Composed of brothers Elliott, Gabriel and Judah White and longtime friend Will Farner, Knoxville act Yung Life is easily among the city's best live bands. Having performed in this lineup for little more than a year, the group plays with a seamless unity that may only be possible through fraternal bonds.
The White brothers, who range in age from 18 to 22, tell that music was interwoven into their family life from an early age. This is evident in the way Yung Life rotates vocal duties and exchanges instruments throughout its sets with little effect on its continuity of sound.
"It is a family thing," points out Elliott White. "Our dad is a crazy guitar player and played all throughout Chicago growing up. My mom also teaches piano and voice, so we started music lessons when we were in elementary school and always had music in our house when we grew up."
"Everyone's surprised that we can be in a band with our siblings, but we've always been like best friends," Gabriel White adds. "We argue some but not bad. When we write a song, one of us might start something and another sits in and adds to it, and we play around with it. Everyone's open to collaborate; it's not just any one of us writing."
Despite the ages of its members, Yung Life is often noted for having a connection to the '80s. Aside from finding ways to use '80s-style synths more productively than their original era, the band's neon album art and a following that could double as "Miami Vice" extras strongly allude to a decade no one in Yung Life was alive to see. A possible source is the nod to '80s campiness that runs rampant throughout the chillwave scene, but the band insists these ties to decades past are merely coincidence — well, mostly.
"I listen to a lot of '80s music," Elliott White admits, "but we never meant to make something that sounded like that, but I guess we're just going with it now. We never intended to go with any kind of fad or anything like that, and if we were, I guess we're already past it now. ... It's not that we're trying to make songs like that so much as if we make one song that reminds us of that time or style, it motivates us to make more like it."
"I like music that's catchy, and I'm not concerned if it's cool," says Judah White. "It's just what we want to do. Some people say it's '80s but I don't hear it as much, I guess, because I'm used to it. I don't know if that's just our following or if the new thing going around is '80s-chic."
Yung Life released its self-titled full-length album on June 21 and is currently preparing to embark on a July tour of the East Coast and Midwest to promote it, but the group is already planning for its next project. Appropriately enough, the band shows signs of unintentionally evolving by the decade, explaining that work for its next album has so far been inspired by 90's pop sounds. While this move will downplay the synths Yung Life is known for, the band tells they will not abandon them outright in its progression.
"Right now we're working on new stuff that's totally different from this recent one," Elliott White says. "Gabriel and I have been obsessing over top 40 mid-90s music, stuff that was super catchy that we listened to on the radio back then. Some of the ideas that we're working on sound completely different than what we just put out. Some of them don't even have keyboards in them yet. We don't really think about it too much; we just do whatever."
"The primary thing that's changing is that it's not heavy on the electronics," agrees Gabriel White. "It's not as synth-based. There's still synth in it; its just not the '80s synthesizer we've been using live or in the recordings."
Yung Life will play Wednesday, July 11, the day before they go on tour, at Lost and Found Records. Also performing are Persona La Ave and Shy Boy. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and is free, although any donations toward gas money for the tour are appreciated.
Training day: The Well hosts The Hotshot Freight Train and The Mallett Brothers tonight. The show starts at 10 p.m. and costs $5.
Wiz kids: Saturday night wizard rappers Lil Iffy and DJ Tom Ato open for King Super and the Excellents at Preservation Pub. Music is scheduled for 10 p.m. and admission is $5.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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