When Young Rising Sons launched “High” in 2013, they were predicted to be one of the torch bearers for the alternative genre for the next decade. They’d take their place alongside Imagine Dragons, GROUPLOVE, X Ambassadors, and a few other high-profile newer acts at the time. We were among those who thought the band’s mainstream success was a sure thing. It wasn’t. Five years from the single’s launch, the band has their core group of fans and a steady following, but they’re not as well known as they should be. Recently, they released a double single with “SAD (Clap Your Hands)” and “Scatterbrain” and Alternative Addiction talked with Young Rising Sons vocalist and frontman Andy Tongren about the state of the band and their new music.
"That's been a brainchild of mine for years,” said Tongren when asked about SAD. “In high school, my yearbook quote was ‘if you're emo and you know it, clap your hands.' [laughs] I was kind of making a mockery of it because I thought it was dumb. I had the haircut, but that’s neither here nor there [laughs]. So, a week or two before we got into the studio and started writing it, I texted the guys and I said, ‘this concept is so dumb that it actually might work and be kind of brilliant – if you’re sad and you know it clap your hands.’ It morphed into something special. It works with the social climate and it works for us. Everybody is a little sad. We wanted to make a song that was real and something that connected. We’re not trying to make light of anything. We wanted to make a song that came from a real place. “
If you look at Young Rising Sons’ releases over their tenure as a band, there’s no LP yet. There are a couple of EPs sprinkled in with a lot of singles. So far in 2018, the band has released four singles, they haven’t released a bigger piece of music. Tongren talked about releasing their singles and how and why they’re doing that in the interview.
“I feel like the music industry ties your hands in terms of creating an album and letting a body of work speak for itself. We grew up in the age of albums and there’s an element of romance to that and we all really like that. But just to stay relevant now where everything is so disposable, you have to release singles. People will hear a song on a playlist one week and then the next week they're already onto the next thing. In order to stay relevant and to remind people you're still there, you have to consistently put out music. It can accumulate into a body of work or a record, but it's important for a band like us to be consistently releasing music."
Seeing the band’s point of view, they’re in a weird spot. Going back to their start, “High” was a hit and was on the cusp of going full mainstream. They’ve had a bunch of other songs get some high-profile attention too; everything from “Red & Gold” to “Undefeatable” were big points on a lot of different people’s radar over the years. That said, the attention they got didn't keep the band from getting dropped by their label, and as much attention as they've gotten, they still haven't gotten the attention they deserve.
“It’s frustrating. That’s something that I’ve been sitting with for the past year and really thinking about,” said Andy when asked about the specific spot the band is in. “In the last couple of months, it's really come to a head. We were signed with Interscope and everything was great, but that changed obviously. When you're signed with any label, when things are good, they're great. When things aren't good, you get stuck in a cog and things get stagnant. We got stuck in the cog and we've been trying to get our footing ever since. It's been tough. We deal with the stigma of getting dropped by a major. It gets frustrating. It's impossible to absolve your name from all the baggage and history, not that we want to do that because it's part of who we are. It's definitely frustrating, but we're still able to go and play shows and go and see the people that still connect with our music and that's all that really matters to us."
Still, there’s one element of Young Rising Sons’ story that an outsider can look and guess that at that point things started to unravel for YRS. If things went different at that juncture, then things would be different. It was a major turning point for the band. That’s when “High” was at radio and doing well and then suddenly, the song just dropped off the face of the earth. We asked Andy about what happened with “High” and why it didn’t do as well as a lot of people expected, and he had some interesting speculation to throw out there.
"We were in the middle of a radio tour and the song was still climbing. I think it was in the top 20 at alternative radio. It looked good and it felt good and we had a tour coming up. Then, we got a call from the label saying they were pulling it from radio. We never really got a reason why they were doing it. That's the upside and the downside of a major label. When they're ready to push an artist, they will give you a major push. But the downside is when they need to make room for a major artist at radio, they will pull you in seconds. Things work both ways, I don't know who they were opening the slot for or their exact reasoning behind anything, but it's something I'll think about from time to time."
This article is turning into a ‘what could have been’ piece, and it’s not necessarily meant to be that. There are thousands of stories exactly like that. That said, things with Young Rising Sons have been down, now they’re not. They’re not on an upswing right now, but they’re not that far away from one. They’re a big tour, a sync license, or most likely a creative spark from turning things around and expanding the plot into a success story. Right now, the biggest thing that Young Rising Sons has going for them is a musical and lyrical identity that they’re looking to build on.
“Just working with ourselves, we’ve been able to conceptualize things a little bit. That's helped us in terms of writing. We want to create a world with ins and outs where we know what's going to happen. I think our music and lyrics have their own personality. Writing that way has helped us create new ideas. That's helped us write music and create new ideas. Usually, our songs start from that world, stuff will come from there. Then a musical idea or a melody will come in and things will go from there.”
We’re confident that something big is coming for Young Risings Sons soon. Tongren and his group are too talented for there not to be something big on the horizon. The last year and a half have been a challenge for Young Rising Sons, but things are starting to get better. With the band's last run, Tongren was reminded why he makes music in the first place and why they decide to carry on.
“It’s pretty f___in’ hard. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t think about quitting at least once a day. But the thing that keeps us going is our fans, the people who connect with our music. We didn’t tour while the legal split with the label was going on. We couldn’t tour or put out any music while that was going on. We kind of had our hands tied. In this last year, we tried to get as many places as we could and see people who we hadn't seen in a while. On this last run, I made it a point to try and talk to as many people as I could to hear the stories of people whose lives were changed by the music we created. That's a humbling thing. That's where our drive to make music comes from. When you're at home, you don't hear that, so you can forget that. It's nice to get reminded of that.” -aa