Gay Street's venerable watering hole, the Bistro at the Bijou, has long been an after-hours haven for downtown working stiffs. After a long day at the office, they slouch in, loosen their ties, and douse their troubles with a pint before heading home to sleep and start all over again.
Hunkered down at the bar on this iceberg of a January evening, Stevie Miller, Trevor Greene, and Eric Griffin wear the same world-weary expressions as any other regular. The only difference is, at ages 21, 22, and 27, respectively, they're decades younger than most Bistro barflies. And, presumably unlike the businessfolk surrounding them, they're in a rock band.
The Young, as they call themselves, are simultaneously aptly and ironically named. The songs on the band's latest EP, Nylon April, released in summer 2007, fast-forward beyond typical twentysomething subject matter—shallow-end musings on love, lust, and loss—and park instead in life's deeper, darker corners. Much of the album, explains songwriter Griffin, is a meditation on the loss of his brother, Zach.
"I think that people, if they stumble onto it in a bar and hear it, they're going to be like, ‘What is this?'" says Griffin, who sings and plays guitar and piano on the album. "People have to be into it. They have to want to listen."
"That's the hard part," drummer and backup vocalist Miller says, recalling a recent show at another downtown bar. "We were playing, you know, three hours of all original songs, and a woman walked up and requested Sublime."
He laughs. While it may not help their popularity with the locals, the band refuses to play covers. "It was the most depressing night ever for The Young," Miller says.
The band's own sound is certainly worth a listen. Melody-driven, guitar-fueled, and flanked with tidal waves of piano, Nylon April recalls the atmospheric pop ballads of Coldplay or The Bends-era Radiohead. Griffin's voice is an exercise in slow-burn catharsis as it sifts through the heavier components of the human condition, lingering at just the right moments. Meanwhile, Greene's bass and Miller's percussion calcify into a sturdy backbone from which Griffin's lyrics can hang.
"Relationships, death—we just try to write well-structured songs about things people go through, things people can relate to," Griffin explains. "That's what we strive for."
The band is quick to emphasize, however, that its music isn't all gloom and doom. The clouds parted to make way for The Young's more recent material, soon to be released on a full-length album. "Over the past year we've really progressed and our styles have changed," Miller says. "The newer songs are more upbeat."
Maybe that's the band's age showing, as they push forward through life's shadowy chapters and are surprised when they emerge, hopefully a little wiser, on the other side. In most respects, though, The Young are already wise beyond their years. Unlike plenty of up-and-coming bands, their pursuit seems motivated by a genuine love of music as opposed to prima donna ambitions. When they load up their conversion van and go on tour, they don't expect to come home rich; they just hope they make enough gas money to get home.
"We'll play for free alcohol, dinner, whatever," Miller says. "We just want to play a good show. If we get paid, great."
The Young are modest about their precociousness. "We're still very young, still learning," Griffin says. "We're pretty hard on ourselves. We mess up, hit a wrong chord, and we beat ourselves up over it."
Griffin describes himself as "a quiet guy" who's had to work on his confidence onstage. "It's like, ‘Does this work? Does it look like I know what I'm doing up here?'" he says, then shrugs. "You just have to go out there and do it."