Youth Code are a vicious, noise and alternative metal project brought to life by vocalist Sara Taylor and electronic sound artist Ryan George. King Yosef’s music is an outlandish and brutal combination of trap hip hop and death metal, composed by electronic producer, Tayves Yosef Pelletier. More than a few fortnights separate the artists in terms of age and culture touchstones, but their dissident sounds could not complement each other more perfectly. Especially when examining their new collaborative album, A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression.
We caught up with mavericks of sound to talk about their new collbaroation, how they met, and get the beats of their ongoing sibling rivalry. You can geck out the full transcript of our conversation below:
Interview conducted via Zoom March 10. 2021. The transcript has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
Sara Taylor: Will you make sure to note that Yosef looks really sharp in his polo shirt and I feel a little bit underdressed for the occasion.
Yosef does look good.
Tayves Yosef Pelletier: I have brand new shoes on too.
Sara: Wow, look at those jeans! You’re killing again. Get out of here with your unfair advantage! Look at this trip! Get out of here.
Now I think my editor is going to be mad that this isn’t a video interview. [All Laugh].
So let’s start off with sort of an obvious question. The title of the new album and collaboration, A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression. Unpack that for me. What is the skeleton key, and how does it unlock the door to depression?
Sara: So with this one my interpretation of the title is basically when we were going into this record, I think Yosef and I… being different individuals, we have different issues, but a skeleton key kind of represents being able to go into any door or whatever. And both of us kind of unlocked that we were kind of going through different things when we were writing about depression, at least lyrically, that were kind of opening different depressive doors that we both could identify with, and which we could both really vibe on. That’s where it is for me. I feel like everybody has these doors of depression, and anyone who listens to the album will have a skeleton key you can use to open any one of these doors and enter a different zone. It’s an unlock for all of it, really.
So is it a key to escape or is it a key to enter these depressive zones?
Sara: It’s up to the person that’s listening to the record. If you want to get depressed you can get depressed from it, if you want to escape, maybe you can understand that there’s like a catharsis in the fact that there are other people that feel that way about existing, life, and different issues pertaining to traumas, that we all go through as individuals. But that’s up to the person who is listening to the album.
Ryan George: As someone who doesn’t contribute lyrics, and I can kind of listen to the songs outside of the way Sara and Yosef have written them and hear them, I have found some sense of hope, soaring throughout the songs lyrically. There’s a couple, the end of “Death Safe,” especially, I think it’s empowering when Yosef says, “I’ve had enough this time I’m drowning.” It sounds like he’s saying, “I’m done with this.” And it’s cathartic.
Right. It sounds like he’s saying that he’s done with this feeling and that he’s ready for a change. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like he’s giving up to me. That’s what I take from it.
Sara: And then I wrote a love song at the end of the album too. So it’s not really all that depressing.
Wait, there’s a love song on this album? That is not something that I ever expected to appear in the Youth Code catalog. Which song is that?
Sara: It’s up to you to find out. [Laughs] The end of “Finally Docked” is a love song. At least my vocal take on it. I wrote a song lyrically for Ryan. I really don’t open up a lot about lyrics and stuff like that usually. But I had just written a bunch of songs where I experienced the fucked up-ness of venting and putting all this stuff out there in terms of shit that has been weighing on me, and then there was the anxiety and the nervousness of doing a collaborative record with someone. And when it all that pools together, at the end of it, when I wrote “Finally Docked,” at least my lyrical contribution to it, I realized that throughout all of the bullshit that goes on, I have this safety net and this port for my stormy-ship-brain to kind of go to where I always feel safe. And I feel like after treading through life’s bullshit, I always have a place to go to and that’s our house, and my relationship with Ryan.
Ryan: Actually, if I can ask a question. I’ve been curious. Yosef, when it comes to your part of that song, it’s a love song as well, isn’t it? It’s about me, isn’t it?
Yosef: That’s exactly what that’s about. [All laugh]
Sara: We really went in on it together, actually. Just for you.
Yosef: It would probably have been a lot more positive if I had written a love song for you.
Yosef, did you realize that “Finally Docked” was a love when you were working on it?
Yosef: Yeah, I so I think I started the lyrics for that song originally. And then as we were going through it, I tracked my part, but Sara had lost her voice. And I think she was… I don’t remember the exact timeline. But I tracked my parts before her. And she just came in at one point and was like, this is gonna be a love song. And I was like, “cool, man!” That totally makes sense.
Sara: That white mask Yosef has behind him. That stupid thing was there when I tracked my vocals. What the fuck is that thing?
