It started off as a normal day for John Rossiter. The guitarist and co-vocalist of Young Jesus sat at his computer and, as usual, sifted through the various messages people send to the indie rock band’s MySpace account. But as he scrolled down, he saw an email from Poya Pictures, the production company for Red Bull’s Rock The Route Tour, urging the four-piece to try out for a slot on the traveling festival.
We were pretty skeptical of the situation because it was a MySpace message
At first, Rossiter and his band mates didn’t think it was for real. “We were pretty skeptical of the situation because it was a MySpace message, and we get tons of those every day and it’s usually like, ‘Sign up here and we’ll make you free t-shirts’ or something,” the 22-year-old recalls. “Finally, we emailed them back and [they] asked us to audition at the Metro. We went into the audition thinking, ‘There is absolutely no chance we’re getting this, we’re a bunch of nerdy kids.’ So we went out, let loose and played pretty well, so they offered us to do it.”
Young Jesus Members
- John Rossiter
- Shawn Nystrand
- Cody Kellogg
- Peter Martin
Now the quartet is officially part of the Red Bull Rock The Route Tour and truth be told, it’s their first tour ever. While they may be indie rock’s new kids on the block, they are winning crowds over with an energized punk-infused mentality that preaches love with an attitude as opposed to penning stereotypical messages of despair for the apathetic heart.
Young Jesus formed in 2008 while the four members were in their native Chicago, Illinois. Rossiter caught up with his buddies (lead guitarist Cody Kellogg, drummer Peter Martin, and bassist and co-singer Shawn Nystrand) and proposed they start a group. “We were all at a party a couple of years ago and I was a little drunk,” he remembers. “But I sat there and said, ‘Hey guys, I really like the music you play. I really wanna be in a band with you guys. Maybe I should drop out of college and we’ll start one.’ And we’ve been doing it ever since for the past two and a half years.”
Although they took up the name Young Jesus, they aren’t trying to make a religious statement. In fact, that’s something they are looking to avoid. The name is merely a reference to the massive beard Nystrand had - as if he looked like a younger version of Christ - and like most bands, the four-piece thought it sounded cool and it stuck ever since.
Pulling on influences like Alkaline Trio, The Nationals, Wilco and The Doors, the members of Young Jesus either worked regular jobs or attended college during the day and spent the night practicing material they had written.
In 2009, the group entered the studio for to record their EP debut Late Night Standards. The six-track collection, which is available for free download on their site whoisyoungjesus.com, was more of a riff heavy, confessional effort where it the four reminisced on their high school days and, for Rossiter, dropping out of college.
We sorta wanted to be a little bit mature and develop our sound, and strip it down
Their follow-up EP, Young, Innocent & Hairy, which was unveiled this past December, is a more cohesive recording with a sincere outlook. “We sorta wanted to be a little bit mature and develop our sound, and strip it down,” Rossiter says. “But we wanted the lyrics to be highlighted a little bit more, so that’s more about characters and developing stories, rather than listen to [songs about] being at parties and how shitty I feel about it or something.” Fans will certainly capture a glimpse of that, especially on highlights like “Garden” and “Chicago Alone Part II.”
While Young Jesus remains unsigned and have limited funds, the band finds effective ways to market and promote themselves with what little they have - opting to utilize the social media and establishing a welcoming presence at their shows. In fact, they have a special motto they are living by. “Our motto is sorta ‘Fuck the green room’,” Rossiter says with a laugh. “Just hang out with fans, talk to people, and make ‘em your friends because I don’t really think there is a huge difference between the band and the fans.”
That’s the philosophy they are taking with the out on the road, and by judging from the Rock The Route videos, it seems to be doing the trick.
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