Frontman Nick Llobet’s lyrics remind us that we have to weather the rain for a rainbow.
It’s easy to assume that because Youbet’s cover art for their debut album features cartoonish figures in a technicolor wonderland that the music might be similarly bright and starry-eyed. While children singing and parrot sounds are interspersed throughout the shimmering indie rock on Compare & Despair—premiering below—frontman Nick Llobet’s lyrics hint at something deeper.
At the same time as he is invoking nostalgia for simpler times, Llobet is drawing dark clouds across his otherwise sunny soundscape. On Compare & Despair, Llobet pairs lyrics—spanning everything from self-doubt to mental illness—with guitar-driven pop lifted by synths. It’s this juxtaposition that makes the debut shine, with Llobet’s tenor soaring high as he sings “My endless list of things to do just gets longer / I gotta put you down / my friend… my suffering / goodbye to you” on opener “Endless.”
Youbet’s debut manages to capture the complexities of youth across thirteen songs while also arguing that although we all grow up eventually, that doesn’t mean life has to lose its magic. No song is alike, a fact that is reflected in the cover art Lou Elda created for Compare & Despair—each wacky creature represents a different song on the album. With a duck in a dress and a smiling caterpillar among his cartoon cast, Llobet values these eccentricities for what they are:
“The creative process in general is such a flash of divinity and individuality.” Llobet told AdHoc over email. “I look at my songs as my children or pets sometimes. I remember the intimate moments in which I created them and cherish them in that way.”
AdHoc caught up with Llobet ahead of his record release show to talk about how his band met, his song-writing, and his debut album. Stream Compare & Despair early below and catch Youbet at Alphaville on February 8.
Compare & Despair is out January 31 via Ba Da Bing!.
AdHoc: Tell us more about how this group came together. What was the initial collaboration like?
Nick Llobet: I first met Julian in April 2017 when I booked time at Gravesend studios to have him mix an EP I recorded. We struck up a friendship after the session. He offered to play drums with me, and we played a few shows together in the months after meeting. Later that year, Julian invited me to play guitar in his band Coughy. During the first rehearsals I befriended Katie Von Schleicher who was also playing keys in the band. Katie was enthusiastic about some of the songs I had up on Bandcamp and expressed interest in helping me put out a cassette of my bedroom recordings through the label she worked at Ba Da Bing Records.
At Julian’s birthday party in Jan 2018, I pulled both of them aside and nervously asked if they would be interested in helping me make a new record. We picked a date and planned on recording just one of my songs at Katie’s apartment for fun. I brought in the song “Bite” which was just guitar chords and words. Julian engineered the session, played percussion and drums. Katie played keys, lead guitar, and sang backing vocals.
Once we had most of the song recorded, Katie’s roommate Adam Brisbin showed up late after playing a gig and spontaneously laid down the bass track in 2 takes or so. When it was all over we were all listening to the song at 1am like “I can’t believe we made this together.” I was especially over the moon because I admired these people so much in their individual musical endeavors and to have them spilling their magic all over my song was just a thrilling moment.
I went home after that session, and all of my passion was firing off at once in my mind. I could feel we had an uncommon chemistry. I started having all of these intense racing thoughts and premonitions of making an entire record with them. Over the rest of 2018 and early 2019 we booked time at various studios and eventually went to Katie’s childhood home in Maryland to finish the 13 songs. The outcome of our initial collaboration was definitely a type of spiritual proof to me that if I followed the butterfly feelings, greatness of some kind would undoubtedly occur.
What were you inspired by during the songwriting process?
Current events, shows I was going to see in Brooklyn, anger, fear, childhood trauma, adulthood trauma, touring, self hatred, rejection… I also had a revelation:
In November 2018 I was invited to join a song-a-week songwriting club by my friend Nate Mendelsohn. Every week you had to submit a recorded song to this private soundcloud or you were kicked out. It started out with about 50 songwriters and week-by-week it started to dwindle down until eventually no one was left.
This mentality of being disciplined really shaped my work ethic and overall positivity towards creative expression during the time of making this record. The experience really lit a fire under me to push through all of the BS of telling myself something sucked or was un-writable.. Half of the songs on Compare & Despair were from this song-a-week exercise.
How does playing in other bands influence your own project?
I’m lucky to have played with some great bands over the years such as Dig Nitty, Coughy, Katie Von Schleicher, Um Are. As a supporting band member I am able to take a back seat and absorb the nuances of touring and connecting with others. I catch myself citing past experiences to obtain further understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish with my own project.
I also gain insight on how others write songs in ways that are completely not my own. Erin McGrath’s songwriting in Dig Nitty has been a big influence on me. Just getting to work alongside someone who has their own fully formed vision and style can help renew my own.
I also have this blue notebook where I obsessively write down anyone’s artistic recommendations, whether it be films, books, comedians, bands, music gear, etc. Playing in other bands and touring helps me fill up page after page as people often discuss what they dig. They have no clue I’m secretly writing down their influences and studying all of this stuff in private, ha.
“Deb” is an instrumental track on the record. Did you approach that one differently than the songs you found to be more lyrically-driven?
I recorded this track on Halloween 2017 on my Tascam cassette recorder with my roommate Daniel Siles when we first set up our basement studio after moving into a new apartment. This track was an experiment to see what weirdness we could come up with in our new recording space. We weren’t intending to take the recording itself too seriously at first, but I always loved the haunting lofi-ness aspect of it.
Daniel’s drum/percussion contribution is so mesmerizing I felt inclined to throw it in the mix of other lyrically driven songs. This record is so dense with up-for-interpretation words that I felt it would be nice for a creepy repetitive instrumental. It puts the listener in an open space where they don’t have to digest any lyrical meaning. It was Katie’s idea to have this track be the last song of Side A on the record as a little intermission.
Lou Elda is credited for making the Compare & Despair cover art. How did the idea of representing the 13 tracks as cartoon characters come to be?
I am fascinated by how songs take on their own complete unique story, flavor, and personality. The creative process in general is such a flash of divinity and individuality. I look at my songs as my children or pets sometimes. I remember the intimate moments in which I created them and cherish them in that way.
Lou Elda has such a distinct artistic vision, and they often create so many one-off animal-like characters in their own work. I proposed this idea of representing each song as a unique creature with full confidence that Lou’s intricate attention to detail would capture the identity of these songs. Lou has the great ability to capture emotion and expression in these figures, letting the element of human experience intertwine between song and creature.