Andy Tongren of Young Rising Sons | Interview

BY CARLY KUTSUP

Image Credit: Jesse DeFlorio

Young Rising Sons, comprised of Andy Tongren (Vocals/Guitar), Julian Dimagiba (Bass), Max Iantorno (Guitar) and Steve Patrick (Drums), hail from Red Bank, New Jersey.

In 2014, their single High was featured in the NHL Awards, MLB Network, Carson Daly, NBC Summer Image Campaign. The single was also featured on Fox’s hit television show Red Band Society and ABC’s Selfie.

They have toured with artists, such as Halsey, Weezer, Bleachers, Kongos, The 1975 and The Neighborhood and have been described by Teen Vogue as a band “with catchy tracks that give your typical pop sound an experimental twist.”

Through their songs, the band reminds us that above everything else, we are so lucky to be here in this moment. They continue to rise rising from strength to strength, which also allows them to value the perspective they get from the lows, while soaking in the highs.

In 2021, the band dropped their extended EP Swirl, which followed after a number of successful releases.

Back in March of 2022, after 12 years being together, they released their first full-length album, Still Point In a Turning World and on July 22, 2022 they released a deluxe version of the album.

I recently spoke to Andy about the deluxe release, as well as influences and the band staying true to who they really are.

Carly Kutsup: You recently released your debut album back in March after 12 years of being together. Why do you think it took the time it did for that decision?

Andy Tongren: Waiting just makes things that much sweeter. In all honesty, there are a lot of things sort of beyond our control when you mix in major label riff raff and all that stuff that gets complicated and a little hairy. Plus, circumstances were never really right for us, so we just never got the opportunity to really. We started writing sort of a grouping of songs and felt like it made sense as a body of work. After that period of time, we knew our fans deserved it and we wanted to put out a true body of work. So, that’s how Still Point came about.

CK: You also just put out a deluxe version of your debut album Still Point in a Turning World. What made you want to release a deluxe version rather than save the additional 5 songs for another album? 

AT: So, that was originally what we had thought we were going to do, and the reception was so great for Still Point. The songs that we added felt like they were still a part of that world. We kind of wrote them all around the same time and, like I mentioned, we were planning on saving those songs for the next project. After releasing the original release of Still Point and going back and listening to these new songs that we just put out, we just felt like it was still in the realm of the Still Point world and felt like the flow was there and made sense.

CK: I noticed in a lot of the videos posted on Instagram, you are using Logic Pro to mix your songs. Do you record, mix and master all the songs yourself for the band?

AT: We pretty much record everything ourselves and produce everything in-house. Mastering and mixing, we’re capable of doing, but we’ve found that putting it in somebody else’s hands shifts the perspective a little bit, and it allows us to kind of hear it with fresh ears. I think having a third party kind of come in and put their spin on it is really helpful for the record to get to the next level. So yeah, we send it out.

CK: You mentioned that you do know how to mix and master. Do you think that helps you be better musicians and if so, how?

AT: I think so. I think on the production side, so much of it is fine tuning, refining your ear and hearing specific frequencies so that when something kind of pops out in a nasty way you know which frequency to dial back and EQ out. That’s a big part of it. A lot of it is science based when you’re talking about mixing. I’m not great at that, but I think I’ve got a pretty good ear to hear certain things. So, I think it certainly helps to know when you’re hearing a specific thing jump out and where you need to either highlight something and bring it up in the mix or dial something back.

CK: Growing up in northern Jersey and now living in a beach town myself, I can fully appreciate what Beach Bummer is about. Like yourself, my favorite time to go to the beach since moving down here to south Jersey is either right before or after tourist season. What was the spark to write such a song? 

AT: Well, my favorite time to go to the beach is like fall or early spring, but it’s like a little sad and dreary and depressing. That’s like the sweet spot for me.

It was growing up in a beach town where tourism was such a big part of the town and it relied so heavily on that that it felt like in the summer when the tourists came, the locals were kind of like, “Okay” excuse my verbiage, but like “we’ll eat the shit.” You’re playing second fiddle to the tourism and I get that towns like that thrive on but, yeah that was really the inspiration behind it. Also, what do you do as a kid growing up in a beach town? Get into stuff you probably shouldn’t be getting into. So yeah, that was really it.

CK: Speaking of New Jersey, how do you think being based there and growing up there influences the kind of music the band makes?

