News

March 21st, 2014

Skeleton Jar turns 10!

Skeleton Jar

This week 10 years ago the Coalition of the Willing had been in Iraq a year, Facebook was six weeks old, everyone was loving ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast and not everyone had mobile phones (I didn’t. I was still using the home phone with mini answering machine tape).

It was also the week that our second album Skeleton Jar came out. We didn’t expect it at the time, but this record was to change lots of things for us. It brought us a bigger audience, a release in the States and Europe and tours that lasted longer than a weekend. It has remained many people’s favourite Youth Group album. I think it’s fair to say that Skeleton Jar changed our lives, but that wasn’t to happen til 2005 really…

I remember the day it came out. I went to do a slot on Sydney’s community radio station FBI where I picked two favourite songs and the Dj’s voted on whether they were duds or not. I chose something by Neutral Milk Hotel (thumbs up) and Graceland by Paul Simon (two thumbs down, noses turned…this was four years before the Vampire Weekend afro-pop re-revolution, remember). Afterwards I went to the Courthouse Hotel on Australia St and drank in the beer garden with my compadres under the frangipani. And then we went home. It felt satisfying, but certainly not life-changing.

Skeleton Jar was made at a turbulent time for us, and is a minor miracle that it was made at all. We went through several line-up changes during the recording. When we began it was Danny, Andy, Paul and I. Then Andy left, then Johnno joined, then Paul left, then Cam joined, and then Johnno left too. By the time we toured the album in August 2004 Patrick had joined. These changes were no bad thing: all these people put their unique musical stamp on Skeleton Jar and I think the record was better for all the different inputs. We were also lucky enough to have a record label – Ivy League – that championed us despite the fact they were going through trials of their own. And we were fortunate to have a producer in Wayne Connolly who was tirelessly creative and ceaselessly witty.

For me personally, it was made during the most turbulent period of my life. Some four months before recording it I actually doubted if I would ever make a record again. Making Skeleton Jar got me out of a very bad rut.

When I listen to it now I am surprised at how raucous it sounds. For some reason it has taken on a mellow quality in my memory. But in reality not so: Danny is hitting the drums hard, sometimes it sounds like I am yelping. I can see why Biddy drew the moaning bear for the cover.

Our deepest thanks to everyone who bought it, came to see us play, shared their enjoyment with us. I’m so glad we put this album out. Happy Birthday Skeleton Jar!

Toby

21/03/2014

Shadowland was the first single released from Youth Group’s 2nd album “Skeleton Jar”. The album was released in Australia on 22nd March 2004 by Ivy League records, and subsequently re-released by Epitaph records in the USA in 2005. Shadowland Video

Download Shadowland via Soundcloud

May 24th, 2012

Toby Martin’s Post-Youth Group Debut

‘Postcard from Surfers’ is the first solo release off Toby Martin’s debut upcoming album ‘Love’s Shadow’. Head over to Mess + Noise for a listen.

Youth Group played their last show in Brooklyn in 2009. Since then Toby has played a handful of solo shows – a residency at Sydney’s Low Bar and New York’s The Living Room and as opener for Seeker Lover Keeper. These gigs have been places to try out these new songs in solo, bare bones style. Love’s Shadow is a result of several years of songwriting, recording and travel. It is a fresh start for Toby, a new place, but also draws on the confidence of several years playing music.

Love’s Shadow will be out through Ivy League Records on July 27, with solo dates TBA.

August 8th, 2011

Falling On Polite Ears by Toby Martin

Being an Account Of Toby’s First Ever Solo Tour Opening For Seeker Lover Keeper at Various Towns of New South Wales – Pictures by Johnny Au from The AU Review

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Wednesday 6th July – The Heritage, Bulli
I have always considered The Heritage to be one of the more genteel venues in the Sydney fringe region and so am surprised on arrival when Aaron Curnow (of Spunk Records, Holly’s label, and south coast local) informs me that as a northern suburb of Wollongong it has ‘an edge’ and is home to the infamous surfer group the Bulli Boys.  I resolve to be on my guards against these nogoodniks during my time here.

