Young Man creates buzz in a hurry
One of the first things you see in the video for “Enough,’’ a new song from Young Man, is the band’s mastermind watching home footage of an event that actually happened. Concealed in shadows, Colin Caulfield looks on at a video of his girlfriend folding clothes. She’s leaving him, and he’s determined to live the moment again and again. It’s a fleeting scene that’s almost too much to bear, but it also encapsulates the cinematic sweep and longing so pivotal to Young Man’s music.
“I tend to think pretty visually,’’ Caulfield says last month over a late lunch in Allston, a few hours before his band would perform at the nearby Brighton Music Hall. “A lot of the development of this record had film in mind. The way I write songs is that it’s pop music in tendencies but not in structure.’’
Indeed, Young Man’s songs unfurl like little symphonies or like short stories set to music. They’re often blanketed in ethereal effects, laden with reverb, lush melodies, and a baroque sense of ambience. At 22, Caulfield writes with a painterly attention to composition, with each segment building organically on the last.
“Ideas of Distance,’’ which was released last week, is Young Man’s full-length debut, and it heralds the arrival of a promising new voice in indie rock. Given the early buzz that surrounded Young Man, it easily could’ve turned out to be just that: hype.
For most listeners, Young Man’s story begins in 2009, when Caulfield started posting videos of himself covering songs by indie-rock bands such as Deerhunter, Beach House, and Animal Collective. His version of Deerhunter’s “Rainwater Cassette Exchange’’ impressed that band’s frontman, Bradford Cox, who was widely quoted as saying Caulfield’s rendition was “fantastically superior to the original.’’
“There was something really special for me about YouTube and the Internet, about being able to put out something and have people respond to it,’’ says Caulfield. “It was never like I saw that Justin Bieber made it on YouTube or anything like that. I wasn’t trying to jump in on something that I thought would work.’’
His intentions were more modest than that; he simply wanted to share his love of certain songs while also breathing new life into them. He admits there was a small part of him that hoped his covers would reach the original musicians.
“I was really flattered,’’ he says of Cox’s high praise, “but in a way I kind of expected it a little bit. I think it’s cool to know that people are interested in your music and learning it and putting their own spin on it.’’
For Caulfield, his videos reflected the reality that musicians can get noticed without the traditional tools - record label, publicist, cross-country tours, merchandise, though, for the record, he now has all of those in place. And he didn’t even have to leave his home.
“I posted a lot of those videos before I ever played any shows as Young Man,’’ Caulfield says. “I guess that was my way of playing out. Instead of going to a coffeeshop, I would record a cover. It just made more sense to me.’’
Blogs picked up on his story almost immediately, but Caulfield is acutely aware of the fleeting nature of buzz. He’s working at a clip that suggests he wants Young Man to hit hard and fast. Another album is almost mixed, and another is planned shortly thereafter.
“That’s where the industry is going,’’ he says. “Musicians are capable of putting out more than one album every year. They’re going to do that now, because the hype cycle for a record is three months prior, a few weeks of continued coverage after it comes out, but then we don’t talk about it anymore unless something big happens.’’
His prolific nature is also by design. Caulfield has always envisioned Young Man as a project rooted in his development - as a musician, a songwriter, a performer. It’s a time capsule of where he is now but not necessarily a barometer of where he’s headed.
“It’ll be done after two records after ‘Distance,’ ’’ he says, adding that he’ll continue to make music but not under the moniker of Young Man. “I’m doing this right now because there is where I am.’’
“Boy,’’ his 2010 EP from the perspective of an adolescent growing into adulthood, was the band’s introduction. “Ideas of Distance’’ continues the journey, this time concerned with love and heartache. In total, Caulfield imagines Young Man spanning an EP and three full-length albums, all of which he hopes will be done by next year.
Caulfield acknowledges that a big part of Young Man’s initial appeal was the fact that fans were allowed to witness the process. As he matured as a musician, the cameras were rolling.
“I didn’t really think about that within the first four or five videos, but after that I started thinking, ‘This is really cool because I’m already starting to get better pretty rapidly,’’’ he says. “For people to be able to watch and see that was great. It wasn’t a source of apprehension; it was a reason to do it.’’
Already that notion of one musician saluting another has circled back around to Caulfield. Has he seen any covers of Young Man songs online?
“Yeah, a couple,’’ he says.
“They were kind of bad YouTube covers, but oh well.’’
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.