Interview: Young Galaxy

Young Galaxy - Photo by Joseph Yarmush

Young Galaxy - Photo by Joseph Yarmush

Stephen Ramsay has stumbled across what he considers to be the modern band’s dilemma:

“Can bands exist without using a laptop on stage?”

According to Ramsay, singer of Canadian indie pop band Young Galaxy, the latest trend in music is for it to be produced – in part of in full – by computers.

“Everywhere we go right now, it seems bands are playing at least 50 percent of their music…coming out of a computer,” he said. “I think it’s becoming a more dance-oriented audience in general.”

This isn’t a criticism, so much as it is a relevant topic up for consideration. With this year’s release of Young Galaxy’s third album, “Shapeshifting,” Ramsay and band members Catherine McCandless (who is also his wife) and Stephen Kamp shifted their sound toward music that incorporates more of those programmed types of sounds, putting the band in a unique situation.

“We kind of straddle two worlds,” he said, referencing how the band is considered a hybrid of the indie rock and electronic genres.

Now on the European leg of tour, the band’s first trip to the continent since 2008, Ramsay said the greatest struggle for the group has been trying to find a balance between the live and produced sounds.

“We kind of have a two-tiered approach. We still want to be able to play all of our instruments and deliver a show as a band,” he said, citing the full-band feel as an advantage over the sometimes derivative nature of electronic acts.

On the other hand, however, Ramsay acknowledged that much of the main focus for electronic music is having a more pristine sound in performances, something which Young Galaxy hopes to capture as well.

In an effort to embark upon a more electronic-based sound for the album, the band collaborated with producer Dan Lissvik of the Swedish band Studio.

The partnership was particularly unlikely because – up until playing in Sweden this tour – the band and Lissvik had never met, instead conducting all of their meetings via the Internet.

“For two years, he’s literally been the voice of our computer…he’s been such a disembodied voice for so long to us that seeing him in person will be strange,” Ramsay said, prior to meeting Lissvik. “I keep having this idea that he’ll show up and just be a giant laptop.”

The idea to work together on the new album, and the overall plan to change direction in the sound of the band, is something that Ramsay said came about as a natural instinct.

“It’s always good to leave behind the most obvious thing that you just did… [so] we’re kind of looking always to change our sound from record to record,” he said, speaking not only to the creation of “Shapeshifting,” but also to the approach the band will have for its next album. “Whatever the prevailing atmosphere of the last record was, we kind of know we want to step away from that again. We’ll return to the parts of it we like, but the approach will be very different now.”

Additionally, he also mentioned that not only does the sound vary on an album-by-album basis, but the process of taking recorded songs and putting them in a live format naturally has an effect on their evolution as well.

“To know the nature of these songs, we don’t even know anymore…it’s all part of the process of shape shifting,” Ramsay said, laughing at his pun. “Some of the songs are quite true to the record and some of the songs have been radically reinterpreted for the sake of the live show.”

Ramsay also admitted that because there is not yet an exactness to the songs in the live format, that it keeps things interesting and prevents the members from getting bored of them.

“That’s an inevitable bridge you have to cross as a musician…that at some point your relationship changes with the songs because of the night-in-night out,” he said. “[So] you have to figure out ways of engaging the songs.”

And although the band doesn’t yet have a formulaic approach, the reaction has still been positive – not only from fans, but also from the members themselves.

“In the past I’ve never been particularly happy with our live show and now I am,” Ramsay said. “This lineup we have is amazing. And the music is so much more dynamic to me…we seem to be always refining it.”

Young Galaxy plays tonight at Comet Club in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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