In late November, with the release of the synth-y, stylized single “Ghost Town” St. Augustine’s sonic chameleons, The Young Step, teased a relatively divergent sound; albeit, a sound that may not have seemed all that disparate to fans of the Talking Heads-ish takes like “Yoga” and “Nature Man” from the trio’s 2016 full-length El Clasico. The band’s newest tune “Physical,” which we are happy to premiere below, finds the group not only veering onto the exit ramp of that fun, pop-y, and unabashedly 80s sound, but careening down the metaphorical highway–perhaps in a a Ferrari Testarossa, perhaps with the sleeves of their pastel suit jackets pushed up past their elbows–at breakneck speed.
With its twinkly keyboards, auto-tuned vocals, and ostentatious sax solo, “Physical” is The Young Step in full embrace of a distinctive musical direction–one that is certain to entice live audiences to the dance floor, and possibly encourage them to lose their sh**! It’s music that hits all the pleasure centers, to be sure. And lyrically, “Physical” is just as playful. Listen to the track below and scroll down to read our interview with TYS guitarist Micah Gilliam.
Matthew Shaw: Last time we talked the band had just released “Ghost Town,” a song with a not-so-subtle retro soundscape. We talked about that tune being indicative of a new direction for your band, one toward the fun unabashedly pop sounds of the ’80s. “Physical” seems to be another step, maybe even a standing broad jump in that direction. I hear a lot of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time”in this song. What were some of the influences you were drawing on when writing and recording this tune?
Micah Gilliam: Thanks Matt! Ok, so I’m like a toucan just following my nose and one day I was going through sounds and came up with the intro baseline, purely just inspired from the sound I found. Then I could sonically “visualize” like 75% of the rest of the song because had so much character and attitude. As far as the 80s thing goes, I don’t really give it much thought, I just make what I make, but since it comes up as a topic so frequently I have had to reflect on it, and I think the reason we like retro sounds is because people really danced back then. Nowadays people kinda stand there and observe you, as if your performance was a painting. So, I’d like to eventually create a show where people gyrate their pelvises a lot more!
Autotune? That seems like a modern pop choice swimming in a sea of retro ones. How’d the decision to affect the vocals in that way come about?
We’re not trying to recreate a style or era as much as we’re trying to synthesize the themes of our day into the music that we listen to the most, and are the most inspired by. We just like Sade, and Blue Nile, and Bobby Caldwell more than Lil’ Pump and Takashi 69.
It’s a fun song, to be sure. Even lyrically, the idea of a romantic interest being both metaphysical and physical is a playful, relatable concept. What does that hook mean to you?
The song is really a big joke about people, ‘girls you like’ in this instance, who act super spiritual but forget to keep it real and admit to being a basic human like the rest of us. The context is just funny to us, so the idea, to me a very deep one, is manifested in a sexual way (cuz that makes it easy).
That sax solo, though! Not really a question, I guess, but maybe you could extrapolate on that mean sax work.
On our last record, “Nature Man” told us we needed a sick sax solo. Maybe every time we write a funky jam in C minor, we need a mean sax solo! Who knows? You gotta follow your gut and stay true to the vision. Big ups to local saxophonist Scott Johnson who played the solo! I said “Give me the SNL sax sound” and he did just that.