Under the moniker Young & Sick, LA’s beloved album artist and fashion designer Nick Van Hofwegen’s own musical career has had a smooth liftoff. Three years in the making, Young & Sick boasts a sparkling eponymous debut and stints at Coachella and SXSW earlier this year. Now in the midst of a North American summer tour in support of the new album, various media outlets have picked Hofwegen up as the next big thing following in line with The Weeknd’s brand of lush, downtempo, and production-focused R&B. Young & Sick will be stopping by The Independent in San Francisco July 3rd.
We caught the five-piece at The Drake Hotel in Toronto last month*, and we were pleasantly surprised by the band’s live execution of their studio album.
Theirs is a distinctly urban sound, that’s for sure. Young & Sick sits at the musically-structured and concrete end of the PBR&B continuum with the likes of Devonté Hynes (Blood Orange) and Black Atlass, a class readily accepted by the fashion industry, as witnessed by Hofwegen’s relations with Urban Outfitters, rag & bone, and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. However, Young & Sick live falls into a fuller, more baroque pop-esque style, no doubt due to the ample support from the band’s live female backup vocalist and violinist.
Young & Sick plays like an album dedicated to art and personal exploration. It’s guiltless. “I am so damn happy, something must be very wrong. When life is smiling at me, why do I frown?” Hofwegen asks on its opening track, “Mangrove.” Its fade-aways spiral into dissonance behind hollow percussive knocks a la Gardens & Villa and its elementary vocal melodies rest comfortably in the hot summer air.
But the album’s tinny, jazz-inspired keyboard progressions give it an icy, metropolitan quality – that urban feeling of sitting in a glass-box office, freeing Young & Sick from seasonal boundaries. “Counting Raindrops” is equal parts April evening out and October afternoon picnic, focussing its attention to organic harmonies that somehow work without being perfectly stacked intervals. “Gloom” enlists the help of a blues band section and a female scat singer; the latter is borrowed on “Glass,” but the instrumentation turns into deep bass grooves and shaker percussion.
“My home is the ocean floor with my blood long gone. Get me high and get my love; drink me in vials and let me go,” Hofwegen begs soulfully in “Valium.” Subtract some of the song’s electronic aspects, and he could be performing in some 1960s New York nightclub. But cigarette smoke and fur coats don’t fly so well in the summer of 2014, so pour a cold drink (lime, not lemon) and light an e-cig instead. Call into work sick; feign heatstroke. Hofwegen insists.
*This summer, The B-Side reports from locations worldwide including Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto.