"Finally we connect!" laughs Trevor Powers, the 26-year-old mastermind behind the atmospheric dream pop of Youth Lagoon. After weeks of mishaps that included time zone miscalculations (a recent move had set me back an hour, a factor I forgot to account for) and oversleeping ("I set my alarm and I slept through," Powers admits), our much-overdue phone call was finally underway.

This introduction to Powers serves as a snapshot of what one quickly learns about the artist: he is disarmingly charming, quick-witted and incredibly personable. Before our conversation even arrives at his music, we have already touched upon our respective bouts with illness, college experiences and the annoyance of a lawnmower passing by my window.

Before too long, however, attention quickly turns to his recent European tour. "We just got back two days ago," says Powers. "It was killer, dude. It was so good. It was all sold out. The reception was great. It was also interesting because my live band is an all-new band from last album cycle. And so two of the guys are guys that I know from Boise and they had never been out of the country or anything. So it was a really eye-opening experience for them."

The week-and-a-half long tour, which took Youth Lagoon through England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, featured a hodgepodge of tracks from earlier releases as well as the project's latest record, Savage Hills Ballroom, which was released on September 25. "We mixed it up," says Powers. "There was a lot of old stuff and a lot of new stuff."


And while Powers made his name with the tender introspection of 2011's The Year Of Hibernation and the sonic opulence of 2013's Wondrous Bughouse, the terrific ten track collection offered on Savage Hills Ballroom will present listeners and audiences with a heady set of themes to assess, in addition to Powers' now-signature penchant for beautiful melodies and soaring vocals.

The atmospheric record, which oftentimes features an eclectic mix of thick digital instrumentation (see: the drum machines and dubstep-esque breakdown on 'Officer Telephone' or the heavy synths of 'Highway Patrol Stun Gun') mixed with the delicacy and opulence of previous records, which is perhaps most evident on the aforementioned 'Highway Patrol Stun Gun,' where the droning synths give way to an anthemic piano riff and orchestral composition.

Perhaps what differentiates these songs most significantly from others in Powers' repertoire would be their broader perspective on the world, a product of his strides into adulthood. "I think my view of music has changed as far as what I'm trying to do with it," he says. "[Savage Hills Ballroom] is still equally internal, but now there is also that movement of taking ten steps back and analyzing other parts of the world through music, rather than just my own physical and mental makeup."

Seeking to examine the world around one's self is a daunting process, especially as the frightening flaws begin to expose themselves. But for Powers, getting to see the blemishes fueled his creative process. "I got caught up on the idea of everyone trying to act perfect when we all have our own flaws," he says. "And so I thought of this idea of trying to make a satire of it. I thought of the gold makeup and ballrooms and I thought of everything that exudes flawlessness or the idea of being perfect and then exaggerating it and blowing it way out of proportion. So kind of making a fun mockery of that idea because every single human being does that. Like, 'Hey, how's your day going?' 'Oh, it's good!' Even though there could be the worst, shitty things that are happening to you that day. So I went with that theme. It's not a concept album by any means, every single song is a totally different piece to that puzzle."

The album's themes were derived from a variety of events in Powers' life, including the death of a friend during his last tour cycle, as well as his continuing efforts to make the most of his manic depression, which oftentimes took him into the wee hours of the Boise night. "After the sun goes down, there is something about the evening that's a little more inspiring to me," he says. "So whenever I create, it is usually at night and it is usually really late at night. There will be times when I start ideas in the afternoon and start messing around with things, but as far as diving headfirst into anything, especially music, it is always at nighttime. I'm not sure why. I've always been like that ever since I was a kid. I've always loved staying up late.

"I think it also to do with being outside and not being able to see much," he continues. "Because when you go out and the sun is out, there's so many things to look at and there's so many...I guess you could call them distractions. But if you go outside and it is pitch black, you can feel nature and you can feel the outside but it is a very internal time to be outside because you are only focusing on yourself rather than what surrounds you."

But beyond creating, the night is also Powers' preferred setting for consuming art. "All music sounds better at night," he declares with a laugh. "I know if there is a record that I'm really excited about listening to for the first time, I always wait until nighttime to put it on."

This love for the night manifests itself all over Savage Hills Ballroom, with the raw, brooding lyrical content reflecting itself in the stripped down instrumentals, which stand in stark contrast to the extravagance of Wondrous Bughouse. The decision was a deliberate one.


"It was very conscious," admits Powers. "The songs deal with really raw subject matter and I wanted them to be approached in more of a bare way, so because of that a lot of the instrumentation was very purposeful. There was experimentation going on with sounds, but it was more so finding the right tones rather than like a stream-of-conscious sitting at a synth and just making noise and seeing what comes out. I approached this album in more of a purposeful way because I felt like that's what I needed."

As the most self-aware Youth Lagoon record to date, Savage Hills Ballroom represents a firm step into the pains of adulthood, another stark contrast to the longing for youth on The Year Of Hibernation. "To me, [adulthood] isn't anything that is jarring. It is more the fact that the older I've gotten, the more I obsess over the future and so it is hard for me to reign that in and focus on the present," Powers says. "I think that traveling as much as I do and experiencing things and meeting new people everyday and all that and coming back to somewhere that's isolated like Idaho is very...like it is very frustrating for me to look at other people who aren't really putting themselves outside of their comfort zone.

