“There’s joy in the rain after a month of heat. There’s another hurricane though it’s not on the beach,” croons The Young Step’s Ben Whitson (guitar, vox) over tasteful, subtly funky guitar licks and ambient synths on the group’s new track “Ghost Town,” just released on Spotify today. It’s a super catchy, ’80s-evoking pop tune from a group from whom we here at Void have been anxiously waiting on new material.

It’s been a minute since The Young Step’s 2016 debut–the energetic, eclectic, and certainly fierce El Clásico. And a lot has happened since then. Professionally, the group–which consists of Whitson, along with husband and wife duo Micah and Lauren Gilliam–enjoyed a modicum of success. They earned a regional following, touring the country and even making a stop at Austin’s SXSW. All good things, to be sure.

In the meantime, however, the group’s current home base of St. Augustine was ravaged by back to back hurricanes–Matthew and Irma–and, according to Whitson, they’ve individually experienced their share of emotional hardships. Those hurricanes, then, became apt metaphors. As did the many specter-related yarns spun about in the Oldest City.

“I think we’re attracted to [ghost] stories because we can relate to the idea of ghosts in a lot of ways,” says Whitson. “In the moment pain can make you feel like you’re the only one experiencing it and there’s no one who can relate to you.Like a ghost who no one believes in.”

Hit the link to listen to the band’s digital drop on Spotify and read our short interview with Whitson below.

When we talked in September, you said that the new material you were working on would be of a more ’80s-esque production, a more dance-y variety. “Ghost Town” certainly bears that out. What have you, or had you been listening to prior to writing these tracks? And, while it’s not a departure necessarily from El Clásico (which mixed some heavy rock with some of the ’80s-inclinations heard on “Ghost Town”), what was driving you all to head more solidly in the direction reflected on this track?
Well the ’80s vibe definitely comes from what we’ve been listening to recently. A lot of pop like Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and the like. The ’80s are so inspiring sonically because they were innovating sounds like crazy, despite not having digital technology. They just had to get creative with analog engineering techniques.

“Perhaps the sound of the song has manifested our desires to breakout [laughs], while still appreciating it and calling it home of course.” The Young Step’s Ben Whitson. // Photo: Joshua James Wessolowski

For me, a theme that’s also developed is I find myself listening to the music my parents listened to when I was a kid, but I thought was cliche and square at the time. All I wanted to listen to was Nirvana and Third Eye Blind (which I still do). I think getting older has lifted some of the barriers that didn’t allow me to appreciate some of that music, even pop in general. We never really sat down and said, “let’s make some ’80s pop.” We just write a ton of different kinds of songs and then ask what the song needs on an individual basis. We never want to rule out a genre or option for a song. I think that’s something that makes us unique and keeps things exciting.

Sonically, I’d say “Ghost Town” brings to mind a big city. While lyrically, it seems likely you’re talking about life in a small town (with some specific references to the weather/aesthetics of St. Augustine, which you call home currently). What about living where you live did you draw on for inspiration on this particular track?
“Ghost Town” is definitely about a specific experience living here. But more generally I’d say it’s about living through a painful part of your life and learning to find the joy wherever it is to get you through it. St. Augustine offers a lot of metaphors that relate to that idea, such as the hurricanes that have ransacked their way through here the past few years.
It being the oldest city in America also lends itself to many ghost stories. I think we’re attracted to those stories because we can relate with the idea of ghosts in a lot of ways. In the moment pain can make you feel like you’re the only one experiencing it and there’s no one who can relate to you. Like a ghost who no one believes in, or who people see through, and also the idea of not being able to grasp anything concrete. In that way, I’d say the town has definitely lended inspiration, but I think any place could do that if you lived there long enough, just in a different way.
It’s interesting you mention it sounding like a big city because there’s also the element of feeling stuck in a small town that many can relate to. Perhaps the sound of the song has manifested our desires to breakout [laughs], while still appreciating it and calling it home of course.