When you ask a band to name their influences, the usual response is to cite the music canon, or a specific genre.
But then, Reptile Youth are anything but usual. "Yesterday everything just looked really gray and I had a bad day. I was somehow in no man's land and I didn't understand why I was blue," is how the Danish duo's vocalist, Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen begins his answer, before continuing, "And suddenly I walked past this street musician and normally I think they're pretty lame but he played a song as if it was directed to me. The song just melded me, like, I was just struck. It was really, really weird. Sometimes, music can be really magical." Indeed--but then, you'd know that if you listened to Reptile Youth.
This is a band that aims not to capture whatever sound is buzzed about at the moment but what they're feeling at the moment. Which you'd never guess, if you listened to them; emo, they're not. instead, Reptile Youth is raucous rock, the embodiment of your leather jacket-wearing friend who is always more fun at 2am than he is at 2pm (listen to "Speeddance," whose opening line goes, "Dance like your hands are on fire," if you don't believe it). Since forming in 2009, the duo--Kristiansen and bassist Esben Valloe, although they're since added three backing members to their live concerts--have slowly but surely been developing songs that can stand up to the energy that they bring to their live shows.
Now, with their self-titled debut album finally coming out stateside this month and their first show on American soil slated for this week, this could be their musical equivalent of coming across a life-affirming busker. So why the hold-up? "The majority of the songs are written pretty recently. We've been taking our time to find the right songwriting process and the right sound, so a lot of the old songs have already been dumped," admits Kristiansen. Valloe agrees: "We put more focus into the songs and the tunes than just the electronic effects and sounds." (Which doesn't mean they've fallen to the wayside: They had The Cure producer Dave M. Allen and Hot Chip producer Marc Ralph helping out.) But now that they've started, they're on a roll. "We already made more than 20 new songs for the next record," says Kristiansen. And if you want real, solid inspiration--well, they've got that too. Reflecting on the track "Be My Yoko Ono," with the chorus, "For you I'd break up my band," Kristiansen says simply, "There's just something really nice about the John Lennon and Yoko Ono relationship. It's like, John couldn't function without her by his side, and that is kind of what the song's about: strong love."
REBECCA WILLA DAVIS