Yosef: Dude, this is honestly a really bizarre story. But my mom bought when she was 17 or 18. And then every time my mom’s house got repossessed, or I moved in with somebody else, it followed me. And somehow, it ended up at my stepmother’s house, who’s divorced from my father, 14 years ago now. And I went over to her house, and she was like, “Hey, I got the face. Do you want it?” And I was like, “What the fuck? Dude, how does this thing still exist?” So now it’s in my house. But it’s existed like longer than I’ve been alive.
Ryan: I think you’re probably getting good luck from it.
Yosef: That or it’s cursed.
Do we know whose’s face that is? Like who it’s supposed to be representative of?
Sara: It’s me. During my monthly cycle. He just didn’t know it.
Yosef: I think it’s supposed to be like a fucking Greek god, or something like that.
Have you ever put it on? Do you know what happens when you put it on? Do you turn into a statue?
Yosef: Right now, from where you’re sitting, it looks like it fits in my hand. But, here… Let me grab it. [Yosef leaves the chair and grabs the mask from the back of the room, brings it back into view of the camera]
Sara: That thing is massive. That’s huge. Oh, that’s your next record cover, is you wearing that, dude. Actually, I’m taking the Youth Code name off of this last release. That [mask] is the new cover.
Ryan: I like that it has the MySpace angle with the eyes. [Sara laughs]
Yosef: It’s honestly revolutionary. It was ahead of the curve in terms of selfie poses.
You all have really good chemistry. I am curious to know how you all met and decided to make a record together.
Yosef: I can explain from my angle. I’ve been listening to Youth Code since before they were Ryan and Sarah to me. They were just Youth Code, the band. A group that I just listened to and admired a lot. And I think I found them and maybe 2016 or 2017, and had been listening to them pretty extensively for a period of time, and I think maybe in 2018, I randomly… I remember, what I was doing, I was running errands, and I went to the bank. And I got messages as I was getting out of the car. And it was from the Youth Code Instagram, and it was Ryan, and he was like, “Hey, man, I found your music. I like what you’re doing and if you’re ever in town, we should hang out.” And I was like, “Sure, if I’m ever in LA, let’s get a beer.”
Now I don’t remember the exact timeline, but eventually, we did get together and had a beer, and Ryan and I instantly hit it off. We were chatting about all sorts of shit, and it was cool. But when I met Ryan, Sara was on tour, so I didn’t get to meet her until a decent amount of time later. But when Sara and I met we, we instantly got along too. Like instant sibling chemistry, where we all just pick on each other. But specifically Sara and I. I don’t feel like I pick on Ryan very much.
Sara: He bullies me and calls me old, all of the time. So let’s get one thing straight, I’m super nice. [Laughs] I’ve never bullied anyone. This motherfucker comes out of nowhere. And he’s like, “I can’t believe you actually listen to the first two Weezer records.” That’s so fucking wack! [Laughs]
Yosef: At some point, we ended up talking about working on a single. For my solo album, I asked Ryan and Sarah if they could work on something. And then they were like, “Hey, we’re working on some stuff. Would you be down to take a production angle on it?” And we kept doing that over and over again, over a course of a couple months. And then as lockdown happened, we just started facetiming, all the time. Like we were just always on the phone, until Sara called me one day and was like, “Let’s do an EP.” Which then turned into the album, very quickly. But it was like, we had the thought, and then the next day we started in on it.
Sara: I basically told Ryan that Yosef was going to be on the record, and then it was done. The record was done so quickly. We had a deadline set for us by our management, and I think that it was set that way as a result of them thinking that we wouldn’t be able to do it. But I don’t think anybody realized how quickly this record came about. So I called Yosef in August, and I was like, let’s do a record together. And he was like, “Okay. So at first, it was supposed to be four songs, but because of how quickly, and how well, we all work together, it turned into eight songs. So the music was all done in September, I think because I flew up to Oregon to track at Yosef house and studio in September, and the record was mixed, mastered and done by October 19, I think.
Yosef: It was not a very methodical process.
Ryan: We were just throwing ideas back and forth and just kind of messing around. It’s weird how well our styles came together, even though we are coming at it from different places in terms of inspiration. But our styles gels so hard! Like if you gave it blindly to someone they wouldn’t know we weren’t in the same genre or whatever.
Yosef: Yeah, I think the same way our relationship is like sibling-esque, our music is also sibling-esque. Like youth code feels like the older sibling too where I am.
Sara: He’s calling me old again.
