The Brazen Youth, the new musical duo from Old Lyme, CT, are recent high school graduates with a ton of momentum and enough brass to make something of it. While their classmates were studying and taking tests, Nick Lussier and Charles Dahlke were making music and releasing their own albums. Their sophomore LP, The Ever Dying Bristlecone Man, is set to drop this winter on their own Ashlawn Recording Company effort. Read our quick chat with the band below, and listen to these dudes. We can’t help but love anything with “youth” in their title. For obvious reasons. –Maya Eslami
WHAT YOUTH: Tell me about The Brazen Youth. How did you two meet?
NICK LUSSIER: This is the question we are asked most commonly and, oddly, it’s the question in which we have the most difficulty in answering. Charlie and I have always “known” each other – Ben, my best friend growing up also happens to be Charlie’s cousin. So from a young age, we were always together at various outings due to our mutual affiliation. When we were about twelve or thirteen, Ben noticed that Charlie and I were both showing great interest in playing and performing music seperately, so he decided to manipulate us into starting a band by telling me that Charlie was interested in collaborating (he wasn’t), and by telling Charlie that I was interested in collaborating (I wasn’t). We didn’t discover this until we were fifteen or so.
Is it just you two in the band? Do you guys play all the instruments on the new album?
CHARLIE DAHLKE: Yeah, just the two of us… which is totally fine. We didn’t play all of the instruments on the album. Almost every synth track, bass track, vocal track, bell, piano, guitar, banjo, organ, etc. were performed by either Nick or me. It’s also worth a mention that we produced this ourselves and production is sort of an instrument in its own ways. Neither of us are proficient horn players and neither of us ever really got into drums. Nick had a set in his basement that we used to screw around with at band practice, but that was the furthest either of us ever got with the drums. We owe the performing credits on this album to ourselves, our friend Micah, who is basically the 3rd member of The Brazen Youth, James Kolb for singing the lyric “James Kolb,” Greta Stroebel for vocals, Devin Noe for percussion and David Sirna for trumpet tracks.
Who are some of your favorite bands? Anyone you pull inspiration from?
CD: Favorite bands include The Antlers, Neutral Milk Hotel & the rest of the Elephant 6 collective, Bon Iver, Maria Donato, The Beatles, Velvet Underground, The Microphones, Sufjan Stevens, and recently Andy Shauf. That guy is crazy. Mark my words; Justin Vernon and Andy Shauf are about to change music. The inspiration for this album was applied very subconsciously which was a great thing for us. In our old album, we were 15 and 16 and our writing was a lot more immature. On certain songs it felt like we weren’t trying to make our own music, but trying to emulate someone else’s. This new album is completely different. I don’t think I’ll totally know who our influences were for this album for a while, but if you were to ask me when the time comes that I can listen to it objectively, I think I would tell you that artists along the lines of Sufjan Stevens, The Antlers, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Lumineers, Erik Satie, Beach House, Jim Morrison and Bon Iver were our influences.
NL: Neither of us really understand where our music is derived from. We’re both always experiencing a constant fluctuation of influences so it’s really difficult to say who has affected us the most. Here’s an example of how unstable we are: we’ll be really into a group like Sigur Ros for a week and decide that that’s how we need to sound – but then one of us will go and write a folk song and we’ll dig it. We’re very confused as artists – and even more confused as musicians.
You mentioned you re-recorded the album a couple times. What was that process like? Why did you guys decide to do that?
CD: Nothing satisfied us. My lack of production experience was putting creative restraints on our songs and it was really frustrating for the both of us. It wasn’t just every song we re-recorded, but it was every single track on every song that we re-recorded. We would make one version of Let Us Be Alone Again, and then we would make another version, and then we would go back to that old version and redo every track on it with variations from different mic placement and a wider guitar tone. The process was painstaking. We recorded for more than 400 non-consecutive hours this summer on top of working and traveling up and down New England. It was fascinating to see this new side in us and to observe each other through the process. Thankful to have a writing partner as equally determined as me.
Tell me about the first album. What was it like putting an album out while you were still in high school?
NL: Looking back at a few of our old projects somewhat objectively, I can say quite sincerely that I don’t believe we had any idea what we were doing or why we were doing it. And there’s of sort of obscure beauty in that feeling. We’ll never be those two innocent high schoolers making songs recreationally anymore – and that saddens me. We’re now in a stage of near adulthood and we’re trying to figure out how we can be comfortable while doing what we love and that can be constraining at times.
And now that you’re out of high school, any sage advice you can give to other kids making music?
NL: Don’t make music. Make an audible version of yourself instead – whatever you think that may sound/look/smell/taste/or feel like, don’t question it. Trust yourself even when others suggest you should do otherwise. Revise your work but don’t think too much. Don’t worry about being too adherent, either. The most consequential artists are the ones who revisit, question, and redefine what others believe to be already established.
CD: Don’t listen to anybody when you feel like you shouldn’t be listening to anybody.
Photos Courtesy of The Brazen Youth