May 5, 2015

Going Hard In The Paint: The Young Leaves On Playing The Greatest Show Ever (So Far) And What Comes Next

Christopher From The Young Leaves Tells Us What It Was Like Playing The Greatest Show Ever (So Far)

[PHOTO CREDITS: Joshua Pickering, Legend] Only a week ago the dudes in The Young Leaves woke up and probably wondered if it had all been a dream. The indie punk heroes, the pride of Holliston, Mass., opened the prior night's already legendary, shoe-brand sponsored rock show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass., which -- in case you are just waking up from a coma -- was headlined by The Replacements and also featured Dinosaur Jr. A more fabled night of music we cannot think of, at least not without raising the dead. Calling it a dream bill is a ridiculous understatement, and it is likely no one appreciates that more than The Young Leaves' guitarist and primary songwriter Christopher Chaisson, which may very well be why his trio was tapped to open the night for two-thirteenths of the bands featured in Azzerad's absolutely essential "Our Band Could Be Your Life."

The Young Leaves, of course, bring a lot to the table, and totally earned that opening slot; the band's three full-lengths and various singles bristle with undeniable hooks (Exh. A is this five-star rager) and TYL tours as much as their finances allow. We were painting some shelves this past weekend like a boss and listening through the band's catalog, and got to thinking, well, godddamn, what must it have been like to play that show? So we asked, and you can read the results below. Mr. Chaisson super graciously gave of his time and attention to answer our questions about what playing the show was like, what the status is of The Young Leaves hotly anticipated next LP, and whether the band will tour as extensively as it did last year. We thank Christopher for agreeing to the interview, and invite you to hit play on one of the Bandcamp embeds below and read through our interview.
Clicky Clicky: We saw that Facebook post in early March about getting to open for bands you could only dream of. But, goddamn, last week's show was way beyond what we had envisioned at the time. When you think about the guy you were, in the place you were, just starting out with the band in 2006, we assume this show is way outside the envelop of what your hopes and dreams were at the time. Was it hard to keep the show on the downlow for so long?

Christopher Chaisson: It's really funny because when we were first approached by Converse to play, I almost immediately thought about how I would have reacted when I first started this band. I remember seeing Dinosaur Jr. on their first reunion tour back in 2005. I showed up with a handwritten letter and a demo CD hoping that I could just throw it at J and he'd somehow find my gesture to be adorable and not want to punch me. I don't know if it was naivety or my longstanding self-confidence, but I honestly believed that he would be into it! What's great about starting a band at such a young age (I was 17 when I began this whole thing) is that you have those big dreams and you haven't been shut down and beaten up enough times to realize that most of them aren't going to happen. There's still that sense of hope that can't be replicated after you've experienced defeat or failure on multiple levels. So I think that 17-year old Christopher would have been extremely excited to play the show, but also think somewhat along the lines of, "Yeah, that's what's supposed to happen!"

Keeping the show a secret was insanely difficult because we knew that everyone was going to lose their minds. For me, I knew that all of my close family and friends were going to be freaking out because they are aware of my obsession with Dinosaur Jr. and how important it was to my development, so to them it was like I was playing in the NBA Finals or something. But to the majority of my friends, and the general public in Boston, I knew that the announcement of not only Dinosaur Jr. but also The Replacements was going to cause some serious noise. I mean, Dinosaur is a big enough band as-is to play whatever show they'd like in the city and have no difficultly packing the place on a very regular basis. The Replacements, though? That's an entirely different story! They could announce one show in the middle of nowhere and the entire country would be fighting for tickets. I was so shocked when I first got the offer from Converse that I actually e-mailed them back three times simply to double-check that the show was indeed both Dinosaur Jr. AND The Replacements and that my little band was somehow part of the gig. It was beyond reality to me.

CC: We didn't win tickets and couldn't go, which burns of course, especially as too many of our friends are calling it a quote lifetime highlight show unquote. Twenty years from now, what will you and the other guys remember about that night? Does it feel weird to be back kicking it in Holliston after all that?

