Interview: Young Tongue
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for Austin, Texas’ Young Tongue. The psychedelic indie rock group released their debut album Death Rattle last Tuesday and are currently on their first U.S. tour with Cleveland rockers Mr. Gnome. We sat down with guitarist/vocalist Stu Baker before their set at the Hi-Dive Monday and talked about South by Southwest, reading reviews of your own band’s work and mystery playlists.
Give me the timeline of Young Tongue thus far.
We’ve been a band for six or seven years, but we used to be called The Baker Family. We formed Young Tongue at the end of last year, about November.
So it’s all the same members?
Yep! I wanted to start a new band and just wanted all of them to be in the band. The name The Baker Family kind of sounded like the Dave Matthews Band or the Avett Brothers or something to me [laughs]. We used to be a folk-country band and it kind of evolved into more progressive light rock.
And that’s what sparked the name change?
Yeah, for sure. Just not wanting to be ironic or something [laughs].
So this is your first tour as Young Tongue. Did you tour as The Baker Family often?
We did two six-week tours of the Midwest and east coast. But this is our first west coast tour. Colorado’s the furthest west I’ve ever been! I’m really stoked.
Do you get all the way out to California?
Yeah, we’re going to do Portland and Seattle and then down the coast. San Francisco and Los Angeles.
How did you land the spot supporting Mr. Gnome?
Well, we met them about five years ago when we were touring as The Baker Family. We met them in Chicago and they blew our minds. I remember just seeing them play and it reinvigorated my love for music. I felt like I was learning by watching them [laughs].
So they just hit you up and asked you to tour?
Yeah, we’ve kept up with them throughout the years and have played a few shows since. They’ve crashed at our house, we’ve crashed at theirs. We’ve been talking about it for a while, and it just finally all came together. It’s a dream come true, we’ve wanted to tour with them forever.
So how’s tour life been so far? Any standout moments or fun stories?
Yeah, it’s been awesome! It’s only been a week, but the shows have been awesome. As for standout moments, nothing too crazy has happened. We’ve just met some really cool people. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, we met this dude named Michael and he was so cool! He was super sweet and you could just tell he was on the right wavelength and he had us stay the night at his house. It was really cool to connect with him; that’s our favorite part of tours, meeting people we connect with and having it be a new adventure.
You just released your debut album this last week. Is that scary? Exciting? How’s the reception been?
Yeah, it’s weird to have people write reviews about it and then to read those reviews. It’s kind of making me not want to read reviews ever again [laughs]. Because even if it’s saying something good, it feels like it messes with my head or ego or something. It’s easy for me to let other people’s opinions affect me; I’m very sensitive to that. But, that being said, it’s been awesome to finally get press and have people listen to it. It’s scary, but I also just have to stay detached from it and focus on playing the music. Otherwise, I could go down a rabbit hole of worry or something [laughs].
If you could tour with any currently active band, who would that be?
Besides Mr. Gnome? [laughs] I’m sure everyone in the band would have a different answer to that. I’d have to think about the difference between my favorite bands and the ones that would be awesome to tour with. I don’t know, I would want to tour with Liars, just because they’re doing something really new and awesome. It would be inspiring and would show us that path. When you’re around people in other bands, it definitely bleeds into your personality.
What bands have you been jamming to out on tour?
People have been giving us CD’s so we’ve been listening to those! Other than that, we made a 100-song playlist, 20 from each member of the band, and we’ve been guessing who put what on the playlist [laughs]. I picked some funny ones, like Creed and Incubus, just to throw people off. But Radiohead’s a big favorite. Some Eminem, some Janelle Monáe, some Prince.
So you’re from Austin, Texas, home of South by Southwest. Did The Baker Family play that pretty religiously back in the day?
Oh yeah! During SXSW, we would just play as much as possible. 10 shows a week, multiple shows a day. It’s crazy. I think there’s a mythology that it will break your band through and somebody will find you, but I don’t know if that really happens anymore. It’s kind of just a cluster. But we love SXSW. Not everybody loves it, some people leave town for it, but we love the energy and feeding off of it.
Do you think it’s gotten too big in recent years?
I don’t think it’s too big, I don’t think that’s really possible. As a resident of Austin, it can feel like that, but as a musician… it would be nice if it was small enough that the shows you play could feel like they matter, but other than that, the bigger the organism gets, the cooler it is. Everybody coming together and just being part of one breathing event.
So what’s the plan after this tour?
Yeah, we’re going to keep playing shows. We’ve already started writing the new album, so we kind of want to hit the ground running with that. Just focus on spiraling out of Austin and playing the neighboring states and cities. There’s a few bands we’ve been talking about doing that with. We’ve been taking it a lot more seriously, which is really enjoyable. In the past, I feel like I’ve treated it like a party, which is fun and I don’t regret any of that, but I’m at a phase where music is more fun and meaningful to me when taken seriously and thinking of it as what I’m doing with my life.
What do you think you would be doing if not for the musical element of your life?
Umm, I would either be a real estate developer or a drug addict [laughs].
Those are two different paths!
Hey, they’re not mutually exclusive! [laughs] But yeah, I don’t know what I would do without music. That’s kind of a logical fallacy to try to answer [laughs].
Anything else you want to say to the fans?
Yeah, I hope you like the album and you get the chance to listen to it in a dark room with a nice pair of headphones!