The Young Evils, a rock outfit hailing from Seattle, Washington, are excellent evidence that final products often look nothing like initial intentions. Started as a lighthearted Vaselines-inspired pop duo composed of record store co-workers Troy Nelson and Mackenzie Mercer, the Young Evils today bear only passing resemblance to their past selves.
After their charming debut album Enchanted Chapel captured hearts far and wide, the duo expanded their sound, enlisting guitarist Michael Lee and teaming up with acclaimed Brooklyn-based producer/engineer Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells, Cults) for the follow-up: the bombastic and wholly rock EP Foreign Spells. Today, brothers Brendon (bass) and Scott Helgason's (drums) rhythm section provide the back bone to the band's 80's inspired angular pop in a way only siblings can provide.
On November 18th 2014, the Young Evils released the False Starts EP, recorded at the legendary Sound City Studios in Los Angeles and The Kill Room in Seattle, Washington before rejoining Shane Stoneback in the studio to begin work on their next full-length album.
We hooked up with the guys at Duke's for some of their classic clam chowder, whilst we were there, we thought it only fair that they should answer some of our questions as we had paid for the airfare to get over to meet them, they agreed and we went on to chat about opening a show for The Vaselines, Christmas lists and hanging with Dave Grohl, here's how it panned out....
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
We’re The Young Evils from Seattle Washington. We’re a 5-piece band that love early 80’s pop, late 70’s punk and glam, and a touch of Sabbath.
You’re called ‘The Young Evils’, how did you come to choose this name?
I came up with the name “The Evil Little Graveyards” but Mackenzie said it was too long. She suggested that we shorten the name to The Young Evils because it sounds like a punk band from back in the day.
2012 saw you release ‘Foreign Spells’ and from it a track called ‘Dead Animals’ was widely received, what was the inspiration behind the EP and that song?
The song “Dead Animals”. It’s not about dead animals, it’s a metaphor for what the couple in the song will end up being if they stay together. A yee ol’ breakup song.
Is it true MacKenzie and Troy are together? How did you to end up together? Was there a ‘Chat up line’ used?
Mackenzie and I got Married on July 5th of 2014. We’d met at Easy Street Records in Seattle where we both worked. I told her that I wanted to start a guy/girl band like The Vaselines. I showed her some home demos and she totally got it right away.
You opened for legendary band The Vaselines, what was that experience like?
It was amazing. They are the inspiration for this band, so it was a very full-circle moment.
Where did you record your latest EP ‘False Starts’ and what made you choose that studio?
We were fortunate enough to record at the legendary Sound City studios in LA. It’s where Nirvana recorded Nevermind so you can imagine how excited we were. 4 of the songs were recorded there with Producer Kevin Augunas whereas the other 2 songs were recorded at The Kill Room in Seattle.
In your short time as ‘The Young Evils’ you have had exposure to almost signing with big time record labels, this didn’t happen in the end. What advice would you give to young musicians to be aware of, (before signing)?
Have somebody else look at the contract carefully. Luckily we had a Lawyer that helped us make sure everything was fair. But the label shut down only Months later hahaha, so it didn’t totally matter anyway.
Which act made you want to get a band together?
The Vaselines, Blondie, Pat Benatar, Ozzy.
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
“I Know There’s Something Going On” by Frida. It’s not really a “classic” song, but it’s one that inspires me to write a song that good. Frida was in ABBA and this was her solo record Produced by Phil Collins. The production is stellar, the drums are amazing, and she sounds fucking perfect. Not a bad moment in that song.
What Christmas present would you like to receive?
Twin Peaks on BluRay.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Boy that one is tough, lemme think about that………
You recorded songs at the legendary Sound City Studios, what was the process like?
It was pretty amazing. We lived in LA for 3 weeks. We got to work with Kevin Augunas who Produced the first two Cold War Kids records. Cliff, the engineer, recorded records from people like Faith No More to Bruce Springsteen, so we were in good hands.
I recently visited Seattle (first time ever) I sat behind my hero Mike McCready at The Kills gig; I got very nervous and didn’t say a word. Has anything happened to you that made you feel like a teenager again?
Hahaha Mike’s awesome. I was at that same show!!! Fuck we LOVE The Kills. Ummm yeah hanging out with Dave Grohl after a Paul McCartney show. I sat by him at a Hotel bar for 20 minutes. He bought me a shot of expensive Scotch and we talked about us recording at Sound City. Nirvana was like my Beatles so it was like meeting, well, a Beatle. He was super nice and easy going too, which was a bonus.
How does social media help you with spreading your sound?
Just by being able to make our music and videos available for everyone all over the World.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
Our favourite local bands right now are La Luz, Cabana, Tacocat, Tangerine, FF, Crater, Dude York, Posse, Chastity Belt…..
Seattle has been infamous for the sound that was created and the musicians who venture from this place; do you guys feel under pressure to achieve what that genre achieved worldwide?
No we just do what we do and if people enjoy it that’s great, but we feel no pressure to be as popular as any of the bands that have come before us since we’re just doing what we enjoy doing.
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
Nope. People are too curious and nosy. That’s why some chickens carry weapons. And condoms. I’m not sure what that means at all, but it was in my head and I couldn’t let it live there alone anymore.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014 and beginning of 2015?
Touring, and recording. We just recorded 3 new songs with Producer Shane Stoneback. He’s worked with some of our favourite new bands like Sleigh Bells and Cults. He’s a genius. Can’t wait to finish those and get ‘em out there.
The clam chowder was soon guzzled down and we decided to wash it all down with a couple of beers, whilst waiting for them to arrive, we thought it only fair to interrogate them a little further with a few quickfire questions, they braced themselves and we were off.....
Coffee or Tea?
Tea (with whisky)
Coke or Pepsi?
Coke (with whisky)
Singles or Sleepless in Seattle?
Drum machine or the real deal?
Mixture of both
Mac or PC?
Easy Street Records or Zion’s Gate?
Easy Street Records
Taco or Burger?
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)?
OZZY all the way
CD or Vinyl?
Favourite Clam Chowder place?
Car or Motorbike?
Neptune Theatre or Benaroyal?
BOTH amazing. Neptune suits us better.
Acoustic or electric?
Shower or Bath?
Shower, but Mackenzie would say bath.
Tattoos or Piercings?
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?
Damn that’s too tough....
God or Google?
Are they the same thing?
We'd like to thank the band for taking time out to answer our questions and we'd like to wish them all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year and all the best for 2015!
Interview by Mark Wincott