Songwriter Trevor Powers, who plays every instrument on Youth Lagoon's debut, "The Year of Hibernation," buries his reverberating vocals so deeply at times on the album that his fragile-sounding voice almost feels like another register on his keyboard. But live, there is no escaping the wistful words coming over the PA.
"Don't stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die," warns the 22-year-old Powers on the song, "17." He is staring into a crowd from under his curly bangs at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas, where earlier this month Youth Lagoon played nine sets.
Where the song is able to seep into the background of your workday, Powers and guitarist Logan Hyde swell slowly and contagiously along to the song's synthetic claps. There's not a single person in attendance who isn't nodding along. It's great when you enjoy a song's most fundamental melodies -- but when the lyrics reveal themselves to be inspiring, that is one of music's greatest rewards. Powers says he buried the words for a reason.
"When you take the skeleton of a song, when you actually record it, you want to present it in a way that fits with that main idea of the song. And with these songs it felt right to present them in a fuzzy and obscure type of way," says Powers between gigs at SXSW. He's sipping a carton of coconut water and smells like beer.
He says though he does present his lyrics in this "fuzzy and obscure type of way," it doesn't prevent fans from trying to figure out what he's saying.
"I remember one time going online, kind of stumbling on a lyrics website and finding some of the songs," he laughs. "They weren't even close."
Powers says that since "The Year of Hibernation" came out in September, the year has been anything but hibernation, as he has been on the road most of the time with an ever-rising profile.
"The best way to describe it would be if your life turns 180 degrees," he says.
And this will most likely change the tone of the second Youth Lagoon album.
"Obviously the songs you write are not going to be the same," he says. "I guess my whole mentality, and my life in general, is different now because I'm in such a different place -- and so the music that I'm working on has a different flavor to it."