I’m not going to debate their talent, or bash their fan-base, or repulse you by assessing the ‘authenticity’ of their music. I don’t think they’re sell outs, and I’m not interested in diminishing the merits of their hard-earned success. But I’m convinced the word ‘indie’–contrary to common usage–is no longer an effective term to describe a band or it’s music. Rather, it’s been diluted into an overused marketing buzz word. My criticism isn’t aimed at Young Rising Sons, per say; it’s commentary on a confused record industry in decline, desperately attempting to push units.
The genesis of Young Rising Sons is about as typical as you can get: future band-mates Julian Dimagiba (bass), Steve Patrick (drums), and Dylan Scott (guitar), were childhood friends growing up in Red Bank, New Jersey. The chums were spurred to approach lead singer Andry Tongren about forming a band after attending an acoustic set at a local bar. Their debut single “High” was a breakout internet sensation that was paired with a viral black and white youtube video. This early success allowed the band to secure a record deal with Universal-via-Geffen affiliate Interscope, which incidentally represents a host of other ‘pop’ bands of a similar aesthetic: The 1975, Imagine Dragons, One Republic.
Young Rising Sons’ melancholy and reflective tunes tend to erupt in climactic choruses reminiscent of Disney film ballads with fittingly trite lyrics like “We’ll rule the world forever / together / with hearts of gold / who needs treasure.” Another trope bands tend to exhibit is sonic cohesion–the sound of the creative process coming together. Not here. Young Rising Sons’ individual musical contributions are as distinguishable track to track as the members of Bruno Mars’ studio band. Their overly balanced instrumental blend is clearly arranged to embellish Tongren’s vocal performance, which would be well positioned to tally up votes on an American Idol contest but point out like a sore thumb at a dingy rock club.
To reiterate though- The dilemma isn’t execution. These gents have and are going to continue to churn out superb pop music. This is more like Maroon 5 (also fellow Interscope label-mates) claiming to be an “indie” band. My gripe has to do with the packaging: Young Rising Sons music is processed, radio-friendly filler for minivans packed with kids en route to soccer practice. It’s just not ‘indie.’ But maybe ‘indie’ in itself is nothing more than a catch phrase now. Maybe it’s like calling factory-packed chicken breast “all natural,” or claiming Pabst Blue Ribben is a “premium lager.”
Perhaps it’s the circumstance of a dwindling old guard industry run by mega-corporations trying to cope with a failing music economy and trying to capitalize on the current craze–whatever you can do to make a buck is fine by me. If ‘indie’ is in, dress your bands in Levi skinny-fit jeans, doc martins, and fitted leather jackets and call it whatever you want big man. You’re in charge.
Young Rising Sons do have a full-length in the works, but I wouldn’t expect a heavy departure from previous output. Sometime during their hectic touring schedule, lead guitarist Dylan Scott announced his departure from the band.