From bartending at a sleazy steakhouse to putting out some of the best indie pop Toronto has to offer, Nate Burley’s journey from basement hermitage to underground stardom as Young Clancy has been one worth watching.
His latest EP, Vol II., is full of finely curated soul samples, well-developed characters and, of course, unshakeable melodies and grooves. Our conversation with him about the EP is full of insight into all of that and more, including a lowdown on some of the equipment he used, a glance at the emotional catalysts behind the songwriting, and even a preview of the potentially tongue-in-cheek plan to pull a “reverse Wu-Tang” on his next project. Take a look.
EP Vol. II
Out October 4th
Jon Vilardi : We just recently featured your track “Level” off of Vol II and noted the hints of vintage soul that you wove into it. Who are some of your biggest influences from back in the day?
Young Clancy : I made the first demo of level a long ass time ago. Pre-streaming times when I used to download real files and listened on a iPod Nano. I had heard one David Ruffin song I liked and downloaded his entire discography (like 200 songs) from Pirate Bay and was obsessed for a while. This was around the same time I started producing – so I have like 50 terrible beats built around David Ruffin samples. He’s just an incredible singer – the album ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is amazing.
Jon : For those of us who can strongly relate to having stagnated after graduating with a creative writing degree, what was the process of making something from nothing like when you put out your debut EP Yung Prince of the Basement?
Young Clancy : Really a process of elimination. I didn’t really go after music or anything really until my mid 20s and I had exhausted every other option available to me and I guess I can see why… it’s very hard to make good music and requires you to expose yourself in some way and is improbable as a source of income. These are the facts but obviously you have to do it anyways… It was inevitable that I would… I’m just grateful I had a depressing job at the time that afforded me the lack-of-shame to create a EP called ‘Yung Prince of the Basement’ and really give it my all.
Jon : You’ve said that Vol II explores a modern and fractured masculine perspective, and that each song is a reach for love and hope over emptiness. What were the emotional catalysts that made you decide these were the themes you needed to write an EP about?
Young Clancy : I don’t know. I think I regret using the word “masculine” and “fractured” and “modern.” It’s not great. I think all the “people” in the songs on the EP are very well meaning but incredibly dysfunctional – that’s something I noticed after the fact. They’re all some version of me and technically I’m a man but there’s nothing inherently masculine about that – about that sort of emotional impotence that I think’s portrayed in the lyrics. I don’t know, I have to stop throwing words together and think about it more I guess.
Jon : Production-wise, Vol II bounces between everything from organic, earthy acoustic guitars to super-sleek synths, and everything in between. What was the philosophy when it came to balancing familiar vs. new sounds, and what was some of the equipment you got the most mileage out of in the recording process?
Young Clancy : I make most demos almost entirely in ableton with plug-ins and samples. I’m not great playing keys or guitar or anything… can get by but anything cool I can do is usually on a writing or programming level. Working with Dave Plowman and Gray Rowan at their studios – that’s where we added all of the humanity… live instruments, space, analog gritties – you gotta at some point. Well you don’t at all actually, but I wanted to. We used the Eventide H3000 a lot. It can make anything sound a little weirder / more interesting / can kind of smush different sounds into the same fun world. Also the Roland JX-8P was around a lot – must of used that warm / thick piano sound more than anything else.
Jon : Toronto is obviously pretty well known for it’s hip-hop scene and some guy named Aubrey. Who are the Torontonian artists beyond that scene that the rest of us are missing out on, and who are some local contemporaries you’re inspired by?
Young Clancy : I put out a project called ‘Friends EP’ last march that features Maddee, Chris LaRocca, Matthew Progress, MI Blue and Jonah Yano – all still my favs in Toronto. Would also add Moneyphone and Louie Short.
Jon : Lastly, where can people catch these new jams live, and what are some early predictions for volume three?
Young Clancy : It’s gonna be called “Volume III”. That’s for sure. I was thinking about doing the opposite of that Wu-tang album: instead of one physical copy that costs 1 million dollars, there’ll be 100,000 physical copies available that each cost ten dollars – much more affordable / accessible but with the exact same total revenue.