Their music is taking them places
Members of Seattle band The Young Evils are heading out on their first tour, and helping keep the Seattle music scene alive.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Earlier this month, the website Gawker called Seattle "a very annoying place," home to "... an (admittedly dwindling) music scene."
Troy Nelson, the lead singer of The Young Evils, heard this and laughed.
"The hip-hop community couldn't be any bigger," he said. "There's more bands now than in the history of Seattle."
Next to him, Young Evils drummer Faustine Hudson looked confused: "Seattle is on fire."
Guitarist Cody Hurd just let out a sigh: "They need to put down their iPads," he said, "and go see a show."
A Young Evils show would be a good start — and almost unavoidable these days.
The group, which put out its debut CD last year, has been picking up such steam so quickly that it has gone from playing near-empty bars to playing street fairs and festivals, including this weekend's Pearl Jam Destination Weekend in East Troy, Wis.
After that, there are gigs up and down the East Coast, including showcases for record-company executives who band members hope will sign them and fund their second album, already in the works.
The Gawker staff must be deaf, because Seattle continues to send its sound out into the world. The Head and the Heart. Fleet Foxes. Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs. The Young Evils are just the latest to leave the nest.
Last Sunday, family and friends gathered at the Madison Park Conservatory restaurant for a send-off show and dinner.
It was a fun, easy fete, with tacos in paper boats and drinks in plastic cups. But there was a very serious sense that The Young Evils — all in their 20s — wouldn't be the same after this tour.
Out on the patio, mothers fretted about how the band would manage their $10 per diem and ticked off the items they would be stuffing into care packages. Top Ramen. White socks. Vitamins.
Mackenzie Mercer, who shares lead vocals — and a West Seattle apartment — with Nelson, knows this is an important moment.
"I'm excited, but I don't know what I'm excited for," she said, "because we've never done it before."
That's not entirely true. Mercer is the daughter of famed rock photographer Lance Mercer. Her best friend and band manager is Jessica Curtis, daughter of Kelly Curtis, who managed Heart and still manages Pearl Jam. Tour manager Tyson Pickerel is the nephew of drummer Mark Pickerel, who has played with several bands, most notably The Screaming Trees.
And Nelson has worked at The Hit Factory in New York, SubPop Records and KEXP.
So they've been backstage, in the studio; all around music.
But knowing they will be out front, out there, is a nerve-wracking, sleep-stealing prospect.
Two days later after the dinner, Mercer and Nelson were packing their bags.
Mercer held up a pair of cowboy boots that she bought at Buffalo Exchange when she was 16, left in a closet and only pulled out when the band started playing shows. The sole was split. Could anything be done?
Nelson seemed happy with the new Batman underwear he found at Target, his T-shirts, boots and a couple of hats that he would put into a borrowed suitcase.
They paid their bills in advance, and also had to make room for 600 copies of the CD they had pressed to take on tour.
"Everyone is going to have to take, like, 30 albums in their suitcase," Mercer said. "We've never been anywhere else. We'll be giving away a lot."
Their first gig wasn't that long ago at the MarsBar on Eastlake. It was just Nelson, Mercer, Hurd and a drum machine.
"I could totally tell there was something happening," said Pickerel, who heard them early on. "You know when you're a little kid and super-excited about something ridiculous? It was like that."
They decided to form a band and record an album of short, smart and poppy songs that Nelson had been working on, perfect for the tongue-in-groove vocals he had created with Mercer. His parents back in South Dakota loaned him the money to make the CD, which was produced by Mercer's stepfather, Barrett Jones. The CD, called "Enchanted Chapel," came out in August 2010.
Nelson, who has a weekly hosting gig on KEXP, felt "shy and ridiculous" about asking program director Kevin Cole to play it.
But Cole did — and had them in for an in-studio performance. They have played South By Southwest, the Capitol Hill Block Party, the Reverb Festival and Sasquatch.
But those were one-time gigs. This is an actual tour. Days after day, gig after gig, far from Seattle and all they have known — so far.
"More than anything, I'm excited about getting out there and becoming the well-oiled machine where we can get onstage anyplace, anytime, and do our thing," Mercer said.
Said bassist Mike Lee: "It's a cool spot. I don't think any of us know where it's going, but the unknown is exciting."
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at Alpine.
About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
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