By: Victoria Moorwood//
I spoke with Andy Tongren, lead singer and guitarist of American indie pop band Young Rising Sons. Tongren formed Young Rising Sons with bass player Julian Dimagiba and drummer Steve Patrick in 2010. Dimagiba and Patrick grew up playing music together in New Jersey, and sought out Tongren after watching him perform in New York. The trio released their debut single “High” in 2014, which quickly went viral, hitting #1 on Hypem Twitter, landing on the main YouTube music page and being dubbed his “Next Hype” track by BBC Radio 1 DJ and tastemaker Zane Lowe. Young Rising Sons spent the next year touring with the likes of Halsey, Weezer, The 1975 and The Neighbourhood. In 2016, band member Dylan Scott left Young Rising Sons but the band bounced back and just recently released “Carry On,” which has already exploded across the charts. Tongren says “Carry On” is a testament to the band’s disposition and sets the bar for their future musical endeavors. Young Rising Sons is a perfect mixture of boy band-y charm and hard-hitting dramatic vocals that make you scream along. Tongren was a delight to talk to. Here we speak about “Carry On,” the loss of Scott, what it takes to keep a band tight-knit and the future of music.
How has this ride been? You’ve done a lot of things as a band since signing with Interscope in 2014.
It’s been crazy. A lot of ups and downs, as there are with everything, but I think the whole idea behind “Carry On” and kind of where we’re headed is sort of like an unveiling of the next chapter for us. There’s been some growing pains and we kind of have been trying to figure out who we are and who we want to be, and this latest release is sort of a step in that direction.
Awesome! So besides “Carry On,” what are you guys currently working on right now?
We just spent about a month and a half out in L.A. writing and working with a bunch of different producers and it was awesome. We’ve been in the studio for a while, but we’ve kind of been working with the same people and we really wanted to challenge ourselves and kind of open ourselves up to some new ideas and kind of get out of our comfort zone a little bit, and we were really able to do that. I think sometimes it’s good to take things to an extreme and see how far you can push it and see what’s comfortable and what’s not. You can kind of wrangle it in to find the sweet spot, and I think we were able to do that. “Carry On” is kind of the first step in unveiling that and what we want to do moving forward.
Would you say that’s the inspiration for that song?
Sort of, in a way. It’s actually a song we’ve been working on for the better part of the year, so we were really excited about it and wanted to make sure everything was perfect, you know, sonically and lyrically. It kind of speaks to our journey as a band. I remember along the way there was a mentor that we had, who’s become a friend of ours—this guy Sam Hollander. He’s a fantastic songwriter, and we’ve been a band for like eight years at this point, and we saw him at the end of a show we were promoting. We were handing out flyers for our band for people to check out our music and he walked out of the show and he was like, “You know what, don’t quit. Just keep doing it because a lot of other people are gonna quit, but if you just keep going, something will happen.” That’s always kind of stuck with us and in a way that’s sort of the mantra behind “Carry On.” You know, we’ve had moments where we weren’t quite as active, or maybe it appeared like we were kind of slowing down as a band. We lost a member last year—there was a lot of change going on in our lives and with the band. “Carry On” kind of speaks to that, and lets ourselves and our fans know that we’re still here and we’re going to be here doing what we love and hopefully you’ll love it too.
Losing your band member, Dylan, how have you guys really stayed tight-knit and how has it changed you or helped you grow?
It’s been tough. I think with any big change like that it’s just gonna take some time to get used to it, and it did. I’m not gonna say it was easy, because it was tricky finding out how to do things moving forward. But we tried to look at it like it was addition by subtraction, and we tried to simplify things. It gave us an opportunity to be closer with one another. I mean, we were already really close to begin with, but it brought us in touch with who we are and who we want to be. And [it] helped us step forward and define our sound and what kind of songs we wanna write and what kind of influence we wanna have on our fans, and whether we really cared how cool we looked on the outside versus just being ourselves and saying that’s the cool thing to do. And that’s kind of what we’ve chosen to do moving forward.
How do you guys make it work—being on the road, being on tour—how do you guys get along all the time?
It’s tricky. I mean, we certainly have our differences here and there. Being in a band is like being in a relationship—it’s like dating two or three dudes at the same time, which can sometimes be a nightmare. But I think at this point we’ve all gotten to know each other so well, and we started off best friends and it remains that way, and I think we know each other well enough to be able to call each other out when one person might not be so agreeable sometimes. As much as it sucks being told you’re being a dick, sometimes you need that and so we’ve kept each other grounded, which I think is important. In this industry it’s very easy to have very high highs and very low lows, and we’ve all experienced that—being in this band. So I think the three of us kind of together, there’s never a time where all three of us are feeling super down about something or feeling super high or ecstatic about something. So we’ve all kind of been able to center each other in that sense.