Yosef: No Youth Code feels like… when Beethoven was around. I can still get some inspiration from them even though they’ve been around for 120 years.
Sara: Oh yeah, this is cool. It’s cool! Do you see what I have to put up with?
So Ryan, what was it that Yosef was doing that made you want to collaborate with him?
Ryan: I just loved his music. I’m one of those people that wants to check out pretty much every single band that has like 10 followers, or whatever. Not to say that that is Yosef or anything. [Sara laughs]
Sara: You caught us all on a really good day.
Ryan: Anyway, I like to keep up with everything and I never reach out to anyone, ever. I’m so shy on the internet. I haven’t opened my Instagram in a year. So for me to reach out to Yosef was like, really odd. And I think that it was one of those things that was going to fall in place no matter what. Just knowing the way it happened. But I just thought his music was really exciting. I have really odd ideas about music. Like I can listen to Christian Death and hear a mosh part. We all have our own ways of listening to music. But when I heard the stuff Yosef was doing, I was like, “Holy shit! This is like the way my brain works too!” We should be able to be hard with sonics instead of just guitars. It was inspiring to me.
Yosef: What’s even funnier is once we met up… you know, as Ryan and Sara are both people who I admire and look up to musically. I was like, “How’d you find me?” And Ryan just was like, “I don’t know. Can’t remember.” That was the explanation I got. [All laugh]
Ryan: I like seeing what everyone’s doing. I love music.
Sara: Also, side note, Yosef’s partner and I both had to tell Yosef and Ryan to actually hang out with each other because they were being shy. Ryan called me and I was out on tour. And he’s like, “Hey, I’m supposed to hang out with this guy, Yosef, and I…” and I was like, “Just fucking do it.” [All laugh] And it actually is one of the best fucking things that’s ever happened.
Yosef: I literally had the exact same conversation beforehand, where I was like, “I don’t know if I want to go. I’m kind of nervous and intimidated.” And then my girlfriend was just like, “Yeah, why wouldn’t you go? Just go! Do it. And if it’s weird. You can leave.” And then I showed up…
Ryan: And then we made a record.
It’s crazy that all the dominoes were essentially set up, and all you had to do was tip one over. But there was some hesitation. It almost didn’t happen.
Ryan: Yeah. I think we’re both kind of shy people. And we don’t keep a large circle. We have people we’re comfortable around, and… yeah, it just worked out. Exactly what you said, like dominoes.
Yosef: I think going from a place of listening to his music, and spending so much time listening to Ryan’s production trying to understand what he’s doing, and it being such an inspiration to me, to, “This dude wants to hang out and talk to me about music.” I mean, I had only been studying what he’s doing for the last two years straight. I was very nervous.
Ryan: Well I wanted to know what you were doing. It was cool. We started sending Ableton Sessions back and forth. And then just seeing the way he works… It’s been really good. I’ve learned so much from Yosef. Like working on this record and looking at the sessions and how he does stuff. It’s fucking awesome.
So are you going to have difficulty making records separately going forward?
Ryan: I could see us always bouncing ideas off each other.
Yosef: I think, for me, I’m a producer and a musician, and I’ve always been played guitar or been behind the board. So vocally for me, working with Sara and Ryan, it gave me a safe space to be able to split the work with somebody and allow the collaboration to lend itself to the project. So I think in that regard, it’ll be a little bit more difficult as I’m moving forward because there will be times when I have a whole four-minute song by myself and I have to figure something to say for four whole minutes straight. But yeah, I don’t think we’ll stop bouncing ideas off of each other. Like even though I’m getting pretty close to done with my solo album, as far as the pre-production goes, and I’ve already sent them a few drafts for feedback and ideas.
Ryan: So, so so good. I love your new record.
Sara: It’s okay.
Well, Ryan gives Yosef’s new record five stars, Sarah gives it two. I’d say that averages out.
Sara: More like two and a half.
Yosef: [Affects Southern Accent] It’s no Beatles, but it will do. [All laugh]
Sara: Don’t talk shit about the Beatles!
Ryan: It’s from a show.
Sara: What show?
Ryan: News Radio.
Sara: Never seen it.
Yosef: Yo, is that an old person show?
Sara: Oh, I watch old-timer shows. My entire persona is based off of Designing Women.
Yosef: Designing Women? What is that even? [Sara laughs]
Sara: It’s some shitty old show with Delta Burke. I have nothing to do with it. I think Designing Women is kind of like Murphy Brown or one of those types of shows. You know what I mean?
