An Album 5 Years in the Making by Youngster
Written By Sanchez Tortuga
Is Blake Ratliffe a burly lumberjack and a proud father of a 9-year-old future punk rock star? Or is he the angelic voice of the band Youngster? Jokes on you, because Blake is all of the aforementioned and more! I sat down with him and lead guitarist Daniel Truncellito to learn more about Youngster’s first LP Rosa’s Cantina, which is now five years in the making.
After listening to a few songs, I started to get a west coast surf vibe. Is this something you are striving for?
Blake: People feel like we have a California surf vibe on a lot of different songs. It’s not intentional. It just happens due to a mixture of our influences. Which makes a cool but laid back vibe and you can also move to it.
Daniel: Personally on guitar, I draw influence from The Strokes and Phoenix, peppered in with some The Beach Boys and Real Estate.
Tell me about the 1st song on the album, Freedom.
Blake: It’s about you vs. the man. A classic struggle against the world story. For example, being forced to join the military, or being put into a position you don’t want to be in.
I wrote this one five years ago, so it’s been in the vault for a long time. I spent some time perfecting it and giving it some love. Then I had to find the right people to record with.
Where did y’all record this LP?
Blake: We have recorded this new full length ten song album with Matt Zutell at Coast Records.
In 2015 we drove from Florence on several occasions to record a four-song EP with Ryan Zimmerman or Wolfgang as he is affectionately called, at Rialto Row. A lot of the songs that are on this new album could have been on that EP because we had most of them written back then.
What is the difference between working with Matt and Wolfgang?
Blake: Wolfgang’s approach is a little more gritty and indie rock. You can hear his unique veneer over most of the stuff he works on, which is awesome.
Matt’s approach is a bit more forward and direct, which we will find out if that’s for better or worse after the album comes out. We love both those guys, and we were thrilled to have worked with who we did at the time.
Daniel: The songs are going to sound very familiar. We could have put any of the songs from the EP with Wolfgang and plugged them right into the LP we did with Matt, and they would have fit perfectly.
What were you up to musically before Youngster?
Blake: I used to be in a band called Octopus Jones with Danny Martin of 2 Slices as the lead singer. It was a surf rock psychedelic band. Honestly, we probably should have made it because all of these bands that have the same sound started to skyrocket after we broke up.
I would love to do an Octopus Jones reunion tour.
Daniel: I was in school at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC getting a degree in biology. I played some guitar in a church band. But this actually the first music project I have worked really hard at.
Tell me about the 7th song on the album, Where your Woman Lies.
Blake: It is about a friend of mine named Joe. He is a really great person who recently went through a divorce, and I wrote it to and for him. I wrote it out of love to him and for him. I am trying to put myself in his shoes because I wanted to find out what happened and how he must have felt.
He moved out to Mexico and was teaching there. He fell in love with a girl he met, and they seemed perfectly happy, but things happen. So I wrote this song for Joe.
Tell me about the 8th song on the album, Getaway.
Blake: Lyrically it’s about finding out who your real friends are, or your significant other truly is. How genuine are they? How genuine is anyone? The mood musically is heavier and darker than most of the other songs on the album. We put it towards the end of the album to kind of change things up a bit and give the listeners a moment to reflect or "Getaway” from toxic people.
How important is album sequencing?
Blake: Very important we stressed over it for a couple of weeks. I listened to those songs quite a bit after they were mastered. Luckily we knew how we wanted to start and end it, so we just had to figure out how to make that happen. We wanted some different moods to flow in the album. We also wanted to incorporate the classic LP of a side A and a side B, and at song six which would be the start of side B you can hear that shift.
Blake and Daniel met ten years ago while growing up in Florence SC, and they started playing music and together soon after that. You can hear the maturity of the tenured musical bond on their new album Rosa’s Cantina. The album drops today, March 1st. Which just so happens to be the same day Youngster headlines at The Royal American, with opening acts by Easy Honey and Argot. So, if you want to see a lumberjack sing like an angel you best get your ass there.
Peace and Love,