If Young Valley’s alt-country sound were a high school social group, frontman Zach Lovett said alt-country would be “the group that hangs out with everybody.”
Known to many as “twangy rock n’ roll”, the band has embraced this description of its sound, as well as how their music connects with its audience — whether it’s a song about Satan or one about getting sucker punched by heavy emotions after a breakup and not knowing what to do.
“It tells people that no matter where you are, we’re all the same,” Zach said. “We all feel the same things.”
When Young Valley released its debut album “No Filter” in 2014, its band members were literally young, some just coming out of college, and ready to showcase to the world the songs they’d written.
Band members say their music at the time was still evolving, but fans —including many in Jackson — quickly embraced Young Valley’s mix of rock and country, complete with harmonica, finger-picking on the guitar and melodic harmonies that proudly showcase a Southern drawl.
It’s a sound the band has affectionately named “twang,” similar to the harsh, ringing sound a plucked banjo string makes.
“By the time ‘No Filter’ came out, we were like ‘Wow, we have a lot of this town behind us,” drummer Spencer Thomas said. “Let’s take it on the road.”
In the four years since, the five- (sometimes six-) man group hailing from the Jackson metro area has toured extensively and recorded other projects. The band has scheduled shows in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana, Colorado and Nebraska, to name a few.
Fans will also notice a new band logo and lineup, although many of the song titles on the band’s self-titled sophomore album “Young Valley,” which was recorded at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, are not brand new.
However, the songs have taken on new life. Zach said some of the lyrics of their songs have changed over time, after the band started playing them out in a public forum.
“As opposed to this first record where we had these songs and we just played them on a record, we played these songs out.” Zach said. “We’ve seen how they made people feel, so we knew how they were supposed to feel on a record.
It inspired the band to do all their takes on the album live on the floor, as they didn’t “feel the same” recorded on different tracks and stitched together.
The band marked this new beginning by self-titling the album, which debuted at a release party at Duling Hall on April 20.
“We had so much TLC behind this record … I feel like it’s essentially the dawn of a new Young Valley era,” said Dylan Lovett. “Almost like a brand new debut in a sense. Not to discredit the first record at all. It’s just a different era, a different line up, a sort of different sound.”
Fans have long described Young Valley’s music as straddling somewhere between alternative country and Americana. The band is inspired by performers who fall within the country and rock music spectrum, such as Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Eagles and The Beach Boys.
On the latest album, three new Young Valley members — Ethan Frink on bass and backing vocals; Kell Kellum on pedal steel; and Phill Thompson on violin and keys — now take the place of former bass player Carson Braymer. Young Valley maintains its core songwriters: fraternal twins Zach and Dylan on acoustic and electric guitar (respectively), harmonica and vocals and Spencer on drums and vocals.
The guys who make up Young Valley have grown into their own in the years since the debut record.
“We were sort of going for, ‘What do we do next?’” Spencer said of the early days. “I would say we started the band out of that, and it just kept growing and growing. Then we were just like ‘Well, we’re here now. Do we want to go a step further?’“
That step further involved taking risks by singling out their songwriting on the album, sometimes tapping into tough emotions and experiences. Spencer’s “ ’Til I Cross Your Mind” reflects on a recent breakup, for example.
“No Filter” featured more songs where the band sang lead together.
But on “Young Valley,” the lead singer of each song is most likely the band member who wrote the song while the other band members sing harmony, Zach explained.
“It provides a really great texture and diversity to the record,” Spencer added.
Some songs were even given new life on the road, influenced by new and different audiences night after night.
“Especially when you’re playing on a Tuesday night in Flagstaff, Arizona, no one could really care too much if you were there or not,” Spencer said.
“Or if you do something different,” Dylan added. “Nobody is going to be studying it. You can throw something out there.”
That touring experience helped the band figure out which instruments and sounds matter most to them. “Young Valley” naturally has more country instruments featured — thanks to the new lineup, which allows the band to further push its music to either end of the rock or country spectrum.
“They’re songs we’ve been playing for years,” Dylan said. “ … They’ve taken on a new life in the studio because it’s also a new lineup. The songs have taken the shape of our current band.
“At the base of it, the songs sound the same,” he said. “But when you can add (Kell on electric guitar or pedal steel) you can open up the sound to where it is broader.”
Young Valley wholeheartedly adopts its “twang” identity, as its unique sound earns the band a following around the country.
“People have said (twang) a bunch,” said Zach, citing how fans often describe the band’s sound. “I never wanted to write country songs. I think I’m in a rock band. It just comes out of my mouth because I’m from Mississippi and I talk like this. It’s true to form. It’s what it is.”
The band enjoys refining its repertoire and exploring what more they can accomplish in the spotlight.
“It’s always a constant ‘We don’t know anything’.” Dylan said. “The third album could sound completely different.”