Every so often, a release comes around that completely changes the way you experience music–a release that becomes the center of your musical universe. Oswego’s Yüth Forever have released just that album. Their debut full-length release, Freudian Slip is just as emotional as it is eviscerating–which is saying something, considering how relentlessly heavy and anxiously violent these gentleman are capable of being. On their recent tour supporting Monuments and Polyphia, I had the chance to sit down with Devin MacGillivray, the band’s vocalist and chief songwriter, in order to discuss the album and provide context for the review to follow.
Read on to enter the mind of one of heavy music’s most intriguing men.
(Photos by Bryan Browns)
Connor: First things first—thanks for meeting up with me and agreeing to answer some questions about Freudian Slip and Yüth Forever. I know you’re busy and I really appreciate it. After listening to the album ad nauseum, I can easily say it’s one of the most personal and emotional albums I’ve ever heard, especially as heavy music goes. What’s the writing process like?
Devin MacGillivray: Of course man—I’m really glad you like it. As far as writing goes, it’s really kind of a…muddled process. With some tracks, like “Lonely Bastard,” it just springs from a mood, or a feeling that I just sit down and expand upon—obviously dramatized for a song, but still something I’m feeling. For other tracks, it can be as simple as hearing a word, thinking to myself, “man, that’s a cool or unique word” and then jotting it down or putting it on the notepad on my phone. Then later I just go back and build from it—It’s like writing anything, you go through drafts and drafts and a lot of times, the first drafts suck. But they serve as something I build from and eventually it works its way into a song.
A lot of the lyrical content on Freudian Slip seems to deal directly with anxiety. Does that stem from a personal issue—or someone close to you?
I think everyone has their regular bouts of anxiety from time to time which is a big reason I wanted to talk about it on the record. I myself deal with a lot of it. Not so much social anxiety or anything of that nature but more so the anxiety that haunts you when your mind starts to wander, the kind that makes you uncertain in what you’re doing and kind of sucks the confidence from you and makes you want to be alone until it’s gone. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way so I wanted to make sure that others that did and listened to Yüth Forever knew they weren’t alone.
So, there are songs that spring from moods or words—cool. What about “Like Father, Like Son”—what I would consider probably the most personal track on Freudian Slip—is there more there?
Definitely. That’s a track that is really me fully expressing myself and completely letting loose. That one’s all me.
Would you say it’s almost like a sequel to 10 Code’s “Death and Serenity”?
Sort of. It definitely follows the same story-line. Even though I wasn’t singing on 10 Code, I still did a lot of the actual songwriting, and “Death and Serenity” was a story—something that really happened. Until I was 18, I was raised by a man named Chris, who wasn’t my father, but was definitely a father figure. When I was 18, my mother told me all this—including who my father was. My immediate reaction was “well…shit, that kinda sucks.” I mean it hurt, but I wasn’t too phased by it, you know? It was a slight, but deep wound. For a while I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. I Didn’t want to know who he was or what he did or anything like that. After a while though, I sort of gave in and started looking around for whatever I could find on him—in the end, the only thing I found was his obituary. So in a sense, “Death and Serenity” tells that story, but “Like Father, Like Son” is me building on it, expressing how it truly felt and the mix of anger and confusion and apathy that defined it.
That’s absolutely immense. Was it the nature of tracks like that which spurred your decision to release the album without a label or guest vocals?
In part, yes. I mean, we all felt the album was too personal to have a guest vocalist on—we issued a statement about that some time in August I think—but the label issue goes a little deeper. The album was recorded by us, produced by our drummer…Freudian Slip really is Yüth Forever. We all felt that if we didn’t have to release it through a label, why should we? We didn’t want to have to sacrifice the passion and personality we put into the record to fit a label’s standards, and we definitely didn’t want to have to make people wait three more months than they already have to hear it. As a band, we want to make it as far as we can without a label, then take the time to sit down and work something out. Part of it is that I’m—well, we—[are] picky. We definitely had some offers, and some of them we looked pretty seriously at, but in the end, decided not to take.
Let’s say for a second that you did do guest vocals—or any kind of artist collaboration. What is one artist you would want to collaborate with most?
I would love to collab with Alex Teyen of Black Tongue. We recently toured with them and he became one of the best friends I’ve ever made in my whole life. I think me and him are on the same wavelength in terms of the emotions we want to convey and the way we want to do it so it would be an honor to work on something with him. And it would be a really fun time which I think is a very important part of making music. Plus his vocals are killer.
How would you describe Freudian Slip in one word?
