As explosive as the EBM duo Youth Code may come across, thanks in large part to vocalist Sara Taylor’s unique and ferocious range, the pair—composed of real-life and professional partners Taylor and Ryan George—create with heightened emotion. And that shows tenfold on their latest (and first) collaborative effort with King Yosef, A Skeleton Key In The Doors Of Depression.
While working alongside a couple may sound intimidating or less than ideal for some artists, Yosef, Taylor and George are cut from the same creative cloth. Harnessing their collective strengths and personal influences, the three were able to openly explore artistic visions that, until now, they were unable to realize fully for one reason or another.
Despite the duo’s distinct musings and Yosef’s A-list collaborative work with artists such as Craig Owens (Chiodos, badXchannels, D.R.U.G.S.), Kamiyada+ and Alice Glass, the three fused their unrelenting sounds together, which culminated in a swift injection of representation across heavy genres, including hardcore, industrial, metal, EDM and more. In an instant, Taylor’s vocal range ejects from her throat like a piercing battle cry and slowly melts into a melodic progression, while George’s calculated synth work and Yosef’s own aggressive vocals create a neatly layered masterpiece.
Youth Code’s Taylor and George as well as Yosef spoke with Alternative Press on the dynamic the trio formed and the ease of creating the collaborative album with one another.
It’s been several years since Youth Code released Commitment To Complications. How has the writing and recording process developed with the release of A Skeleton Key In The Doors Of Depression?
SARA TAYLOR: Youth Code, to me, have never sounded the same throughout any record. I think there are similarities that come between A Place To Stand and Commitment, but they’re two completely separate records. With each record, I like to tiptoe a little bit more out of what I’m comfortable [with] from the last time. So with the first record, we just did this thing and did it pretty quickly. Everything was so quick at the beginning of our career. We started the band, and then we put out a record. I think it was like three months after our first show [that] Angry Love [Productions] wanted us to put out a seven-inch with them. We hadn’t even discussed doing a tape or anything, so it was already pretty rapid. And that first record, I think, was just go, go, go, go, go. And then after that, we had a little bit of time to home in [on] what we wanted to do, so when we were making A Place To Stand, there was a little bit more vocal recognition on my part, a little more confidence in terms of using my voice and being in the studio with it.
By Commitment, I knew how to fucking scream. On this one, I was like, “I can excel in screaming.” I’d like to try a different approach or be more melodic, but I had to push myself to try to feel confident with doing that sort of thing. So for me, it took a long time personally because there were so many demos in between Commitment and recording A Skeleton Key. It’s me seriously trying out some weird fucking shit. Trying to figure out how it is that I can sing but also retain an aggressive nature to my voice because that’s what I do, and that’s what I tell. So I think between those two releases, for me personally, it was a lot of growth, but I didn’t want to overdo it, like, “Oh, band go away for four years to write, come back and are only doing Ariana Grande vocals.” I can’t even do that. I wanted to push toward more development in my voice.
Youth Code have had a really expansive career. Even though you did take those five years between the last two albums, you’ve had the opportunity to collaborate and work with some incredible artists. Notably at the end of 2019, Sara, you went onstage with My Chemical Romance at the return show. You’ve had the chance to work with Alex Lopez of Suicide Silence, Chelsea Wolfe and Deafheaven, just to name a few. When do you collectively know that a collaboration with a particular artist or producer is going to be the right fit for the band?
TAYLOR: We’ve only done one official collaboration besides this collaboration with King Yosef, and it was the song [“INNOCENCE”] with HEALTH. Other than that, we asked Chelsea Wolfe to remix one of our songs to donate to Planned Parenthood. George Clarke from Deafheaven was like, “This track is sick. Let me get on it.” I didn’t really have any say in George being on it besides saying, “Yes, please do that.” [Laughs.] We’re very selective about collaborating because it’s so personal to Ryan and me. On Commitment, we had Todd Jones from Nails, who’s been one of Ryan’s friends [for] probably 20 years. We’re very selective about bringing people in.
GEORGE: We are super selective about who we do stuff with. It’s pretty natural. It’s not like we’re not reaching out to anybody. Just in conversations, [we’re like] “Oh, we should do this.”
As a producer, collaborator and creator, you’ve worked with tons of artists, ranging from hip-hop to industrial and EBM. What was the writing and recording process like for you working with Youth Code on A Skeleton Key?
