Photo by Chris Schoonover
A glitch is not always a fault. Sometimes, that chink in the machine can render new possibilities: a sound, a melody birthed of dysfunction. And with the right manipulation, that melody can sound gorgeous.
On his latest album, Mulberry Violence, Trevor Powers, formerly known as Youth Lagoon, has crafted an electric world that reprograms its defects into strengths: discordant arrangements breed balance, lyrics of loss and abuse emerge within crystalline harmonies. On album opener “XTQ Idol” robotic screams quiver and break; piano keys singe underway like overcharged currents; programmed beats ring out in metal clangs.
But Powers’ voice, layered and filtered like gauze, somehow bridges the cacophony. In an email interview with AdHoc, which you can read in full below, the Boise, Idaho-based instrumentalist, producer, and composer describes the album to AdHoc as a “tug of war” between “harmony and discord.” The result is a brooding, compelling embrace of our worldly condition.
Mulberry Violence is officially out today via Powers’ own Baby Halo label.
Trevor Powers plays National Sawdust on Wednesday, October 17.
AdHoc: In a note accompanying your recent single, “Playwright” you wrote that you ended Youth Lagoon because it “became a mental dungeon.” What gave you the impetus to break free, and what was the largest obstacle you had to face on your way out?
Trevor Powers: It was never meant to be something that continued. It was a muted, detached world I wanted to spend a bit of time in to examine memories. But I wasn’t about to set up camp there forever; I would’ve torn my face off. I said what I wanted to say in that setting, then burned it to the ground. I didn’t want to turn it into a disgusting money grab just because the name could sell a few tickets. It became its own organism, and I was luckily in tune with it enough to kill it when it told me it wanted to die.
My only concern in art is following the visions. Those rapturous flashes of imagination direct every stride. If I’m following those, I know I’m going the right way. Often the flashes only last for a second or two, so it’s critical for me to always be paying attention. Ideas truly are phantoms, and life is far less grand and appealing if those phantoms aren’t chased.
In many scenarios, I’ve found the most colossal of obstructions come from my own fear—and there’s no way around those obstacles except to decimate them completely. The war on fear is a strange one, because it can be just as inspiring as it is devastating. Usually my best work comes from the same thoughts that are trying to destroy me.