If there’s one thing you can call Austin indie rockers Young Tongue, it’s resilient. Moving halfway across the country, losing bandmates and changing their name completely would be enough to make a lesser band crumble. But after releasing their sophomore album “Death Rattle” earlier this year, completing a national tour and becoming one of the most active groups in the city, it seems like the Austin transplants are doing just fine.
Story by Molly Much
Photos by Natalie Campbell
In 2008, Young Tongue originated in Asheville, North Carolina, as The Baker Family. Founded by husband and wife Stu and Liz Baker, and Nathan Ribner, the band moved to Austin nearly eight years ago. Although technically labeled an indie rock band, they incorporate several diverse elements into their sound, such as multiple percussionists, nearly dissonant harmonies and nontraditional instruments, empty kegs included. “We used to bring percussion for the audience to play, small drums and stuff, and one time a band we were playing with had an empty keg that we borrowed,” Liz says. “We ended up totally loving it, so we bought our own.”
The Baker Family decided to leave Asheville in an effort to further their budding career. “We wanted to move the band to a bigger city, and it was either here or New York, so we visited both and decided on Austin,” Stu says. As a result, they lost their drummer, but the group soon met Darryl Schomberg, who proved to be the perfect replacement. “When Darryl first joined the band, we had a lot of discussions about not wanting the percussion to be as straightforward,” Stu says. “He’s that kind of drummer anyways, so nontraditional rhythms have always been something that we’ve intentionally included in our songs.”
For the next six years, The Baker Family continued to write and perform in Austin. After releasing one album and two EPs, they realized their name suggested a different sound than the music they were actually making.“People would hear ‘The Baker Family’ and think we were a bluegrass or folk band,” Liz explains. “At that time we were about to release a new album anyways, so we thought it was a good time to rebrand just a little bit.”
In 2014, The Baker Family officially became Young Tongue, but their dedication to putting on an exciting live show remained intact. The band always tries to find new elements to further engage the audience and themselves, whether it be Liz’s pre-show “war paint” ritual or simply beckoning for audience members to dance.
“For me it seems like a lot of bands are just looking for the experience of getting up there and playing music with their friends, as opposed to producing quality music,” Stu says. “But nothing can compare to when you almost enter into a trance-like state during a live show. It’s almost as if you go into this whole different world, and when it’s over you come back out.” He thinks more artists should focus on the quality of their live performance and make them more inclusive for the audience. “Think about inviting people into the experience you’re creating, as opposed to something selfish where you play at a crowd,” Stu says.
Young Tongue will continue to play shows and drop singles and music videos as they work on their next album, which they hope to release in the summer of 2016. “I think we’re incorporating much more of an electronic element to it,” Schomberg says. “More synthesizers and electronic drums.”
Stu suggests the change in sound is a result of personal growth. “We’re just at different places in our lives now compared to when we started,” he says. “I’m personally more happy, so music is coming from a more joyful place than it may have in the past… Music was my diary, but now I want my music to be more of a craft and an art.”
Fans and fans-to-be can catch Young Tongue play at Mohawk on Dec. 11 with Mr. Gnome. More information can be found at youngtonguemusic.com.