Seattle Powerpop faves Young Sportsmen are having their CD release party this Saturday (August 18) at the Sunset Tavern. I sat down with them late last week to talk to Ryan and Wesley about the formation of the band, their thoughts on local success, and a song-by-song rundown of the new record.
We talked for about an hour and a half at a table in front on Starbucks on 45th and Wallingford, resulting in a pretty lengthy interview. It was all pretty darn interesting. So, rather than edit for length, I'll be taking the straight transcript and splitting it into (probably) a three part series to make it a bit more digestible.
The first section below focuses on describing the band, exploring how they came into being and some of their influences. The second section will focus on how they write songs and what they think about making waves in the local scene (to be posted on Wednesday). The third section (to be posted on Thursday) is a song-by-song breakdown of their new record, titled Death to Palaces.
Young Sportsmen interview, part 1
SPB: Okay guys. Give me three words that describe a Young Sportsmen performance.
Ryan: Loud is definitely one of them
Wesley: That’s probably the first and best word. Spirited.
Ryan: Is that three?
Wesley: Regardless of the quality of the show, and we’ve run the gamut over the past couple of years, we’re always as straight forward and as honest as I’d like to see a band.
SPB: For Wesley, give me three words that describes Ryan.
Wesley: Uncompromising; I would say, gifted; Stubborn
SPB: And three for Wesley?
Ryan: Funniest guy I know; I’ll say gifted right back; (long pause) Jesus…
SPB: Jesus? Funny, gifted and Jesus?
Ryan: I think open-minded. That word by itself doesn’t describe what I mean by that. But, he’s got broader tastes and exposes me to stuff that’s fantastic
SPB: By committee, what are the three for the other two guys. First for Jeff
Ryan: True professional.
Wesley: probably the kindest person I know and have ever had the chance to play music with,
Wesley: heavy hitter
Ryan: A great mixture of technical proficiency and emotion
SPB: And for Richard?
Ryan: Princely. (laughter) He’s goofy, but in a really awesome way. He’s immensely talented.
Wesley: An amazing player
Ryan: Also very professional. He and Jeff temper Wesley and I.
Wesley: I think “practical” is a great word for him, in the best sense. He deals with things in a head-on way.
Ryan: he brings his laptop to band meetings.
Wesley: He’s the Sharon Osbourne of the band.
Ryan: Except that Sharon Osbourne is a twat.
SPB: How did you connect with those two?
Wesley: We got lucky with Jeff. Ryan and Burke (Thomas) and I did a little West Coast thing three or four years ago, and Burke had to take off with Vendetta Red. Jeff was going to sit in with us for a show that was being broadcast live on local tv. We had never played with him before, and he played just perfectly.
Ryan: We were writing the set and asked which ones do you know, and he was like “all of them.”
Wesley: There were only one or two more shows left.
Ryan: There was a Portland show and an Oakland show. We showed up at the Portland show, and they ended up cancelling the show. But, Jeff like flew to Oakland to do these two shows.
Wesley: Jeff is totally committed. We got really, really fortunate in that sense. We knew that Burke had a lot of other engagements and we just committed to playing with Jeff after that.
Ryan: With Richard, Heather from the Riffbrokers, we were over at their house and she was like “did you hear the Radio Nationals broke up?” I was like oh that’s so sad… what’s Richard doing? He was great in that band and in Dear John Letters, so I sent him an email and said I hope this isn’t too soon, but I’m doing it anyway. You should come play with us. We met and he was totally fucking awesome.
Wesley: It was a natural fit. He’s immensely skilled on his instrument. He’s got a broad scope of influences. So, if we say this song is like x,y,z style or player, he’s able to get it.
SPB: So, what are those normal x,y,z styles? When you’re writing songs, who is in your head?
Wesley: I have a lot of love of the Who. You know I’m a moderately skilled guitar player. But, I’m comfortable with my limitations. I always fancied those guitar players who keep it simple. Not that Pete Townsend is really simple. But, he’s concise and didn’t waste anything. That’s something I could really catch onto, because more than four chords, and I’m like “you guys lost me.”
I love the Kinks. Guided By Voices is a real soft spot for me. Bob Pollard has that… just something intangible about that guy. He’s so prolific and has the ability to turn a phrase. He never ceases to amaze me. Really honest, straight-forward rock with all of the lovely things about pop over the top of it.
Ryan: I’ll steal anything I can get my hands on. But, I’ve got a huge thing for the Who. But, there’s obviously the Beatles and all the great bands of the 1960s and 70s. But, there’s newer stuff like Arctic Monkeys, Futureheads and Maximum Park that I like and try to, not directly rip off, but see what I can do by putting my brain in that place. I try to imagine what it would be like to be that songwriter. (pause) Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.
Wesley: New Pornographers