Summer is coming to a close, bringing with it the annual hangover from hedonistic anthem overexposure. Our buddies Young Heel have the musical gatorade we all need in their sublimely mellowed out new single “Not A Name,” which will revive the feeling in your festival-battered body like a warm hug from Grizzly Bear and Beach House.
I got to chat with the Brooklyn-based band, comprised of Clay Bassford, JT Norton and Stephen Greenberg about the release of their first EP, what they’ve been working on since and the best jokes they’ve ever heard. Listen to the premiere of “Not A Name” below, and read on after the jump for the interview.
STREAM: Young Heel – “Not A Name”
First question — If you could replace your arm with anything, what would it be? (I’d choose an arm-sized Swiss Army knife).
Clay: I have a feeling this is a JT question.
JT: Yup. I just recently underwent a 16 hour procedure to replace both of my arms. But I haven’t officially chosen what to swap them with, so I’m just armless at the moment… So now I’m playing all my theremin solos with my face.
Clay: Don’t you need two body parts to play theremin?
JT: Yeah… You do.
Did you always know you wanted to be in a band? If I asked you when you were 12 what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would you have said?
Steve: I played guitar in a grunge band when I was twelve. But if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said baseball player or garbageman.
Clay: Steve is really good about taking out the garbage in our apartment. If I was 12, I would’ve probably said archaeologist. 13, though, definitely doing something creative, and probably a musician.
JT: I never thought about it until I saw Clay playing alone and said to myself, “Man, that guy needs some help!” But seriously, Young Heel is the only band I’ve seriously been in. There were a few not-so-serious ones back in college.
Last we talked, you had just released your first EP, Falls. How did the release go?
JT: The release was insane. Mostly in a good way. Clay and I had set a really unrealistic deadline for ourselves, but somehow found the time, every single night after work for over a month to record and mix everything in the living rooms of our apartments. It was an awesome crash course in How To Make An Album in 30 Days. Not to be confused with How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
Clay: Yeah, it was a great experience. We did everything besides final mixing and mastering, ourselves – just JT and I. We had a great release party and people seemed to have a lot of nice things to say about the EP, so that was really awesome. I tend to be a perfectionist with the stuff we put out. Some of those songs were a year or two old at the time of the release. Now I’m trying to keep what we put out fresh not only for the people who hear it but for us too. There’s a fine balance in letting a track mature to the right point.
What have you all been up to since?
Clay: We’ve played a lot more shows in the NYC area. Steve joined the band right after the EP release. We started writing new songs in January going towards an LP we hope to finish by the end of the year. Recently, we’ve been trying out our new songs live. It’s been a blast.
JT: I’ve been really focusing in on my singing. For a while I just wanted to practice keys, but I started taking voice lessons and realized just how little I knew about my own voice. It’s been great expanding my singing ability- hopefully you will get to hear a lot of that variety on our LP.
Steve: I’ve been really into hanging with my best friend, the Moog Minitaur. We’ve started incorporating a lot of the Moog bass sound into our live and recorded music in fun ways.
Can you tell us a bit about your new single, “Not A Name,” and what kind of vibe you were going for?
JT: I was randomly searching through my emails one day and saw something titled “TC Vocal Test”. The email was from almost 3 years ago, and the file on it was full of vocal loops I made that had different effects on them. The second I heard the vocal sample we use in “Not A Name,” I knew I wanted to send it to Clay. He immediately had some great ideas for the song’s composition. Clay has the Access Virus Ti Snow, which is a synth that blows my mind every time I hear it, and that’s what is all over the chorus of “Not A Name.” All I can say is that the vocal melody for the chorus just flew out of me the second I heard that synth lead patch – I’m pretty sure I blacked out.
Clay: Yeah, it came together pretty organically. Once JT sent me that sample, I started playing around with it cutting it up and playing with harmonies. Musically, I thought it’d be cool to create something that rhythmically lurches and rolls forward, so I started playing with a low rumbly bass synth, some stiff drum patterns, and this bell/steel drum-like patch I’ve been really into lately. And from there we had a pretty clear idea of what the song would be about and what it would feel like. Plus it’s really fun to play live with that extra measure in there, it makes plenty of room for our drummer to go ape, haha.
Steve: These sneaky guys managed to write this song while I was laid up in bed from surgery. I remember opening an email super early one morning with “Not a Name” attached and listening to it and being like, “I have nothing to add to this, it’s fucking awesome.”
You guys obviously have a very sultry sound. What do you think are some of the sultriest songs ever?
Clay: There are so many out there, and so many sub-categories of sexy songs, too. My initial inclination was to say, “Everybody Here Wants You,” by Jeff Buckley, since it was one of my earliest memories of hearing a song and thinking, “Damn, this song is almost too sexy.” But I think I’ll go with “Thunder Love” by Little Dragon. It’s always been one of my favorite tracks of theirs. It’s pure rain forest sensuality.
Steve: Bjork’s “Possibly Maybe.”
JT: “Tired of Being Alone” – Al Green … ’nuff said.
What’s next for Young Heel?
Clay: Recording a bunch more. Right now we’re adding some analog synths to new tracks and mapping out live drums for some tracks. We’re playing a couple shows soon soon that we’re excited about… And always writing.
Steve: We’re considering playing some festivals like South by Southwest next year, and playing more shows outside of NYC.
Finally–and most importantly– what’s the best joke you’ve ever heard?
Clay: Hmm. “The universe is expanding. That should help ease the traffic.”
Steve: Mine is: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”