No sign of the Bulli Boys during my set; only dining couples who listen with polite interest. I have chosen to play ‘all new songs’ on this tour, and have chosen to play them solo, just acoustic guitar, no band.  The stakes are high.  The good people of Bulli do not fail me.

Seeker Lover Keeper are brilliant.  They have just enough accompaniment from Jim White on drums and Dave Symes on bass.  Lots of space for their voice.  And when they hit the three part harmonies it kills.

Thursday 7th July – The Heritage, Bulli
We are lucky enough to be staying with friends at Austinmer and so today I put on my plimsolls and do my Cliff Young shuffle over the beaches and headlands.  My mind shuffles through various memories as I go:

-       I remember when Youth Group played with Screamfeeder at The Headland Hotel sometime in the mid 2000s.  The Headland is closed, boarded-up and sad now.  I make a note to self: organise the South By South Coast Festival at Austin(mer)!  Hold it at The Headlands!  Genius!  Must find investor.

-       I remember the last time YG played down this way.  It was the day of Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and we listened to his victory speech, broadcast live from Chicago, as we drove down the Bulli Pass.  Light, eucalyptus, ocean and Obama’s amazing voice.   It was an unforgettable moment.  Everything seemed optimistic.

The path of the free world hasn’t been entirely smooth since then, and sometimes it feels like its not very cool to not be cynical about politics, but I still like to wear my Obama t-shirt when I go for a ramble and to hell with the doubters.  So I am very pleased when I am passed by a two guys in a van who beep and wave and don’t call me a faggot.  And then I round the next bend and come across a man wearing a poncho and carrying a picnic basket.  A poncho!  If such things are possible, it seems to me that the south coast is still a happy place.  Then I am passed by a ute with the number plate ‘JD’ (Jack Daniels?)  Which of course is awesome too.  In its own way.

That night at the gig a large, rugby-ish looking, man dances suggestively among the tables as SLK sing ‘Even Though I’m A Woman’.  I wonder if he is a Bulli Boy.

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Friday 8th July – The Factory, Marrickville
This is it.  The big Sydney show.  I’ve got a few nerves tonight and so have a bit of a warm-up strum in the backstage stairwell.  It turns out that stairwells have amazing acoustics and I start to enjoy its reverb-drenched sound.  I must be enjoying it a bit too much because a ‘a punter’ wanders down to enquire whether it’s a free concert.

Its nice to play with a big pa, and I am starting to feel like perhaps these songs do hold their own like this.  Because my new record ended up having lots of parts on it – strings, piano, drums etc – its easy to forget that the songs started like this – just acoustic guitar and singing.   Its starting to feel like I’m doing ‘solo interpretations’ of my ‘solo record’.

The Factory suits SLK and they sound terrific.  Their last song is a great cover of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Wild Heart’.  There’s a bit when Holly and Sarah sing another beautiful harmony and then suddenly stop, leaving Sally’s voice suddenly by itself.  It is, as Danny Allen would say, goosebump material.  Its so great to see a band care so much about and leave so much room for singing.

Saturday 9th July – Marrickville, Sydney
This one feels like a party night and there are various well-wishers, Sydney underworld identities and theatre lovies backstage afterwards, sifting through the ice to find the last of the rider.  Holly generously hosts a party back at her place, the highlight of which for me is finding ‘Lump’ by ‘Presidents of the United States’ on her iPhone and getting a massive dancefloor reaction from it.  I’m buzzing.

Monday 11
th July – Lizottes, Dee Why
I recorded this new album of mine at Oceanic Studios in Brookvale, just down the road from here.  Tim Kevin (producer) and I drove past this unlikely looking venue many times on our often futile searches for late-night dinner options on the Pacific Highway, and so I am keen to see what Lizottes is like on the inside.  Its like a Greek wedding reception venue is the answer.  Except they’ve decorated it in Boho chic: drums for coffee tables and accordions for lampshades.  I find this use of instruments simultaneously reassuring and unsettling.

