Live Photos ANDREW PARKS
As soothing as the synth lines are at the start of Youth Code’s latest album (Commitment to Complications, available now on Dais Records), something’s not quite right. Clearly. There’s really no other way of explaining how the ambient chords of “(Armed)” crumble under the weight of “Transitions,” a flurry of flame-licked melodies, ravenous rhythms, and boot-stomping breakdowns.
“I think I was getting tired of people saying we sounded like a hardcore band with electronics,” explains programmer/keyboardist Ryan George, “so I just said fuck it and actually wrote a hardcore song.”
“I’d say that this record as a whole is 50-percent being sad about different issues in life,” adds singer/keyboardist Sara Taylor, “and 50-percent conquering and destroying any demon that stands in your way.”
If only things were that simple…
Ryan George: This track started with a little sequence from the Tempest. I started playing some low chords over the top of it and Sara walked in the room and added the high notes. We recorded it live so it was a little looser than if we snapped it in line with the sequencer. Our personal lives were in a bit of turmoil at the time and it felt good to work on something where we played together. It was almost like communicating our feelings without words.
Sara Taylor: It was nice to be able to write music with Ryan since it barely happens.
Ryan: Here’s the thing; I love Ministry when they started doing crossover metal stuff, but I’ve always wondered what they could’ve sounded like if they stayed synth-heavy like they did on Twitch but musically as heavy as The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind is a Terrible Thing To Taste, etc…. Basically, if they never added guitars. I think “Transitions” is a combination of those thoughts. I made the guitar-ish sounds for the riffs using some sine waves and a white noise generator. I was having trouble getting a bass sound that would cut through the wall of noise but when I got my hands on a Monomachine, which has a crazy, sharp and highly editable FM synthesis engine—a godsend if you’ve ever worked with an FM synth before—and it was over. Gluing “(Armed)” into “Transitions” as an intro was the icing on the cake and, quite frankly, the song rips.
Sara: I liked writing for this because it actually felt exciting to be able to create such pushing lyrics for such a pushing song. It’s basically about becoming comfortable with yourself and coming out swinging once you’ve emerged from the transformation you need to go through—whatever it may be. When Ryan brought the song to me, I was excited to be able to have our industrial equivalent of a breakdown and go nuts with it.
“COMMITMENT TO COMPLICATIONS”
Ryan: I think this may have been the last song we wrote for the LP? Basically, Sara wanted another fast song on the record, or an “ass beater” as she would say. I just remember wanting to make the heaviest breakdown ever so I added a bunch of scrap metal hits and chains into the percussion. The demo version had this long sample from a movie but I didn’t feel like dealing with a lawsuit so we ditched it. I used the same patch from “Transitions” for the riffs and we used a JoMoX Sunsyn for the basslines and the chorus. The hi-hat sounds are from this broken air hose we sampled from a gas station in the middle of nowhere America when we were on tour with Skinny Puppy.
Sara: This song was super important for me because I had asked a longtime amazing friend—Ben Falgoust from Goatwhore—if he would be willing to collaborate with me on a song. I’ve been close with Ben since I was probably 19? He has always been an incredible friend, and one of my favorite heavy vocalists to date. Everything he’s ever done has such power and ferocity behind it, that when he agreed I was over the moon. I wrote all the lyrics with the exception of the ending beatdown part, and when Ben came out to LA to track this and showed me what he had written, I knew we were still just as mentally in sync as we had been the day we met. Maybe one day we can tour with either Goatwhore or Soilent Green, and I can just marvel at his power as a frontman every night.
“THE DUST OF FALLEN ROME”
Ryan: This song…. damn. Well, it started with the main sequences that are in the verses; I really wanted to throw them out and start over. Sara talked me into keeping them and trying to work out a chorus. I think that’s when I realized we had a pretty massive song. The chorus started really gnarly sounding—like very heavy and grinding. I started adding strings and arpeggios to it and it became this really beautiful juxtaposition of heavy and pretty. I went back and wrote the intro last and the drum programing made we want to jump out of our apartment window and into oncoming traffic. I still think the turnarounds between the parts could’ve been smoother but I also like how jarring and abrupt they are.
Sara: The basis of this whole record lyrically is about a really, really difficult time in our lives, and just like the title of the song—it felt like I was looking at the crumbles of a powerful empire. I wrote this song in particular as a means of showing the world how frantic I was during this point in our lives, and that I was trying to rebuild/hold onto something so massive that had crumbled. I loved that Rhys brought in these awesome vocoder parts behind my voice because it was something that we had never utilized in our project previously. To me it has the same effect that “Worlock” does—all these painful lyrics that are written directly from the heart with a beautiful melody behind it to push it even further than we’ve gone before.
Ryan: I love this song. It’s a mid-tempo stomper that I didn’t know if we could pull off. The demo had a better intro but I lost it somehow. This song is where I taught myself how to do the sine wave with noise generator trick to make guitar-like sounds. It’s basically frequency modulation but done really crudely. I think it sounds fitting for what we do. It was the first song written for the record and it’s the only track I do vocals on as it marked the beginning of a pretty difficult time for us. I’m not always good with words so I communicated with the songs for the LP. Thankfully, we pulled through the hardships of the time and now, of course, I wish I would’ve done more backup vocals on the record. Oh well; next record I guess.
