11 Songs, 37 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Alex Crossan’s 2017 self-titled debut album explored the intersection between London’s clubby underground and mainstream pop. The producer, then 21, had just moved to the city from his native Guernsey and was overwhelmed by its forward-thinking and culturally diverse nightlife. R.Y.C, his second full-length, takes a hard turn inward, meditating on his generation’s loneliness and mental strife. “I saw this trend towards nostalgia as a coping mechanism,” he tells Apple Music. “Every film is a reboot or sequel. There are all these memes about being a ’90s kid. And I found myself indulging in the past a lot, watching old movies and reminiscing with childhood friends. Eventually, I started wondering what that nostalgia would sound like.” Raw Youth Collage merges Crossan’s childhood influences (he played in punk and metal bands before venturing into electronic music) with contemporary indie stars like Clairo, Georgia and slowthai. “I wanted to work with people who were writing really vulnerable music about their life experiences," he says, "and I wanted it to be in this indie/alternative arena. It felt human.” Here are the stories behind each of the songs on the album, in Crossan’s words.

Raw Youth Collage
“This song’s guitar and basslines were the very first things I wrote when I started thinking about what nostalgic indie-emo guitar riffs might sound like. What chords would make me feel that way? I had this riff stored for two years as the album was being made. It was only at the very end that I was able to come up with words for it and set the scene for the album. To say that the title just came to me sounds so faux-spiritual, but it did: Those three words helped me understand that nostalgia and escapism were what I wanted to write about. To me, a raw youth collage is the patchwork of these happy-sad memories that may not necessarily be accurate but that shape how we view the world.”

No Hope Generation
“I was listening to ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division and really love how the whole song is centred around that bassline and chanting. And I wanted to make an anthemic song for a generation that feels doomed. I'm 23 and I feel like a lot of people my age are quite hopeless, but it's in this tongue-in-cheek, post-irony way where it's almost quite funny how there's this sort of communal sense of gloom. It's black comedy. We're all in the same boat, and there's a comfort in that. But at the same time, there's lyrics about not being able to look away from your phone and being miserable and needing help.”

I Don't Think I Can Do This Again (feat. Clairo)
“Claire was in the studio with Rostam Batmanglij, who produced her album Immunity, and I was there for some random, unrelated reason. She played me some of her album and I couldn't help thinking that it was exactly in line with what I wanted to write about. Claire is part of this burgeoning indie scene in the US that’s being shaped by things like Bandcamp and Twitter, these online liminal spaces that are like digital DIY venues. I thought it was good for the first half of the album to have an American influence, because the second half gets really quite British.”

A Meeting at an Oak Tree (feat. Ned Green)
“I knew I wanted the album to have a left turn, and I feel like spoken word is going to be very important in the next few years as a reaction to overly shiny, Auto-Tuned pop. Ned is in an amazing band called Legss, and he's also a poet. We were having a pint one day and I asked him if he’d be up for speaking on the album. I didn't really know about what. We got into the studio, I cut the mic on and I just said, ‘Tell me a story. Something that happened to you.’ What you hear is his improvised recounting of this thing that I thought anyone could relate to. It has this emo backdrop, riffs that sound like American Football or Television, bands that I would have been listening to as a moody teenager.”

Deal Wiv It (feat. slowthai)
“My girlfriend and I were listening to a song called ‘Peaches’ by The Stranglers. It has this punk swagger about it; he's not quite singing, not quite speaking, he’s rapping but he’s telling a story. It just feels really authentically punk. My girlfriend was like, 'slowthai should do a song like this,' and I immediately piped up like, 'Yes, yup, absolutely. That is an amazing idea, and I will be the one to do it with him.' Cut forward to a couple of months later, I played Ty [slowthai] the Stranglers song, laid down a loop and encouraged him not to adhere to any sort of rigid structure. And he went for 20 minutes straight, attacking everything and everybody. It speaks to that feeling of having someone point out to you that you’ve changed, and you're like, well, yeah, isn't that what you're supposed to do?”

vicarious living anthem
“I wanted to make a song about Instagram without actually saying anything too directly. There's a lyric, ‘I just want to be someone else/I don't want to be here by myself/And anyone could be who they want to be.’ Those are the sorts of sentiments that people my age find themselves facing two or three hours a day as they scroll. It’s wrapped in this raucous, pastiche-y pop-punk thing because I just wanted it to be really loud and annoying, but with an undercurrent of anxiety.”

In My Mind
“This represents the less guitar-focused part of my childhood when I had to experience club culture and dance music from very, very far away. I grew up in a very isolated place. There were no clubs; there was no DJ culture. I didn't even know what electronic music was until I was 14 or 15. This song is about trying to vicariously live through the experiences of others, even eras I wasn't alive for, like the start of rave culture in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s this imagined idea of what I think it might have felt like to be in one of those clubs and feel that psychedelic euphoria for the first time.”