But man, they know how to treat a solo artist here.  The backstage area is basically set up like a private dining room – formally-laid table and all.  SLK are nice enough to share this with me and we have what amounts to a pre-show dinner party, three courses and all.  We share school stories, camping anecdotes, 90s pop music trivia and after-dinner mints before its time for me to hit the stage.

The thing about Lizottes is its owned by Brian Lizotte (Johnny Diesel’s brother) and the things about Brian Lizotte is he likes to introduce the bands.  It feels like old-fashioned show-biz. My introduction is: ‘We are lucky to have him in Dee Why!  Toby Martin!!’.  SLK’s is: ‘three gorgeous…AND talented women!’

I have pretty much the best audience ever.  They are utterly silent when I’m playing.  You could hear a pin drop.  Actually someone does drop a fork and it’s deafening.

Thurs 14th July – Lizottes, Newcastle
Same instrument-as-furniture vibe, but this time in a 100-year old theatre in a lovely, sleepy part of Newcastle.  I am feeling a bit phlegmatic on stage tonight for some reason (maybe it’s the effect of another 3-course dinner) and I am also genuinely worried that I am going to spit into someone’s seared ocean trout (the dining audience are really up close here).  And then I want to say something about it, but I am worried that might seem too gross.  So I don’t say anything and instead just start to silently  question the whole idea of playing a show while people eat their dinner.  This is a common problem for me playing live – my mind can wander instead of getting lost in the music.  There, I’ve done it.  Broken the mystique!

There’s really nowhere to watch the show without having a table here, and so I squeeze in behind Christian (SLK’s guitar tech) side of stage.  This is actually quite great because it provides me with the perfect view of Jim White’s extraordinary drumming.  There’s one song in particular – Sally’s ‘Every Time’ –  where instead of playing the drums themselves, he plays a drum case covered with a tea towel.  It’s a great song, and has a kind of a punky riff and there may have been a temptation to exploit that punkiness.  But like so many of SLK’s songs the obvious temptation is resisted and interest and subtlety chosen instead.  The drumless drumming fits this perfectly.

I have to drive back to Sydney tonight, and so I exit the stage door towards the end of SLK’s set.  I close the door and step out into the clear Newcastle night with my guitar in hand.  I can still hear the singing as I walk to the car: ‘Rest your head on my shoulder, and I’ll take care of your worries’.

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May 16th, 2011

Toby Martin – On The Road With Seeker Lover Keeper

Toby (of Youth Group) will be joining newly formed supergroup Seeker Lover Keeper – a collaboration between Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltman – on their debut tour. Supporting the opening dates of the tour, Toby will be visiting various cities throughout July with the trio.

TOUR DATES Toby Martin with Seeker Lover Keeper

06/07/11 – The Heritage Bulli, NSW
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07/07/11 – The Heritage Bulli, NSW
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08/07/11 – The Factory Sydney, NSW
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11/07/11 – Lizotte’s Dee Why, NSW
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14/07/11 – Lizzotte’s Newcastle, NSW
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November 16th, 2010

The Jewel & The Falcon on tour with The Boat People!

Hello hello! Patrick (of Youth Group) has started another band to keep him busy while Youth Group are on hiatus. His new band is called The Jewel & the Falcon and it’s a collaboration with Sarah Kelly of The Red Sun Band and Ben James of Talons. The important thing to know is that you can catch The Jewel and The Falcon on their November tour with The Boat People (who are excellent) this week!!

Yah Yah’s (Mel) – Thursday 18th November

The Sando (Syd) – Friday 19th November

The Old Museum (Bris) – Saturday 27th November

August 9th, 2010

Toby Martin – Sundays in September – Low Bar Residency

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October 22nd, 2009

Youth Group are going to have a break from being Youth Group

We are drawing a line through 2010, and plan to reconvene in 2011.

