Few things bode better for a band than early success, and the Wilmington-based post-rock trio, Youth League, has managed to achieve just that in less than a year’s time. Snagging their hook deep into the jaw of independent record labels and fans alike, Youth League means business, and they are set to hit the stage at Reggie’s this Friday, April 24.
Formed in the summer of 2014, the band consists of brothers Zach (drums) and Mike (guitar) Large (formerly of Virgin Lung) and Jaffar Obi Castillon-Martinez (bass), a member of Coup de Grace (although, they have been on hiatus since 2013).
“We’d all played shows together and were friends before this project started,” Mike says. “Since none of us were playing with anyone else it seemed natural to join forces.”
Youth League could be considered the aftermath of two highly talented rock groups or simply the consequence of idle hands given the opportunity to play more music. Either way, it seems the musical endeavors of Youth League’s past taught them how to effectively progress as a new band.
“Me and Jaffar have been playing in bands for the better part of a decade, while Zach’s first serious project was Virgin Lung,” Mike details.
The Large brothers also had a strong musical upbringing, always an important factor in the equation. Their mother strummed the guitar and sang from time to time, and their father was a stand-up bass player in a bluegrass band. Like most creative individuals, Mike claims the artistic bent always has been a driving force in their lives.
“We are all drawn to the arts in general, whether its film, visual arts or music,” he says. “I think we all are moved by anything creative that evokes emotion. It just happens that we are probably better at music than any other medium.”
It’s no wonder that when Youth League started, the members already had a clear vision of what they wanted to do. In the wake of Virgin Lung, Mike and Zachhoped to refine their sound by taming the rough edges of their former band. This time they focused more on sonic accessibility and song structure. In essence, they matured as songwriters. After they confirmed Martinez on bass, their progression accelerated.
“We played our first run of shows in November before taking a break to record our EP (‘First EP’),” Mike continues. “In the beginning we all agreed it was important for us to play out of town, to get exposure, as much as possible.”
Their efforts were not in vain. In late March 2014, Youth League signed to Cardigan Records based out of Durham, NC. The company reached out to the band to play alongside some of their signed acts. Eventually, this gave way to a recording deal of their own.
“After a while they just asked if we were interested in having Cardigan release our EP,” Mike details. “We talked about it and it seemed like a good fit. They have a great roster, and it’s a good feeling to be on board with such talent.”
“First EP” will be available April 21 via Cardigan Records and can be pre-ordered from the band’s Bandcamp page (www.youthleagueband.bandcamp.com). Recorded with close friend Aslan Freeman in Freeman Productions Studio in Chapel Hill, the EP captures the raw passion expected of a band named Youth League. The songs are energetic bursts of infectious energy, surging through upbeat tempos and syncopated high-hat action, mingled with busy bass lines and layered guitar work. It sounds like a fuller, bigger ensemble, not a three-member rock triangle on bass, drums, guitar and vocals.
The track “Young/Old,” which is available to stream online via New Noise Magazine (www.newnoisemagazine.com), is a sonic journey that whets the listener’s appetite. Mike’s guitar work, which lays out a refraining melodic theme, serves as the tonal floor for his vocals. The two act as counterpart melodies, while the bass and drums carry the song through to its end.
“For John,” the last song on the EP, proves a fitting endcap. Packed with complex, interweaving guitar work, and an intense drum and bass section toward the end, the nearly three-minute long instrumental unleashes a storm of emotions. More so, it demonstrates that a well-written piece of music can, in fact, say more than words ever could. The end leaves the listener breathless in its sudden halt.
“First EP” serves its purpose well: a quick snapshot of what Youth League is all about. The band’s scheduled to play a spurt of shows in NC and VA from April 22 to 27 with Isabella (from the same label), a little something Cardigan organized to showcase their investments.
Youth League has been recording a music video to, “For John,” which will be released on April 27. As far as future plans, the band is aiming to release another EP sometime around summer or fall 2015.
“Regardless of how lucky we’ve been to find a home with Cardigan, anyone who plays music honestly does it for love not success,” Mike concludes. “We just want to play more, record more, stay the course, and keep working.”
Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern
1415 S. 42nd St.
Friday, April 24, 7 p.m.