Yup, the whole album: one word.
What is your favorite track from Freudian Slip and why? Do you have a favorite Yüth Forever/Villains track overall?
My favorite track on the record I think would be either Better Off Alone or Grim Game. Better Off Alone because it’s very simplistic which I think is important to keep in mind when making more abrasive music. Make some tracks that are technical and have lots of crazy layers but also make sure to remember to have parts that sound better with less things going on for contrast. Plus I think the idea itself is gnarly. Grim Game because I think musically it’s super duper weird in a very cool way. My favorite song of all time varies depending on which aspect of it I’m feeling most proud of that day. I don’t think there will ever be one specific favorite for that reason either.
So you’ve got this passionate album—and it is one hell of an album—what next? What does the end of 2014 and 2015 hold for Yüth Forever?
Well, we definitely want to wrap up this tour and release this record. After that? Just a buttload of shows and touring. I really want to see people who love our music all around the word, and get a feel for it all. You know—see everywhere, try different kinds of food. Just travel.
I dig it. Last question—and it’s kind of an off-the-wall one, so bear with me. You meet the love of your life. No question about it, she–or he, doesn’t matter—is your complete and true soul mate. Life is good. However, every three years, both of their collarbones will get shattered by a monkey wrench. This will happen every three years for the rest of your lives together—they’ll stay with you no matter what, and you wouldn’t dream of leaving them cause they’re your damn soul mate. This happens every three years, unless you take a pill. However, upon taking this pill, every song you hear for the rest of your life will sound as if it is being sung by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback. No matter what it is—a TV jingle or your favorite band in concert—it will sound as if it being covered by Nickelback.
Do you take the pill?
Shit. Both of her collarbones, every three years?
What about piano music, or instrumental stuff? Is that unchanged, or does it have that Nickelback twang?
For safety’s sake, let’s assume it’s got some twang.
Well, shit. I guess I would still take the pill. After all, Nickelback is bad, but there’s definitely worse. And after so many years, I don’t even know if she’d even have collarbones anymore. Probably just piles of mush and scar tissue. Plus, I feel like I would be really bummed if she just left me hanging, you know? That would suck.
Yeah, that would definitely put a damper on life. Anyways, thanks very much for hangin’ out, man! I’m beyond stoked for your set!
Yeah dude! Any time. We’re excited too. It’s gonna be a good one.
And it was.
If that didn’t pique your interest, keep on keepin’ on to the review of Freudian Slip, set to release November 11th.
Before you truly know what’s happening, it strikes; fingers trembling, cheeks flushed, heart racing. Darkness closes in around you, tightening its grasp around your mind like a noose, suffocating every rational thought racing through your head. All you can hear is your heartbeat, drowning out the sound of the world around you—your fingers clench at handfuls of hair, raking at your temples in an attempt to rid your head of the devilish thoughts devouring your sanity. This is ordinary you tell yourself—you’ve survived them before and you’ll live through this one. But this panic attack is different; this astonishing onslaught of anxiety and nihilistic energy is otherworldly: it is Freudian Slip, the debut full length release from Oswego’s Yüth Forever. Freudian Slip is pure emotion—delivered in a vector of raw, gritty energy and raunchy, bouncy instrumentation.No amount of anti-anxiety medication can calm the listener’s mind, nor can any dose of beta-blocker bring their heart beat into a manageable spectrum; once experiencing the rollicking roller coaster of heart-felt heaviness Yüth Forever have to offer, the only possible reaction is physiological anaphylaxis.
Alone. The second the word crosses your mind, your skin sets ablaze, pupils narrow and heart begins to gallop. Before long, it feels as if the Kentucky Derby is occurring inside your ribcage. Your windpipe clenches, you claw at your chest gasping for air—everything happening in jagged, spastic twitches and convulsions. If listening to Freudian Slip is like a panic attack, then it would be fitting to say that the instrumental aspects of the album exemplify the initial, energetic response—in a word, anxiety. The percussion is constant—but never seems to play the same thing twice, persistently pounding in and out of time signatures and punctuating each song with jagged, magnificent fills. If Yüth Forever were to be a body undergoing a complete physical and mental meltdown, percussionist Cody Ratley is its arrhythmic heart. Take, for example, the introductory sequence to “Lonely Bastard,” the album’s lead single. While guitarists Reese Jubic and Trevor Grove take turns clawing at the listener’s sanity with raking, shrill guitar tones, Ratley hammers away, pummeling his kit with all the ferocity and strength of a Clydesdale. Even his brief appearance in “Bitteromatic Pt. 2” is an off-kilter, oddly-timed beat that ties the track’s electronic atmosphere and dissonant fretwork into one functioning, walking and talking mental breakdown. However, even at his most schizophrenic and energetic, Ratley still serves as a brilliant base from which Jubic and Grove can craft the harsh, raw riffs that the band is known for. From the very opening of “Ugly,” Jubic and Grove take turns drowning the listener in gallons of grimy, intense instrumentation that is dotted with scratching and surreal effects that truly tear the listener’s mind to shreds. Whether it’s the climax to “Bitterromantic Pt. 1,” where Jubic drops the scratching and effectwork in favor of harmonization with Ratley and Grove to create a comprehensively crushing breakdown—or “Like Father, Like Son,” where he does the exact opposite—the guitars create a dark, but energetic, source of pure mayhem.
