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Youth Lagoon on his return album Heaven Is A Junkyard

‘Heaven Is a Junkyard’ arrives in the aftermath of a crisis that renewed the artist’s lease on life. Continue reading…



It’s a beautiful morning in Trevor Powers’ neck of the woods in Boise, Idaho. The pleasant sound of birds chirping can be heard through the phone while the musician talks about living somewhere that is both divine and devastating. This multi-dimensional landscape has been the vehicle of inspiration that drives the immersive content he creates to unpack themes of nostalgia, childhood, love, pain, death, and identity. Despite the ever-changing circumstances, it was no different for Youth Lagoon’s fourth album, Heaven Is a Junkyard

For better or worse, Powers has never left this corner of the Pacific Northwest — not in the literal sense because he’s a musician who has traveled all over the world, but Idaho is his home. Of course, Powers didn’t always feel this fondly about the place he grew up. “Like a lot of people that are in high school, I couldn’t wait to get out because this was all that I knew,” he says. “I ended up going to Boise State University. I didn’t really know why I was going to college, but there was a lot of pressure in this area, like that’s what you do, and I didn’t have a compass really and was looking for some kind of path. So I went to college for a couple years and kept thinking, ‘When I graduate, I’m going to get out.’”

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But in an unexpected turn of events, going on tour made Powers grow to appreciate where he came from. “The whole definition and concept of home shifted because it was no longer this thing I wanted to flee,” he says. “There was a sanctity to it; there was a specialness to it.” Idaho became a salvation that allowed Powers to “maintain some remnant of stability” in his life. Despite never detaching from this foundation, so much has changed in Powers’ life since he started Youth Lagoon in the privacy of his BSU dorm room. In 2011, he made his mark on the industry with The Year of Hibernation, a strong debut that earned him praise as one of the next great indie artists

youth lagoon


[Photo by Tyler T. Williams]

Instead of sticking to the same bedroom-pop script with the next record, Powers got even more experimental (and introspective) with the psychedelic-leaning Wondrous Bughouse. But after 2015’s Savage Hills Ballroom, a heavy collection of songs touching on subjects like death, addiction, and police brutality, Powers announced that he was taking a break from Youth Lagoon with the intention of never returning to it. In 2018, he officially released Mulberry Violence under his legal name with a loud bang — and plenty of eerie shrieks through distorted vocals you’ve probably heard in nightmares. Unlike most of the material from Powers’ past, this body of work was dark, menacing, and stripped from the innocence of daydreaming through rose-colored glasses. But deep down below the surface, it felt like a spiritual release from the shackles that had been weighing him down.

When all hell broke loose as the pandemic spread panic across the globe in 2020, Powers leaned into the forced solitude and weaved together a meditative soundscape. Conceived from the aftermath of a severe panic attack, Capricorn offered a blissful escape from the uncertainty that was suffocating us all. “Our whole world is built around distraction,” he says. “The only way to really get to know yourself is being OK sitting in a room, closing your eyes, and doing nothing. That’s what’s been really revolutionary in my life, is learning how to do that, and in that, I’ve learned to love myself, which is a brand-new concept.”

The genesis for Heaven Is a Junkyard came to fruition while Powers was in the process of suffering from a health crisis caused by a severe reaction to an over-the-counter medication. “It was like my whole digestive system turned upside down in a way that the gravity got reversed,” he recalls. “I woke up and had acid in my mouth. My larynx and pharynx were on fire.” Following a visit to the ER, none of the medical specialists he went to see could find a diagnosis for his condition, which escalated to the point where Powers lost his voice for a significant amount of time. He’d never been more vulnerable.

“I had a notepad that I would carry around or I would text people,” he says. “I’ve already, throughout my life, battled with so much anxiety. Having this thing that gets me through pretty much anything in life — which is music, which is my voice, which is the way I can tear apart and examine these things in life I don’t know any other way — when that was taken from me, that’s when I was truly faced with, ‘Who am I?’”

The pressures that previously burdened him from his alias dissolved, and Powers wouldn’t take Youth Lagoon for granted ever again. Call it an ego death, or burning everything to the ground and rising from the ashes, but the slow road to recovery completely shifted his perspective on Youth Lagoon. Instead of choosing the path of least resistance, Powers faced his demons head-on and clawed his way back, emerging as an evolved version of himself that somehow managed to find peace within the chaos.

Prior to this traumatic experience, he had rough sketches of ideas for Heaven is a Junkyard, but no concrete vision until his body began to feel like a prison. “I had been writing this album for over four years, but so much of all that was discarded because I couldn’t find out what the pulse was,” he says. Toward the end of last summer, Powers was finally healthy enough to start recording some of the songs he composed throughout the ordeal. The lead single “Idaho Alien” provides a direct portal into his headspace during that time, while the accompanying visual transports viewers into an alternative version of this atmosphere.

The Tyler T. Williams-directed music video for The Sling beautifully captures some of the sentiments that Powers attempts to convey through his music. Shot in Idaho City, an old mining town, the visual follows Powers as he wanders alone through the woods while wearing an oversized green coat with a suitcase in hand. (His mother, Bonnie, was the official horse wrangler on set.) For him, this song in particular served as the North Star that guided the direction of the album. As he sings in the outro, “Heaven is a junkyard/And it’s my home.” 

The influence of Bruce Springsteen can be heard on “Trapeze Artist,” “Prizefighter,” and “Little Devil from the Country,” ballads that demonstrate how Powers has mastered the craft of storytelling. The lyrics for “Deep Red Sea,” a moody jazz banger, were pieced together from walks around his neighborhood. “A lot of it was just documenting what I was seeing,” he explains. “There’s so much of a blend between fiction and nonfiction where I’ll have all played around with characters for a couple of lines, and then I’ll have something that’s directly from me, and it’s this glue that holds everything together. I think that juxtaposition between having something feel distant and then having something really, really close to home, there’s a beauty there.”

youth lagoon


[Photo by Tyler T. Williams]

The ghost of The Year of Hibernation can still be felt on the album’s opening track, “Rabbit,” which features an interlude from Powers’ niece, Freya. If it unlocks imagery from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, that wasn’t his intention, but it’s a funny coincidence. “For me, a lot of it was that I haven’t ever fully grown up,” he says about this familiar theme in his work. “There’s no difference in how I feel now and when I was a little kid, and I don’t ever want to lose that.” Similar to famous Westerns that follow the adventures of cowboys in the Wild West, Powers adopts the persona of a lone ranger navigating warped rabbit holes in a frontier of his own design. His delivery is gentle, with delicate vocals that are accompanied by a piano, channeling his own version of a saloon singer. 

In many ways, Heaven is a Junkyard encapsulates the moment of clarity when these brooding protagonists return to the source of their origin story. What they ultimately come to realize is that the danger isn’t always lurking outside; it’s been suppressed within their own mind. “One of my favorite things about Idaho is that it really does feel cowboy,” Powers says. “It’s very cowboy, but there’s such a weird take on it because everyone’s trying to figure out what that means. They might have some deep roots in country music, but then they’re also listening to Linkin Park… There’s so much of that.”

Now that it’s all said and done, Powers is excited to get back on the road and tour the record with a full band. When asked about how the last few weeks of having the project to himself feels, he pauses to gather his thoughts. “Honestly, I haven’t thought about it that way, and that kind of emotionally wrecks me in a good way because it really is still mine, and then once it comes out, then it’s not,” he concludes. “I have never believed in a piece of music, and a project, as much as I believe in this, so there’s nothing that can really bring my spirit down right now.”


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