The Verizon Artist Lounge at ALT 103.7 headquarters is an unexpected rehearsal space for a new band, but it’s the perfect spot for a band like Young Optimist, which is making serious business out of radio-friendly electro-rock.
How does a band that has played only one show, albeit to a crowd of an astonishing 150 people at The Prophet Bar in March, land a premium rehearsal space?
“It's not sexy, it's not that sexy at all,” singer and bassist Andy Brooks says. “I work here. I'm a sales guy. I represent the Entercom Group here, and I sell basically airtime.”
“I started at the bottom of the barrel,” guitarist and digital mastermind Shohn Trauth adds. “When the new director came in, he put a lot of emphasis on this room, trying to get more bands to come in, and I ended up becoming the manager of this room for a while.”
It was here that Brooks met Trauth after moving from Orlando after his alt-rock band, Transmit Now, fell apart. It wasn’t long before Brooks shared some demos that he had been working on with Trauth, and the two started talking about putting their own new project together.
“I just wanted to do something that was completely opposite to anything Transmit Now was doing,” Brooks says. “It was all really kind of loop based, trying to create music that was just very simple.”
When Trauth heard the demos, with his background in the Dallas electronic band Repel the Robot, he started producing music using Logic software to amplify the songs Brooks had initially created using the more simplistic software Garage Band.
“The first time we probably sat down to actually work over demos was in the winter of 2017 or ’16. I forget,” Trauth says. “We didn't set a lot of time aside, so whenever we did have time, we'd crank out as much as we could.”
The duo was meticulous in their production, working tracks over multiple times, letting them sit for a month and returning to work on them some more.
“There was no road map or intent behind any of it other than to do exactly what felt was right,” Brooks says. “There was no preconceived idea of what this was going to be. We never thought we would actually play live.”
While the duo was content to be nothing more than a studio project in Trauth’s one-bedroom apartment, the urge to share their work and perform live again overcame the two longtime musicians.
“You make your art for yourself first and foremost,” Brooks says. “But you can turn off the faucet, but the faucet is still there. When it all started to click, that was the impetus to see if we could translate this into a live scenario.”
“We hadn't played live in forever,” Trauth adds. “It was an itch we needed to scratch.”
Playing live meant adding live instruments to digital tracks and adding a drummer. The band’s first drummer was Transmit Now’s drummer Greg Parrow.
“In my adult life, I've probably played 300 rock 'n' roll shows, and I've never done a single one without this cat that played with us,” Brooks says.
However, all that changed after the band’s first gig when they were impressed by the work of DTNS drummer Todd Jackson.
Young Optimist had caught Jackson’s eye as well. When Brooks ran into Jackson at Dirk’s Celebrity Baseball game, Jackson jumped at the opportunity to play with the band.
“I was like, 'Hey man, I'm playing another show, do you want to jam with us?'” Brooks remembers. “And he said, ‘Absolutely.’ It was instantaneous.”
Since then, the band has been hard at work transforming their electronic songs into a hybrid performance, in preparation for their Sept. 6 show at the Trees Local Showcase alongside Mad Mexicans, Redefine, Serein and Burning Bridges.
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For a full hour, the band works on the pre-verse transition for what they admit was their worst song at their first show, the yet-to-be-released single “Save it for You.” After a lot of back and forth with the drum work, they ultimately decide that they are overthinking it and settle for something more basic and easy on the ears.
Say what you will about radio-friendly electro-rock, but there is something to be said for a band who puts so much time and energy creating music purely because it makes them happy while also pleasing the music sensibilities of a large audience.
“We're making this for ourselves, but we would love for people to come along for the ride,” Brooks says.
“I would love for the music to touch people in ways that are bigger than ourselves,” Trauth adds. “That’s our goal.”