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The You | For The Masses

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United States - Pennsylvania

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Rock: Folk Rock Rock: Modern Rock Moods: Type: Lo-Fi
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For The Masses

by The You

hello. we're called The You and we're an act from pennsylvania that plays rock-and-roll-type music. (we try to make the loud parts loud and keep the pretty parts pretty.) our new record was produced, in part, by our friend Brian Deck in Chicago.
Genre: Rock: Folk Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Young Bluesman
2:27 album only
2. Bad Person
2:55 album only
3. Nothing Goin' On
3:18 album only
4. I'm Going to Kill Myself
3:22 album only
5. Ain't It Good to Feel Love?
3:20 album only
6. End of An Era
2:04 album only
7. Back Her Scene Up
3:22 album only
8. Horse Opera
2:50 album only
9. The Community Plunge
2:45 album only
10. Bait & Switch
2:22 album only
11. Lindsay Schwartz
3:25 album only
12. Broken-down Storefront
2:44 album only
13. Thrown From a Moving Vehicle
3:02 album only


Album Notes
Okay, you don’t yet know who Josh Verbanets is. You’ve never heard his group, The You. Fair enough. We could deal with this in one of two ways.

We could do the typical publicity bio thing, which would be something like this: “Operating on a shoestring budget, a young Pittsburgh singer/songwriter has come up with For the Masses, a debut that will put his band, The You, on the map and, if there’s justice in this world, herald the arrival of a unique and unforgettable artist.”

And that would be true. But there’s another way to introduce this artist and his edgy but accessible quartet. Here goes:

“Josh Verbanets isn’t that crazy about his first album. He thinks he could do better. The scary thing is, he’s probably right.”

It’s scary because, frankly, Verbanets is also wrong. Sure, For the Masses isn’t the glossiest disc out there. Some of the tracks he recorded with virtual strangers in Chicago, far from home. Others he cut in his bedroom or basement. Yet each one screams out that he might be exactly what we all need to hear right now.

It is, for example, dark, delicate, humorous, and hard-hitting, often at the same time. The lyrics are economical, even spare, yet powerfully suggestive. There are, for example, just 63 words in “Young Bluesman” – and only one adjective, by the way – yet that’s enough to paint a picture of isolation that’s not easily forgotten. There’s rage in “Bait and Switch,” a wistful take on childhood violence in “The Community Plunge,” a dark and delicate irony set to waltz time in “Ain’t It Good to Feel Love,” a flash of fantasy, signaled by a celeste-like tinkle in “Horse Opera” …

All of this works even better because of Josh’s vocals, playful and wry through the sing-song hook on “Bad Person,” disarmingly innocent on “Thrown from a Moving Vehicle,” inflected with a pub-rock lilt on “Broken Down Storefront,” and always uncannily tuned to bringing the narrative to life.

There’s more: The You’s performances have often and unexpectedly featured bursts of extreme stage behavior, from crashing into amplifiers and accidentally gutting the bass player’s axe. And they pull it all off while still tapping and projecting the musical essence of their songs. Theirs is a rare ability to straddle that line between the subtle lyric, the ear-worm riff, and chaos.

The story of The You starts in Plum Borough, outside of Pittsburgh, where one day, when Josh was ten years old, his father sat him down and played Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death, as if in some sort of initiation rite. The message hit home at once: “Something about it was just poetic and mysterious enough to sound like rock & roll,” Josh remembers, “but it was also catchy enough to sound like old folk songs or church songs. Even then I was more into the songs than the bands. That still holds true today.”

Moving forward through Nirvana to Radiohead and beyond, Josh learned enough guitar by age 17 to start a band with an English friend and try his hand at writing. His standards were already high: “There were lots of songs on the radio about, ‘Why doesn’t this girl like me? Why won’t you go out with me?’ That just seemed too obvious. Instead, I’d just come up with melodies while I was walking around, and then I’d realize that they sounded like a few words I’d jotted in a notebook, and I’d cobble them together. I never really tried to write; it’s always more accidental than that.”

They played a bit through high school, and then Josh decided that his destiny was in filmmaking. On graduating he enrolled as a film major at Ithaca College. Almost immediately he knew he’d made a mistake. “I hated it there,” he says. “It was a disaster. I’d always wanted to make films, but when I got to Ithaca I realized that I couldn’t do it. Music is what got me out of there.”

Partly to assure his family that he really was taking his future seriously, Josh came back to Pittsburgh ostensibly to continue his studies at the University of Pittsburgh. (He’s still there, actually – and he’s still got a toe in the movie world too, with a day job at a video store.) The truth, though, was that he wanted to hook up again with some of the guys he’d played with in high school.

At this point, to save paper and time, rather than describe how a jam in Josh’s basement back in 2002 led to their signing as the first artists featured on the new Pure Tone Music, imprint, we’ll refer you to theyouband.com, the group’s website. Here, the “history” page documents every personnel change, wrong chord, broken string – every milestone, no matter how trivial …

… at least, that is, up to early 2004, when suddenly the chronicle stops. “It’s funny,” Josh admits, “because that’s where the ‘real’ stuff started to happen. I started to realize that we were known mainly for being loud and annoying and offensive. I started to think that we should sound a little better than that if I ever wanted to have people hear us.”

And so the days of being busted by cops for playing too loud, accidentally kicking holes in club walls during performances, and nearly stabbing his bandmates with his Tele headstock – also, Josh insists, an accident – came to an end. Instead, The You began crafting songs that even then sounded like they had some staying power. They kept their energy level as high as it had ever been, but they focused it more intensely into the music – which, of course, meant that things still got smashed up onstage now and then. They picked up more gigs, including one booked at the last minute at the Club Café, which led directly to their Pure Tone Music deal.

Once again, we have two ways we could proceed from this point. One would be to say something about how the band hit the studio, cut all kinds of great stuff, and got ready to rock the world. We could say that … but that’s not what happened. Instead, right before they were supposed to record, the group splintered. And Josh went to Chicago alone, where he found himself laying tracks with musicians he’d just met.

Nevertheless, these tracks sound terrific, for several reasons: discerning production by Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse) and, more crucially, Josh’s writing and singing. The songs are great, the vocals are killer. True, we weren’t there at the time to watch it go down, but that only means we can listen to the results without any residual angst.

Fact is, when you intersperse the Chicago tracks with Josh’s home-brew stuff, you get something from For the Masses that most debut albums don’t offer – namely, proof that these songs are greater than their setting. And that takes us back to the scary part of this saga: Impressive as For the Masses is, it really is just the first of many steps.

For one thing, Josh has rebuilt the band lineup, with Mike Paschka on guitar and backing vocals, Chad Mikolajcik on bass, and Dave Schewe on drums and backing vocals. They’re getting booked on high-profile gigs. Local writers are noticing things like how the “dirty, screamy distortion” on their guitar parts unexpectedly complement “the pretty, catchy vocal melodies” (Steve Gisselbrecht, The Noise), and how their sound has “a punk edge … but not enough that they get boring and seem repetitive” (Johnny Royale, Randomville), not to mention how their “distinct blend of garage and folk-rock translates into an explosive show onstage” (Jessica Adamiak, The Pitt News).

That’s more buzz than even Josh and Mike can crank from their stomp boxes. At last, everything seems right for The You to make its impact.

Just don’t let his family … or his teachers at the University of Pittsburgh … or his supervisor at the video store know. Not quite yet – like the rest of the world, they’ll find out soon enough.



to write a review

Jeremy Hunt

Great sound and lyrics! I enjoy the album from start to finish! Only wish I had found out about it earlier...