First Look Friday: You Really Can’t Blame The Youth For Being So Awesome
First Look Friday: You Really Can’t Blame The Youth For Being So Awesome
Photo Credit: Jasiatic

First Look Friday: You Really Can’t Blame The Youth For Being So Awesome

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Jasiatic

Blame The Youth is a Charlotte, North Carolina band that pushes the limits of creativity with style, panaché and an unconventional sound worth hearing on repeat.

Rock ‘n Roll was recently overcome by rap / hip-hop as the leading genre of choice in the United States. But let’s be honest, ever since ‘98-‘99 hip-hop has been the main choice of the people because it is diverse, alluring, dangerous, lavish and sincerely cool. Despite not being a part of that industry, this week’s First Look Friday subject is made up those very things.

Allow us to introduce you Okayplayers to Blame The Youth.

This Charlotte, North Carolina quartet defies the conventional notion of what a traditional band has come to be in the music industry (see: very pale and extremely masculine). Comprised of Phobe (lead vocals / guitar), Alexa (lead guitarist), Kynadi (drummer) and Amber (bassist / backing vocals) — Blame The Youth consistently challenges conventionality and image with their own style and panaché.

After releasing their effort, The Hourglass, back in March, Blame The Youth explore the norms and taboos embodied by human society, while offering intrigue and soulful sounds thanks to their inspirations such as Hiatus Kaiyote, Animals as Leaders and Erykah Badu. To be very frank, the best way to experience Blame The Youth is by witnessing a live show or listening to their collection of sounds via Bandcamp or Soundcloud, as these creatives are embarking on a journey that will end with screaming fans, tons of merch being sold, heavy rotation on playlists and lyrics being tattooed on flesh.

With that said, enjoy this chat with Blame The Youth, as we discuss music as medicine, overcoming obstacles and first song creations. Get a feel for the band by listening to The Hourglass underneath as well. Bless!

Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?

Phoebe: I think what makes our music different is that we defy everything you know about a band. We don’t stick to the conventional terms of songwriting, performing, or genre. We are fluid and ever-moving in everything that we do. We’re different than anything or anybody that you’ve ever seen.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

Kynadi:Hiatus Kaiyote, Chrome Sparks, Chon and Paramore. Paramore is the main reason I started drumming. I saw their drummer was only about 12 when they went on their first tour, so I thought I could achieve similar goals.

Alexa: I grew up listening to a lot of ‘90s alternative and later got into metal in my teens. Since then I’ve been into a lot of fusion genres and instrumental music. One of my inspirations and absolute favorite artists is Animals as Leaders. They changed my outlook on music and transformed my perception of the guitar as an instrument.

Amber: I have a classical background in viola/violin, but my mom was heavy into the soul music of the ‘90s. I was raised on Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, old funk, and West Coast rap.

Phoebe: There’s part of me that draws such inspiration to the old school musical artists such as Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand and Julie Andrews. Then there’s a part that draws from the original pop superstars such as Madonna, Cher and Tina Turner. I also draw from new artists like Hiatus Kaiyote, Hiam, Regina Spektor, Kimbra, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse. They’re all so different. They all have something unique that I can draw inspiration from and put into my music. I think that’s we don’t stick to one genre. There are so many sounds and influences that every song sounds so violently different.

OKP: Can you talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?

A: As a group, it’s a lot of trial, error, and experimenting. We’ve done a lot so far and a lot of times, we just gotta take a step back and say, “Nah, that ain’t gonna work”. It’s always a process.

As for press, we all tend to be a little awkward so it’s always weird for people to want to talk to us. We’ve never been popular individually. We’re always open though!

OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music (and/or others) help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?

K: Music really brings people together, and that’s what we need in time of crisis. I feel like our album’s vibes definitely bring people together, and gets them dancing. It helps relieve a little bit of the stress and trauma. Music really brings people together, and that’s what we need in time of crisis. I feel like our album’s vibes definitely bring people together and gets them dancing. It helps relieve a little bit of the stress and trauma.

A: Music, throughout history, has always had the capacity to communicate a message. Essentially, that’s the whole purpose. As musicians, our goal should be to communicate with whoever is listening. We, among a lot of others, create music for healing. Our music isn’t inherently political, but some music is! Our band is made of three black women and a Mexican man. Our identities are already political off the strength of that.

OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Jasiatic

P: ​When people first started listening to us and even seeing us live, they had a habit of labeling us as an “All Girl Band,” which for me personally was problematic. Yes, we do in fact have three amazing female musicians in the band, but me being a Trans-male, being constantly labeled as a girl was difficult to get past. It took a long time and is still a struggle to get people educated and aware of my gender. Being recognized as a male singer means a lot to me. The band has always been extremely supportive in this and we do everything we can to make sure that people know that we are indeed not an all-girl band.

A: Oftentimes, I feel a little insecure as a musician because we are so fresh and new. But I have a good support system in my band, and they help me through it constantly. As a band, we often are underestimated because of how we look. We’ve had people completely disregard us when we walk into a gig (that we’re headlining nonetheless!), but come up and hug us all when we finished. We often get the comment “I wasn’t expecting that!”. And that’s never not going to be weird and slightly annoying. One day, our music is going to speak before we get a chance to.

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene as how you’ve experienced it? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?

