Sam Martin, middle, ain't afraid of no sharks.
To hear Youngblood Hawke’s Sam Martin talk, you might imagine him some kind of environmentalist, rather than the frontman of a swiftly rising indie-pop outfit. “I think it’s important to conserve nature and take care of our earth, because we’re blessed and fortunate to have it,” he says. “I feel like one day we’re going to look, and it’s going to disappear on us, and we’re going to wish that we had lived a little bit differently.”
He’s talking about the inspiration for the music video for the band's single “We Come Running,” which was filmed entirely underwater and features the band members swimming alongside live sharks. “At the time there were a lot of shark attacks in California and we wanted to shed light on these animals because they were getting slaughtered by the millions,” he says. “We wanted to show people that they weren’t these man eating killers. They attack surfers occasionally because they think they’re fish ... but once they know what you are, they’re not evil manhunters. We can’t keep slaughtering these animals at the rate we’re doing it because we’re going to completely wipe them out. And the ocean would die.”
Indeed, Martin says that if he weren’t making music he’d probably be working in the great outdoors, “maybe a tour guide in a national park or something.” Luckily for Martin (if not visitors to Yellowstone) he’s otherwise employed — making infectious, up-tempo electro-rock with one of his best college buds, producer Simon Katz.
Martin and Katz have been collaborating musically ever since the two decided to move from their college town of Boulder, Colo., to L.A. and start their first band, Iglu & Hartly. The band enjoyed moderate success, scoring a Top 5 hit in Europe, before dissolving suddenly — and painfully, says Martin — due to strained relationships with the other band members. “Simon and I felt like we didn’t really have a voice in the project ... and it wasn’t a happy environment for us to be in anymore,” he says. “When you’re making music, but it’s not the music you want to make, there’s really no point. We felt like we could no longer express ourselves, and everything just fell apart.”
The two took the considerable angst of that loss and channeled it into the songs that would become Youngblood Hawke’s debut album, “Wake Up.” “We were really in a dark place and I think, looking back, we really wrote these songs to cheer ourselves up,” he reflects. “We were sitting in our living rooms, dead broke, trying to figure out what to do with our lives. We’d invested eight to 10 years of our lives [in Iglu & Hartly] and then one day it was completely gone. I think it was important to lift ourselves up, I think it was a cathartic experience. We were writing to make ourselves feel better. Definitely the songs have kind of an upbeat feel but I think that if you listen to the lyrics it gets really dark at points.”
When asked to describe the band’s sound, Martin hesitates. “I feel like describing music is like trying to describe a color,” he says. “There’s rock, there’s dance, there’s definitely synth, and there’s some pop elements to it, definitely. But I think what separates us is that we have some weirder lyrics that we balance out with the pop choruses.”
Martin might find their genre difficult to define, but he clearly articulates the band’s unofficial mission statement. “We’re all kind of excited about life,” he says. “In a live show we just like to give people a great experience. I feel like, they come to a show and buy a ticket, they should walk away feeling like we gave all of our effort to entertain them. We walk offstage and we have nothing left. We like to leave it all on the stage for the audience.”
When asked if he ever fears the specter of the one-hit wonder, a fate that befalls many young bands who burst onto the scene with that one catchy hit single and just as quickly fade away, he’s quick to dismiss it. “I feel confident in our album and our songwriting abilities. I think we’re just fortunate to be in this position right now, we’re taking it one day at a time,” he says. “Some bands don’t even get a song. We’re going to continue to write and evolve and get better, so I don’t think that’s something that really freaks me out at all.”
Youngblood Hawke stops in Boston and New York on a club tour before hitting the festival circuit this summer.
May 13, 8 p.m
Santos Party House
96 Lafayette St., New York
May 14, 9 p.m.
Brighton Music Hall
158 Brighton Ave., Allston