock of Sex With Strangers. She played keyboards and sang with that band for four years, and while she says it was a lot of fun, after recording two albums with SWS, she knew it was time to move on.
“I never really felt it was an expression of my musical identity, or how I wanted to be perceived,” says Young, who, in her black ball cap and “I ♥ NY” T-shirt, is a far more casual version of herself than the glammed-up one in her promo photos. “I always was writing my own songs anyways. When we started writing the second-last album, Behaviours, and they opened up the songwriting to include me, I think I interjected a lot of how I wanted to sound—forcibly, maybe—and bless their souls for really trying to fit my ideas into their sound. Like, on Behaviours there’s a lot of dance rock and kind of postrock songs, and then there’s a ’60s ballad in the middle of the album, which is obviously Alexis’s song, like ‘We’re gonna give her a track on this album to placate her and make sure she’s happy.’ ”
Her latest foray is the angst-ridden but dreamy “Feel Alright”. The video, produced in collaboration with ROOM Collective, features the singer as a trio of different characters, each desperately striving for one of what Young describes as the three primary indicators of “success” in our culture: “riches and fame, health and fitness, and finding love”.
“I feel like those are the three biggest things that people obsessively centre their lives around; it could be one of those things, or it could be all three,” she says. “And I feel like all of them are relentless pursuits that will never materialize in any real form of gratification or validation, because you’re always going to be wanting more and pushing yourself to the extreme. You’re never going to feel fully satisfied, because you’ll probably never hit the highest level, because there is no such thing. And I feel like I’ve seen people in my life, and people around me, become obsessed with some of those things and destroy themselves.”
That’s a pretty heavy theme to explore in a pop-music video, but Young doesn’t shy away from tackling thorny questions in her work. She says, for example, that although she’s in a very happy relationship, she finds herself drawn to the theme of “dissatisfied romance”. Chalk that up to human nature, and to Young’s deep-seated curiosity.
“Love isn’t as simple as just being in a monogamous relationship and feeling satisfied,” she notes. “You’re always going to be meeting new people and feeling torn and having to struggle with your ethical responsibilities, or moral responsibilities, like, ‘Well, is it possible for me to care about multiple people at once? Is it okay for me to talk about this?’
“As an artist I have an innate desire to want to explore and push my boundaries,” she continues, “and see how far I can push something before I get in trouble for it. I get in trouble a lot, and I kick myself in the ass a lot, by pushing things, and pushing people, and pushing relationships.…I try to be a good person. I do find myself in situations where I’m like, ‘For the love of God, Alexis, don’t. Just don’t. Or write it in a song.’ ”
She has plenty of those, apparently, and a five-song EP in the works with her in-studio collaborators Parker Bossley and Cam “Sleepy Tom” Tatham. That’s due out early this summer, and its release will be followed by a tour with the Youngblood live band, which includes members of the Gay Nineties and Owl Skowl.
That ought to keep Young busy, but here’s hoping she can keep the 16-hour workdays to a minimum.
Youngblood plays the Cobalt’s sixth-anniversary party on Sunday (February 28).