Randy Borowski, the drummer for the Charleston rock outfit Youth Model, will be the first to admit that his band, which is conceived and fronted by Matt Holmes, couldn’t really be on the cutting-edge even if they wanted to be.
“We basically decided we’re not these young kids [anymore],” he admits. “He’s thirtysomething, I’m 40. We just kind of play what we like. We know we’re not going to fit in just because we’re older. It’s kind of like an expensive hobby that we’re really just trying to do on a high level.”
That last part is key, because on the surface Youth Model’s pop-tinged rock music is crisp and shiny, built in the vein of groups like Kings of Leon or Muse who have managed some contemporary relevancy in the face of declining interest in rock music — Youth Model is awash with flourishes of synth-laden atmosphere and power pop smarts to boot. The band originally started as a solo project by Holmes, a drummer by training, who wanted to make polished pop-rock that gave him an outlet as a songwriter and front man.
“He ended up working with Kenny [McWilliams of Archer Avenue Studios] and a few people to craft the songs that are on the first record [2013’s All New Scars],” Borowski recalls. The drummer, who has long served as a co-host of the WXRY Unsigned show on 99.3 FM in Columbia, took a shine to the band and quickly ingratiated himself with Holmes and slid into the band full-time.
Borowski’s presence — and, later, guitarist Ben Kerley — led to a marked shift in the band, something that’s evident in their sophomore album, 2015’s Open Season, and even more so on their recently released new single “Symmetry.” While there are plenty of lush space and synths to guide the pop feel, there’s far more of tug-and-pull in the guitars and drums, giving off the feel of a live rock ‘n’ roll band and less of a studio creation.
Borowski says the shift is intentional only insofar as the interests and composition of the players in the room change.
“We just play what we know,” he offers succinctly. “Basically, Matt is the main songwriter and he comes to us with the songs and we push them through the filter of what we’ve grown up on and what our influences are.”
That means a slew of indie and alternative rock bands in the drummer’s mind, everything from OK Go and the Strokes to more surprising groups like Phoenix and Wilco.
“Because I do the radio show for WXRY, I kind of have my ear to the ground so I know what’s happening now, even with my advancing years,” he says wryly. “So I’m always put ting that against what’s going on now. We’re not running scared if it’s not actually what’s going on, with gang vocals and foot stomps and all that, you know, or maybe MIDI controllers and whatnot. We’re not trying to do this prog scene or this avant garde thing; we’re really trying to write songs that are catchy and people get an earworm for.”
It’s easy to hear these goals on “Symmetry,” which formally drops this Thursday when the band plays Royal American. Riding a crunchy, indelible guitar riff, the song builds quickly into a soaring chorus that alternates long and short phrases in an effort to maximize the hook placements. It’s a vaguely romantic lyric, with the kind of effortless grace that allows a song to slide into the primordial subconscious without worrying too much about specifics.
“I’m all about melody, and Matt is not trying to perform acrobatics with his lyrics or his chords,” Borowski freely admits. “We’re just kind of playing what we know and just hoping people will like it.”
The band plans to tour behind the single, which like all of their music is freely available via major music platforms over the course of February in weekend-warrior mode. They seem comfortable with that.
“I think we’re getting our vibe out there more and more,” Borowski says. “We’re no SUSTO; we’re not on that level. But we’re moving. All we want to do is get the music out to people who might like it. We’re not looking for a record deal; we’re just looking to share our music with as many people as possible. They don’t have to come along if they don’t like it.”