"We’re just three normal dudes who aren’t trying to be anything other than what we are" - Alex Magnan
Young Culture have just released their debut full-length 'Young Culture' via Rude Records.
A culmination of years of hard work and graft, the record is more of a manifesto for what the band represents than a collection of songs. It's a carefree mindset, a sun-stained attitude and a smorgasbord of influence all rolled into one fun, free and fierce listen that will have you smiling from ear to ear on more than one occasion.
We jumped on the phone with vocalist Alex Magnan to chat about the road that led them to writing an album like this, what Young Culture means to him and the band and what effect having it in his life has had...
How does it feel to finally have your debut album out in the world?
“Gabe [Pietrafesa, Guitar] and Me started this band fresh out of high school is 2016 and we had our first EP written. We asked ourselves, ‘Well what is this band then?’ and were just like, ‘ It’s Young Culture’. That’s just what it feels like. People say you have your whole life to make your debut album, and that has been everything we’ve been building up to. My whole entire life has been getting to this point. I’ve had my whole life to make this album and know we’ve actually done it and it feels exactly like imagined it. Everything about it is exactly how this band has felt and everything we have done has been leading up to this point. It’s a crazy feeling because this is the moment I’ve been waiting my whole life for. It’s the end but it’s also the very beginning.”
So let’s go back to those first initial thoughts of putting a band together. How has what you wanted the band to be and become at that point moulded into what it is now?
“It pretty much started with Gabe and me just looking at each other and saying, ‘What do we actually do with our lives?’ We weren’t really suited for college and everybody we knew was doing that. Being 17/18, it was an incredibly anxious thing. All I knew was music. At the time it was the only option and the only thing I actually knew that I wanted to do. So we set out to do this with minimal expectations and not even expecting anybody to see it. We just wanted to try it.
“In that sense, I never really knew where it would take us or when we would get to this point and what it would be. Now being here and looking back at the opportunities that we’ve had and the people that we’ve met and the thing that we’ve done, it all just makes sense. I don’t know how we got here and I don’t know what we did to get here, but I don’t think I could have been doing anything else aside from this. We didn’t know what to expect, so we just did it.”
So what does Young Culture mean to you and how has that changed in the lead up to this release?
“That’s a pretty crazy question really. I know what it was. I know when we came up with the name, Gabe and me both had these lists of names and somehow we both had Young Culture. From there, it’s grown to be absolutely everything that we are. We’re just a bunch of fun loving guys who like to party and play music and hang out with our friends. To me, that’s what Young Culture is.
“Now with us putting out the ‘Young Culture’ album, it’s more of what’s it going to mean from here on out? I’m 22 now and arguably I’m becoming a young adult, or even an adult. Young Culture is forever going to be the band, but I know for a fact that it’s a whole entire vibe. It encompasses everything that we have been up until now. Simply, I think it will always just feel right.”
Vibe is the right word, and that’s what this album possesses the most. How did you grab onto that vibe on this album more so than you have in the past?
"I would say that putting together our last EP ‘(This Is) Heaven’ was the first time during my life that I felt like I was actually becoming that young adult rather than a teenager. It was by far the most turbulent time of my life, like a really tough time. Aside from all the great things that were happening with the band, it was so bad. I was going through terrible depression and terrible anxiety, which I had never dealt with at that level before, and the five songs on that EP were all about me struggling. Even the name ‘(This Is) Heaven’ was supposed to be ironic because it was anything but that. They were some of the darkest songs we had ever written because of that.
"Shortly after that I felt like I started to find my way. Struggles never really end but putting together ‘Young Culture’ was a turn. It was a flip of the coin. It became where I wanted to be. It’s funny because some of the songs on this album we already had written back then but I was just not about them. It was scary at the time. Yet now that we’re here and we’ve actually made them, it feels so good."
It’s interesting that the transition between different periods of your life have been pretty much documented within Young Culture’s music…
“Yeah absolutely, and I look back of pictures of myself from that time and think, ‘Dude I look horrible’. I can just see it in my eyes. Now to see where I am now, I’m nothing but grateful of the people who supported me through it and the love that we received. Putting out that EP helped me to see that I am worth something and approaching these dreams I had were really worth it. I feel as though people will really be able to hear and see that changeover.”
There are a LOT of different elements at play on this record as well. How did you go about figuring out what you actually wanted the atmosphere of this record to feel like?
"Typically the tradition way that I like to write songs is on my acoustic guitar. A few of the songs on here came together that way, but what’s actually different this time around was having Troy [Burchett, Guitar] in the band. He changed the way I write and changed the way I look at songs. He’s an incredible songwriter himself.
“It should be noted that we all live in different places as well. I’m in New York City. Gabe is in Massachusetts and Troy is in Kentucky. So we do everything remotely. Troy would send a voice memo over of him playing a riff and saying, ‘Does this work? Can you write something over this?’ Or Gabe would make a beat and send it over. That’s how a song like ‘I’ll Be There’ came along. That’s the poppiest song on the record because it is a pop song. That’s how it was created. Then you have a song like ‘American Idol’ which has Troy written all over it. This album is just eclectic because of that and you can hear it from track to track. They are all different things and that’s because it’s not just me writing songs anymore. It’s a full band putting in their own input and their own style to make the music.”
That must come with you growing up around each other and learning exactly how to talk about and process those things together…
“That was definitely how it was for us. I went into it, possibly quite ignorant, thinking, ‘This is going to come out one way’. But our friend Derek [DiScanio] from State Champs has always been there and always helped us out and always been more than a friend. He’s been more of a mentor. I always thought looking up at them from a very young age, I always thought that this was going to work out just like they did. We’re going to put out a release and then an EP and everybody is going to love us. But the truth is that everything works differently. I grew up really loving Fall Out Boy as well, and reading their story where they started out in the hardcore scene and weren’t accepted. Every journey is different and that’s something that has been really important for me to realise. It’s important for any artist to realise if they want to go out there and pursue their dreams.”
So what do you feel that it is that holds this record together? What is it that’s fuelling the vibe that exists throughout all these songs?
“No matter what we’re talking about, the thing that is consistent is the carefreeness. Whether we’re talking about heartbreak or love or friendship or mental illness, it all has that same vibe. That attributes to the fact that we’re just three normal dudes who aren’t trying to be anything other than what we are. You can love it or you can hate it, I don’t care. I’m happy with what we’re doing. I think a lot of these songs can be attributed to white wine nights that we had whilst recording in Toronto as well. A lot of white wine.”
Finally, what is it that keeps you inspired, as we are moving forwards?
"It’s stupid hard for me to relax. I can never enjoy a release because I’m already thinking, ‘What’s the next thing?’ It already feels like a reflection talking about all of these songs even though the album has only just come out. We’ve had months on end of this quarantine and I’ve had months on end where I wasn’t working any job either. I was just sitting at my parent’s house in Albany or in my apartment in the city and going, ‘What am I going to do with myself?’ That’s why I’m constantly trying to write and thinking about the next aesthetic and vibe without putting too much pressure on myself. I can’t slow down though."
So what effect has having Young Culture in your life had on you?
"It’s everything dude. It’s everything to the three of us. It saved my life, that’s for sure. And it saved Gabe’s life. We did this thing because we felt like we had to. I don’t where I would be and I don’t know what the fuck I would be if it weren’t for Young Culture. When Troy joined the band and did a tour with us, I remember one night where he said, ‘Dude, I want to be in this forever. This is what’s going to fulfil me’. Then you have the people who take the time to listen to us, it’s something I could never fathom in my entire life. It’s what defines me. It’s what carries me. It’s everything. I’m very grateful for it, to say the least."