Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Lean toward the folksy and brooding? Not afraid of the dark? Chances are you’ll bump into Cult of Youth frontman Sean Ragon in 2011, as his New Year’s resolutions seem to make him the busiest man in the Brooklyn indie underground. After quitting his house-painting job and vowing to go “all in,” Ragon has become a black-clad mogul-in-training. There’s his vintage record store, Heaven Street, located in the back of Greenpoint’s Fox & Fawn: “As far as used vinyl goes, it’s highly edited, so no endless rows of Molly Hatchet records.” There’s his record label, Blind Prophet: “I’m up to the fifth release now — the amazing debut LP from the Argentinean duo Mueran Humanos, out Valentine’s Day.” And of course, there’s his own band, Cult of Youth, which has evolved from a bedroom project into a fleshed-out goth-folk-punk terror. Mixing the unnerving shanties of The Wicker Man with the post-apocalyptic strum of Current 93 or Angels of Light, Cult of Youth is definitely walking in the shadows, even if their jaunty, fiery grooves remind us more of Wall of Voodoo, Adam Ant, and Big Country. The Morricone-core of “New West” is the first track off their self-titled debut (due February 22 on Sacred Bones), a rollicking dust-sucker that teams a Gun Club-style twang-punk screed with soaring strings and post-industrial ‘tude.
What is “New West” about?
Upon reflection, I can see that the song is really cautionary in nature. Resist the urge to do evil, for the power of darkness is overbearing. Be aware if you can, for the price of submission is tragic.
How did you concoct the rambling beat?
The song was originally conceived on just acoustic guitar and had a very different feel to it. It started out as a very Current 93-inspired rant. When I took the song into practice and everybody put their hands on it, it took on a very different shape and character. As is often the case, this song wrote itself, and we were merely its mediums.
You talk about going “all in” with the band this year. What did this entail?
Well, I changed everything about my life! I was in this kind of rut where I was too serious about music to be able to fully devote myself to an outside career — and I was spending too much time working a job to be able to put in the kind of work that I needed to put in to being successful at music. I made a decision to stop with everything else and just go for it. First step, get sober. Just cut it all out of my life. No drinking, no drugs, no hedonism, no fun, nothing. Second step, find a job doing something music-related. An opportunity came up for me to start selling records out of the back of my girlfriend and her business partner’s vintage shop, and I jumped on it! I had no idea what I was doing, but just knew that I would learn as I went. I had only a month and a half to get it all together, and that included not just getting all the stock together, but also helping out doing renovations on the space. I was knocking down walls with sledgehammers and whatnot — serious renovations. The next step was to start the record label . . . I still don’t really know what the future holds, but at least I know now that if I don’t succeed, it won’t be for lack of trying! Failure isn’t really in my sights.
What is your relationship to The Wicker Man?
I love that film! I saw it for the first time maybe 10 years ago and have probably watched it a million times! I have felt a very close kinship with the pagan traditions of pre-Christian Europe ever since my childhood. The mood and feelings evoked by that movie are very special indeed! As a child I was drawn to things like morris dancing and singing sea shanties. Folk traditions have always played a large part of my life . . . also, although it doesn’t play as much of a part of my work as it does with many of my contemporaries, I have had a lifelong relationship with the runes that has always motivated me and given me strength during hard times. It was actually my interest in runes as a teenager that led me to the music of bands like Death in June, and my interest in paganism that led me to bands like Amebix . . . not the other way around.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
Probably a show that I booked back in 2008 for Luftwaffe, Awen, Oneiric Imperium, and Cult of Youth. People even flew in from out of the country to come. It was one of those things where it was like, since there was no neo-folk or post-industrial scene in New York — or really anywhere else in the country for that matter — let’s just book a bunch of these great bands that are isolated in different parts of the country, and hope that people show up. It was a very magical evening, and I’m proud to have been involved in making it happen!
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
I can’t afford that anymore! I’ve gotta keep the money in the band, the store, and the label. I’ve got big plans . . .
The Cult Of Youth record release part is February 25 at Secret Project Robot with Mueran Humanos and Blood Rhythm.