- 14 Nov 23
Ahead of his much anticipated Button Factory gig this Thursday, Idaho native Youth Lagoon speaks to Hot Press about the experience of a chronic illness, brotherly love and answers the eternal question, can music save our souls?
Youth Lagoon is amidst a striking renaissance. Trevor Power- the talent behind the musical project, has undergone ‘an earth shattering experience’ as a result of an over the counter medication which turned his body into “a volcano” and left Powers unable to speak.
This life altering experience occurred in the midst of his creating Youth Lagoon’s first album in 8 years, ‘Heaven Is a Junkyard’.
Interestingly, Heaven Is a Junkyard, did not have a specific meaning when it first came to Powers as a potential album title. ”It was just something that came to me and I wrote it down”’.
“Some people are quick to assume that Heaven Is a Junkyard was written about this experience”. Powers explains, "That's not true at all. About 80% of the album was written before I started going through this”.
The “This” in question was a severe and traumatic experience: “This drug reaction I had in 2021 turned my digestive system upside down and created a bit of a domino effect in my body because everything is connected to the digestive system.
"It turned my body into a volcano. Everything was coming up rather than going down. My larynx and pharynx got so bad that I lost my voice for months”. Losing the ability to speak for a vocalist is surely a particular type of suffering.
Powers continues, “It was such an earth shattering experience that it made everything a little more alive in my life. Once I started the mend, there was this unbounded appreciation for life itself; for other people around me. It caused this ability to connect. To understand when other people suffer and how to process suffering”.
Trevor Powers, who grew up in a religious household in Idaho and was homeschooled until he went to high school is once said ‘I used to think God watched people suffer, now I think God suffers with you”.
Indeed, after enduring a gruelling experience and as Powers began to mend, he found if anything, a greater spirituality in his music. “Music has been such a saving grace for me” so much so that “now on tour there’s been such a reverence for the music itself, for the shows themselves, for the people that go to the shows”.
However, in spite of this total collapse of his life, Powers kept going on making the same album in his weakened state, an album dedicated to brotherly love. “Heaven Is a Junkyard is this concept of brotherly violence. Not in an abusive way- in a wrestling way. We would push each other off the bed and then we would be hugging and laughing”.
“There was so much raw emotion and respect for each other. Just brother’s being brother’s”.
Rather than this critical illness pushing the musician to change what themes to deal with in Heaven Is a Junkyard, it affirmed his existing theme choice: “I had to have this collapse of life how I knew it in order to recognise the beauty in everything that is right here and right now”.
The story of Heaven Is a Junkyard is dependent on things developing meaning. “When I had written it down it was one of those statements that felt true but I wasn’t sure why. And everyday I reread it; it felt true in a different way”.
“That’s what guides a lot of my lyrical process too. Sometimes there’s this bubbling up from the subconscious, I’m writing down a line or I am doing something on impulse.
It either feels true or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t I try to abandon it really quickly and if it does I wrestle with it to the point of sometimes sleepless nights”.
The notion of perpetually evolving truth, it seems to be a mainstay for Powers: “When things are true but the truth is always changing, that’s how I feel about my pursuit of God”.
“I believe music can save our souls” Powers muses. He quotes filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and says “‘Mankind has hurried to protect the body and has given no thought to protecting the soul’ - that really resonates with me. I wish I had said that”.
The creative process seems to be something shrouded in mystery and reverence for Powers, who doesn’t align himself with any organised religion but he does have what he described as a “sense of rogue spirituality”.
However with Powers, there is an appreciation of combining the sacred and the profane, a practice that can be seen in his work as Youth Lagoon.
“I’m always combining things. What is very much of this world- what’s terrestrial, what’s based on pain. Human condition shit and combining it with things that are ultra-surreal. That’s what I find most interesting in anything in art”.
For Dublin Youth Lagoon fans who want to hear some old fashioned “human condition shit”, Youth Lagoon will be performing in the Button Factory on Thursday the 16th of November. Tickets are €27 and are available here.