The band has been our lives for the last five years.  Pretty much from the release of Skeleton Jar, through the recording/release of Casino Twilight Dogs and The Night Is Ours, to the accompanying tours it has been our furious, intense and fulfilling job.

We poured everything we had into The Night Is Ours. Maybe it wasn’t exhausting, but it was exhaustive and we are just not ready to venture into that again in a hurry. We’re a band that has always valued the process of making a record as much as the end product. We need some time before the next one.

And well, we are just looking forward to having a good slice of time to do other, non Youth Group things with our lives.

We would like to thank all those that have been to a show, bought a record, bought us a drink, shared their couches, floors and lives with us. Until the next chapter…

…an epilogue: those in New York have one more chance to see us play before the break. We are playing at Littlefields, Park Slope, on Sunday 25th October. Goodbye Brooklyn. Someone will cry.

Toby, Danny, Cam and Pat
YG

October 13th, 2009

Two NEW New York, New York Shows Added

Youth Group heart New York so we’re adding two more shows in New York in October onto the end of our US tour.

We’re playing Fontanas on the LES on the 22nd Oct and Littlefields in Park Slope, Brooklyn on the 25th.

The remaining shows in the Northeast are:

Oct 13    Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwells
Oct 14    Philadelphia, PA @ Silk City Lounge
Oct 15    Hamden, CT @ The Space
Oct 16    Cambridge. MA @ T T The Bears
Oct 19    Baltimore, MD @ Fletchers
Oct 22   New York, NY @ Fontanas
Oct 25   Brooklyn, NY @ Littlefields

Look, the leaves are turning gold and red!!

September 24th, 2009

Illustrated US Tour – Sept/Oct 09

Hiya, I’ve been posting up drawings from our time on the road through the States to a new photo album on our myspace. I’ll be trying to post new ones up every couple of days. See how I go, aye.

Cam
Illustrated US Tour – Sept/Oct 09
The Portland show was part of MFNW (citywide festival). After we played Toby, Wes and I saw Black Francis solo. It was absolutely incredible
September 19th, 2009

US Tour – Day 1,2 & 3 (Denver, Salt Lake, Boise)

Big news. Toby now sports a twirled moustache. Cameron has drawn a little cartoon of him for your amusement.

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This tour we’re opening up for The Get Up Kids. Their guitar player Jim is wont to refer to himself, on and off stage, as “old” which is kind of annoying cause we estimate that he’s younger than us. But they’re not kids anymore and we sure ain’t youths. The two shows so far the audience have been great for us. Also, they sure do appreciate The Get Up Kids and have memorised a lot of their song-words.

The first show of the tour was Denver. It seems you can get dehydrated, sunburned and muscle-exhausted if you fly straight into the altitude of the Mile High City like me and Cameron did. And on East Colfax St, where our hotel was, you can be accosted by any number of meth-heads, crack-heads and general miscreants that line the pavement. Seriously, it’s a zombie movie.

Denver people tend to say “Oh, the Rock-mada” when you tell them you’re staying at this particular Ramada Hotel. It’s a universally acknowledged joke, like “Bris-vegas” for example, that’s still in circulation unlike, I don’t know, The Big Apple, which got too boring to bother with.

Also in Denver we met the first on band Pretty & Nice. They are nice as it happens. They’re from Boston, Massachusetts. The bass player Roger tries it on with any girl who crosses his path – nice work. And they can hold up their end of a conversation which is always…nice.

A sartorial observation/generalisation: boat shoes are rife in young America -  I blame Vampire Weekend for steering that misguided pleasure craft back to civilisation.

I bought 6 Australian navel oranges at Walmart. I didn’t think it would be worth it to send fruit grown, picked and packed in Australia to sell at the supplier-crushing prices Walmart gouges. But there you go.

I love Salt Lake City for a visit. The difference is courtesy. When I got out of the car in Boise a pedestrian crossing the road yelled “motherfucker” at a passing car that didn’t slow down enough for his liking. A situation like that with those two protagonists doesn’t exist in Salt Lake.