Every so often, an artist leaves us pleasantly perplexed, particularly dumbfounded by the way their art imitates life — sometimes in a most sinister and cynical way. Young Dean's music is his honest attempt to find meaning, understanding and empathy in the darkest recesses of the mind. It’s also a complex quest for sometimes oversimplified answers that usually fall short of considering the big picture.
On Oct. 16, Denton-based musician Dean Adams, known as a full-time member of Lorelei K, studio drummer and now solo artist Young Dean, released the impressive music video for his first single, “Thoughts & Prayers.” The song has a familiar alt-rock-meets-Beatles undertone, but it's a bomb of chamber pop originality.
The beautifully made, high-art video brings an arsenal of new and upcoming young artists including Nigel Newton of Skinny Cooks and Dahlia Knowles of Lorelei K. The video was produced by Austin-based director Kylie Mc Laughlin at Kid A.
The lyrics and accompanying video for “Thoughts & Prayers” contemplate and challenge the ways in which Americans react to mass shootings and social unrest with oversimplification, martyrdom and misplaced action. By writing the lyrical content from the perspective of both the victim and the perpetrator, Adams seeks to close the gap between the two and expose the dissonance. Although Adams knows there are no simple answer to be found in such an inquiry, he’s hoping that the juxtaposition of the two viewpoints through artistic expression will inspire discourse that leads to the right kind of questions being asked and ultimately helping to prevent such actions.
“I don’t believe that truth ever appears as an answer," Adams says. "I feel it appears as a question, and we need to give the right questions more air time in a sense. The right people need to hear the right questions.”
Originally from Arlington, Adams spent his youth in suburbia before attending the University of North Texas and graduating with a music degree in Jazz Studies. While in college, Adams supported himself by touring as a drummer for several country and jazz projects and living the life of a genuine musician for hire. After graduation, he decided to continue his pursuits as a working musician and forgo an opportunity to be a professional academic.
“I didn’t want to be stuck in academia," Adams says. "It wasn’t really my place to be there, although I really enjoy reading. It feels rigid, square and uptight. From touring I found that dance halls and live music venues were always my place.”
Rodeos, West Texas watering holes and even trailer park shows granted Adams a deep appreciation for the people he met and a respect for the effect music has on them. Marfa, San Angelo, Brownsville and everywhere in between were regular stops for the bands with which he played. It was a chance meeting with a Denton artist collective called Spiderweb Salon that put Adams in touch with a more avant-garde group of musicians, which he really liked.
The groups in the collective were actively pursuing performance art and sharing interests and social discourse. Through the artist collective, Adams became fast friends with Dahlia Knowles and producer Michael Briggs of Lorelei K and started playing drums for their group.
“Dahlia asked me to play, and joining Lorelei K further enmeshed me into Michael’s studio, Civil Audio Recordings,” Adams says.
Briggs, a producer and engineer known for his work with bands such as Rosegarden Funeral Party, says "I have worked with Dean for years now in both a session musician capacity as well as being in a band with him and going on tour, and he is absolutely my favorite drummer in North Texas. I am so glad that he is bringing his own original music to the world.
"It was a pleasure working with him on this very eclectic album that features several excellent guest musicians and songs with unique and interesting arrangements that are sure to keep your attention," Briggs said.
After returning from a West Coast tour with Lorelei K that had traveled as far as Vancouver, Adams thought it was time to start recording the songs he had written along the way. Civil Audio Recordings was the obvious choice, and Briggs the obvious producer. “Thoughts & Prayers” is the first single from Adams' debut album, Terror on Vacation, which is due to be released on Jan. 6, 2023.
“The song comes from the frustration of not having the power to do anything about what has happened and continues to happen," he says. "We couldn’t look to leadership, and we couldn’t look to ourselves really, so I tried to look at the universal anxieties we have and embody them in these two characters in the song. ‘Thoughts & Prayers’ is about the powerlessness we feel and the sorts of evil we are capable of.”
As we navigate the ever-changing and overpopulated social media goo that has slowly overtaken human existence since Tom reared his ugly head on MySpace nearly 20 years ago, the narratives about societal anxieties have changed. Adams comes from a generation that witnessed the Columbine shooting on the news and the September 11 attacks in elementary school, and has grown up participating routinely in active shooter drills.
It’s no wonder that the lyrical content of his work aspires to make sense of a world that seemed to be crumbling around him when he was just learning to read. Not long before these society-shifting catastrophic events took place, Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie” was all over MTV, and older millennials were living out their own version of Universal Pictures' American Pie in the suburbs. People of all ages were fantasizing about how incredible the new millennium was going to be and, well, it arrived.
Twenty-two years later, we are still searching for new answers to old questions. The offer of "thoughts and prayers" is nice, but in the real world, not enough, and that’s exactly Adams’ point. Maybe through more questions and discourse, we'll eventually find answers to the tragically complex problems humans inflicts upon themselves.
“It’s not so much that I have the answers," Adams says. "I’m really reformulating the questions. To me, what’s at stake in the story is redemption.”
The tracks on Young Dean’s yet-to-be-released Terror on Vacation are character-based stories that act as social identifiers looking to dissect the world’s current predicaments, no matter how taboo, painful or revolting they may be. As an avid reader of literature, Adams cites authors Flannery O’ Connor and Jonathan Swift as inspirations and believes satire can help play a pivotal role in discussing such sensitive topics. As an artist, Adams feels that his words are his most potent weapon for combat.
“Stories really shape reality, and that’s why I see myself as a weapons manufacturer and the weapon is narrative," Adams says. "Terror on Vacation will be kind of like a mirror I’m holding up to society.”
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