Next week, Pacific Northwest’s King Youngblood will drop their brand new LP, ‘BIG THANK,’ but before you get to hear all the greatness that awaits – you can read what their own Cameron Lavi-Jones had to say not only about the new album, but the pressures of locality, coming-of-age, podcasting, and more in this brand new back and forth.
Kendra: Is there still an innate pressure when you’re a band from Seattle or have the days of the influence of the ‘90s on the Pacific Northwest sort of died down a bit?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: I think this is such an interesting question because I think a huge element of that 90’s influence has been a focus on being committed to your authenticity as an artist. I know I can’t speak for the entire PNW because man the music here is SO diverse, but for King Youngblood, the influence of the grunge era set the stage for musical philosophies rather than pressures. Grunge is, yes, a genre and a sound, but much larger than that, it is an approach to music centered around being wholly tapped into your artistic integrity. That principle is something we try to apply with every record, every performance, and every time we pop out. I wouldn’t say I feel pressure but rather honored to know that those bands paved the way for us to be able to be the truest form of artists that we can be. If anything, I want to pay that thought process forward, especially for other Black and Brown kids into rock music because that commitment to your art is really a commitment to yourself
Kendra: Sticking with Seattle for a moment more, what made your Emerald City heart freak out more, opening for Pearl Jam or playing a pre-show at a Seahawks’ game?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: C’mon now that question ain’t fair! I’ll say this, there is a magic that happens when you meet your heroes and they are not only good people but people that also recognize the importance of still being a part of the community they hail from. I have to specifically give a shoutout to Matt Cameron. Not only is he a huge inspiration for us but I had a chance to chop it up with him in the studio too. There is no inspiration like seeing your inspirations are just like you. It really helps fight off imposter syndrome and instead acts as a reminder to keep pace and stay true to yourself. Plus, Russ just left so that sucks. It’s still go 12’s over here though, don’t get that twisted.
Kendra: Now let’s talk about ‘BIG THANK.’ The past couple of years has been intense for everyone, especially those working in music. All in all, is this album just a big thank you to those who’ve helped keep y’all mentally right and creative as of late?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: ‘BIG THANK’ is an album about acknowledging just how goddamn hard growing into yourself is. A lot of this album was written as I was navigating experiences ranging from more personal ones to bigger picture ones, both before and during the pandemic. I mean, coming into myself in my early 20s has been a reflection of my experiences in college, in relationships, with mental health struggles, with identity struggles, with racial justice and visibility, all that. Those things don’t affect you in a vacuum either, they swirl together and become something much bigger than the individual elements, let alone stacking the pandemic on top of it.
For King Youngblood, music has always been an outlet- a medium to convert negative emotions, experiences, or even simple ones we don’t understand, and through the process of songwriting, convert them into something we get to be proud of. Something we get to shout at the top of our lungs with other people that feel seen by our music. Something we get to reclaim in response to the obstacles that impact our daily lives. Considering the circumstances, I am so proud that we are all still here and more specifically, that we’ve been able to become even more dialed in after trudging through these fires.
We came out on the other side not just with an album that is the truest representation of us to date, but as individuals who took the time to learn the lessons those experiences gave us. Now, we’re a little more equipped for the work ahead in all capacities.
Kendra: You noted that the band’s come so far and “A Thousand Songs” sort of acknowledges and pays homage to that. Which I think is why it sounds so much like a song you’d hear in a coming-of-age movie. It has this celebratory, humble, growth sound to it. With that, if you could place “A Thousand Songs” in any recent movie, which would it be and why?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: I wish “A Thousand Songs” could have been in ‘Boyhood.’ I saw that movie with my closest friends from high school at this indie, neighborhood theater here in north Seattle called The Crest. The ticket was $3 and the four of us sat there and had not felt so seen by a movie in a long time. But you’re spot on!
In my last year of high school, the school district had finally finished building a new school and transitioned all the students into it. But they still had the old building on the same grounds so a few times late at night, me and those same friends would pop in and walk the abandoned halls and reminisce. When I got in the studio with our producer (and co-writer on this song!) Eric Lilavois, we got a chance to utilize a lot of the imagery from those memories and saw that they became reflective of the growth and importance of looking back with pride in how far you’ve come too.
Kendra: Something I’ve noticed about artists from every genre in recent years, including yourselves, is the advocacy of mental health. What do you think led this generation of artists towards this era of pushing the importance of being open, going to therapy, and not hiding one’s mental health in their lyrics with flowery language but being blunt about it?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: This generation of artists has had a chance to learn from the mistakes of earlier generations in how the stigmas of mental illness impact people, and more importantly, what the consequences of upholding those stigmas actually are. To use ourselves as an example, King Youngblood has a 501(c)3 non-profit called Hold Your Crown that is centered around dismantling those stigmas with a focus on youth.
The project sprouted from looking back at those terrible assemblies back in school where they’d gather everyone up in the gym, hire some old white dude to tell us not to kill ourselves, as if that was the solution to the very real mental illnesses that our peers were struggling with. That strategy is ineffective. If you want to convey a message to someone, especially one that can save their life, you have to speak to them in a way that will resonate with them. You are always more likely to listen to someone that looks like you, has experienced what you’ve experienced, or communicates with you in the same way that you relate with others. Especially focusing on the youth aspect of fighting mental health stigmas has been incredibly impactful in solving problems before they worsen later on in life.
For this generation of artists, I know it’s been the same principles being applied and likely for the same reasons too. We all know someone that we’ve lost to suicide or seen their life worsened by a lack of mental health resources. Music is a universal language and I am proud to see that the stigma around mental health has been challenged a lot more in this generation of artists. I know that work is making a difference. To answer your question bluntly, artists are talking and writing about it more because we need to.
Kendra: I did want to ask if you’d be picking up with The Revolution Will Be Harmonized because I took a listen and yes, we want more…
Cameron Lavi-Jones: Yes, we will be back! The Revolution Will Be Harmonized is currently on a break while King Youngblood is pushing ‘BIG THANK’ and simultaneously my co-hosts, Jaiden Grayson, staysafeknox, and I are currently working on Jaiden’s upcoming EP. She’s got a single out now called “MaMa” that I can’t recommend enough. J writes lyrics that I’ve never heard before and the creative energy we have on the show is amplified by about three billion when it comes to music. If you’re a fan of the show I highly suggest you check it out, friend.
Kendra: Time for a side note…since April showers bring May flowers, I’d love to know what song makes you bloom with happiness and why?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: My go-to song for feeling the joy of spring is “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” by Roy Ayers. A close second is “Golden” by Jill Scott but man, Roy Ayers- yeesh. There’s no feeling like sitting in the sunlight, letting it bless my melanin, and listening to that song. The man is a genius and his music is a blessing to humankind. It’s the kinda song I imagine bees listen to while they pollinate flowers and make honey, it’s THAT level of good.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘BIG THANK’ out on May 13th, what else can you let us in on? Are you touring this year, already working on new music?
Cameron Lavi-Jones: Man, you tryna get me to spoil ain’t ya? Alright, I’ll throw you a few bones.
Yes! We are touring in the summer, we are still getting all the details coordinated for the run so I can’t give those details, but we are doing some really dope new things that we’ve always wanted to with the release of the album too! We are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to help seed the tour and merch and we’ve got some specialty perks with it- we’ve got these view masters with never before seen performance photos and a comic book based around the band, and finally doing our first vinyls! We are trying to really shake things up and having the support from folks to do so always makes things more worthwhile. If folks are feeling generous they can donate here.
I can also say that the next album is already 2 ⁄ 3s done and it’s already fighting me for which I’m more stoked for. That’s all imma say on that though.