KING YOSEF: I’m pretty open about how big of an influence Ryan and Sara are on me, even just musically. I think the reason it made more sense as a collaboration with Youth Code instead of me just being a producer like I am in a lot of other circumstances is because it’s like coming back to the foundation of what my music is based upon. And I’ve been such a fan of theirs that by the time we started working on things—I’ve listened to all the Youth Code records and studied Ryan’s production—it just made sense instantly. I didn’t ever feel like, “How am I going to meld myself?” Because when you’re doing production for other artists, my goal when I’m working with anybody else is that I’m camouflaging into their world and trying to expand upon it, whereas for this, it felt like our worlds just meshed together perfectly. I just instantly started on all the things that we were exchanging, and it just clicked. I didn’t even have to really second-guess anything. I just instantly was in the zone and understood what I needed to be doing.
Similarly, Yosef, you’ve also had the opportunity to work with a lot of artists such as Craig Owens of badXchannels, Alice Glass and Kamiyada+. When do you know when a collaboration with a particular artist is the right fit?
YOSEF: I can just feel it. There are some people where I just hear what they’re doing, and I understand it. It’s really as simple as that. Sometimes I work with people outside of my wheelhouse. I don’t think most people would think that I’m the most pop-oriented producer in the world. But for the most part, I don’t do anything unless it makes sense to the world that I’m already carving out for myself, and I know that we are going to make sense together because I’m never trying to force anything and then come out with a product where it’s like, “I could have done this better.” If it comes naturally, then it happens. I’m all about collaborations becoming organic.
For each of you personally and as a team, what kind of difficulties or challenges were you forced to overcome during this collaboration together?
TAYLOR: My only challenge was making sure that I didn’t hog the record vocally because I’m so used to having a complete song and figuring out the cadence for the entire thing and the delivery for the entire thing and then just going in and doing the song. So, it was challenging for me. I think that I was on FaceTime with Yosef probably about six or seven times a day for the week leading up to me going there, just being like, “I don’t want to do that. Well, maybe I’ll do this, or maybe I won’t do that.” I was super nervous because every single part about this record is all equal parts, all of us. Because he’s also singing on the record, I didn’t want to go in there and just bulldoze over him, which I couldn’t because his voice is so rad and powerful.
YOSEF: I think the biggest thing is that I write everything, I record everything, I mix everything [and] I get the art done without the artist hearing the song. What I’m saying and what I’m talking about is very much my own world and my safe place to say it. So I went from this very isolated space, and then all of a sudden, I was in an environment where I was saying these things with somebody else. It wasn’t necessarily difficult, but it definitely was a little uncomfortable at first for me, and I think Sara felt the same way. So that was definitely a thing we overcame. And then we had a deadline for this album that was pretty strict, and I mixed the whole entire album with Ryan and Sara bouncing notes off each other. Mixing a whole eight-song album over two weeks after just tracking all the vocals was pretty rough, but we made it happen. I think having Ryan and Sara there to bring me back down to Earth [helped]. I can get very lost in the mix. You can’t hear, “This snare is too loud or this vocal needs to be up a little bit” when you’ve been looking at something for eight hours straight. So having a team where I could just send it to them, and they’re like, “Hey, maybe try this, maybe try that.” That certainly helped me a lot.
As a collective unit, what does this album represent for the future?
TAYLOR: In my opinion, it’s just a really nice way to barge down the barn doors and let people know that we’re in a different zone. I feel like this band, from inception to now, have always tried to be five steps ahead of what everybody else does. When we started in 2012, industrial wasn’t this cool word that a lot of people were throwing around at every chance with their music. By the time everyone started throwing it around as a cute descriptive word, we were already moving beyond it and going back into metal elements and stuff. It’s not to say that we reinvented the wheel by any means, but we always try to push forward more and more. So this record is a collaboration. By the time we have another record out, I’m sure that there will be things that are even more different about it. It’s just a constant means of trying to make sure you’re five steps ahead of people. Even if they don’t get it at that point in time, they’ll get it in five years because it’s been proven. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
GEORGE: It’s a good bridge for us. It’s not just a good record. It’s a good way, when we come back with our next record, for people to see what we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, what we’ve been working on and how we changed.
YOSEF: It’s a celebration of friendship for me and growth. It feels like I have the two coolest older siblings that are giving me a space to be creative and helping me along in my evolution. Lyrically, it’s really offloading a lot of weight mentally to clear up the space, and now I’m already taking a step forward.
You can read the full interview between Youth Code and King Yosef on their collaborative work in Issue 393, available here.