AT: I think a lot. I mean, when you look at the music history of Jersey, you have people like the Bruce Springsteen’s, obviously, and the Frank Sinatra’s. There’s such a rich culture. I think with both of those guys like, there was this kind of blue collar mentality to the approach of their music. Bruce, in particular, represented the working class in his music. I feel like that’s such a thematic part of his work and I feel like that’s something that we try to touch on maybe in a more optimistic way. I don’t know the right word for it, but there’s just the dirt to it, I think. We try to pay homage to artists like Bruce and what not.

CK: The band is unapologetically honest and you even have it in your bio for being so. What do you think makes you that way?

AT: We have all tried faking it and tried being cool and it doesn’t work. Just because we felt like that’s what we had to be, because that’s what the music industry wanted or expects from artists. We’ve found that authenticity is the most valuable thing I think anybody can have, whether you are an artist or work at a bank. It’s an important thing to be okay with who you are and represented as best you can. That’s something we try to do with the music we make.

CK:  I also noticed that the videos that are posted on social media show you all to be authentically yourselves; that you’re all not afraid to show the goofy, fun side. Why do you think that’s so important, especially regarding what is posted to social media, specifically TikTok for that matter?

AT: We have actually had like a bit of a come to Jesus talk about the TikTok approach as I’m sure a lot of artists are doing right now, because the first thing any industry person will ask you is if you’re on TikTok. We tried the cool, sterile approach of pretending to perform our songs or lip synch into a camera. It didn’t feel natural. It didn’t react well.

Essentially it started being in a band, being goofy around each other, just being best friends and filming the silly things that we do, we’ve essentially been making TikToks for like ten years and we just didn’t really realize it. We started posting some silly stuff and that’s when we saw the most reaction and, like I said, that’s like the authenticity coming through in this silliness. I think that’s important.

CK: Now, for those who don’t know. What is the skeleton that we see in the videos and pictures on social media all about?

AT: Oh, the skeleton. So, there’s actually two of them. My wife bought them last year for Halloween, and I totally just commandeered one for the band. Now he sits in the back of the car, buckled in so I can drive in the HOV lane.

I came home from the studio one day, and she had them out just propped up in our living room. I was like, “Oh, my God, that’s it. That’s alarming.” I had no idea what to expect. But anyway, they have sort of been representative of our band. We have a song called Skeletons and then Beach Bummer, which has the skeleton as a sort of the logo because it felt fitting. It was in the trunk and then I was like, “You should be in the backseat. Let’s get you in a seatbelt and taken care of.” We named him Winston, but I don’t know why though.

CK: Speaking of keeping it authentic in videos, being from NJ, I recognized the one golf course that you filmed at. Is that course one you would frequent as kids and/or teens?

AT: No. Actually, two of our buddies, the guys who we shoot quite a bit of stuff with, one of them grew up like right around the corner from it. So he knew about that spot. We were more like Red Bank kind of area, so we’re a little bit further north and a little closer to like Asbury. So, if we wanted like a boardwalk kind of feel, that’s usually where you go.

CK: What made you decide to choose a golf course to film some previews of songs that were released on the deluxe version of Still Point?

AT: It felt kind of silly. I think finding every day places, and not that like a mini golf course is like an everyday place, but just places where like life is occurring and filming there is kind of fun.

CK: I read in another interview where you said you were bullied because you were a little different and that you also battled depression because you felt like you were alone. What advice do you have to give someone who might be bullied due to being “different”, especially because of their artistic interests, and are battling the same thing because they feel like they are on the outside because of it?

AT: I think that’s a thing we kind of all constantly battle at some point in our lives and I think we still find ourselves doing that. I think it all comes back to authenticity and being okay with who you are and being proud of who you are. That’s what life is all about. We should be proud of ourselves no matter what it is that we are. It’s hard, but I think the difficult times in high school kind of, not to sound like an old man curmudgeon, do build character. I think they help you appreciate the better moments when they do come. I think the biggest thing is just to remember be resilient and be you. Just because somebody doesn’t really understand it or get it doesn’t mean that other people won’t.

CK: I, too, was always labeled different or weird just because of the things I liked or even still do like. I do find it funny because now that I’m almost 40 , the very things I was made fun of as a pre-teen or teen by my bullies, they are now into those things in their forties and some of which even have their kids involved in the very things they actually made fun of me for.

AT: I know. It’s really funny because I had the same thing happen with me and all my bullies in high school. I went to one of my high school reunions and they were like “So your band is so cool. We followed your journey.” It’s just silly how it works, but I think people tend to lash out at things that they don’t really understand. I think that’s just kind of like human nature. I feel bad for people that do that. That feel like rather than take a moment to have a conversation with somebody, they resort to bullying and just being cruel. Unfortunately, there are people that do that.

