STEELE INTERVIEWS: singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay

Dreamy/ shoegazing indie pop band Young Galaxy are Montreal-based Stephen Ramsay [vocals/guitar] and Catherine McCandless [vocals/keyboards] and Stephen Kamp [bass/vocals]. Stephen and Catherine formed the band as a duo in 2005. Young Galaxy released its third album, Shapeshifting, this month on Paper Bag Records. I interviewed Stephen Ramsey.

Entertainment Realm: Young Galaxy started as a duo with you and Catherine. What changed when you went from duo to trio?

Stephen Ramsey: It was the most convoluted move to gain one extra member ever I think! We were two, then six, then five, then four, then three. I guess I forgot that three comes right after two somehow. It would have saved us a lot of trouble! Actually, Stephen Kamp – our third member – was the first to join the band after Catherine and me. So in a way, it’s been the three of us for as long as the band has been around. And just recently, we’ve become a five piece again. Go figure…

Entertainment Realm: How has the band changed since you first formed?

Stephen Ramsey: How much time have you got for this answer? It’s changed immensely. As I have mentioned, we’ve seen many members come and go but I’m proud to say that we have remained focused on becoming a better band since day one. Along the way, we’ve learned how to be better in business, how to perform, etc. We’ve toiled away in the trenches while everyone else has been distracted by shitty music. Haha. Honestly, we’ve felt almost like we we’ve been training, getting ready for a title fight. We are very ambitious, and have very high standards creatively. I firmly believe most bands don’t hit their creative peak on their first one, two, even three records. Too bad the industry doesn’t invest in bands long term anymore – I think it means bands with promise are thrust into the limelight before they fully develop, and are used up very quickly before they can truly make their best music. Everyone’s looking for the new, big thing. For us, it’s always been a matter of sticking around, waiting until the timing is right, doing this long enough until we got really, really good at what we did. We want to be masters of our craft. I want to be a black belt in rock n’ roll, just like David Lee Roth!

Entertainment Realm: What is the Vancouver music scene like? What influence did that have on you as a band?

Stephen Ramsey: I have no idea really! Not because I wasn’t around it, I mean, I used to dj there for many years – but really, I dabbled with bands more than anything. I mostly did bedroom recordings. I haven’t lived there since 2005, and I think it’s become more vibrant now than it was. Back in the day, it was every band for itself. There was no galvanizing scene or momentum.

Entertainment Realm: What makes Young Galaxy work well together?

Stephen Ramsey: At the heart of the project are my girlfriend Catherine and I. We’re a couple and we’re best friends. We’re very close, there’s a kind of unspoken understanding about what we’re trying to accomplish musically that doesn’t need to be explicated much. It’s a very intuitive relationship. We make each other creatively braver than we would be on our own. Beyond that, we’ve built the band around the premise that people who are involved in it should be treated as friends and with respect. It’s not like we have many perks or much money to offer, so you might as well have a good time if you’re going to sacrifice your time and energy in the project, right?

Entertainment Realm: How do define a good song?

Stephen Ramsey: Whatever gets a best new music rating on Pitchfork.

Entertainment Realm: What’s your favorite song on Shapeshifting and why?

Stephen Ramsey: Honestly, I don’t have one. As Keith Richards once said, ‘don’t make me cut my babies in half’. Haha. I love Keith Richards.

Entertainment Realm: Can you describe your creative process?

Stephen Ramsey:

1 part sunset from the top of the ruins in Sintra, Portugal
1 part Manhattan cocktail at the Angel’s Share, NYC
1 part baby panda
1 part cherry blossoms falling off the tree and then filmed backwards so they appear to be going up (in slow motion)
I part watching the morning fog burn off while sitting on the dock at Sproat, Lake, Vancouver Island
The juice of one lemon

Shake well, pour over ice and serve.

Entertainment Realm: How did you get to work with Dan Lissvik [producer] of the band Studio in Gothenburg, Sweden? How did that affect the recording?

Stephen Ramsey: I stalked him! I contacted his band, Studio, on Myspace back when it was a useful tool still. After a few email exchanges over a year or two, he agreed to work on an album with us. It did affect the writing and recording, because we left a lot more space than we were used to. We knew he’d go in and do his own thing over top, so we were careful not to fill every inch of sonic space in the songs. We’d never done that before, so that was a very new process for us. It meant using a lot of restraint, which I am now a big proponent of in recording. It’s good to rein it in, to only commit the best ideas to tape, rather than every idea that comes to your head. Dan certainly influenced us this way – he preached this before we sent him anything we’d done. We tried to stick with it and be very economical in our choices, musically.

Entertainment Realm: What can an audience expect from a Young Galaxy live show?

Stephen Ramsey: I’m not sure yet! We’re rehearsing a new band now, one that I’m very excited about. It’s our best band yet in my opinion. I think if we apply ourselves, the sky’s the limit… we’ll be better than U2 in no time! Haha. Other than that, a lot of fake blood, baby pandas, cherry blossoms filmed falling upwards in slow motion, you know – the usual.

Entertainment Realm: What are you listening to now?

Stephen Ramsey:
Broadcast – Tender Buttons (R.I.P Trish Keenan)
The Streets – Computer and Blues
Cold Cave – The Great Pan Is Dead
Grimes – unreleased new material
Goblin – Suspiria Soundtrack
Fabio Frizzi – Zombi Soundtrack
Future Islands – In Evening Air

Entertainment Realm: What inspires you?

Stephen Ramsey: Impending doom.

Entertainment Realm: Why the name Young Galaxy?

Stephen Ramsey: It was my hotmail account name back in 1999 or something. I turned to a random page in an astronomy book and they were the first words I came across. I think I had a list of about a thousand names and that’s what I settled on. So it’s all pretty mundane actually!

Young Galaxy website

Young Galaxy Tour Dates
3.17 Boston – TT The Bears
3.19 Brooklyn – Knitting Factory
3.21 Philadelphia – Ku Fung Necktie
3.22 Washington DC – Red Palace
3.23 Pittsburgh – Brillobox
3.25 Chicago – Empty Bottle

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