I’ve been listening to your 4 a.m. mash up all day—I totally love it.
Thank you! I’m glad you dig it.
It’s so funny. I mean, how did that come together?
Honestly, I don’t really know. Steve and I were driving back from a bachelor party for one of our friends and I think we were listening to the radio and at a certain point we were like, “All of these songs are literally the same.” We were like; it’d be cool to find something that works for all of them and then do like a line of each of them. And that kind of just evolved into something that we actually did one night when we were bored. We were hanging out at my apartment and we were writing a little bit and we kind of hit a wall, and we were like let’s just work on something else to mess around a little bit, and that happened. I don’t know, it’s kind of fun to look a little bit deeper into songs to see what other people are doing and what’s worked for them. I don’t think you can spend too much time doing that, but it’s interesting to see how pop music, in particular, works and how universal it is.
I loved that, it was fun and it sounded so good!
Thank you! It was fun to do.
What’s your favorite genre to sing?
I studied vocal jazz in college and I’m all about the crooner style, like Mel Tormé and Frank Sinatra, that kind of vocals. It sounds so effortless—I’m not saying when I do it, but there’s nothing better than that sound, and I love to sing that.
What has been your favorite performance?
We played Firefly a couple years ago and we were literally the first band that played that year. We played that Thursday and started at 5 [p.m.], so we were like excited to play it and we were really looking forward to it for months, but since we were the first band playing, our expectations weren’t crazy in terms of how many people would be there. We expected about 1,000 [or] 2,000 people, tops, and it had also been raining so everything was muddy and wet. So we were like, people are definitely gonna take there time to get in here. We do a super quick sound check, the doors haven’t opened yet and we don’t get back to the stage until we start the set. We get on our laptops and hit the space bar to start the set, and the next thing we know we’re walking out on stage to probably 12,000 people and still people just flooding in and running up to the stage, which was pretty insane. It was an insane day to begin with, just because we didn’t sleep. We drove over night to get there because we were on a tour, and it was just kind of a whirlwind. But that is a moment that I’ll never forget. You see those broadcasts of festivals, and it was something we’ve always wanted to do. Just like, how f**king cool would it be to play to a sea of people? The experience was just so surreal; I can’t even begin to explain it.
So if you got the chance again you would definitely play there.
Oh absolutely, in a heart beat
Do you have any dates set for new music coming out or upcoming shows?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but I’m going to anyway, we’re playing a festival in Denver in late May. Right now, as much as we want to get out on tour and see everybody, our priority is getting the music to where it needs to be so it’s ready to go. We certainly owe our fans some new music. The thing we kind of decided on with “Carry On” and moving forward, was we’re gonna doing things the right way, kind of cohesively. We can throw music together however we want, all willy-nilly, but I think in order for it to have the impact that we want it to and the impact our fans really deserve, it takes a little bit of time to make it perfect. So, as far as a timeline goes, it’s tough to say; but I think we’re getting close.
Is it going to be a full album or an EP?
We’re not sure yet! It’s kind of interesting, the path artists are taking nowadays when it comes to singles versus EPs. It’s kind of cool to see artists like John Mayer doing waves of EPs. Sometimes I think it’s a little overwhelming—the whole notion of an album, in terms as a listener. I think people now listen to things so fragmented—and they listen to things in small doses. I don’t know, I think it’s something that we need to talk about once all the songs are together so we can kind of see what’s going to be most suitable for what we have. But it’s interesting, looking at the music industry today compared to what it was 10 or even five years ago. We’re definitely a single-based world and I think artists are slowly learning how to change along with that.
If there were one artist you could collaborate with, who would it be?
I love Ed Sheeran; his new album’s amazing. I’ve been listening it nonstop. He’s such a fantastic songwriter. But, I’m gonna say John Mayer because he has a little bit of a jazz background, which I respect so much, and he’s such a phenomenal artist. I don’t think they make musicians with his level of talent anymore. He’s on a whole different level. I think on this tour he’s going on he’s opening up for himself, so I don’t think there’s really a lane to go on tour with him, but he’s a phenomenal artist.
So once you get to collab with him, you’ve really made it. One final message to your fans?
We will never forget about you guys. You are the real reason we’re continuing to do this and the reason why we’ve come as far as we have, and that will never be forgotten. And we promise that the delay in getting new music and getting back out on tour will be worth it in the long run. We miss you, and we want to come see you soon.