Youth Lagoon: Idaho Psych-Pop Wonder Builds Houses for the Heartbroken
"A lot of the people who are deemed crazy by society have a better grasp on the world as a whole, and maybe that's part of what drives them crazy."
Who: Trevor Powers never thought that so many people would hear his music. “It was always just for myself,” the 24-year-old Boise, Idaho native says of his early recordings under the Youth Lagoon moniker. “My biggest goal was just to record songs, put everything I wanted into the music, and then put it up for free.” But after a few songs caught fire online and the indie rock cognoscenti took notice in mid-2011, Powers’ full-length debut, Year of Hibernation, got a wide release (on Fat Possum) and reams of critical praise. Which is why writing his much-anticipated follow-up, Wondrous Bughouse, proved daunting at times. “I couldn’t get it out of my mind: People are actually going to hear this, people are going to be listening,” he remembers. “It affected me in a small way that I didn’t like. But it also brought me back to why I make music in the first place. This was always meant to be for myself, my own little cavern where I could express myself in the ways I wanted to. I just had to make the record I wanted to make.”
Pass The Courvosier: Wondrous Bughouse came together late last year in Atlanta, where Powers decamped with producer Ben Allen, whose wide-ranging CV includes work with both Animal Collective and Biggie Smalls. “When I was younger, I used to listen to Diddy, to all of that Bad Boy Records stuff,” Powers says. “And I was really thinking about the percussion factor. Hip-hop is so percussion-based and beat-based that Ben has such a good background in achieving that.” The resulting swirl of psychotropic pop is a confident step forward, more expansive and textured than its predecessor. “When I first sent the demos to Ben, I started to explain to him that I was trying to have one foot in beautiful expression and one in chaotic expression,” Powers says. “One foot in reality and one in the metaphysical. Whether it’s a tent or a building, I’ve always been interested in creating worlds, whether they’re peaceful or not.”
Buggin’ Out: Wondrous Bughouse’s title, Power says, was supposed to encapsulate and express a heady central theme. “The word ‘bughouse,'” he explains, “is an old term for an insane asylum. And one idea that kept coming to mind was of people losing their minds. A lot of the people who are deemed crazy by society have a better grasp on the world as a whole, and maybe that’s part of what drives them crazy: they latch onto something that normal people don’t realize. Normal people go through life and often we live like robots going from one thing to the next without processing things…Crazy people analyze things; it could be one thought that drives them crazy. They just see things from a really broad perspective, you know?”
Locally Grown: While Powers says Boise boasts a vibrant scene of local musicians, one figure in particular is ever-present. “Doug Martsch is all over downtown,” Powers says of the Built to Spill frontman and founder. “There’s a community radio station and he helps out by DJing every week. You see him at shows a lot and he’s just the sweetest dude in the world. We don’t really hang out, but I’d love to get some of his advice sometime. Doug would have so much insight.”