Trever Millay has been an active part of Midwestern and East Coast DIY circles for a number of years. From its humble beginnings in his Detroit bedroom toward the end of the last decade, Trever’s musical project YOU. quickly cultivated a significant fan base, as well as a degree of critical notoriety. It wasn’t long before he and partner Brad Taormina decided to relocate to New York City, where the group’s line-up expanded as they continued to steadily develop their brand of lush, synth-driven post punk with releases on such esteemed underground labels as Dais and Blind Prophet.
Time moves on; life brings changes. Somewhat recently, YOU. moved back to their native Detroit. The environmental shift, and a touch of personal upheaval, gave root to the band’s most recent album, Bouquet, on the prolific Italian imprint Avant! After a consistent stream of recorded output and steady touring, Bouquet finds YOU. at their creative apex. It is as sonically rich, and textured, and luminous as ever, mining the personally reflective lyrical territory of self-doubt and imminent destruction. It is a vast, stunning document whose themes of life and death, acceptance and rebirth, speak volumes to the inherent fears involved with personal development and self-reconstruction that lay dormant in the back of our collective unconscious.
We caught up with Trever to talk with him about the changes in his life, how they’ve affected his recording and songwriting processes, and the future of YOU.
Although the band started in Detroit, this is the first record you’ve made there since relocating back from NYC. What brought you home and how, if in any way, has the change of setting informed your songwriting? What advantages and disadvantages have you experienced being based in each city?
It was tough to leave NYC, but I was having financial issues that kept me from staying there. There were a lot of new projects and opportunities opening up in Detroit that caught my attention, so I just went for it. As far as change of setting compared to NYC, I think living back in Detroit has allowed me to take my time and focus on songwriting. Living in both places has its pros and cons, just like anything else.It was exciting for me to live in such an upbeat, thriving place as NYC. The songs I wrote while living there were of the moment, but being back in Detroit, it’s more of a reflective standpoint on writing. Also probably has to do with getting older, haha.
YOU. have worked with a number of labels throughout your career. For Bouquet, you guys went with Italy’s AVANT! Records (which has put out releases by such highly esteemed projects as Lust For Youth, Phase Fatale, Pure Ground, Hot Guts and many others). How has it been working with AVANT! and what is the appeal in doing a record with a European based label instead of a stateside one?
It’s been great working with AVANT!; it’s new to me to do a release with someone who I’ve never met, but, being familiar with the label, I trust Andrea’s taste. The option was there, and it seemed interesting to do a release in a different country, so we went for it.
The thematic content in most of Bouquet evokes an ever-present sense of interpersonal conflict and an anticipation of loss. There is a simple elegance to your language that seems to make these songs all the more relatable. What inspired the bulk of your lyrics on this record?
A bouquet of flowers is interesting to me, because it is something that is used to remember the dead but [is] also used in celebration of new beginnings and life. I would say you are right when you say interpersonal conflict and anticipation of loss had a influence on the album.There were a number of personal hardships and battles to be fought while writing this record. It seemed like everything was going on all at once. On top of moving and new change, I feel there is a sense of end and closure in this album as well. At times it seemed this could be our last album, and that made me feel reflective. If I had to sum it up in one quote it would be “When comes death comes new life.”
With each recording you seem to expand an ever increasing palette of instruments. What kind of gear was used to bring Bouquet to fruition?
Bouquet sounds the way it does due to how great [engineer] Derek Stanton’s studio was, plus his endless amount of gear and patience. It felt like he understood the songs and had very valuable input on the record.
The cover of “Bouquet” is a new painting by celebrated artist Eddie Martinez. How did you wind up working with him on this project? Did you want something specific or did you trust Eddie to do his thing?
We knew we wanted a painting of a bouquet of flowers for the cover, and we were already friends with Eddie from meeting in New York years ago. We were familiar with his bouquet paintings, and from there it just clicked. We were hooked on a few paintings from a few of his books and contacted him about it. He said yes, and the rest is history.
YOU. existed as a bedroom recording project before teaming up with Sean Ragon (who put out your first two albums on his Blind Prophet label) at Heaven Street to make 2014’s excellent Sunchaser LP (Dais). Engineered by Derek Stanton (of Awesome Color) at Molten Sound Studios, Bouquet continues your sonic progression into a larger, more fully realized territory. What has the process of transition from self recording to larger-scale studio work been like? Do you prefer one to the other?
Both have their pros and cons. I would say lately I have been into the studio experience just because I self-recorded for so many years. Having someone else to engineer and produce has been a good experience. In my opinion it is never bad to have a extra set of ears to pick out what you may have missed.
The core YOU. lineup of yourself, Brad Taormina, Scott Kiernan, and Lee Lichtsinn all play on Bouquet, but you also utilize a number of auxiliary musicians throughout the record (notably engineer Derek Stanton, Dan Stolarski of Marital Vows, Jay Hough of Golden Triangle/X-Ray Eyeballs/GoGoGo Airheart and Stephanie Brothers, who also appeared on Sunchaser). What did working with these different people bring to the table?
Working with different people brings new experience and vibes which can bring new inspiration. I collaborate with the musicians I respect, and I’m lucky enough to continue to do so.
YOU. are touring through the midwest to the east coast with Ritual Howls surrounding the album’s release. Any additional plans for the rest of 2016?
Yeah, we are in the middle of booking a week long tour out west in the end of July. After that we are aiming for Europe in the fall.
You’ve been active within the synth and post-punk landscape for a number of years. Are there any projects that you feel a particular kinship with? What do you think of the current state of music within this community? Hell, what do you think of the current state of music in general?
The projects I feel the most kinship with are those I meet for a reason. It just seems to happen. Ritual Howls I admire a lot, and are a band I feel we share a similar path with. Of course Sean Ragon of Cult of Youth, who really helped open the doors for us, and Black Marble, who we’ve gotten to know from touring several different times. At the present moment I really like Sextile out in LA as well as Paint Thinner and Turn to Crime in Detroit. I personally like the state of this community right now. There are always gonna be things you don’t get down with, but I’ve learned to just focus on what’s positive and keep it going.