Texan Hans Zimmerman started The Young — with its nearly-impossible-to-Google moniker — as a solo project, but it quickly blossomed into something else. 2010's Voyagers of Legend (Mexican Summer Records) was a psychedelic masterpiece of pieced-together garage rock riffs, ramshackle drums, and distinct melodies, something like The Replacements lost in a haze of bong smoke, while the sound of 13th Floor Elevators records turned up too loud bleeds in from the neighbor's place.
In short, it was one of the best records of 2010.
Dub Egg, the band's new album and first for heavyweight indie label Matador, retains that same melodic strength but finds Zimmerman and his pals (bassist John Costanzo, guitarist Kyle Edwards, and drummer Ryan Maloney) stretching out and getting loose. Recorded in a cabin outside of Vanderpool, Texas, the record's dual opening salvos, "Livin' Free" and "Don't Hustle for Love," sound like Crazy Horse's rangy six-string excursions roaming the desert. And, yeah, it's one of the best of 2012.
"To tell you the truth, [the openness] of the record has a lot to do with the environment we made it in," Zimmerman says, taking a break from driving. The band has just crossed the Montana state line, heading west to Seattle after playing a "Monday night in Fargo."
"It was kind of isolated, just us hanging out," he says. "We were feeling pretty loose, and just getting comfortable with the music."
Unlike Voyagers, which was assembled from long-form jams, Dub Egg is the work of a focused unit. Zimmerman came to the table with little more than song sketches, and the group shaped and molded them into the kind of grungy Americana that aligns the band with the classic sounds of Tom Petty, ZZ Top, and Neil Young, as well as peers like Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, and Ty Segall's most pastoral moments.
The freedom of the cabin allowed the record to evolve naturally, Zimmerman says.
"Obviously, we were there to work and get stuff done, but if things were moving along and something felt funky we were like, 'Okay, one more, and if it doesn't work we'll go outside and throw horseshoes,'" he says. "There was a little creek nearby, so we'd go fishing, things like that, you know?"
The free-range approach fit perfectly with Matador's hands-off approach to its bands. "Gerard Cosloy is one of the heads of the label, co-founder, whatever, and he lives in Austin. So he'd seen us kinda come up, play good shows, bad shows, things like that." After appearing on the label's Casual Victim Pile compilation, The Young was signed, and the relationship has been stellar, Zimmerman says.
"We got signed and were able to have recording advance money that we used to buy tape machines and rent that cabin. While we would have made another record without Matador, it certainly wouldn't have been what we made with them. To be able to say, 'All this money that you're giving us? I'm going to buy all this stuff and then we're just going to a cabin.' They were like, 'All right, cool. Bye. Tell us when you're done.' That was awesome. [Matador is very much like,] 'What do you need? How do you need it? And here you go.'"
The freedom bleeds into the record, but Zimmerman says it was also intimidating: "I was like, Are you sure you want to do this? Not a lot of people know about us, we're just sort of doing our own thing. But they said, 'We're not into placating to hype or signing what's talked about now.' They are very much interested in bringing talent to their table that is in line with their taste and what they dig."