The Young Evils
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The Young Evils

Seattle, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Seattle, Washington, United States
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Pop




"The Young Evils: Bouncy Boy-Girl Pop"

The Young Evils' Troy Nelson isn't shy about acknowledging his musical crush on the legendary Scottish pop-rock band The Vaselines. But his own group's bouncy boy-girl pop bears witness to that affection while staking out a sound of its own. Sounding for all the world like jaded juvenile delinquents on a sugar-fueled joyride, Nelson and fellow singer Mackenzie Mercer cruise through their debut album with a mix of snotty indie-rock and vulnerable '50s doo-wop, with head-turning results.

It takes tremendous talent to make simple pop this irresistibly infectious — see also: The Raveonettes — and in a little more than two minutes, "Get Over It" practically oozes it, driven by The Young Evils' raw chemistry and undeniable charm. Longtime Vaselines fans are no doubt thrilled by that group's long-awaited new album, but they'd do well to soak up the next-generation pop joys of The Young Evils, too. - NPR Song of the Day

"Good Times Go Bad in Young Evils' 'Touch Tone Lovers' – Premiere"

Phone sex takes a dark twist in the new video for the Young Evils' song "Touch Tone Lovers," from the Seattle indie-rockers' 2012 EP Foreign Spells. Director Johnny Brookbank tracks a couple's relationship that starts off merry but ends in a murder by scissors and an ensuing rescue mission. "Those are [Brookbank's] kids screaming and crying in the video, and it's absolutely real," says Troy Nelson, the Young Evils' singer and guitarist. "They hated the lights and cameras, and in turn, we hated our hangovers even more, which made the video that much better. Johnny's real patient and focused and we can't wait to work with him again in the near future." - Rolling Stone

"The Young Evils' Major-Label Travails and False Starts"

Seattle pop-rock group the Young Evils have been through the sort of major-label rigmarole that gives major labels a bad name. Maybe you can relate. In 2012, they released an EP titled Foreign Spells. Shane Stoneback (Sleigh Bells, Vampire Weekend, Cults) produced it. Soon after its release, popular local DJ Marco Collins posted the lead single “Dead Animals” on his Facebook and someone from Fairfax Records—a Universal subsidiary—contacted the band. After months of negotiations, the Young Evils secured a deal with Fairfax and went to LA’s Sound City Studios (where Nevermind, Rumours, and Pinkerton, among other famous albums, were cut) and recorded 10 songs with Kevin Augunas and his engineers Gavin Paddock and Clif Norrell. They returned to Seattle, but didn’t hear anything from Fairfax for a couple of months, and then they found out that Universal had ceased operations with Fairfax.

But hold your tears… Universal said it wanted the Young Evils to move up to the big leagues. Guitarist/vocalist Troy Nelson picks up the narrative from the band’s Facebook page. “[Universal] wanted more songs, they didn’t love the production, they wanted to re-record, they wanted 30 new songs to choose from (wrote them) and we dutifully plugged away at this exciting opportunity. Unfortunately it felt like some of the classic symptoms of dealing with a major label were setting in - keep the band busy delegating tasks and just hurry up and wait. It was becoming painfully clear that the Young Evils were going to have a tough time fighting for oxygen in meetings mostly devoted to Rhianna's next release.”

Gradually, both band (Mackenzie Mercer, Brendon Helgason, Michael Lee, and Scott Helgason) and label decided to end the relationship, and through what Nelson calls “killer managerial assistance and lawyering, we were able to retain the rights to the music we recorded and walk away.”

Six of the songs from those sessions at Sound City, plus a recent stint at Ben Jenkins’s Kill Room, form the False Starts EP, which will be self-released on November 18.

I caught up with Nelson, who also DJs at KEXP, to discuss the Young Evils’ harrowing encounter with the biggest label conglomerate on the planet and their new music.

What initially convinced you that getting involved with a major label was a good idea? Did any musician friends warn you about the risks?