CK: While we are on the topic of taking a moment and listening to others, I also read that you are huge advocates of diversity. Why do you think it’s important to have diversity, especially within a band?

AT: I think perspective is everything and the more we can open our worlds up to other things, the more we learn, the more we’re able to write from a different place. I just think when you close your world often and shut out the voices or people, you’re doing yourself a massive injustice because there’s so much more you could be learning and growing from as an individual. That’s one thing that we’ve always felt very strong about. We like to include all walks of life and feel like it’s very important. We’ve learned quite a lot from from doing so.

CK: Do you see that in the music industry as well, or is it a little bit harder?

AT: It’s a little bit harder, I think. We’ve gotten better as an industry, but we’ve got a long way to go. There are certain niches, I guess, in the industry that have come further than others, but as a whole, we have quite a bit of work to do.

CK: If there is one thing that you could change that currently in the industry, what would you say it would be?

AT: Oh boy. That’s a great question. I would rely less on virality in TikTok and social media. I probably sound like an old curmudgeon saying this, but I miss the days of showcases in a live setting. I think in part a big piece of that was COVID, but with live music coming back, I hope that brings back a little bit more of the showmanship aspect in real life versus how it might appear on a TikTok video.

CK: Going back to the album, your song Be Like Yesterday has a Beatles like feel to it with a twist of a bit of country rock.  When it comes to influences, who are the band’s biggest influences and in what way have they influenced each of you?

AT: We kind of all listen to a lot of different things. I grew up on a lot of Motown music, like Four Tops, The Supremes. I would say my favorite band is probably The Killers. Julian was a big punk guy. Still is. Steve loves Queen. I think that’s his favorite band. Max loves country music. So, everything is a little bit of a hybrid, I think, when it comes to our music. There certainly is a Beatles / Oasis kind of feel to feel to Be Like Yesterday. There’s like a Nineties coming of age feel to it that we want it to try and capture.

CK: Now that you said Oasis, I definitely feel there is that influence in that song as well. I definitely feel it’s a combination of the Beatles, a little bit Oasis and a little bit of country rock. I love that mash up because it’s so different. It’s not something you’ve actually heard before.

AT: I think that’s always been the most important thing to us is to take all of our influences, the things that we love and mash them into one thing. Usually, we’ll get something that’s a little bit unique.

CK: Speaking of influences, the summer is usually a time for music festivals. If you could put together a list of performers, alive or deceased, who would be on that bill?

AT: How many artists do I get?

CK: Let’s say Top 10.
AT: Ten. Oh my gosh. Ok. Let’s say Queen with Freddy Mercury, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, The Killers, King of Leon, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and to modernize it a little bit, Kendrick.

CK: Oh wow. That’s some bill. That would definitely be a festival I’d love to go to.

CK: What do you think the biggest lesson the band has learned from being in this industry is?

AT: Well, the biggest thing I think is resiliency. You will be rejected substantially more times than not and it never gets easier, I don’t think, but you learn from it whether it’s a lesson of self-worth or a lesson of the way you go about doing things. I think one of the most important things that we’ve learned is when you hit those lows and those bottoms, remember them. Remember what happened and how you got there. The biggest thing, I would say, is to appreciate the good, but remember what got you there and where you came from.

CK: What advice do you have to give to someone who wants to break into this industry and really wants to thrive in it?

AT: Just keep going. Be resilient. I keep saying that, but that’s the biggest thing. Just keep keep working at it. Keep tweaking and tinkering and refining your craft and what it is you do and. Each time you get knocked down, learn something. Pick yourself back up and then move on.

CK: Would you say that out look has do with the band valuing the perspective of the lows, while soaking in the highs?

AT: Yes, definitely. That’s sort of been our mantra since day one, honestly. It’s been a big key to our journey.

CK: What is one message you want your fans to take away with them? 

AT: Thank you. It’s been a long time and we appreciate you sticking with us. We promise it won’t be another 12 years before we put another album out.

CK: You have a tour coming up this fall. Has it been put all together yet and if so, what can your fans expect to see?

AT: Yeah, everything’s ready to go. We’re excited. It’s been a long time since we’ve toured as Young Rising Sons so we’re really excited to get out there and play these songs. They can expect to see a lot of energy, but some classic wire-esque tropes, but also some new stuff.

CK: Lastly, what does the future hold for Young Rising Sons

AT: A lot more music, which we’re already working on. Hopefully, a lot more touring and just getting out there and playing songs for people.

For more information on the band, visit the following links:

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Spotify | Apple Music | YouTube | | Soundcloud

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