Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Like Young: A Long Profile for a Short Band

Casey Dorrell

The ZiembasThere's the old, too often quoted, saying that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. The Like Young made it in their home city but sadly it's not New York, it's Chicago. While they do have a modest international following and an ardent fan-base in Chicago, when it comes to high-profile indie artists, they're at the bottom of the heap.

I found out about the group through Spin magazine. They didn't make the reviews at the back, or even the abbreviated review section for lesser known bands. They didn't even merit gracing the "Artists to Watch" profile page. Instead, they were stuck in a small, tiny-font, side-bar where those behind the magazine list what they're currently listening to (which are, curiously, rarely ever the groups being written about). The description, which I think made both allusions to the White Stripes (superficially accurate) and Weezer (apt), piqued my interest. I added The Like Young to a long list of bands to check out and promptly forgot about them.

Several months later, I was on a new Dell computer when I came upon the sample music pre-installed on it. How things have changed since the days of windows 95, when new computers came with the added bonus of midi-format-bastardizations of classics like "Hall of the Mountain King." In among a collection of mostly awful twang and pop songs, was "Worry a Lot" by The Like Young listed as "Indie Rock." You'd think having their song packaged with every Dell computer would be a huge break. You'd think so. After hearing the song, it became my new music obsession to find and buy their album (turned out they had two). I did eventually find them for sale through eBay and their record label, Parasol. But only after finding the more prominent eBay result: a picture of a half-dressed girl described as looking "like young" Pamela Anderson (strangely, it got no buyers).

The Like Young are Amanda (drums, back-up vocals) and Joe Ziemba (lead vocals, guitar), a two-person band who were married in 2002 but have been playing in bands together since 1997, most notably, the indie favourite Wolfie which disbanded in late 2001. Wolfie was, as Amanda explains, a meaningless name, "I would have to say that the name Wolfie doesn't exactly mean anything, it's just more of a funny/catchy name that we decided to name the band. The name Wolfie actually came from one of my dad's friend's nicknames from high school."

Wolfie, group shot
Wolfie, No Relation to Le Tigre

Wolfie began to collapse when Mike D, who essentially co-headed the group with Joe, left the band to pursue solo projects. Though you think they'd be happy to not be another band with Mike D (Chronic Future, Beastie Boys), the group quickly died off and, according to Joe, can now be found at "the cemetery." After Marrying, Joe and Amanda left the music world behind, bought a house, and both got real jobs. It didn't stick.

"When we got married, we bought a house, and now we're selling our house to get an apartment," Joe admits. "This year, and the year before, we got married and I think we settled down too fast, almost. Now we're trying to break away from that. It’s been a really rough year with jobs that we hate. We cannot wait to quit our jobs and get on the road."

Such was the impetus for starting the Like Young (where Amanda ditched the keyboard and learned to play drums). They were tired of working, tired of being grown up but having no creative outlet to express it. This resulted in a sound that was, well, simple. That was their intention - to not bother to develop a multi-layered sound with intricate melodies or any conscious concept, to have the lyrics dictate the music instead of the music dictating the lyrics. Joe had described his credo while in Wolfie as "strip down" but could never fully act on it, due to group dynamics.

The Like Young Live
Iiieeee! What's in the Window!? I mean, Rock!

"I definitely focus more on lyrics and what I wanted to say," Joe says. "I kind of felt with the later Wolfie stuff we got layered with stuff, like there were lots of tracks. I kind of felt that if I wanted to move in a direction that focused more on lyrics, the music had to be a little more stripped-down. I think if you have lyrics that are really in-depth and music that's really complicated, they cancel each other out. The main focus was strong, catchy songs: get in, get out, say what we have to say."

The critical response to Like Young's first release, 2003's Art Contest, was mixed as it always is. While Tim Sendra of All Music Guide agreed that the lyrics were "more interesting," he found the new stripped down aesthetic, which lacked instrumentation or any arrangement, "simple to the point of boring," describing the group as "generic punk-lite". Other reviewers hailed the 25 minute long album of three chord 2 minute songs as the antidote to the prog-rock inspired indie pretention put forth by a lot of North American indie bands. And a welcome reprieve from all the indie blues duos cropping up in the wake of White Stripes' success.