"Because for me, not a day goes by that I'm not purposefully trying to make myself feel uncomfortable," he continues. "Because I feel like that's the only way you actually grow as a person. When you get into adulthood and seeing that as a time to continue growing, I think a lot of people get into adulthood and they are like, 'Okay, this is who I am. I'm content with this.' Which I think is bullshit. I think you should always be growing and have the mind of a child and keep evolving and pushing yourself."

Powers acknowledges that this is a global problem, but being a resident of a state as isolated as Idaho, it seems more prevalent at home. "It is more evident at home. It depends on where you live. Where I live, in Idaho, it is a very comfortable place and it is cheap, so I think a lot of people settle in and then they're okay, which is fine. To each their own," he says with a verbal shrug. "But I think complacency is something that bothers me, even when I see it in other people. And when I see it in myself, I always have to shake myself and to make sure that I never truly feel complacent or that I'm okay staying stagnant. Because I'm not."

It is for this reason that Powers has considered moving away from his native Idaho. It is a possible change that he thinks about it "all the time." "Actually, my wife and I just talked about it today," he says with a laugh. "It is something we've been throwing around for a long time...we're not sure what we're going to do. It is a lot think about."

In conversation, Powers is ceaselessly charming, affable and unafraid of sharing intimate parts of himself. One listen to Savage Hills Ballroom, which presents his voice in its clearest incarnation to date, makes this fact an unsurprising one. The painful lyrical content on tracks such as 'Kerry,' which features visceral storytelling on a level that makes Powers seem like a freak folk Bob Dylan, comes across through Powers' clear, crisp genderless falsetto.

"[Using clear vocals] wasn't necessarily a decision that I made before recording, but as soon as we started recording, I started messing around with adding effects to the vocals. Delays and all kinds of stuff. It didn't fit with what the songs were trying to say," Powers explains. "And I feel like songs have their own personalities and they have their own voices that you have to listen to. Even when you are writing your own music, you have to listen to what it is telling you to do. I felt like it was telling me to just strip it back. Some songs did have more effects than other, but I felt it was more appropriate to have it bare."

However, despite the blunt, sometimes difficult material that the record traverses, Powers never found himself questioning his internal compass. "It made me feel a little uncomfortable at first because it wasn't something I was used to doing, but I felt like it fit," he says. "And for me, that's the way I view anything I write. I never want to do the same thing twice and I always want to approach things in a way where I just hit the refresh button and start from scratch, rather than just be like, 'Oh, this worked last time so I'm going to do it again.'"


As his music has evolved far from The Year Of Hibernation, Powers has been faced with the challenge of receiving criticism from fans who hoped to see Youth Lagoon release the same type of record again and again. Ironically, those who are afraid of change helped to inspire the themes found on the new album. "I think it does go back to people feeling comfortable," he says. "And so when they listen to music, they want to hear what they heard last time because it made them comfortable. And they also want you to recreate a moment that they experienced your music to. So say they were listening to the first or second record and they were with certain friends and they heard it in a certain car in a certain city and they felt a certain way. And when they hear your music again, they want you to recreate that whole setting, which is absolutely impossible. So I think it has to do with people not being willing to put themselves in new environments."

To Powers, attaching moments to music is an important part of the art's life. But he believes that the meaning can be heightened by taking your older moments and reflecting upon them through the new ones one could find on new art. "I think it's interesting, the second act," he reflects. "You experience something to music and then years go by and you experience something else to different music and you see how far you've come as a human and what's changed in your life."

This is yet another fascinating component to Powers' music. His songs, while deeply personal to him, foster a sense of familiarity that allows listeners to tie them to their own lives. "No matter what, that happens," he says. "When you make any form of art and you release it to the world, it is not yours anymore so you can't stake your claim on it. You can't say that, 'Oh, you're destroying the meaning,' or anything like that because that's what art is. You release it and then all it is is a formless glob of whatever and then people take that and form that into whatever they want it to be. That's what so phenomenal about music and painting and anything. You release it into the world and then people make it their own."

And while seeing people tack their own meanings onto his art was initially difficult, it has merely become another satisfying part of the creative process. "It used to be challenging, but I've learned to embrace it and I've learned that it is inevitable. It is something that is vitally important because that's how people feel, by making their own interpretations of things. So who am I to destroy that?"

Still, sharing such an intimate piece of himself remains an uncomfortable process, but one that he welcomes wholeheartedly. "I think it is always terrifying when you share anything about yourself with others, especially if it is on a wide scale where you are putting it on the internet. It is almost like sharing a part of your journal with strangers. But it wasn't terrifying enough to not do it and I really wanted to share these aspects with other people. And I feel like with music, any time that I can record something and people get to know me in a different way and get to know what I'm experiencing, then I feel like I've succeeded."

Youth Lagoon's new album, Savage Hills Ballroom, is out now. Check out the video for 'The Knower' below. All photos by Flore Diamant.