Sara: When I first heard this song, I was terrified of writing lyrics for it because to me the timing and changes are all nuts on it. I was sitting in the bedroom of our old apartment with headphones on, just trying to wrap my head around what I was going to do with it. The drums reminded me of the Knife, and it was the start of this new album’s material for us, and I was super curious as to how we were gonna sound this time out. Our writing process is very much straight to our involvement in the band—I do all the lyrics, Ryan takes care of all the music. So when I heard this finally put together, it was so different from our norm that I was nervous about how to handle it. It was, as Ryan said, the beginning of a very fucked-up time for our lives, and this was my first attempt at diving into these problematic areas with the cathartic release of lyric writing.
Ryan: The second song we wrote for the record. Has a bit of a nod to Fad Gadget in the beginning. I had a really hard time letting the verse be so bare because I love layering shit. The chorus has a insanely rad patch from the Analog4 which is a preset that I just tweaked a little. I usually don’t fuck with presets but the strings sounded so lush and massive, I couldn’t resist. I tried to make the ending super epic by slowly adding layers every few bars and then just letting the whole thing fall apart. The second verse has some chord stabs from an old Juno because Rhys and I thought it sounded like it could have been an old Caberet Voltaire song already so why not just go the whole way. The little static samples are from a radio we recorded, flipping through stations.
Sara: This song was cool to me because it was a lot different from the rest of the ass-beater stuff we had done for the record. I liked the deviation into maybe more of a standard EBM type vibe. I’ve never necessarily had a good sense of self-esteem, and this song was particularly helpful for me to try to get over these types of issues. It’s interesting how the most ‘dance-y’ track on the record comes with such self-disdain lyrically. But like every other song we’ve written, it’s been helpful for me to convey my inner fears and feelings on top of music, as to better understand myself and how I got to where I am and tackle these issues.
Ryan: This song is just straight-up Ministry worship filtered through someone that understands the flow of hardcore breakdowns. I wrote the whole thing on the Octatrack and a Yamaha Tx7 with a little drone at the beginning from an MS20. The little sample screams are from the Micheal Brown protests. We were on tour passing through Ferguson when everything was going down and the highways were shutdown. Sara wore a homemade “Shot By Cops” shirt every single night of that tour.
Sara: Another example of just trying to write as anthemic of a song as possible about surviving life no matter what gets thrown at you…. I feel like when Ryan showed me this, I was just so tired of moping that I wanted to create a song that helps kick in the teeth of any obstacle.
Ryan: This song started with something Sara wrote when we were on tour—the metallic, rubbery sounding percussion and the drums. I was kind of blown away by how awesome it sounded. I wanted to do some weird low-end stuff in it so I synced my Analog4 and Tempest to her computer and wrote the rest of the song. It’s one of my top songs on the record and the ideas in it are something I’d like to explore further.
Sara: I had brought this weird drum pattern I had written to Ryan, and he and Rhys were both in awe. Probably because I never really try my hand at writing music; I just stick to lyrical content. But they both told me that we had to utilize it within the record. It was also the first track that we did where I’m not 100-percent screaming the entire time, which is completely new to me. I’m not much of a singer (except I can absolutely nail a Michael McDonald impersonation) so I was completely terrified of trying something new. This is definitely not like Sade-style singing or something, but it was refreshing to feel like I had succeeded in breaking out from a normal pattern of abrasiveness.
Ryan: I wrote this song in maybe an hour. It fucking rips.
Sara: I went through some shit with people at home where I was really hurt/betrayed/let down by their behavior. I don’t know how to deal with things in subtle ways, so besides being openly threatening, I wrote a song telling people I would fuck them up if they came near me. I’ve often joked that lyrically, my first drafts of lyrics are like daft, tough, dumb shit, but with this song I feel as though it holds the ferocity of threat, but maybe the campier nature side, like a Guy Fawkes mask.
“SHIFT OF DISMAY”
Ryan: Oh man…. I had my old bandmate (Nails frontman Todd Jones) from the hardcore days play guitar on this song. I’m not sure what the fuck happened, but on the 7″ version, his guitars got lost in the mix. I remember getting a text from him when we were playing Las Vegas and him being super bummed about it. I couldn’t do anything about it because we needed the 7″ to sell on tour since our LP wasn’t done yet. Anyway his guitars are pushed way to the front on the version and I love it. I wanted the end to sound black metal without sounding like black metal. Probably makes no sense but it came out exactly how I wanted it to. The last ten seconds of the song are a tribute to power electronics, which no one has picked up on yet.
Sara: This was the second song we had done for the record, and Ryan brought Todd in, which I thought was so awesome. I 100-percent know we’re not a metal band, but metal and industrial are what I grew up getting into. So for me, we actually had a song with guitars on it which drove us to a harder place than before. I grew up on Ministry, Fear Factory, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails…. shit where there were guitars and these bands weren’t afraid to mix both worlds together. Eventually I think industrial evolved into some weird Pokemon that a lot of people didn’t really fuck with around the mid ’90s, but I like to think that what we’re doing is just as pivotal as what bands were going for back then, with being able to be a band that is synthesizer-based but still able to get the attention of people in love with aggressive guitar-driven music.
“LOST AT SEA”
Ryan: This is the jam. This is where we stepped out of the box the most from our previous work. This made me realize we could do way more than I thought we were capable of. The last chord brings tears to my eyes and drops me to my knees.
Sara: Saddest song I’ve ever written. Glad this time in life has passed us and we’ve moved ahead in the best of directions.