The brainchild of singer-songwriter Thomas Young, Victims of the New Math is a one-man studio band. Originally a duo including Thomas and his brother Joe, the gents hope to capture the rock sounds of the late 60s and early 70s. We speak with the alternative rocker about his new EP Moon Man, future plans and much more.
What is the backstory to your EP Moon Man?
It’s kind of funny where you can find inspiration. In March I really had no idea what I was going to do next musically. I was just about to release my third EP over something like four months and I was feeling burned out on writing and recording; I had zero inspiration.
Right before the COVID lockdown hit, we had a Victims of the New Math t-shirt party giving away band album cover t-shirts to my family and close friends as a way to thank them for their support over the past few years. One of my friend’s daughters asked where the “Moon Man” t-shirts were – that her mom wanted one of those. She was talking about some goofy promo photos I had done wearing my youngest son’s Halloween costume space helmet. For some reason, the phrase really stuck with me. I was like “I need to do a song called Moon Man!” Quarantine hit and the themes of space, isolation and hope kind of flowed from there.
If you could change anything about Moon Man, what would it be?
That’s a tough one. For any other release I would have a ton to tell you! I always hear the mistakes after release and since I tend to learn as I go with recording there are usually things I learn that I wish I had applied. I’ve been really happy with the overall sound and quality of the tracks on my latest releases, particularly Moon Man.
That being said, the one thing I’ve started doing since I finished Moon Man is direct mic-ing my amp for my electronic guitar instead of plugging directly into the board, especially for solos. It really gives a warmer feel to the guitar and creates a more interesting sound. I would have liked to have tried that on these tracks. I think the solos are great, but they could stand out even more with that technique.
What was the writing and recording process like?
It was fast – faster than normal. It usually takes me months to record, figure out what songs to use, group songs by theme or sound, but I was able to write and record the core of the EP in just a few weeks. Once I had the title, things just started clicking. It also helped that I started the project right as quarantine began.
The pandemic has been horrible and the sudden changes to everyday life and the adjustments we seemed to be making on the fly, especially at first, really create a surreal atmosphere. Life seemed somewhat normal, but there were these constant clouds of anxiety and fear hovering over us. I think those emotions really fed some of the themes with the music. and I really looked to writing and recording as a refuge from what was going on in the world.
You play several instruments, but are there disadvantages to being a multi-instrumentalist?
For me, the disadvantages of being a multi-instrumentalist lie in the range of my skill levels with the instruments I play. I am primarily a guitarist – I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15. I feel very confident in my abilities to create with my guitar and when I’m recording my guitar parts it’s usually easy (for the rhythm guitar) and fun (for the leads). I’ve been playing bass for a while too and I think you’ll find the bass lines in my songs really add some nice rhythm and bounce.
After that, though, it’s a struggle. I’ve really only been trying drums for a few years and when I do it’s just for recording. There’s a lack of complexity in my drum work. Even though I think the drums really work and help move the songs, I am overly reliant on splicing multiple takes and studio tricks. I sometimes am frustrated that I can’t give the fills and rhythms I can hear in my head.
What about the advantages?
Playing multiple instruments really opens up the ways you can approach a song. Having some understanding of how to play everything helps your vision for the track and it allows you to tackle the start of a song a variety of ways. Early in my recording, I relied solely on the guitar parts to carry the songs. Now, based on the vision for the track, I emphasise the instrument that makes sense to me. You can really hear it in the drum and bass fills in ‘Moon Man’.
What are your future plans?
After a short break I recorded a follow-up to Moon Man, it’s tentatively titled The 70s Aren’t Coming Back. It’s a change in direction a bit from the power-pop on Moon Man. The new songs have a much more sludgy lo-fi sound with a lot more kick drum. I’ve always wanted to capture that sound from early-70s Stones records or the 90s lo-fi bands like Guided By Voices. I’m mixing the tracks now and hope to have something out by January.
What inspires you to make music?
It’s a couple of things. First, just my love of music. I love listening to all the music I’ve collected over the years. I love hearing new sounds and discovering new bands. Music is a huge part of my life and hearing it always makes me want to try something new.
Secondly, I just love the process of creating a new song. From some phrase or title idea I’ve written down to messing with some chords that might work all through the recording process. It just is always a cool adventure and there’s usually a really cool product that comes from it!