Before Outside Lands: Youth Lagoon on Art Garfunkel, the spiritual significance of pelicans

Pub date June 28, 2013

Youth Lagoon, the aloof youth that is Trevor Powers, has explored new land in latest album Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum). Revealing, yet withholding, the album proved his ability to not just create cosmic bliss, but deliver a few deep messages while doing it.

With the album, the 24-year-old Idaho native takes us through the fires of temptation in song “Mute,” dances with death on “Raspberry Cane” and paints an immensely disturbing and bloody image of love and sacrifice in “Pelican Man.”

Currently on tour in Europe, Powers will be here in SF to perform at Outside Lands this Aug. 9-11 (he plays Saturday, Aug. 10).The professional effects tinkerer and melody craftsman talked with me about his afro days, his penchant for destroy-and-create-again style of making music, and how bloody violence can really be sweet: 

San Francisco Bay Guardian Most of the songs on Wondrous Bughouse sound melancholic, pensive, or a bit glum. Would you say this was a reflection of where your mind was at when recording this album or have you simply felt more compelled to write songs of this nature?

Trevor Powers I always feel pulled different ways at different times, so what I write is always a reflection of where I am at the moment. I stay in certain obsessions for long periods of time so when I write for months at a time, usually those blocks of time show a type of consistency with whatever I’m working on.

I’ll have periods where I hate melody or how it’s portrayed, and other times where I go back to it and take the music and rip it into pieces mentally to see how I can put it back together. With this record, I wanted to go a deeper with the melancholy.

SFBG You have said before that you’re getting more into heavy expressive sounds lately and in Wondrous Bughouse,’is there something this specific style of music does for you that maybe straight rock or grunge doesn’t?

TP I guess I don’t usually think of music in styles like a lot of people. I just hear sounds being used in altered ways. Maybe I’m just desensitized to it all by now. Everybody hears sounds differently. Something I find relatable or exciting that I show to someone else could make the other person cringe, and vice versa. So it really has nothing to do with musical styles, but with speaking through sounds and noise, and that never looks the same.

SFBG What’s the best concert you have ever been to and why?

TP Art Garfunkel — it was my first concert and I was a little boy with an afro.

SFBG  Could you talk a little bit about the meaning of song “Pelican Man”?

TP Pelicans have a lot of history for spiritual significance. There are legends that say when a pelican’s babies are starving, the mother will stab her own breast with her beak to draw blood that her children can then drink. She’ll bleed out so her babies can drink her up, giving her life for theirs. A sacrifice similar to that of Jesus. Lyrically, that idea is contrasted with one of murder and serial killing. Violence out of ultimate love juxtaposed with violence out of complete hate.

SFBG Are there any artists at Outside Lands you’re looking forward to seeing?

TP I’m actually not sure who is playing so I’ll have to look up the schedule tonight and start getting my planning on. I will wear my new camouflage jumpsuit.