Seattle’s electronic music scene is seeing numerous new acts whose brooding sounds echo the local climate and culture beautifully, in a way unlike the Sturm und Drang of the Metal and Grunge music for which the region is also known. These electronic acts feel akin to several northern European musical projects, such as Fever Ray, The Knife and iamamiwhoami. Stateside, there is a spectrum that ranges from the poppier side (a la Grimes) to the dark but still shiny side (Zola Jesus) to more DIY, quiet and minimalistic sounds of duos like To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie. Seattle has a little of everything.
Local electronic duo youryoungbody is one of Seattle’s youngest acts in the genre and the music they make might be described as young, too, but not in the sense that it is immature or jejune. Maurice Sendak in a conversation with Art Spiegelman said of his own vividly remembered childhood: “I knew terrible things…but I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.” The musicians Killian Brom and Duh Cripe know where the wild things are, indeed, in a land known for rain, wilderness and serial killers. The name of the band comes from a fake screen name used on the show To Catch a Predator—an eerie, knowing nod at the power and seductiveness of youth, humanity’s darker urges and instincts, and the identities that some create to hide or suppress them.
Youryoungbody’s engineering combines light and dark into a musical twilight through which Cripe’s mezzo-soprano voice lilts, vibrant but fragile, like a spiderweb pulsing in a breeze. The refrain of their song “Hypomania” (Come out and play with me./Don’t you want to kill me?) succinctly captures much of the band’s themes and storytelling. They recently released a music video directed by Kendall Paulsen for the song, their first official video as a group. Following that release, I asked a few questions about their process and plans.
Vanguard Seattle: For a young group, you have proved quite prolific. Did you both come with a lot of ideas in the beginning that you were able to realize through collaboration, or has the scope and nature of youryoungbody been a creative departure for both of you from earlier interests?
Killian Brom: I’ve been making electronic music since forever. I think that what is different about this project is that I finally have someone who helps create the themes and music of the band. I had a ton of songs that were either half-realized or scrapped and they got a second wind with this project.
Duh Cripe: I had always been making music and writing, but Killian definitely helped me bring out stories that I had never told before. I think the best aspect of working together is the honesty. Sometimes you just don’t want to hear “that doesn’t fit” or “or can you redo that?” after hours of recording. But I’m getting better at trusting Killian’s ear and he’s getting better at trusting mine too.
VS: There is a balance to working in pairs artistically, and your separate interests complement each other. Killian comes with technical knowledge and Emily brings a fierce fashion focus, but you both clearly have good ears and a shared artistic vision. How do you connect and cooperate and learn through your mutual process?
Brom: I’m not the best with expressing myself in words, so I usually write pissed off dramatic beats and chords alone. I show a few to Duh and we usually deconstruct them and tone them down in places to put in vocals. She sits in a dark room alone for hours with the song until she is happy with the vocals, and we go through several versions until it is something we agree on.
Cripe: I guess we just have our own way of communicating. Sometimes we spend weeks without talking, and the silence typically means Killian is working on something. I think our creative space is really valuable to the both of us.
VS: Tell us something about the song “Hypomania” and why you chose it for your first video.
Brom: “Hypomania” was the first song we worked on together, and still one of our favorite tracks. We would go through random YouTube videos and mute them while playing our album over it, mostly to comical results, but “Hypomania” really stuck. We ended up filming our own material at the beaches later.
Cripe: Yeah, I liked the idea of doing “Hypomania” mainly because it’s a great representation of who we are as a band. The song was that first instant connection we had when we both knew this was something worth keeping up.
VS: What was the process in creating that video with Kendall Paulsen? Did you come up with the concept together?
Brom: I was talking to Kendall about us needing a video, and she said she had some ideas about putting warm, calm, slow-moving images with a depressive song such as “Hypomania.” It makes an eerie vibe of nostalgia throughout the video. Kendall had her own vision from there, and really took it her own amazing direction.
Cripe: I have always been impressed by Kendall’s work and was so excited when she offered to do the video. I really didn’t want to get in her way creatively and just wanted to trust her artistic perspective, which in the end worked out really well.
VS: What is inspiring you lately as you develop new songs?
Cripe: Recently, I have been under a lot of stress, so writing poetry has been a great outlet. I just wrote a poem today called “I hate my door”…because, seriously, I can’t get my apartment door to lock. I have also been listening to a lot of Blondie, but who doesn’t?
Brom: Lately I’ve been messing around with a load of different synthesizers and programs. I’m trying to create more sounds from samples and really taking a steady pace with focusing on songwriting. Also I’ve been inspired by this guy who blasts his motorcycle by my window and ruins my vocal takes.
VS: Do you have a vision already for the next EP or LP?
Brom: I feel like the album might be split, with half the songs very focused on songwriting and keeping it uptempo, while half might be more soundscape-ish, similar to the previous record. I never really like to plan that kind of stuff out, though.
Cripe: I’d love to make this next release the big one. But, we will just have to wait and see.
Vanguard Seattle: If you could work with other artists, musicians, creatives of any sort locally, who would they be?
Cripe: I would love to work with the SAM. I think they could but on some really great shows and events there. It’d be great to be part of something like that—connecting art with art. Oh, and Heart, because those ladies can sing.
Brom: Key Nyata, Hauhet, Bill Gates.
Vanguard Seattle: If you could collaborate with any artist on earth, living or dead, who would it be?
Brom: It’d be cool to do a track with Stevie Nicks.
Cripe: Stevie Nicks hands down!
Like the video that Vanguard Seattle recently showcased from dream pop band Night Cadet, the video for “Hypomania” heavily features Seattle’s coastal climate. The blurred and faded imagery have a curious nostalgia to them, like memories half-recalled, bittersweet, not entirely what they seem. It all blends perfectly with a song that takes the idea of playtime and turns it into something sinister—or perhaps alludes to the more primal instincts and needs at the heart of play. Happy Friday the 13th, everyone.