BOSTON POPS “I think it’s just backwards here,” says Matt Rhoades of Young London. “Pop is ironically the underground, where rock and alternative are the mainstream."
It's a sentiment as old as the faded memories of the glory days at clubs like the Rat, Bunratty's, and the Channel: Boston is a rock-and-roll town. Hell, there's the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble and there's Allston Rock City and, according to recent headlines, Somerville's Union Square has been reborn by virtue of rocking out. But Boston has been known to go pop under the surface: Donna Summer and the Cars in the '70s; New Kids on the Block, New Edition, and 'Til Tuesday in the '80s; Aerosmith's MTV fetish in the '90s; and recently, the likes of Passion Pit and Gentlemen Hall riding a synthesized wave to success.
Still, Young London's über-polished, Top 40–ready debut single "Let Me Go" — with its Auto-Tuned vocals, trance intro, and thumping electro-rave chorus — screams that it has to be from somewhere else, most likely Los Angeles. It doesn't sound like Boston at all, but then again, neither does Summer's "Hot Stuff."
"On the surface, I think Boston does appear to be this rock and roll town," says Young London's producer/vocalist Matt Rhoades. "I think it's just backwards here. Pop is ironically the underground, where rock and alternative are the mainstream. But events like Paper, Throwed, and Glow have shown me that pop is super relevant to the kids who go out."
The couple of hundred amped-up kids dancing to DJ E-Marce every Tuesday night at the Middle East's electro party Throwed would certainly scoff at this "rock and roll town" nonsense. So it's fitting Young London return to the Cambridge club tonight (Thursday) to perform at the Glow Boston Masquerave.
The influx of beat-raised college students who fill the 18+ dance nights and the seasoned, Euro-leaning techno heads that pack clubs like Middlesex, Rise, and Phoenix Landing are slowly changing the culture of this old, dodgy rock town. "Boston is deceiving," says Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos. "There's totally this world that you and I probably don't have any idea even exists. [Young London] are drawing some attention because it's such an anomaly for Boston. Just because of the way the Boston music world functions, this will feel like a breath of fresh air, which is crazy and beautiful and fucked up all at once."
Young London just dropped their electro-pop single "Celebrity" earlier this month, and signed a deal with retailers Footlocker and Champs to have the "Let Me Go" video played in all their stores during the holiday season. Posted online less than a month ago, the clip already has 15,000 views on YouTube. It's a speedy rise for a duo that began working together last year.
Rhoades and Young London vocalist Sarah Graziani both hail from the Massachusetts suburbs, and the two met when Rhoades was working on a acoustic project in Allston. While he was tracking her vocals, he realized the two could create explosive electro-pop primed for mainstream radio play. Quickly, Rhoades's previous project, the New Hampshire–based And Then There Were None, which began as a metalcore band in 2003 but evolved to techno-pop in recent years, branched out to form Young London.