Nelson: We only became involved with Universal because they had a subsidiary label called Fairfax Records and they really liked our darker EP Foreign Spells. Ever since we drastically moved away from our acoustic-pop beginnings and finally had a solid band in place, we felt like we confused anyone who may have paid attention to us in the first place. Fairfax was the first [label] to be very supportive and vocal about our new direction, and we were happy to fly down to LA and start working with them. They only had three bands on their roster, and one of them was Broncho, who we love. We signed a deal, recorded 10 songs at Sound City, and waited for mixes. During the mixing process, Universal pulled the plug on Fairfax completely, almost overnight. So for months we didn't know where we stood contract-wise and whatnot. We heard that Universal may want to move us over to Universal Republic if they liked the songs. We weren't exactly sure how to feel about everything, but when we found out Phantogram were on that label, we figured there had to be some cool people there.

Months went by and we didn't hear much of anything. Then we saw on Twitter, of all places, that they added us to their lineup. We talked to someone in A&R, and they were ready to finish the mixing and possibly do some more recording. After another few months, we got word that they had laid off quite a few people involved and things were a bit unstable. By that point, we just wanted to release some new music without being in limbo, so we worked on getting out of the whole deal, which is exactly what ended up happening.

Was it painful and expensive to get out of the deal? Has this experience soured you forever on working with majors?

We got to walk with the recordings, which was amazing. That and we got Phil Collen from Def Leppard to play on our song “Renegades”! [This came about because Nelson had worn a Def Leppard T-shirt to the studio one day and Augunas bet him $100 he could get Collen to play on a Young Evils song. Augunas won.] Thankfully, the few people that were left on their end were understanding. We left fairly unscathed. No money owed, just points to the producer if we decided to release any of the songs, which is what we're doing. It didn't sour us too much. Anyone who listens to our band and wants to work with us is nice, but either way we're going to keep doing what we're doing.

You can tell that the songs on False Starts are very catchy and bear the fingerprints of some pro producers working in well-equipped studios. (I also think that this record will end the Vaselines comparisons.)

Yeah, four of the six songs on False Starts were produced by Kevin Augunas (Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe) and the other two by local producer Ben Jenkins. Augunas operates out of the legendary Sound City Studios, and he's got a great ear for making records—bass and drums, in particular. To record where Nevermind was created was surreal, a dream come true.

Has marriage changed anything in the Young Evils’ creative dynamic? (Nelson is married to vocalist Mackenzie Mercer.)

The only thing that's changed is that our first record was about falling in love and innocence. Now our songs are about fire, demons, space, twisted hearts, and running away. In other words, we're finally writing the songs we really wanted to write in the first place.

Whatever happened to that side project based on Lou Champagne System?

You're the only person who knows about that. I told you that years ago! It's still on. I'm just slowly setting home recordings of that project aside one by one until there's a solid five or six. Super dark, homemade, fuzzy, snotty, obnoxious shit will be in your mailbox someday soon. - The Stranger

"Seattle's The Young Evils Record in Former Sound City Space"

Kevin Augunas, founder of Van Nuys' Fairfax Recordings, has added a new act to a roster including the Grammy-winning Gotye and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes: Seattle’s The Young Evils, who play sugary pop with a bite. “I first heard about the band via Facebook,” says Fairfax label manager Jason Reynolds. “Marco Collins had been posting about how great the band was.” Collins’ opinion counts, since he’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a KEXP DJ who broke Beck and sparked his record deal and the subject of a forthcoming documentary, The Glamour and the Squalor, scored by Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.