The quick 2004 follow-up, So Serious, garnered more critical agreement, and it was positive. Tim Sendra referred to it as "100 percent better and less cute, more real," describing the effort as "spiky, inspired punk with a pop sensibility." Generally, the difference with the new album is that the songs are far less formulaic - every song is actually distinct from the other, each with real arrangement. Also, Amanda's vocals have been pared considerably, making her more of a back-up singer to Joe's somewhat more skilled vocals. The extremely short songs, and one-time choruses are kept.

Like Young in Record Store
Joe and Amanda Scour the Record Stores

So, what does the Like Young sound like? Indie-pop with a punk undercurrent. The group they're most often compared to is Weezer, which is actually fitting. The tempo, singing style, and synth often sounds comparable to a stripped down version of Weezer in the Pinkerton era (we'll ignore the new release from today). Although I appear to be alone in this comparison, much of Joe's singing is reminisent of Elvis Costello. Vindication of this appraisal comes when Joe lists his favourite artists as the Hardship Post, the Superfriendz, Sloan (Superfriendz and Sloan - are the like young secretly from Halifax?), Of Montreal, Elvis Costello (a ha!), the Beatles, and Weezer (no kidding), among others.

The Like Young are set to release an 7" EP titled, "Timid" on Polyvinyl this summer. Given that their full-lengths clock in at less than thirty minutes, it will be interesting to see what the EP is like.

For Fans of: Weezer, Elvis Costello

The Like Young Discography:
The Like Young - Art Contest Art Contest (03) The Like Young - So Serious So Serious (04)

More Info:
Official Band Site
Label Site

The Like Young - I Love How You Love Me (Bobby Vinton Cover) (Six at Midnight)
The Like Young - I'm in Love (Aretha Franklin Cover) (Six at Midnight)
The Like Young - Worry a Lot (So Serious)
The Like Young - Tighten My Tie (So Serious)
The Like Young - Little Minds (So Serious Demo)
The Like Young - Even if It's Getting Late (Art Contest)
The Like Young - Looked Up (Art Contest)
The Like Young - Return of the M's (Art Contest Demo)
The Like Young - Bad Excuse (Looked Up Plus Four)
The Like Young - You Can't Get it Back (Looked Up Plus Four)
The Like Young - Out to Get Me Video (7 MB Quicktime)
The Like Young - Snobs and Slobs; Video Stream [56k] [100k] [250k]
Wolfie - You Have to Leave
Wolfie - Can I Dig an Audio Grave?
Wolfie - Complete rarities CD and album art (released free online)
Weezer - You Gave Your Love to Me Softly (Pinkerton Demo)
Weezer - Devotion (Pinkerton Demo)
Weezer - Waiting on You (Pinkerton Demo)
Weezer - I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams (Pinkerton Demo)
Elvis Costello - Veronica
Edvard Grieg - Hall of the Mountain King Midi

Comments on "The Like Young: A Long Profile for a Short Band"


Anonymous mOe said ... (11/5/05 12:30 am) : 

wow... that's a lot of links and stuff.


Blogger tim said ... (11/5/05 11:57 pm) : 

v. cool. i prefer mates of state as far as cute couples bands.


Blogger Steve said ... (17/5/05 6:40 am) : 

cool man. i like the "The Like Young" band..and yeah, what is it about chicago. i mean, in all parts of the states you can get into the scene. Mates of States - great couple band. i wonder if i know of any other ones...not really, but there's Denali, but that's a brother and sister combo.


Anonymous Shanti said ... (30/5/05 8:50 pm) : 

I stumbled upon "The Like Young" through the purchase of a new Dell notebook, and yes, I'm absolutely in love with them already.

lyk oh em gee i can't wate 2 by ther nu songs cuz it soundz relly good!!!!11


I mean, I will attempt to locate their new EP album.


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