Well, this is interesting. Civil Youth, a poppy-punky-electonicy-rappy trio from Philadelphia, are coming to The Pinch in D.C. on Sunday. They’ve done some pretty big things – opening for Twenty One Pilots would qualify as one of those big things – and if you check out their live show, either via YouTube or in person, you’ll see how wild they can get. We recently caught up with the group’s de facto leader, Mike Kepko, to talk about how they got together, snowstorms in Denver, and why they felt compelled to use a line from an old Panic! At The Disco song in one of their songs. The fun goes down Sunday night, friends. You should rock it. You should roll it.
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form and how long have you been at it?
I (Mike) started the band while in college in Boston, and after awhile it just wasn’t working how he expected it to work. So he relocated back to Philly, where he’s from. I knew Dan since high school and had met Evan while recording “Who Rescued Who.” We’ve been playing for about one-and-a-half years and released our first album two years ago next month.
I’ve watched a few live videos from you guys and wow, it’s interesting. How do you pull off that sound live? A lot of it seems to be only guitar and drums, yet there’s a lot going on. How do you accomplish sounding so full?
We’ve been expanding our live show so Mike plays some bass and Dan will do some singing, but we also use backing tracks that Evan triggers from behind the kit.
Along those same lines, how did the decision to be a trio when you tour come to be? Have you ever considered expanding the band members when it comes to live performance?
I always just loved trios. I think they’re strong musically. Plus, Dan and Evan truly get what it is that I am trying to accomplish.
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have a experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
I think we can all agree that opening for Twenty One Pilots in our hometown was a big thing we’ll never forget. They’re an influence and to be able to play in BB&T Pavilion, which is one of the biggest venues in Philly, it’s just humbling, to say the least. On the opposite side, while touring, we face so many struggles – from bands not showing up to getting caught on top of a mountain in Denver in a snow storm and getting the worst anxiety. It wasn’t fun, but it’s funny now that we’re safe.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
We try to gather influences from all parts of life, to film, to books, and other bands. But speaking of just bands, our big influences are definitely Biffy Clyro, Twenty One Pilots, Paramore, PVRIS, and 30 Seconds to Mars. They all just push their boundaries and aren’t afraid to try stuff which we can all respect and love.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
All the bands from the last question, plus Press to Meco, Arcane Roots, Emarosa, and tons of Eminem.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
L.A. is always a top place for Mike since he loves the sun, but Dan and Evan always love Texas and Florida. The scenes in those areas just thrive on live music and it’s inspiring to see.
I noticed the shout out to Panic At The Disco in “Emergency.” What’s up with that?
We’re glad you noticed. We were just having fun in the studio and realized it worked harmonically, so we did it. Panic is a sick band.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at The Pinch in D.C.?
Hopefully a good sound guy, and some punk rock.