Ever since alt-rockers King Youngbloods debut self-titled record, Cameron Lavi-Jones and Hamoon Milaninia have been treating fans to their own brand of rock that is as blood-pumping and head-banging as it is thoughtfully-constructed and socially conscious.
Since then, they have only built on their sound and message with the burning and emotional single, “Opaque“, and the protest powerhouse that is, “Yakubian Antics“. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the band and getting some insight into their new single, “Too Late Too Soon”, as well as their thoughts on activism in music, and the creative trials of the pandemic.
King Youngblood “Too Late, Too Soon”
RMR: King Youngblood’s activism and message seems to be intrinsic to your bold sound. From the beginning, was there always meant to be such a close relationship between what you guys stand for and how you sound?
Cameron: Absolutely. For me and Hamoon, as the longest-standing members, we’re two brown dudes in the rock world. That absolutely means something – We have an innate understanding of what it feels like to not belong, because of the society that we live in, because of white supremacy, because of all these different issues that look at brown people and try to take things away from them rather than support the communities that they’re from. So for us, activism in music has been always hand in hand because music is one of the few safe spaces we have as brown folks. Because we are rock artists, we actually had a tough time getting folks to realize we were black and brown artists initially, as there is some misplaced idea that rock is only for white people – when of course black people invented rock in the first place.
RMR: Before we get into the newer stuff, let’s go “back” to your self-titled from 2019. What has changed for the band since then?
Hamoon: I think this [also] speaks to Cam, but my own personal musical growth has come a long way. I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a musician and as a person, especially, and that all ties into music. I’ve gotten a lot more invested in production, and I know Cam has as well, things like that all integrate into the grand sphere of musical creation. The music we’re making is a lot better than in 2019, because of these growths we’ve made plus we are better producers and musicians in the studio now, so we know how to make things sound like we want to better now.
Cameron: On top of that, we’re a lot more seasoned with how the music business actually runs – we have a better understanding of our place as artists, but also the importance and power that comes from collaborating with other people. This single, “Too Late Too Soon”, we’re doing with Adam Kasper, who is world-renowned and did all the records that inspired me to go into the rock world. And working with Matt Chamberlain from Soundgarden and even Pearl Jam and Eric Lilavois from London Bridge Studios – it’s opened our eyes to all the possibilities we have with King Youngblood. To have these icons respect is unreal but to work them is a dream.
RMR: Your new single, “Too Late Too Soon” sees you going in an introspective direction. Can you talk a little bit how that song came about?
Cameron: I wrote ‘Too Late Too Soon” with my godbrother, Jon Corn. He has a condition in which his bones and skin are very fragile and not heal properly called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Dermatosparaxis also known as EDS7C – He and I have gotten a chance to connect on an intersectional level, being from two vastly different, but marginalized groups. Jon and I wrote the song with this concept in mind of wondering if we’re enough to cope with the changes going on in the world, wondering if the world is changing enough for us to have a place in it still. It’s a complicated thing to chew on. “Am I enough” is a question that requires so many questions to attempt to answer, if it’s even possible to answer. Another one of my friends is Melanie Faye – she was in town, on tour with Willow Smith, and we got a chance to sit down and play guitar together. That main riff in the pre-chorus is inspired from getting a chance to sit down with her.
RMR: And now for the essential, overdone question that I must ask: How has the pandemic affected your writing and your overall creative approach?
Cameron: It’s hard, man. Imma keep it a buck. It’s difficult when you have to risk your life in order to do your art – I’m really lucky I’ve been able to get vaccinated, so I know at least I’m not posing a risk to people who are a part of King Youngblood. At the same rate, understanding the importance of your art means you have to be creative in finding solutions – we do a lot of Zoom writing sessions, and when we get the chance, are lucky enough to be in a living space where we have enough room to social distance and wear our masks and everything. But it’s hard; we aren’t able to see each other as often. The world is different right now, and you have to respond to that; but at the same rate, the show has to go on, cause the messages, art, and music that you make is just as important regardless of the pandemic – arguably, it’s more important, cause people need to be sparked to have that internal dialogue that we’re trying to do with, “Too Late Too Soon”. It’s hard but, in the words of Jeff Goldblum, “Life finds a way”.
RMR: What’s next for King Youngbood? With “Too Late Too Soon”, “Opaque”, and “Yakubian Antics”, it seems like there may be an album in the works?
Cameron: We’ll give you something. We’re working on a project…an EP (8 songs)…called, “God I am Exhausted”, with a lot of different songs that we’ve done with Adam and Eric. BIPOC people are especially tired as the fight that erupted is real and so is the complacency we are seeing now post-election given the relief that the Orange man is out. Especially in reflecting about, with this year, let alone the past four years have gone… niggas are tired, bro. It’s hard out here. Really what we’re working toward is a chance to be able to take a breath; to let ourselves be that full range of creatives, whether that’s doing strictly protest songs, or we’re doing strictly introspective songs, it’s about giving ourselves a chance to breathe because this year has been exhausting. Too Late Too Soon asks the question I’ve changed but into who? It’s our question, it’s our countries question, it’s the world’s question really.
Make sure to be on the lookout for King Youngblood’s timely new single, “Too Late Too Soon”, which drops tomorrow, February 19th. Also, stay tuned for later this month, when we’ll be covering more new music from King Youngblood and their part in the ongoing Seattle World Tour project.