Indie Rock band Fossil Youth has risen from relative obscurity to become one of Billboard’s Top New Artists of 2016 – ranking at number 16. No one was more surprised than the band members themselves – Scottie Noonan (vocals/guitar), Hesston Sween (vocals/guitar), Derek Neef (bass) and Zack Jones (drums). From their hometown in the heartland, they spent a good part of the year crisscrossing the U.S., including a stop in Syracuse last summer.
Just last month, Fossil Youth released their debut album, A Glimpse of Self Joy, through Take This To Heart Records. This poignant concept album is a meandering journey through a heartbreakingly painful relationship and its inevitable dissolution. However, some of the songs, like “Forest Eyes” and “Watercolor Daydream,” have stood on their own as singles. At times soft and lamenting, and at other times heavy with angst, the music is always genuine and authentic.
Fossil Youth is embarking on the East Coast leg of their headlining national tour in January, with plans to play The Vault in Syracuse on January 27th.
Frontman Scottie Noonan spoke with NYS Music about their music, the response to their album, their humble reaction to ranking on the Billboard Top New Artists List, and plans for 2017.
Paula Cummings: Tell me a little about how you formed as a band.
Scottie Noonan: The first release is 2014. But we started getting this all figured out in 2013. We all happen to live in the same small city of Oklahoma. We consider our home shows and home town Oklahoma City. We’re actually from a small city called Enid, which is an hour and a half north. In a way having to travel to other cities to play prepared us for touring. Having to drive two hours just to play local shows is helpful for the rest of the year, when we basically do that every day.
PC: You put out an EP in 2015, Intertwined with You.
SN: Yeah, and in 2014 we had the split. It was such a small thing. It’s also kind of cool to look back on. One of the songs from the split we actually rewrote and put on our new full-length. If you look it up online, you might actually see that.
PC: And you did the Little Elephant recording. Tell me a little about that.
SN: That was actually extremely cool. They’re a few guys out in Toledo, Ohio. And honestly, how it looks in the video is almost actually how it is. We showed up at their house. They already have experience recording bands, so they decided “Let’s put all this in our living room.” I think there was like 30 minutes of prep time and they say “Hey, go.” They set up a few cameras standing in places where they won’t actually get shots of each other and do these live sessions in their home. It’s honestly a whole lot of fun. Very, very nice people. I think that’s what helps make them unique, too, is the general experience.
PC: It looks really cool. And they said they give half of the money from vinyl sales back to the bands.
SN: I’m so excited about that because we’re trying to get back in there and do another session for our new songs. And it would be so cool to have a second vinyl release through them.
PC: You know what else just came out was the Billboard Top New Artists of 2016 – you’re in at #16.
SN: Out of 150. So to be that high up is truly insane, the most surreal feeling.
PC: That must be validating as an artist to be recognized.
SN: It was weird. It’s going to sound so lame, but never would I have ever guessed that maybe this early in our career would we hit that. So many friends are in bands a little bit larger, on larger labels, doing other things that scored really well, and we surpassed them. To have that high of a number was never expected, by any stretch. We were excited, like “Did we get number 150? Did we even just crack in there?” And being told we were number 16 is truly insane.
PC: That is incredible. So who were some of the bands who influenced you? Who were you listening to ten years ago in your formative years?
SN: Me, personally, I think some of my biggest influences were definitely some of the big pioneers like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance. I think some that we’re getting compared to that were also a big influence for me were Cartel (I was extremely into the band Cartel), This Providence (a very, very cool band), and Cute is What We Aim For. I feel like that’s one that I don’t hear enough of, but was actually a really big deal for me in junior high.
PC: Let’s talk about the album, A Glimpse of Self Joy. How was it different writing for the album than for the EP?
SN: When we were writing the EP we were excited we were writing songs. It was like “Yo, these are the best things we’ve put together.” And we were excited for that. But when it came time to actually sit and write the full length, we actually had the chance to truly as a group work on it. It was a lot more cohesive and I feel like everyone really put their piece into it. There’s a very light concept going on in the album. So it really felt good to preemptively know exactly how we wanted the story to play out and come across and I think that made it a little bit easier. It also made it very cool to be able to throw a large handful of very personal metaphors within it as well. It took a lot longer. Not only because there were more songs, obviously, but I think being able to actually work as a group made it so much cooler and I think that came with the comfort of being a band for a year and a half after the EP.
PC: So how do you feel about the response to your album?
SN: Honestly, it’s going to sound so monotonous, because I’ve said it so many times in this interview. It’s unreal. We knew it was better. I feel like, even from the inside while working on it we were like “Wow, I think we have a really cool thing going here.” But again, to score Billboard, to have our songs on larger Spotify playlists despite not having a large team behind us, having this many listeners putting us on their end of the year list, and this many people tweeting us every day is truly surreal. And on the tour we just did in November, we went to the west coast and we had four sold-out shows. We weren’t on a package, it was just us headlining. To have kids singing along to multiple songs on a set to an album that we just put out was like the craziest and most unreal feeling. And it still just feels like a dream. It’s crazy. And now we’re seeing how many kids are posting the fact that we’re going to the East Coast on this January tour and it’s just insane.
PC: You will be playing The Vault in Syracuse again. Do you remember playing there last summer?
SN: In August. It was with Bonfires. Very cool show. Everyone was extremely nice. I really like its location. Maybe it’s a lame Oklahoma thing that I paid attention to that, but I love how many other places there were for me to go nearby. That was really cool.
PC: Who are you playing with in Syracuse?
SN: There’s a band called Everyone Leaves, from Ohio, and a band called Pine. They’re from Canada. It will actually be our first time meeting them.
PC: Who are some of your favorite bands to tour with so far?
SN: That is such a rough question. I think it’s going to be fair to say that there hasn’t been a band so far that we’ve dreaded touring with. But I have to give Bonfires so many props. I haven’t felt like there’s been a full band where like every single member just got us on every aspect. So even on small shows where morale might actually be low, we always had each other. And it felt like there was never a bad day, even when financially it would be a terrible night. Just always fun. Loved it so much.
PC: What are your plans for 2017?
SN: Relentless touring. So, so much touring. We’re looking at festivals, tours, short runs, and doing our absolute best to play Oklahoma more. I feel like because Oklahoma’s a smaller market, people may not recognize it. We’re just doing everything we can to hit everywhere and doing anything we want to do.