Nothing is Off Limits for New York's Young Culture: "We’re Gonna Just Keep Doing What We Wanna Do"
Photos and story by Shannon Shumaker
Young Culture might fall under the genre of pop-punk, but they’re so much more than that. The Albany outfit, formed back in 2016 by longtime friends Gabe Pietrafesa and Alex Magnan, began exploring their wide range of influences with their debut EP, You and further explored their sound with their recently released sophomore effort, Blue, which touches on a little bit of everything, from pop-punk and emo to a more pop influenced sound. Nothing is off limits for Young Culture, and that is quickly apparent when talking about the band’s goals with Pietrafesa and Magnan before their first show in Denver, Colorado.
You can tell when something just clicks, and for Young Culture, it certainly comes natural. Playing music together isn’t a foreign concept for Pietrafesa and Magnan, as they’ve been in bands together in one way or another for years. For Pietrafesa, this meant first picking up the bass in middle school to play the talent show with Magnan’s band - despite the fact that he didn’t even play bass.
“I remember one of the first times when me and Gabe started hanging out, we were showing each other music and he was like, ‘Yo dude, I wanna show you this song. It’s pretty stupid but you might like it.’ And it was Never Shout Never,” Magnan says with a laugh, “And I was like, ‘Bro I love Never Shout Never!’ And that’s when I was like, ‘This guy’s the homie. Start a band with me, man.’”
Flash forward quite a few years, and although a few things have changed (Pietrafesa plays guitar in Young Culture now) a lot hasn’t. The love for the music is certainly still there, only now, they’re taking things more seriously than before.
“We’d been playing in bands all throughout middle school and high school, so when we really started Young Culture, my dream - and I know his dream too - was to become a touring band,” Pietrafesa says of their goals for the band. Although the two have been playing together for years, Young Culture marks the first project that they’ve been fully in control of, and it shows. The amount of passion and excitement that the two have for their own music is infectious, so it comes as no surprise to learn that they’ve essentially been working on their newest EP, Blue since they first formed almost two years ago.
“When we recorded our first ever record, the process took super long - it ended up taking like two years from when we started recording to when we actually put it out,” Pietrafesa explains, “In those two years, we matured as humans and musicians and just kept writing, and we had a ton of songs. We were already ready to record another record before our first one was even out.”
“If you listen to the first record and then Blue, you can hear the difference in maturity and the difference in sound.”
- Gabe Pietrafesa
So what makes Blue so special? The EP is simply Young Culture at their best. Marking a shift in sound following their debut EP, Blue finds the band finally exploring the full spectrum of their sound, from full-fledged pop-punk anthems to slower acoustic-driven tracks all the way to catchy as hell pop songs… All within just five tracks. The range of influences is endless, as Magnan explains, “We were like, ‘Okay, how do we want Young Culture to sound?’ We’re trying out different things.”
“If you listen to the first record and then Blue, you can hear the difference in maturity and the difference in sound,” Pietrafesa adds, “I think that was a good reason for it to take too long. Because we were super prepared when we went into the studio. We knew exactly what we wanted where.”
The result opens multiple doors for the band, who could easily fit in on a mixed bill or even find fans in people who normally don’t find themselves at a pop-punk show. For Young Culture, it’s all about going with the flow and doing what feels right, which makes them so much more than your run of the mill pop-punk band. “In between the two EPs, we put out a mixtape too,” Magnan adds, “We didn’t really push it too hard, but we wanted to do it for fun because we love hip hop and R&B and Gabe makes beats and I just love writing music like that. So I think in the future, we’ll definitely incorporate a lot more stuff like that, too. It’s pretty much like testing the waters, you know what I mean?”
Although a complete rehaul of sound might not be in the future for the band, that’s not to say that Young Culture aren’t open to any and all possibilities. When discussing new music, Pietrafesa expresses, “I couldn’t imagine doing a complete 180 with our sound, but definitely incorporating different things and just being creative. I think when the time comes for a full-length, we’ll definitely have time to be super creative with stuff like that. That would be amazing.”
“We just don’t want to put ourselves in a box right at the beginning,” Magnan agrees, “When we started this, we were like, ‘Alright, we don’t wanna be a pop-punk band that is only ever going to be able to be a pop-punk band and not change.’ We want people to know right away that this is us - we’re gonna just keep doing what we wanna do.”
“Everything we’ve done with Young Culture, we made it a point to do it all organic. No bullshit.”
- Alex Magnan
Doing what they want to do means experimenting with their sound and hoping that others vibe with it enough to come check out a show. And so far, they’re hitting every single goal they set for themselves, from touring on Blue to playing out west for the first time. Whether they’re playing to a sold-out hometown crowd or a few die-hard fans far away from home in Denver, Young Culture are simply just excited to be where they are and eager to continue growing in the future.
They might be humble, but they certainly aren’t timid. In the same conversation, Magnan tells of his excitement when the band first hit one thousand followers on instagram while expressing his desire to be the next band to put the pop-punk scene on the map.
“It definitely feels good watching things grow from the ground up. Everything we’ve done with Young Culture, we made it a point to do it all organic. No bullshit,” Magnan says, reflecting on the band’s accomplishments thus far. “When we reached one thousand followers on instagram, which was not long ago, we were like, ‘Yo, every one of these people that follows us actually fucks with us.’ We didn’t have to do anything except be a band to get these people to fuck with us.”
In the future, the amount of ambition and hustle that Young Culture have (coupled with the catchy as hell sound found on Blue) could easily be enough to help the band accomplish their goals - even the lofty ones. “[In the] early 2000’s and stuff, this type of music was a little bit more in the mainstream - you’d hear stuff like that on the radio. I wanna be the band to bring that type of stuff back into the mainstream,” Magnan confides. “We’ll see. It’s gonna take a while to get there, but hopefully someday we can be that band for this music scene.”
Until then, Young Culture are just going to continue to write music that speaks to them and work their asses off until it reaches the ears of new listeners. That could mean a full-length or it could mean another EP - either way, the band wants to release more new music, and soon. “Up next, I’d say we probably want to do some more recordings, maybe a full-length next or another EP and just see where it takes us. Just keep progressing,” Magnan explains.
“Even now when we’re writing new music, it’s like, ‘Damn, I just want everybody to hear it,’ even though we just put out the EP,” Pietrafesa adds, “That’s probably the main goal. New music.”
Until then, Blue will certainly hold listeners over. As a taste test of what’s to come, Young Culture’s newest release shows promise for the future and their ambition will simply cement it. Whether it’s uncharted territory musically or literally, Young Culture are prepared to dive headfirst into the unknown, and their drive coupled with their unique sound will easily thrust them into the spotlight this year.