Today (feat. Tirzah)
“If you know Tirzah, then you really know her. If you've heard her music, then you're a really big fan. And I was. I went into this collaboration very carefully, kind of tiptoeing around, knowing she doesn't really work with people outside of her very direct circle and wanting to make sure she was comfortable. We had a very long conversation about the themes of the album over some tea, and she started opening up about her childhood, where she grew up, that sort of thing. Similar to ‘Deal Wiv It’, this originated as a 10- or 15-minute stream-of-consciousness take that we later retrofitted into the form of a song.”

Live Like We're Dancing (feat. Georgia)
“Me and Georgia were interested in the specific early-2000s dance music that emerged around cultures like Clubland and Ministry of Sound. It’s this euphoric, pan-European house music that always has one idealistic lyric that’s probably written by a non-native English speaker, and always feels something like Eric Prydz’s ‘Call On Me’. Those words kind of say all they need to say, so you just repeat them over and over again like it’s this fantasy. I think it was me who came up with the phrase ‘live like we're dancing’, and from there we just tried to make it as dewy-eyed, pure and innocent as possible.”

Teenage Headache Dreams
“My girlfriend bought me a harmonium for Christmas. It’s like a tiny organ with a pump on the back, like Radiohead's 'Motion Picture Soundtrack', that sort of sound. I had been working on this song for seven or eight months but just couldn’t finish it. I couldn't figure out what was missing or what it needed... It turned out that what it needed was two things: Ellie Rowsell, who is an amazing lyricist, and this subtle moment in the middle of the song when it actually slows way down. I wanted the final track to have this big moment of crazy, heavy sonic nastiness. Because that’s kind of how you feel when you're a teenager.”

(nocturne for strings and a conversation)
“My personal experience is that when you're reminiscing or escaping to a past life, there are these moments of weird melancholy when you snap back to reality. You feel this sickly sweet wistfulness, like, ‘Oh, now I'm in the now and I don’t know how I feel about it.’ I wanted to end the album with a sort of palate cleanser, and it's this sweet guitar riff that I don't really remember writing. The dialogue underneath is me talking about the project’s themes. I had one of my friends interview me about the album in an attempt to come to some sort of conclusion or breakthrough about what I was trying to do, and dropped some of that audio here. In the end, I think if the way to feel hopeful for the future, to feel joy, is through a little escapism, I think it can be a good thing as long as it's used to move forward. Reflection is useful in times where things are socially, politically and economically overwhelming. Imagining that things could be simpler, or that people could be happier, that’s important nowadays.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Alex Crossan’s 2017 self-titled debut album explored the intersection between London’s clubby underground and mainstream pop. The producer, then 21, had just moved to the city from his native Guernsey and was overwhelmed by its forward-thinking and culturally diverse nightlife. R.Y.C, his second full-length, takes a hard turn inward, meditating on his generation’s loneliness and mental strife. “I saw this trend towards nostalgia as a coping mechanism,” he tells Apple Music. “Every film is a reboot or sequel. There are all these memes about being a ’90s kid. And I found myself indulging in the past a lot, watching old movies and reminiscing with childhood friends. Eventually, I started wondering what that nostalgia would sound like.” Raw Youth Collage merges Crossan’s childhood influences (he played in punk and metal bands before venturing into electronic music) with contemporary indie stars like Clairo, Georgia and slowthai. “I wanted to work with people who were writing really vulnerable music about their life experiences," he says, "and I wanted it to be in this indie/alternative arena. It felt human.” Here are the stories behind each of the songs on the album, in Crossan’s words.

Raw Youth Collage
“This song’s guitar and basslines were the very first things I wrote when I started thinking about what nostalgic indie-emo guitar riffs might sound like. What chords would make me feel that way? I had this riff stored for two years as the album was being made. It was only at the very end that I was able to come up with words for it and set the scene for the album. To say that the title just came to me sounds so faux-spiritual, but it did: Those three words helped me understand that nostalgia and escapism were what I wanted to write about. To me, a raw youth collage is the patchwork of these happy-sad memories that may not necessarily be accurate but that shape how we view the world.”

No Hope Generation
“I was listening to ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division and really love how the whole song is centred around that bassline and chanting. And I wanted to make an anthemic song for a generation that feels doomed. I'm 23 and I feel like a lot of people my age are quite hopeless, but it's in this tongue-in-cheek, post-irony way where it's almost quite funny how there's this sort of communal sense of gloom. It's black comedy. We're all in the same boat, and there's a comfort in that. But at the same time, there's lyrics about not being able to look away from your phone and being miserable and needing help.”

I Don't Think I Can Do This Again (feat. Clairo)
“Claire was in the studio with Rostam Batmanglij, who produced her album Immunity, and I was there for some random, unrelated reason. She played me some of her album and I couldn't help thinking that it was exactly in line with what I wanted to write about. Claire is part of this burgeoning indie scene in the US that’s being shaped by things like Bandcamp and Twitter, these online liminal spaces that are like digital DIY venues. I thought it was good for the first half of the album to have an American influence, because the second half gets really quite British.”

