So Manchester, UK-native Craig Dyer likes to write poetry. When he was around eighteen or nineteen he wrote a song named Underground Youth, which was also one of his first amateur poems. When somewhere in the middle of it, he heard Bob Dylan for the first time, he soon realized it’s not science fiction to put those poems into songs. A few guitar chords are more than enough. And these poems now have a sound, and his band that makes this magic happen is actually called The Underground Youth. Their sound is a mixture of psychedelic and raw garage noise with some eerie twists coming your way every now and then. What I love the most about this band is that everything is still recorded at home. Maybe that’s why they are so successful at maintaining this old-school raw feel. I love how some songs are super stripped back, some are a bit louder and faster, and some are just hauntingly beautiful. Craig Dyer is the main force behind the band; he still does everything on his own. Man, kudos for that. And as he would have say, “Drink a drink of colour brown, then cast aside that awkward frown, you should kill the mayor then leave the town, then drown that clown in a golden tub, beat the king with an iron club, then blame it on some awkward thug, or blame it on some unsold drug, test the boundaries of society, push the limits of authority, babe I’ll give you security, because I love you.”
So, The Underground Youth, when, who, how … what are the basics?
I started writing and recording back in 2008. They were these raw lo-fi home recordings. I put together a couple of albums worth of material and released them for free online. I named the project The Underground Youth after the title of one of those songs. A small following developed so I continued writing, recording and releasing further albums online. Fuzz Club Records contacted me in late-2011 with the interest of releasing the material on vinyl. The Underground Youth was and remains a solo recording project, but at this point (early-2012) I formed a live band to tour the music. There’ve been changes in the live line up since then but it currently consists of myself on guitar and vocals, my wife Olya on drums, Mark Kendrick on bass and David Mapson on guitar.
The most appealing part about your music to me, is that you sound like an old-school band. Your sound is quite raw, and has this general old feel. What was your first idea on how you wanted to sound, before you even formed a band?
While there were influences on my decision to start making music, I didn’t start with a specific sound in mind. Initially I was using cheap-old equipment at home with no experience of recording music, so I didn’t have much control over how the music sounded. Naturally this gave it the raw sound that I’ve been working with and developing over the years.
So you write all the music and lyrics. What’s your process?
Writing lyrics is a constant process. Whenever I’m inspired, I’ll write and rarely with an idea of a song in mind. The process of creating music comes less naturally, but it’s more enjoyable. Once I have the music and song structure I filter through my writing and put everything together.
“I’ll follow you down, down underground, ’cause I need you. Yeah, I need you. And through this sound, it was you I found. Now I want you and I need you.” Who do you need so badly?
Which lyric are you proudest of writing?
I can feel very self-conscious when looking back at my lyrics, especially those that are so personal. Once a song is written and recorded I tend to distance myself from it. That being the case, I find it hard to discuss them.
Is there any song that goes on your nerves so much, that you came to a point where you don’t even want to sing it?
No, there are obviously songs that are more enjoyable to play than others, but none that I have strong negative feelings towards.
Some of your music I find really, not sensual, but shit, I can’t find the word I need … Well, while I listen to it, I don’t want to be alone, if that makes any sense, haha. What’s the main idea behind your sound? What kind of feeling you want to achieve with people, when they listen to your music?
My intention is to create a cinematic sound, songs that can stir images and emotions in people. Film as an art form is a huge influence on my music; I want the songs to feel like they belong in a soundtrack. Like the feeling you have but can’t explain, I’m happy for listeners to feel like that.
Are the things we hear, things you went through, regarding some particular person, events? Or is this just some general ideas waiting to get out and be heard without much depth?
I’d say half of my songs are based on fictional writing, characters and ideas dreamt up or lifted from film and literature. The other half are personal accounts of people and situations in my own life. Sometimes I’ll blur fiction with my own emotions. I’ll never write a song about nothing. Everything I write means something to me personally, the beauty of a song’s lyrics is that they can be interpreted in different ways by different people.
Can you describe your musical process from start to finish?
I’ll start with a drum track or a bass or guitar part and build up the song structure from there. Once I get an idea for a vocal melody, I’ll add the lyrics. That’s pretty much the process. In the past a song has come together in as little as 20 minutes.
20 minutes, nice. And by now, you have released quite a few albums, can you tell me more about those.
Yeah, as mentioned earlier I started by releasing albums for free online, two in 2009 Morally Barren and Voltage and another two in 2010 Mademoiselle and Sadovaya. I was constantly writing and recording. Once I had a record’s worth of material, I’d put it out. I released Delirium online in 2011 and followed that with an EP titled Low Slow Needle in late-2011. Then I took a break. It was around this time that I was contacted by Fuzz Club Records, a new label that was starting up. We started the physical releases of Delirium in 2012 and I started focusing more on our live sound. I didn’t start recording again until 2013 and the result was The Perfect Enemy For God.
Any new material in works?
I’ve just finished recording a new four-track EP. I’ll be working with Fuzz Club Records to get it released as soon as possible. And then I’ll start work on a new album that will follow on from the EP. The music is moving in a slightly different direction so it’ll be exciting to see how it’s received.
Are there any special techniques you employ while recording?
I’m self-taught when it comes to the recording process, it’s like an experiment that’s different with each song. Over the years I’ve developed a number of techniques but it’s a constant process of learning.
What are some of your main musical inspirations? I’ve read somewhere that bands like The Jesus & Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, The Brian Jonestown Massacre are among them. What’s the thing you love the most when it comes to their sound? And what’s the most inspiring thing for you, when you hear someone else’s music?
I like to hear a raw passion, which I find in all the music I’m inspired by–from the ballads of Bob Dylan to the wall of noise of The Birthday Party. My main influences are visible in my music, neo-psychedelic and shoegaze sounds combined with post-punk.
So, how different is The Underground Youth show now, from a show when you were just starting out?
The live band has changed since we started out, but along with additional musicians we now have the confidence as a band that makes the show a completely different experience.
And the future …
Right now I’m focusing on the new material and thinking about how to incorporate the new sound into our live show. There’re a lot of countries we’d love to play that we haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet. I’m keen to get to as many of those places as possible in the near future.
Okay, what if you could open for any act there is, for who would that be?
Can you name a few bands you are into right now?
What are your favorite lyrics?
“Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine.”
Okay, top-five songs to listen while driving …
I don’t drive. If I did, I’d want something fast-paced and noisey. A Place to Bury Strangers.
Is there any song, that when you listen to it, you wish you’d recorded?
The Chameleons, Second Skin.
How does it feel when you witness how people receive your music at gigs, or when you first show your music to friends?
Receiving criticism is always hard; you just have to try and take something positive from it. Similarly you can’t let praise affect you too much either. Receiving a positive reaction at a show is important. As a band you enjoy playing much more if you have a crowd that shows their appreciation throughout.
What about YouTube comments? Do you ever read them?
No, I wouldn’t put myself through that.
For the end, can you show me your fave music video?
The Black Ryder, Sweet Come Down. Simple and stylish–very cinematic.