YOUNG PEOPLE WITH FACES and CHAIN LETTERS singer
by Angelo Ruggiero
Every generation of punks has always included a great diversity of people. Some aspire having a career as musicians, some hope to gain the interest of a big record label, but the immense majority of them, are youngsters that start their own bands, and make at least one record by them selves or on a small label. In fact, many of the best punk records came from one-shot projects, by bands that only made one seven inch or an album.
Even if the punk scene has changed through the time, many people are still in it for the fun and the enjoyment of what they are doing. Young People with Faces were one of those bands that epitomized a group of adolescents who just wanted to rawk hard. They were an amazing punk band from Hailey, Idaho, that formed in 2004 with Alice Bynum on drums, Simone Kastner on guitar, Matt Mayhem on bass, and Sophia Dilley, who was in charge of the vocals and keyboards.
Like the old punk bands, they used a valid strategy: self-releasing their debut single, which came out in June of 2005. Inspired by their punk heroes, they expressed their inner anger with an exciting piece, “I Hate You” on the side A, and backing it with a pair of catchy covers of “Spider-Man” and “Batman.
Soon after, in August of 2005, the band’s self-titled debut album was released as a CD. The disc was comprised of fourteen punk rock influenced tracks: “Sick Girl,” “Break Your Face,” “Fuck Art, Let's Rock,” “So Annoyed,” “Piece Of Meat,” “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” “I Hate You,” “Gettin' Hit On,” “Stay 17,” “Do The Pogo,” “Unlovable People,” “American Dream,” and “Yeah Yeah.” The vinyl version of the album was beautifully pressed on pink vinyl, surfacing one year later on Rapid Pulse Records, and featuring one extra track, "I Didn't Die."
Please, tell me about the formation of Young People with Faces (YPWF). How did you all meet each other?
SOPHIA: We all went to high school together so we knew each other through other avenues. Funny enough, Alice and I did ballet together growing up! Matt, Simone and I were all in Jazz band together in high school as well.
YPWF had actually formed almost a year before I came on board. They had two lead singers who left in an angry huff when they discovered their musical interests aligned more with Michael Jackson than with Punk rock. I happened to hear that YPWF was auditioning for a lead singer when this all went down and thought, “Hey, why not?” So I auditioned. I remember I was so nervous, I had no idea what I was doing, no idea about punk, but there was something awesome when we all played our first song together and I sang with them for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t great, but there was a rawness that worked. And I remember Matt, Alice, and Simone saying, “You’re in” and then it was just practice and studying the greats to get down the basics. And my punk side was born.
Before I knew it, I was obsessed with these awesome 70s punk bands, we were rehearsing every day we could after school and started playing gigs a couple months later. Then we went on to writing our own material, and then recording and even a few tours! It’s all such a blur looking back now, but man was it awesome.
How did you come up with the band’s name?
SOPHIA: It’s an old Buddy Rich line. Buddy was famous for yelling at his band after they performed and on one occasion he screamed at a trombonist to get rid of his beard “This is the Buddy Rich Band; young people…with faces! No more fuckin’ beards” is the line he yelled. Matt loved this line and it became the band’s name. You can see Buddy Rich’s head on Alice’s Drum set if you look closely at our CD cover.
Sophia, what are your top 5 favorite female singers/bands?
Avengers - Penelope Houston
Pretenders - Chrissie Hynde
Penetration - Pauline Murray
The Bags - Alice Bag
The Sounds - Maja Ivarsson
The I Hate You single has “Punks Not Dead-Just The Punks” (side A), and “Better Than Zeppelin” (side B), scratched in the run-off groove. Who had the idea of including those messages?
Did YPWF split after the debut album? What did you do during the 6-year break in the continuity of your career as a punk rock girl?
I know Chris is the main songwriter for Chain Letters. Have you penned material for YPWF or are you currently co-writing songs for Chain Letters?
I helped co-write a couple of songs for YPWF and as of now I haven’t done any co-writing for Chain Letters. I am open to it though; I think it’s more a matter of time in the day. I need more hours to do all of this, between a full time job as a producer and wanting to play music, scheduling can be a nightmare!
Chain Letters are, at the moment, based in Los Angeles, Toronto and England. Sophia, you are currently in Los Angeles, Johnny is in Toronto, and Chris is living in Cambridge. How often do you reunite for rehearsing?
SOPHIA: Amazingly enough, we have yet to rehearse in person. We all worked on our parts of the song separately. In a way this was great because it gave each of us an opportunity to bring our own twist on the songs to the table.
The cool thing was Chris wrote the lyrics and sent me an example of him singing the song how he envisioned it. I then got to take it and pick parts of the lyrics I wanted to hold longer or yell or have a different tone for. As an example, the entire end of Bad Reflection I adlibbed. I am sure that is how Chris, Johnny and Violet X worked as well. As we continue to create more music, I hope we all get to play live together. There is no other feeling in the world like that and I crave getting to do it again.
Chain Letters are still a relatively new band with one great single and a great recognition, and cool reviews. Are you planning to make a follow-up to the Bad Reflection single, and then start gigging?
SOPHIA: I know Chris and I have talked about doing more stuff together. I hope we do. We all have external obligations, which make it difficult, but I think we are all super pumped to see how it turns out. I am incredibly humbled by the reception that the single has received. It’s really just awesome to be a part of a band again. I love playing music and I LOVE playing live, so if we get the opportunity to play gigs, I am in.
Some words for your fans and the kids that are just starting bands now.
SOPHIA: Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ even if you aren’t confident in your ability yet.
All of the opportunities I have had musically and in life actually came about because I decided to take a risk and say ‘yes’ to something that made me nervous. So say ‘yes,’ keep playing, and don’t be afraid to be raw and real. Punk is all about not being afraid to be unique, to do what you believe in, and to not conform to a general idea of what something should be. So, Be different. Say yes. Play loud! Try a new instrument. Do whatever it is that makes you uniquely you. And, never give up on your music it’s a way of communicating that is extremely powerful both internally and externally and hugely underestimated.