A: I love how the music industry and means of getting music out is constantly changing. Record labels and big marketing schemes are becoming more minimal and smaller due to the evolution of the internet and internet-based media outlets. I can only see it getting more and more digital. Soon, physical copies of CDs and vinyls will be strictly for aesthetic. Hell, even most cars and laptops don’t have CD players anymore!

K: Music is what literally keeps the world going. I hope to see more support in the music scene in the next 5 years.

OKP: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

A: I’ve learned how fulfilling collaborative experiences can be. I hated group work in high school, but being in a band has been nothing short of incredible. I have truly learned how patient I can be.

K: I absolutely hate planning things. I like to play things by ear. That is reflected in the drum patterns I write. They are rarely ever the same, which is why all of our songs sound like it’s a different genre.

OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?

A: We haven’t done a ton of traveling, but last summer’s trip to Maryland for a Music & Arts Battle of the Band Competition will forever live in my memories. It was just really fun to be around my band mates, and it was even better because we won first prize. Understanding that complete strangers liked our music helped to confirm that we had good music, and we should keep it up.

K: Last spring I took a trip to L.A. and it blew my mind. It was total culture shock! The music was different, the food was different. I loved every second of it. It felt like a home away from home. It honestly stuck with me because I’ve never experienced the West Coast before.

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered into the professional life?

P:​ The first song we ever wrote as a band was actually “Earworm”. That was back when I was the bassist and the singer. It was so different than anything I ever wrote as an individual, being mostly love songs for girls I never confessed to. The lyrics to “Earworm” were written by Alexa, and they threw me back into that longing that I had when I was writing these old songs. It’s very nostalgic for me. It was our first song every released so it keeps a very close place in my heart.

K: The first song I ever wrote was with my best friend at the time. It was called “Embrace Grace”. It means alot to me to this day. It helps ground me when I think I’m not good enough. I have to remember to embrace all of my talent and keep going.

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

A: We think that our music and how it makes the listener feel is truth in itself. We try to be very organic and put ourselves into the music that we create. It is so fulfilling when people tell us that our music has reached them and how they can feel our energy at our shows. That is very real and true to us, and is something that we set out to do every time we perform or come in contact with others.

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year going into the next and why?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Jasiatic

A:Thundercat and Flying Lotus! I bump their music faithfully and always will.

K: If I could collab with anyone, it would definitely be Chance the Rapper, because he literally represents everything I stand by. His soul is pure, and I love it. He’s so sweet and talented.

OKP: What is the overall message that Blame The Youth are trying to present in their music?

P: ​I want our music to be a safe place. Whatever it is that you’re going through, I want people to be able to listen to us, or go to a show, and forget about everything it is that they are stressing over. Music has a healing factor. I always turn to music as a release, and I want our listeners to do the same.

K: I think Blame The Youth is trying to send a message that it’s okay to be weird, and it’s okay to try something different. Basically be yourself.

A: For me, our message is to be real and be as authentic as possible. People are tired of the same manufactured crap. Being real can work.

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind a song that you created but never put out?

A: We never really have an inspiration behind our songs, at first. A lot of our songs stem from us just playing around and jamming with each other. We try to create rhythms and melodies that sound different from what we’ve done before, but still sound like us. One of the songs that we’ve created, but never put out, “Mocha,” is really groovy and the bass and guitar harmonize through most of the song. What’s interesting about it is that the drum beat is on a different accent and sort of gets in between the notes. It confuses the ear, but brings everything together and is still easy to groove to.

K: “Mocha” was heavily inspired by Chon during the writing process. I was just getting into different time signatures and wanted to try something different. Sadly it wasn’t a hit [laughs].

OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?

K: I hope to change the music game by helping people understand that it’s okay doing your own thing. You don’t have to sound like what’s playing on the radio. Try something new!

P: Our music is a reflection of who we are, and it’s not often that you find a band a diverse as we are. Our sound is fresh and new to the ears and doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. But no matter how different we are, we still manage to bring everyone together. We hope to inspire upcoming artists to do what they love and share their art with the world not matter how different they think they may be.

OKP: How do you get over any anxiety before hitting the stage to perform live? What are some lessons or tips that you’ve learned from others about doing a stage show?

A: Before hitting the stage, I personally like to sit with myself and gather my thoughts. I talk to my bandmates a bit because they know what I’m about to go through. As a band, we make it a rule to never drink too much before performing. We’ve seen a lot of people we know we get on stage, drunk and make an ass of themselves, so we actively avoid that situation.

P: I always get this overwhelming nervous stomach before I go on stage. I get all these thoughts like, “What if I forget the lyrics? What if I drop my keyboard in the middle of a song? What if my mic goes out?” It’s all of these “what ifs,” but as soon as I hit that stage, and the crowd starts cheering, I feel fine. People don’t realize that the audience literally gives the artists on stage energy. The more they’re feeling it, the more I’m feeling myself. And that always makes for a great performance.

K: Believe it or not, eating food and laughing with my bandmates is the cure to all of my anxiety.

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Blame The Youth — what would it be?

A: Music can come from anywhere, and our goal is to break down barriers and show that music has so much to offer than the typical image of a band or what is popular at the moment.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Blame The Youth (and us!) by following her on Twitter @TheBandBTY.