The more you try to focus, collect your breath and control your heartbeat, the more things worsen. Your focus shifts from the pace of your heart and the trembling in your hands to the darkness surrounding you—the streetlight creeping in beneath your drawn curtains serving as the only light in the room. Slowly, it seems to creep towards you, taunting you—reminding you no one is here, and no one is coming. Where Yüth Forever’s instrumentation is rambunctious and energetic, their vocals are jarring and mentally provocative; the psychological counterpart to Freudian Slip’s anxiety attack. Frontman Devin MacGillivray is simply one of the most honest and emotionally driven vocalists heavy music has witnessed—ever. Every syllable he shouts, screams and speaks throughout Freudian Slip is dripping with levels of emotion and heartache that are practically tangible. “Bitteromantic Pt. II” is—without a doubt—the best example of this. Slowly building throughout the entire track, by the time MacGillivray reaches the climactic stutter-start breakdown, he sounds as though he is practically in tears—and the listener is right there with him. “Ugly” evokes a similar response, as just when the song seems to be stagnating and drawing to a close, MacGillivray delivers an eerie, absolutely blood-curdling version of this little light of mine… that will give the listener Goosebumps. The most brilliant aspect of MacGillivray’s psychological assault on the listener is how remarkably consistent he is. Even on the minimalist “Better off Alone” and “Freudian Slip” (fans of “Death and Serenity”: rejoice), he is a picture-perfect image of absolute vocal insanity. To put it simply, at no point during the album’s entire 40+ minute run-time does MacGillivray fail to deliver the most sincere and intimidating vocal insanity imaginable.
Your limbs clench up, joints locking into place. Your eyelids feel as if they’re stapled open, pupils desperately searching for any shred of light they can find. Physically, panic has paralyzed you; slack-jawed and curled on your bedroom floor, the only thing that can move is your mind. That’s what Freudian Slip is—a mental autopsy, with Yüth Forever as the listener’s coroner. Listening to Freudian Slip is an experience that will put the listener’s psyche under a scalpel and microscope; it is a deeply introspective experience that, at one point or another, will have the listener thinking I know exactly what he means. I know exactly what that feels like. The way bassist Andy Jepsen slinks and fades around Jubic and Groves’ vicious, groove-tinted fretwork in “Like Father, Like Son” is a subtle beauty that the listener won’t truly appreciate until they’ve had a chance to properly binge on the track—a subtly that isn’t immediately noticeable due to MacGillivray’s stunningly honest and brutally visceral vocal performance. Even moments like the straight-up bizarre introduction to “Grim Game”—one that many listener’s might find cringe-worthy at first—is a beauty that builds and builds the more the listener listens to it. “Grim Game” is a gem that lays eggs of creative songwriting which then hatch into contagiously catchy creatures that will plague the gyri and sulci decorating the listener’s brain. Freudian Slip is a jarring, dark experience whose emotional fortitude can only be matched by the extent of its flawlessness.
With time, the panic attack passes, anxiety fades from frantic, furious energy to passive, pessimistic self-loathing. You’re left apathetic, limp on your two-room apartment’s floor, knowing that no matter how hard you try, the next attack will only be worse; just as the next time you listen to Freudian Slip, your response will be greater, more emotional and more intense. Yüth Forever have crafted a timeless album that is relentlessly relatable and enormously emotional, expertly crafting some of the heaviest breakdowns and catchiest grooves the genre has ever seen with poetic lyrics, dynamic songwriting and passionate delivery. Freudian Slip is an album that will constrict the listener’s windpipe and speed up their pulse not with panic, but with pure, unbridled excitement.
For Fans Of: Barrier, Kingmaker, Victims, Sworn In, Beacons
By: Connor Welsh