McCready is a mentor to The Young Evils (vocalist Mackenzie Mercer, guitarist/vocalist Troy Nelson, guitarist Cody Hurd, bassist Michael Lee and drummer Eric Wennberg). He played on the Evils’ cover of Def Leppard’s “Too Late for Love,” a soon-to-be-released 7-inch single.
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While personally close to Pearl Jam, The Young Evils have been thinking about Nirvana lately. Fairfax Recordings used to be called Sound City, and their forthcoming album was made in the room Nirvana made famous. (Rumours and After the Gold Rush were recorded there, too.)
“It was surreal to find ourselves recording at the exact same place where Nevermind was made,” says Nelson. “Every time I pick up the guitar, I try writing my version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ The outcome will never sound like that song stylistically, but I think about it every single time. Some may roll their eyes, but it's given me a goal my entire life. For a kid from a small town where the claim to fame is the Mitchell, South Dakota Corn Palace, it's a dream come true – like the magnetic force of my determined thoughts pulled the two worlds together.”
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Look at the Evils/Nirvana connections, says Nelson. “Collins was one of the first people to play Nirvana, and he posted our video for ‘Dead Animals’ on his Facebook page, and that’s where the Fairfax people heard our music. Barrett Jones, who recorded our debut, recorded some Nirvana songs.” Jones is also Mercer’s stepfather. “Mark Pickerel, our drummer at one point, played drums for Kurt Cobain and Mark Lanegan when they recorded Lead Belly covers. Craig Montgomery used to run sound for Nirvana, and he was behind the soundboard when we played The Triple Door in Seattle.”
“So there's definitely -- and not purposely, I swear -- been a running Nirvana theme in this band.”
Bandleaders Nelson, 36, and Mercer, 24, are meeting with directors for three or four videos for the album, eagerly awaiting Augunas’ final mix of their album, due by August, and planning their July 2014 wedding. The wedding band could be famous. To get there, it will be a grueling next 12 months. Says Mercer: "Record release party, tour, wedding, tour, honeymoon, tour." - The Hollywood Reporter

"World Premiere Video: "It Happens All The Time" by the Young Evils"

The video for the Young Evils' latest single, “It Happens All the Time," is a pre-millenial analog throwback, an almost-shot-by-shot remake of the video for the INXS’s “Don’t Change” from their 1982 album Shabooh Shoobah. Filmed in a day at Seattle’s B47 Studios, it came together more easily than their most recent record, the False Starts EP, which sat in label purgatory with former Universal subsidiary Fairfax Records for months before the Evils were able to miraculously extricate themselves from the contract and walk away with the recordings. (That EP is available for download here.)

The idea for the video started with director Norma Straw dancing in her office to “Don’t Change” on KEXP’s The Morning Show. After the song played, DJ John Richards called fellow DJ and Evils guitarist Troy Nelson into the booth. He suggested Nelson and his bandmates do a cover—not of the song but the video.

Listening to this conversation over the radio, Straw says, “I was like, 'Exactly! I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time'.” She’d been looking for a pilot for a webseries idea she cooked up with Nick Harmer (bass guitarist for Death Cab For Cutie) in which they'd recreate old music videos from the low-budget, pre-MTV days with contemporary music. She got in touch with Nelson and they quickly put the shoot together with help from friends like hotshot cinematographer Angela Bernardoni and B47’s editing maestro Graeme Lowry.

The result, premiered below, hews strikingly close to the original, both visually and in spirit. Check out Mackenzie Mercer doing her best androgyne Michael Hutchence, Troy Nelson committing hilariously to the lip-sync (showing his sketch comedy roots) and friend of the band/super-producer Erik Blood filling in on truckbed synth in '80s safari gear.

- See more at: - City Arts


Still working on that hot first release.



The Young Evils, a rock outfit hailing from Seattle, Washington, are excellent evidence that final products often look nothing like initial intentions. Started as a lighthearted Vaselines-inspired pop duo composed of record store co-workers Troy Nelson and Mackenzie Mercer, the Young Evils today bear only passing resemblance to their past selves. 

After their charming debut album Enchanted Chapel captured hearts far and wide, the duo expanded their sound, enlisting guitarist Michael Lee and teaming up with acclaimed Brooklyn-based producer/engineer Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells, Cults) for the follow-up: the bombastic and wholly rock EP Foreign Spells. Today, brothers Brendon (bass) and Scott Helgason's (drums) rhythm section provide the back bone to the band's 80's inspired angular pop in a way only siblings can provide.

On November 18th 2014, the Young Evils released the False Starts EP recorded at the legendary Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. They are currently back in the studio with Shane Stoneback working on their next full-length and will perform at Sasquatch! and Treefort Music Festival this spring.

Band Members