Christopher Chaisson: Well, we all had different reasons for being excited for the show in the first place. Matt is a humongous Replacements fan and it was basically his dream come true to not only play with them, but to see them at such an intimate venue. He had seen them earlier in the year and told me it was the greatest performance he'd seen next to Bruce Springsteen (which, to be fair, he is obsessed with to the point that nothing could compare anyway.) Rico had never seen Dinosaur before and he also knows how important their influence has been to our band, so I think most of his excitement was geared toward seeing them live for the first time. And I was really more focused on the entire concept. To think that I grew up listening to these two bands in a way that was so instrumental in my growth as a person and songwriter, it was a trip for me to share a stage with them. In 20 years from now though, I'm hoping that our band has more moments like this so that I can recall this show as being something great in it's own right, but not career-defining or the peak of my life as a songwriter.

CC: Did you have any funny interactions with the Mats guys or Dinosaur guys? I'm guessing you guys hadn't ever met any of The Replacements before, but what about J, Lou and Murph?

Christopher Chaisson: None of us had ever met anybody from either band before, so being backstage with them was a totally new experience for us. I actually had this one teacher in high school who had been roommates with either J or Lou back in their college days, and he used to tell me stories about how they would show up at parties and sit against the wall and not saying anything for hours at a time. So I went into the situation without much expectation regarding becoming buddies with anybody or anything like that. We were supposed to do a meet-and-greet with both bands but The Replacements didn't seem to want to participate and their manager came out to talk to us like it was our idea or something. Dinosaur was down to do it I guess, but it was just a one-minute photo-shoot where we literally stood behind them, they took one picture of us, and sent us on our way.

I think the interactions we had with both bands were kind of inherently funny. My band is very energetic; we love talking and, although we know we're going nowhere, we still have that youthful sort-of-hopeful attitude about music and life. And then there are these two other bands who had been in our shoes at one point in time, but then took off and had all sorts of success and experiences that we could only dream of having. In a way, we couldn't really relate to either band on any level, other than the fact that we have some sonic similarities in our work. That's where the 17-year-old me would have been crushed; I wouldn't have understood how to react to my "idols" not sharing anything in common with me. But the 27-year old me totally got it. Just because we all play basketball at the YMCA every Thursday night doesn't mean we hang out off the court.

CC: Your remark on stage about ripping off Dinosaur and The Replacements was reported in a bunch of the initial coverage of the night. I've always considered The Young Leaves more on Team Husker Du than Team Mats. Still, as a songwriter, it's pretty hard not to be influenced by Westerberg, right? (Or, at least as a GOOD songwriter, LOL)

Christopher Chaisson: Yeah, that comment got a pretty positive reaction! Almost every article I've read that forced the writer to talk about us briefly used that as a reference. I've never been ashamed of my influences or my decision to wear them on my sleeve. In my opinion, it's part of being a great songwriter. Would Dinosaur get away with those long guitar solos and whiny vocals without citing Neil Young on their references page? Or how about The Replacements literally having their most commercially successful song titled, "Alex Chilton"? All of my favorite bands have a little bit of that in them to a certain extent: the ability to blatantly share their inspiration and then simultaneously make it their own.

As far as The Replacements vs. Husker Du, I'm definitely more of Husker Du fan and that's something that, I think you're right, comes across in my own songwriting. The Replacements really spoke to me as a kid because of the all-inclusive nature of Westerberg's lyrics. His songs were anthemic and the lyrics were usually written in the context of "we." I have always interpreted The Replacements as a band that spoke to people to try and initiate a conversation, which is most likely why so many individuals have such a strong personal connection with their material. As I grew older though, I started realizing that I wasn't part of the "we" demographic. My band wasn't going to make it, I was bound to work a regular job, and my dreams weren't going to come true (to that extent), and that's where Bob Mould comes in. Mould has always put his heart out there as his own. Every word he's ever written has been from his perspective and based on his experience. And for one reason or another, I guess I can relate to that more at this stage in my life. Also, Bob Mould is one amazing guitar player and people sometimes forget that.

