During his summer break from Idaho's Boise State University, 22-year-old Trevor Powers decided to change his major from English Literature... to 21st Century Indie Rock Star. And so far he's passing with high marks. After posting his first song as Youth Lagoon in May, Powers earned widespread industry buzz, signed a two-album deal with Fat Possum, and recorded his debut full-length, The Year of Hibernation. Listen to the record exclusively here, a week before its September 27 release.
Powers is doing so well, in fact, that he dropped out of school, quit his job at Urban Outfitters, and launched his first U.S. tour - 29 club dates across the country. "Youth Lagoon was growing more and more and more, and I knew that if I didn't immediately jump on this chance to seriously create music, I'd regret it when I was older," he tells SPIN.
Powers recorded the LP in his room, basing the dreamy piano pop on personal concerns, including his longtime struggle with debilitating anxiety. "I hid it from my parents. I would have panic attacks in my room before bed over things that don't make sense to the average person," he says. "One of my fears was that I'd die before Christmas. I'd think about it so much that I couldn't sleep and it would overwhelm my mind."
"July," for instance, compares two very different Independence Day holidays five years apart: "One was a beautiful day hanging out with people that I love, and the other was very hard. I remember sitting in my backyard and crying while the fireworks went off. I hate to be clichÃ©, but it was a girl [laughs]."
Another album gem, the reverb-y ballad "Montana," is "inspired by a conversation I had with someone wearing a 'Montana' sweatshirt. The conversation was really difficult; lots of tension and heartache. I remember thinking it might be the last time I see that person, so I took a mental picture in my mind of everything. The song is about that conversation."
And the twinkling nursery rhyme-tinged "Afternoon" was inspired by a similar fear: "I was away from the person that I loved for an extended period of time, and I was dealing with a lot of anxiety because of it. I kept thinking that I wouldn't see her again. I was having unreasonable worries that I would come back and she wouldn't be there.... I just want to present music in a very honest way."
For his current tour, Powers teamed with guitarist Logan Hyde, a longtime pal, to help fill out Youth Lagoon's massive wall-o-dream sound. "I use loops and programming," Powers says, adding that the duo are traveling the U.S. in his brand new Chevy Trailblazer. "I play keyboards and synthesizers, and I trigger all my beats with a foot pedal. It sounds like there are a lot more than two people on stage -- and it took a lot of practice to get that down."
On one of the first dates of the tour, Youth Lagoon played Raleigh, North Carolina's Hopscotch Festival alongside Guided by Voices and Flaming Lips. Read SPIN's review here. "I keep thinking, 'Holy cow, man, this is really happening,'" Powers says. "I just visited New York City, which I've wanted to do my entire life. This is soooooooooooooo surreal!"