Genre: Alternative/Alt. Rock, pop, rock
Any journey to a heart of darkness requires a sturdy boat, and Youth Group – a band never afraid to circumnavigate the glowering cliffs and rocky shoals of the human heart – needed, to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws, a bigger boat for the bold voyage of their fourth album, The Night Is Ours.
For Youth Group, that boat was the MV Cape Don, a decommissioned ship that from 1963 until the early 1980s supplied lighthouse keepers on the Australian coastline. The band was scouring Sydney and environs for a disused space in a quiet part of town to record in, and was offered the Cape Don and its moorings, which included an old mess hall.
The band turned the mess hall and the boat itself into a recording studio, complete with 24-track tape machine, racks of guitars, basses and a piano. In preparation, in the manner of ancient mariners, the band
tossed away their razors and as their beards lengthened, the album began to take shape. The process was much like the sea voyages of old – one may only progress as far in a single day as Poseidon and the four winds allow.
Little aforethought or pre-production was applied to the songs. They arrived at the studio as bare bones – some words, a guitar line, sometimes Martin singing with just piano accompaniment – with sinew, nerve and flesh added by the band on the day of recording. As the songs progressed, the group's dynamic took new shapes. Danny Allen's drums flutter, rumble and pound like a caged heart; Cameron Emerson-Elliot's
extraordinarily imaginative guitar lines draw out enriching layers of countermelody and atmosphere; bassist Patrick Matthews takes a propulsive and essential lead, driving each song with his melodic, bedrock solid lines. Above all, the voice of Toby Martin, an instrument as romantically fragile as a hummingbird yet as angry as the cruelest sea, guides each song with emotionally charged observational lyrics.
The result: an album of gorgeous, dense songs, brimming with the kind of creativity that comes from having no time or money constraints bearing down and no A&R types loitering in the studio.
The Night Is Ours will come out in the U.S. on April 7, 2009, but Youth Group’s journey began many nautical miles ago in 1997, in the city once known as the furthest destination one could escape to: Sydney, Australia. It was a different line-up then, one that recorded a now rare (in its first edition anyway) debut Urban and Eastern. But it would take a different, pared-back version of the group – with only Martin and Allen still aboard – to record their ‘difficult’ second album, Skeleton Jar. By the time the band had secured a release deal for Skeleton Jar, via prestigious US label Anti/Epitaph, many had begun to take notice. Once Skeleton Jar had ignited in America, the group had secured its current lineup, and tours with indie legends like Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol followed, bringing its lyrical themes flaring to the attention of many new fans.
The band quickly found an audience that responded to its phosphorescent songs coursing with grief, torsion and loss. Casino Twilight Dogs (2006, Epitaph) was awash with anthemic allusion to disaster and beauty, and it bore the scars and drag marks of its Los Angeles birth – the cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” was even used in The O.C. (and later won an ARIA for Breakthrough Artist - Single of 2006). Bona fide stars at home, in YEAR, Youth Group moved to Australian indie Ivy League (The Vines, Josh Pyke). The Night Is Ours – whose song, “What Is A Life” has already been featured in Gossip Girl – is their first release with the label.