CC: Your last full length came out in late 2013 and, at least according to Bandcamp, is completely sold out in its various physical formats. And we think you guys have been writing for a new full-length, but all we know is that "Whatever U" might be on it. What else can you tell us about it? Do you think there will be new music for fans to hear and/or buy this year?

Christopher Chaisson: Since late 2013, I've written about 22 to 27 songs that I have intended to use for a full-length, but we simply haven't had the time to commit to getting that done. I'm a full-time graduate student and both Matt and Rico have jobs, so this [band] unfortunately acts as a secondary part of our lives. With that said, we have a 7" single coming out at some point later this year on Jump Start Records. It features the session that we did at Q Division courtesy of Converse. The A-side is a song called "Unreal" that I wrote a couple years ago and the B-side is a re-recording of a song off our first full-length from 2007. As far as a full-length, all I can say is that it's written, the song you mentioned "Whatever U" is absolutely a part of it, but its release and recording are all up in the air. We try to do the best we can with the limited time and resources we have. Hopefully we can get that done sooner rather than later because having these songs live in my head for so long drives me crazy!

CC: You went out on a month-long tour last year. Are you planning a similarly ambitious jaunt this year, or will you be waiting to have a new release out there? Do you feel like the Rubber Tracks show will open some more doors for you from a touring standpoint?

Christopher Chaisson: 2014 was a busy year for us and although we had a terrific experience touring for so long, playing new places, and meeting all sorts of people, it was truly a once in a lifetime situation. Music can't sustain itself and bands can't succeed in this industry. It's impossible to get to a level in which you're touring the country and not accruing life-ruining debt and eating one meal a day. I think one of the things that I learned from playing a show of this caliber is how different our lives are from musicians who've "made it" to some degree. We have never been afforded any of the luxuries that came with playing that show and it was such an eye-opener and amazing feeling to be able to get a taste of that for once. To see a crew of people come to our broken down minivan and move our gear for us was mind-blowing! It was an event that I'll certainly remember forever, but it's not indicative of any expectations that anyone should have about playing in a band in 2015.

Our current touring situation is contingent on whether or not we can leave behind our lives and, essentially, not die in one way or another. If someone believes in us and comes up with a gameplan for us to tour, put out records, and not live in a sewer in our downtime from playing out, I'd be all for it and I'm sure that Matt and Rico would be too. But at this stage in our lives, we're operating conservatively to ensure that we're all living happy normal lives while maintaining some of that love and passion we have for going hard in the paint (aka, playing music.) I have no idea if the Rubber Tracks show or the session they provided us with will lead to anything, but I do know that I am forever appreciative for all that it has already done for us. It's been a great thing and I couldn't be more thankful.

Either way, I'm going to continue writing great songs whether or not anybody hears them.

CC: Well, we're super stoked ​The Young Leaves were able to play the Rubber Tracks show. One thing that strikes us about what we've talked about is ​that you sound like a​n ​upbeat, optimistic dude making art in a field​,​ so-to-speak​,​ about which ​there's a lot of ​reason for ​pessimism​,​​ from a "making a living" standpoint​. We want to end on a positive note, so, tell us, what is it about music that drives you, and what is the best thing about being in The Young Leaves?

Christopher Chaisson: I started this band with the hopes of taking the songs from my head and getting them out into the world. It didn't matter how many people listened, and it certainly didn't matter if I were generating any money at the time either.

That being said, even though my situation has changed and I have different priorities, my perspective on why I play in this band has remained the same. I just want to write music and put out records. The best part about being in this band is that I can do whatever I want with it. In the past that's meant kicking out members, taking the occasional temporary hiatus, or recording in my parents' basement with two microphones, but now that means doing things at my own pace and having as much fun as possible. I love Rico and Matt and we have the best time playing together. That's positive, right?

CC: Absolutely. Thanks for the chat, Christopher. Keep up the rock.

Christopher Chaisson: Thank YOU!
The Young Leaves' next area show is at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City at the end of the month, and, luckily for you, you don't need to win a ticket to get in. The night includes sets from Born Without Bones, Sundials and Notches, and you can grab tickets right here. Hit the embeds below to hear the last two TYL long-players.

The Young Leaves: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

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