Conner Youngblood is going places, even if the ones he sings about aren’t necessarily representative of his own travels. Drawing comparisons to artists like Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens, among others, Youngblood is making good on his new EP title, The Generation of Lift, an apt title given his trajectory.
Youngblood has a steady head on his shoulders that allows him to patiently produce entrancing tracks that captivate your mind and ears. He recently sat down with our staff writer, Maria Edwards, to talk about his inspiration, his influence, and the layers that make up his music.
Stereo Subversion: Okay, so you have The Generation of Lift EP out. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me where that title came from and how it ties into the EP or if it’s more something that stems from how you live your life?
Conner Youngblood: The title itself came about a couple of years ago when I wanted to do an album. The idea of “The Generation of Lift” started off as a bunch of songs about traveling, and I just took the term “lift”, which is the force of a plane taking off. I was watching something on the Science Channel and started thinking about the term. It’s about mostly wanting the actual, physical taking off of a plane and kind of applying that to my own life. Just trying to get off the ground and go and being different places.
SSv: Yeah, I noticed that you’ve got this fascination with faraway places. As in, your discography is littered with song titles like “Stockholm,” “Birds of Finland,” “Badlands,” “Australia,” “Vegas.” There has to be something in your life that had to create this lust for places that you can’t get to or places you want to be.
I probably think like an electronic artist or a hip-hop producer because I write most of my songs on beat in short little loops then I try to flesh them out when I’m actually recording it.
Conner: I’d say half the places I’ve been to and half I have not. [Laughs] Even sometimes in songs about places, they’re about different places than the song title. I just like the word, I mean, I just like how “Vegas” sounds versus, let’s say, “New York.” And in “Australia”, the line is actually about a place in New Zealand. I remember I was writing it and “Australia” just fit. Sometimes I call the song the name of a place before I start writing. It shows what I’m aiming for, and I don’t even know with the song I’m writing has anything to do with it. Usually, I just base it off my music in my head or what I’ve started creating. And then I can start painting a picture once I have some image or I don’t know. [Laughs]
SSv: For someone who is so involved in the electric side of music, the cool synth beats and computerized percussion, your songs are just so deep. Is there a reason that you’re currently with this style of music?
Conner: Well I wouldn’t consider myself an electronic artist, I guess. I record music with some synthesizers but at most I’d say five percent of a song is actually synthetic while every other layer is actual instrumentation that I either warp in a weird way to change the sound, or just a lot of stacks of layers upon layers which, in a lot of my earlier stuff, had more… I don’t know. It just depends on the kind of mood I’m in. I don’t know what kind of artist I am.
I probably think like an electronic artist or a hip-hop producer because I write most of my songs on beat in short little loops then I try to flesh them out when I’m actually recording it. When I actually start recording, I play every instrument all the way through. Initially, my thought process is probably like that of a electronic producer.
SSv: Do you have a favorite instrument that you work with? I know you’re more than talented with an impressive variety of instruments but is there one that you specifically either love to start with or play around with in your free time?
Connor: Um, I can honestly say I try to switch every song.
SSv: [Laughs] Really?
Conner: I try to make it a goal to write each song on a different instrument just to get out of the head space that I was in. Or even as something as simple as changing tuning usually can do the trick. The guitar is obviously the most versatile, but I don’t know if I write most of my songs on it. I remember when I was writing my first batch of songs, I made it a goal to not use guitar on any of them. I did this whole little album thing in school that had 12 songs on it and none of them had a guitar. So I guess guitar would be the answer. I don’t know. Piano, banjo… banjo is definitely a close second.
SSv: That’s the thing! I would be listing to your songs and out of the background I’d hear this banjo and I’d sit there and think ‘There’s no just no way.’
Conner: [Laughs] It’s the little things. On “Diamonds” there’s 10 seconds of banjo hidden in the middle of it.
SSv: Some people have even gone on to compare you to Bon Iver, which, after listening to your work, is completely understandable. How does such a comparison make you feel with that sort of comparison in your life, over your work?
Conner: That’s surely a flattering comparison. I’m definitely very influenced by his sound. I remember listening to his album back when I started making music. I’d hear his first album just go, ‘Ooh, I didn’t realize you could make music like this.’But yeah, I take that compliment as a very nice one. As far as influence, it just depends on the song. I’d say “Birds of Finland” is extremely influenced by his work.
SSv: So what did you do before getting into music? Or has this been a lifelong pursuit?
Conner: I’d say I got into it pretty late. I wrestled through college. I was into sports. I guess I wanted to do sports somehow. Artistically, I did film for high school and I thought that was my favorite of all the artistic avenues. Then I got way better at music at a way quicker rate. People thought I was good at it, and that’s really addicting feeling, I think — just getting positive feedback on something. I didn’t start writing until my senior year of high school, recording a bunch, and by graduation I was set. It took me about four years of college, of trial and error, before I thought ‘Maybe I should go with this.’ But I have no real plan. I also wanted to be a professional skateboarder.
SSv: Some of your album art included a skateboard. You’ve got that set of sketches for each song on your Generation of Lift EP. Do you have a love for symbolic album art?
Conner: Some of them are very tightly correlated with music. I draw about 90 percentf of them. I tend to draw after the song because of the song. Others, well, for “Stockholm” I drew a hat because I wanted to draw a hat. [Laughs] I don’t know why. It was just sitting on my desk and I thought, ‘That’s what I should draw for the song.’ Sometimes it’s just very in the moment, items just sitting around the room.
SSv: Hearing you talk about how you draw these things and how you make all your music makes you sound very independent as an artist. Is there anyone on the background or part of your life that has a major influence over what you do, whether they know it or not?
Conner: My biggest influence would probably be the engineer I worked with since high school, this guy Hal Fitzgerald. That’s like the main source of my music. I’ve probably recorded 60-70 songs with this one engineer. It’s just me and him, literally. Two out of the five songs on this EP were done with a new person for the first time. But every other song I’ve done has been with him. I’ve tried engineering myself and I just can’t. It becomes too much of a work thing, and I get bored real easily and I can’t focus on the computer much.
SSv: So what’s next for you? Are you planning on touring with this EP or will you be in the studio finalizing, mixing, and all that for the full album?
Conner: I am going to be recording through probably January. I’m not real sure what’s coming up.
SSv: Are you excited about touring in the future?
Conner: [Laughs] I haven’t really thought that far ahead. But I am really excited. I’m just excited about everything, for sure.