A Meeting at an Oak Tree (feat. Ned Green)
“I knew I wanted the album to have a left turn, and I feel like spoken word is going to be very important in the next few years as a reaction to overly shiny, Auto-Tuned pop. Ned is in an amazing band called Legss, and he's also a poet. We were having a pint one day and I asked him if he’d be up for speaking on the album. I didn't really know about what. We got into the studio, I cut the mic on and I just said, ‘Tell me a story. Something that happened to you.’ What you hear is his improvised recounting of this thing that I thought anyone could relate to. It has this emo backdrop, riffs that sound like American Football or Television, bands that I would have been listening to as a moody teenager.”

Deal Wiv It (feat. slowthai)
“My girlfriend and I were listening to a song called ‘Peaches’ by The Stranglers. It has this punk swagger about it; he's not quite singing, not quite speaking, he’s rapping but he’s telling a story. It just feels really authentically punk. My girlfriend was like, 'slowthai should do a song like this,' and I immediately piped up like, 'Yes, yup, absolutely. That is an amazing idea, and I will be the one to do it with him.' Cut forward to a couple of months later, I played Ty [slowthai] the Stranglers song, laid down a loop and encouraged him not to adhere to any sort of rigid structure. And he went for 20 minutes straight, attacking everything and everybody. It speaks to that feeling of having someone point out to you that you’ve changed, and you're like, well, yeah, isn't that what you're supposed to do?”

vicarious living anthem
“I wanted to make a song about Instagram without actually saying anything too directly. There's a lyric, ‘I just want to be someone else/I don't want to be here by myself/And anyone could be who they want to be.’ Those are the sorts of sentiments that people my age find themselves facing two or three hours a day as they scroll. It’s wrapped in this raucous, pastiche-y pop-punk thing because I just wanted it to be really loud and annoying, but with an undercurrent of anxiety.”

In My Mind
“This represents the less guitar-focused part of my childhood when I had to experience club culture and dance music from very, very far away. I grew up in a very isolated place. There were no clubs; there was no DJ culture. I didn't even know what electronic music was until I was 14 or 15. This song is about trying to vicariously live through the experiences of others, even eras I wasn't alive for, like the start of rave culture in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s this imagined idea of what I think it might have felt like to be in one of those clubs and feel that psychedelic euphoria for the first time.”

Today (feat. Tirzah)
“If you know Tirzah, then you really know her. If you've heard her music, then you're a really big fan. And I was. I went into this collaboration very carefully, kind of tiptoeing around, knowing she doesn't really work with people outside of her very direct circle and wanting to make sure she was comfortable. We had a very long conversation about the themes of the album over some tea, and she started opening up about her childhood, where she grew up, that sort of thing. Similar to ‘Deal Wiv It’, this originated as a 10- or 15-minute stream-of-consciousness take that we later retrofitted into the form of a song.”

Live Like We're Dancing (feat. Georgia)
“Me and Georgia were interested in the specific early-2000s dance music that emerged around cultures like Clubland and Ministry of Sound. It’s this euphoric, pan-European house music that always has one idealistic lyric that’s probably written by a non-native English speaker, and always feels something like Eric Prydz’s ‘Call On Me’. Those words kind of say all they need to say, so you just repeat them over and over again like it’s this fantasy. I think it was me who came up with the phrase ‘live like we're dancing’, and from there we just tried to make it as dewy-eyed, pure and innocent as possible.”

Teenage Headache Dreams
“My girlfriend bought me a harmonium for Christmas. It’s like a tiny organ with a pump on the back, like Radiohead's 'Motion Picture Soundtrack', that sort of sound. I had been working on this song for seven or eight months but just couldn’t finish it. I couldn't figure out what was missing or what it needed... It turned out that what it needed was two things: Ellie Rowsell, who is an amazing lyricist, and this subtle moment in the middle of the song when it actually slows way down. I wanted the final track to have this big moment of crazy, heavy sonic nastiness. Because that’s kind of how you feel when you're a teenager.”

(nocturne for strings and a conversation)
“My personal experience is that when you're reminiscing or escaping to a past life, there are these moments of weird melancholy when you snap back to reality. You feel this sickly sweet wistfulness, like, ‘Oh, now I'm in the now and I don’t know how I feel about it.’ I wanted to end the album with a sort of palate cleanser, and it's this sweet guitar riff that I don't really remember writing. The dialogue underneath is me talking about the project’s themes. I had one of my friends interview me about the album in an attempt to come to some sort of conclusion or breakthrough about what I was trying to do, and dropped some of that audio here. In the end, I think if the way to feel hopeful for the future, to feel joy, is through a little escapism, I think it can be a good thing as long as it's used to move forward. Reflection is useful in times where things are socially, politically and economically overwhelming. Imagining that things could be simpler, or that people could be happier, that’s important nowadays.”

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