Tighten My Tie

There is something essentially humorous about reliving the great music of the past in modern times. For Chicago’s The Like Young, their music is not only their pastime but also their life-the duo’s members, Joe and Amanda Ziemba, are a married couple. Living their music as their life calls for a level of seriousness, insularity and maturity, which is reflected in their music. We spent some time talking to guitarist/vocalist Joe about the band and their most recent album, So Serious.

What’s behind the name of your most recent album, So Serious?
So Serious was, to our disappoint, taken by a lot of people as a glib comment, but there is nothing tongue-in-cheek about it. Our approach, both in founding The Like Young and particularly on this album, was to strip away anything unnecessary in our songs.

So Serious is a quick listen-intros and outros, interludes, and even the lyrics themselves are all short. Short songs seem to fit well into the So Serious manifesto. Is this just how you work or more of an advocation?
It’s a little bit of both. The songs I’ve written as intentionally longer never came out how I wished, and I’ve always been attracted to shorter songs in my own listening. Both the early punk I started listening to in high school and the ’50s rock I listened to later tend to focus on shortness and honesty.

So Serious clocks in at 24 minutes with a dozen songs. What about the length of the album?
I’m not as concerned with the length of the album as when it feels complete. Right now Amanda (Ziemba, drummer/vocalist) and I are working on our next album, and we’ve already demoed 20 or so songs, but I still feel the need to keep writing, and we will.

Paranoia and anger figure prominently on this album. What influences you to write songs of that nature?
A few songs I wrote were influenced by my work situation. At the time I was working at a large corporation, where I was taken aback by the widespread sexism and poor treatment of women there. It wasn’t just the dirty old men, either. However, I had a house to pay for and a family to support, so I felt very trapped in a situation I couldn’t leave…. Another source of inspiration was feeling the constant need to change, to be a better person.

You guys spent some time opening for Mates of State. It’s interesting that the two groups were playing together, considering your outward similarity, despite the fact that your music has little in common with theirs. Is there a “Chicago pop/rock duo/couple” scene?
[Laughs] No, I think it’s just the two of us. Touring with Mates of State, though it was short, was, for me, the perfect tour in terms of health and happiness and satisfaction.

How does the duo/couple arrangement work for you as a band?
We don’t give out demos anymore-we only work with each other. It’s easy to make decisions that way, to focus on certain things, to change direction.

Are you able to re-create the big sound you have on your albums live?
I think we do a pretty good job. For me, it’s important to have the records sound perfect, because those last forever, whereas live we’re just focusing on the essentials-our voices and our instruments, which is part of our sound.

A lot of people, myself included, would imagine it’d be difficult to work on such personal music with someone you’re so close to. Do you find it difficult?
There are times when I’m feeling down or confused, but just being with and playing music with Amanda is enough to make things better. It requires a lot of maturity, but making music with Amanda is something I’ve been doing my whole adult life.

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