Youth Group

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Youth Group

Rock group

Earnest and literate pop akin to Death Cab for Cutie-by-way-of Coldplay, for years the Australia band Youth Group struggled for success in their homeland, until a cover song and TV show gave them their break worldwide. The song was a commissioned cover song played on the once hugely popular teen drama The O.C. in 2005, a song that made Americans, and eventually Australians, want more. The band played Indie pop-rock with arena-swooning potential, and though Youth Group frequently flew under the radar, the critics never panned them. "Bits of Teenage Fanclub collide with The Beach Boys' legacy," wrote Matt Schild on "Youth Group fits perfectly alongside the rise of American indie pop without sounding like it's scrambling for a seat on the bandwagon."

Youth Group originally formed in 1998 in Sydney, Australia. Guitarist Toby Martin and drummer Danny Allen, along with various members including Andy Cassell and John Lattin, released a handful of singles from 1998 to 2000. Still developing their sound and style, Youth Group moved from roots pop to noisy feedback rock and commercial cool pop. Originally released only in Australia via Ivy League Records (co-owned by Cassell), by 2001 the band had settled into the right groove. That year Ivy League issued the band's debut

full-length album, Urban & Eastern. Though well received by earnest and attentive indie-rock music fans, Australian radio barely noticed the record.

Three years after their debut album, Youth Group developed a floating and sweetly swaying pop sound with 2004's Skeleton Jar. "I think that Skeleton Jar in general, as an album, was where we found who we were, what our sound was," Martin told dB Magazine. Shortly after the album's release, Youth Group settled in with current guitarist Cameron Emerson-Elliott and former Vines' bassist Patrick Matthews. Because Australians had a lukewarm response to Skeleton Jar, Youth Group hadn't actively sought to release their albums outside the country. So it was somewhat of a surprise when an American record label wanted to snatch them up. In 2004 the well-known U.S. independent punk label Epitaph signed Youth Group to their budding Anti- imprint. "Sometime's it's a bit weird," Emerson-Elliott confessed to Schild, about their surprise at having more American than Australian fans. "In general, they understand where we're coming from more than Australians do."

In May of 2005, Anti-/Epitaph distributed Skeleton Jar in North America. Youth Group's new American label Epitaph seemed an odd place for such a pleasant band, but the group's material was issued through the Epitaph imprint Anti-, a softer side of the label that included such diverse cult and influential artists as Tom Waits and Neko Case. It was an apt place for Youth Group's often ambiguous music. "Kinda like Death Cab for Crowded House," was the way writer Sarah Liss explained Skelton Jar in Now Magazine. "Surprisingly meaty drums, tasteful sleigh bells and Theremin snippets add intrigue to Youth Group's swoony indie pop power ballads and strummy acoustic anthems," added Liss. In fact the comparisons to Death Cab for Cutie were often more than dead on; the Seattle band invited Youth Group to go on tour with them.

Hit Song on TV Show

New friends Death Cab for Cutie had a close (and interesting) relationship with the then-mega-popular teen nighttime drama The O.C. Their music was often featured during the show, and because the hit TV show was always looking to break out new artists, they listened to Death Cab's suggestions and placed a Youth Group song during an episode. The now legendary program commissioned the Australians to record a cover of Alphaville's prom-night-worthy 1980s hit song "Forever Young." Youth Group's stunning version of the ballad was played during a pivotal moment of The O.C., and TV fans immediately sought out this "new" band. "Forever Young" landed on the winter 2005 release of The O.C. Mix 5, a lucrative and popular collection of tracks from the show that was released by Warner Bros. "Forever Young" became a number one, platinum-selling single in Australia, and in 2006 it won the band an ARIA Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year—Single. The success of the single, both in Australia and North America, drummed up critical attention for the gifted band. "Storytelling, poise, and intimacy rarely alight so gracefully," wrote journalist Andy Langer in a 2005 issue of Esquire. "The power of a good ol' fashioned ballad is a wondrous thing."

For the Record …

Members include: Danny Allen , drums; Cameron Emerson-Elliott , guitar; Toby Martin , vocals, guitar; Patrick Matthews , bass.

Group formed in Sydney, Australia, c. 1998; released numerous Australian singles on Ivy League Records; released full-length Urban & Eastern, Ivy League Records, 2001; Skeleton Jar, Ivy League Records, 2004; signed to Anti-/Epitaph Records in North America, reissued Skeleton Jar, 2005; released Casino Twilight Dogs, Ivy League Records, 2006; reissued, Epitaph, 2007.

Awards: ARIA Award (Australia), Breakthrough Artist—Single, for "Forever Young," 2006.

Addresses: Record company—Anti-/Epitaph Records, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026. Website—Epitaph Official Website: Website—Youth Group Official Website:

Now pumped with vigor in their veins, Youth Group went into the recording studio to make the follow-up to Skeleton Jar, an album they hoped would heavily break through in America. Admittedly influenced by the Velvet Underground's infamous self-titled album and by the full-bodied orchestral nature of the Beach Boys' early work, Youth Group recorded their full-bodied third album from December of 2005 to February of 2006 in Sydney, Australia. In April the album was mixed in Los Angeles. With its opulent orchestrations and tranquil vibes mixed with feedback, Casino Twilight Dogs was Youth Group at their finest. The new track "Start Today Tomorrow" was luxuriant with layers of guitars and vocals, and featured bass by legendary session bassist Carol Kaye. The group aimed to make songs that created a visual image when heard, played by a band that was completely connected. The band felt their third album was their best so far. "I think this is more of an ensemble record," Martin said in an interview with Jonah Bayer of Alternative Press. "We spent a lot more time arranging and demo-ing the songs. I think the complexity comes from working hard in the rehearsal space rather than spending a lot of time doing overdubs in the recording studio."

In July of 2006 Ivy League issued Casino Twilight Dogs in Australia, where it debuted at number ten. In January of 2007 Anti-/Epitaph released the album in North America. "On their third album, they wield massive choruses, stadium ready producing and the keening vocals of Toby Martin," Rob Sheffield wrote in Rolling Stone. Sheffield added, "In a post-O.C. world, Youth Group keep the fires burning."

Selected discography

Urban & Eastern, Ivy League Records, 2000.

Skeleton Jar, Ivy League Records, 2004; reissued, Anti-/Epitaph Records, 2005.

(Contributor) The O.C. Mix 5, Warner Bros., 2005.

Casino Twilight Dogs, Ivy League Records, 2006; reissued, Anti-/Epitaph Records, 2007.



Alternative Press, February 2007.

dB Magazine (Australia), July 27-August 9, 2005.

Esquire, June 2005, p. 38.

Now Magazine (Toronto, Canada), May 26-June 1, 2005.


"Made in America,", id=361 (September 12, 2007).

"Youth Group: Casino Twilight Dogs," Rolling Stone, (September 12, 2007).

Youth Group Official Website, (September 12, 2007).

—Shannon McCarthy