Sara Taylor and Ryan William George once again find themselves far from home. The Los Angeles duo just touched down in Berlin, where they’re scheduled to play back-to-back shows at Arena Club and Urban Spree, two of the city’s more highly respected venues for cutting-edge electronic music. They will then dash home and gear up for an extensive cross-country trek with metal lords Baroness.
In early 2012, they were a band in name only: No songs, no recordings, just a vague concept
This is the new norm for Youth Code, who just dropped their much anticipated second record, Commitment to Complications. Over the last three years they have hopped from continent to continent, maintaining a torrid performance schedule. In addition to racking up high-profile dates with a wide array of artists, including industrial icons Skinny Puppy and (interestingly enough) Warped-brand alt rockers AFI, they’ve unleashed their collision of electro-industrial and hardcore punk in too many gutter dives and underground art spaces to count. Think about it, in early 2012, they were a band in name only: No songs, no recordings, just a vague concept. Today, they are, as Taylor accurately points out, a “well-oiled machine.”
This spectacularly swift transformation is encoded into their recorded output. Their 2013 debut certainly was exhilarating as it unleashed an unruly blitz of industrial cacophony. Yet it ultimately was the work of a band growing into their own skin. Commitment to Complications, in bold contrast, is a commanding statement of intent: a skillfully honed balance of brutally mechanized aggression and dark, ethereal beauty.
“I wanted the record to be harder sounding than anything we had done, but I also wanted it to be prettier,” George explained, touching on the striking contrast in extremes that underpins the 11-track collection.
“I personally wanted more of a structure in our sound for this record,” Taylor added. “I also wanted to tune into the aggressive element more and stray away from the more obvious influences.”
Produced by Rhys Fulber (of Front Line Assembly fame), Commitment to Complications further cements Youth Code’s stature as a key outfit in industrial music’s 21st century revitalization.
Over the last few years, America has produced a clutch of acts (including Hide, Blaqk Audio and Clay Rendering) who are breathing new life into a genre, which after peaking commercially in the early ’90s, slinked back to the cultural margins. Yet it’s Taylor and George who are the breakout stars — the poster children, so to speak. In addition to popping up on Rolling Stone’s radar last month, the duo have also received plenty of love from the LA Weekly and Vice/Noisey.
Though they certainly are inspired by old school industrial, Youth Code don’t consider themselves as belonging to any one scene or movement — and they sure as hell don’t want to be labeled a revival act.
“I don’t feel any pressure to try and resurrect anything,” Taylor says. “I look at our music as being influenced by the industrial we grew up on, but also taking influences from all different avenues. I honestly feel that we are creating our own sound.”
There’s one quality in particular that distinguishes Youth Code from their peers, and it’s their unique talent for infusing synth-based industrial with the manic fury of hardcore punk. After all, both Taylor and George (the latter having served time in straight-edge outfit Carry On) grew up listening to just as much Youth of Today and Earth Crisis as they did Skinny Puppy and Ministry.
It’s an influence that’s especially pronounced in Taylor’s barking vocals, soul-baring lyrics and formidable stage demeanor. She is hands down one of the most electrifying vocalists in any modern band from any genre. While George mans his rack of synths and hardware, spitting out pulverizing beats and stabbing arpeggios, Taylor grips the microphone like Black Flag-era Henry Rollins and pogos, paces and even stalks the audience. With such a provocative, even confrontational sound, Youth Code have found themselves before some rather unforgiving crowds, yet it’s something that only further intensifies her determination.
“I personally prefer the challenge of having to define ourselves to a generally unaware, possibly unaccepting crowd,” she admits. “The AFI tour probably was one of the most challenging tours for us. But dealing with that adversity also helped define our character as performers. I’m looking forward to pushing onward, playing in front of more diverse crowds and hoping to tour with more even aggressive bands from here on out.”
With that kind of confidence don’t be surprised if Youth Code conquer the world — or burn it down.