Yosef: Now a show called Designing Women should be like a reality show or something. Maybe with something to do about plastic surgery? I don’t know.
Sara: Why did you take it there?
Yosef: Hey, there’s a lot of plastic surgery TV shows. It’s kind of bizarre.
Sara: So would they be designing lots of other things, like kitchens, and houses…
Yosef: I would prefer for it to be that way. But with the state of reality television. I don’t think it could be.
Sara: Reality television is traaaaaaaaaaassssh.
Yes, it is horrifying. How do you guys feel about reality shows that have a contest where somebody gets tattooed, and then the judges judge the tatoo?
Sara: I’ll watch anything that has Gordon Ramsay.
Yosef: I just recently watched that first season of Ink Masters, probably in the last month or two. And it was something. [All laugh] It makes sense why all those tattoos were free. Even the best were… like, wow! Do not get tattooed by any of these dudes. But it’s always weird when you make anything artistic competition for money, you know? Like, if we went on a TV show where they said, “Ok, write the sickest song, but you can only use these instruments.” It just presents a weird dynamic.
Especially when you artificially narrow the parameters of what you can use to make the art like “Oh, create a sick trap metal song using only bubble wrap.”
Sara: That might actually be pretty sick.
What is it about your backgrounds that you think helped you connect and propel your chemistry?
Ryan: I think it’s more just that we all kind of listen to the same stuff. Like we’re really open…
Sara: That’s a lie.
Sara: Yosef doesn’t like the music that we listen to.
Yosef: That’s not true. I think Ryan and I get along pretty well in terms of music.
Sara: Yeah, you hate everything I listened to! You clap at me all the time.
Yosef: Well, I sound like Face to Face.
Sara: No you don’t! Whatever! Anyway, I think all of us are creative people that have maybe had some missteps in terms of life experiences, maybe like different hands of cards that have been dealt to us where, we have had to kind of find people to gel with maybe more so than some of our actual blood relation families. And I think that those sorts of things when you live your life existing on the bonds of a family that you have choosen, and you have kind of the hypersensitivity, and the emotional response of being a creative type, I think that when you find someone else like that, it makes it easier to understand each other.
And it’s not like any of us just like one type of creative thing either. All of us are from such differently-versed backgrounds and stuff, but I think we all kind of grew up having weird relationships with people, maybe feeling a little ostracized from the norm of society at the time that we were doing our things as young adults. I felt that when Yosef and I were recording. Even though we had different issues or things that are going on with our families, there was that bond of understanding.
Right. So like you said, the way that you’ve had to construct families, outside of your blood relations, and the way that you have had to found your way through life, you find yourselves connecting in a lot of ways in terms of life experience and outlook.
What do you feel the collaboration unlocked in both of your sounds?
Yosef: I think the biggest thing that we said when we started this is that we weren’t going to force anything. It was just going to flow. So I think, for me, going into this, and, like I said, being such a big fan of what they do, and specifically paying so much attention to how Ryan’s music sounds when he does things, I came into it, and once I started pulling stems apart and stuff, I was like, “Oh!” And I realized that I didn’t have to think that much about what I was doing. I just got it. Like, “this is what I’m supposed to do for this song. And we’re gonna keep moving.”
But I would say that one of the biggest things for me that I took away from Ryan would be watching the way he layers things throughout his production process was really interesting for me. I’m a person who will have either like 100 tracks or like 10. It’s never in between. And seeing how he’ll back a sound up, instead of trying to make one sound, the sound that has everything, he’ll kind of do these dynamic layers underneath a certain sound. So it’ll sound like one thing, but he’ll beef up this one sound by adding these multiple layers that you don’t even notice are there.
Ryan: That’s just EQing in Composer. [Sara laughs]
Yosef: Even if it was just that, I think that there’s something to be learned from watching how you work. And I think being maybe naive to certain tools, you found roundabout ways to make things happen. And I’ve been in a box for so long, running a program, and Ryan’s comes from the other side of that, where he’s getting more into a program as he goes, I think he just has different approaches when it comes to using analog techniques, where he will layor something and kind of back other things up with other instruments versus just thinking, “Well, I just have to EQ this perfectly!”
And then with Sara, I’ve never tracked vocals with anybody else. Like I say this all the time, but King Yosef as a project is sooo just myself. Everything happens in this exact room that I’m in. So I write everything, I mix everything, I don’t have to share my lyrics with anybody. Nobody watches me at record and then I put it out. And I went from that sort of environment to one where I’m working with Sara, and we are not necessarily going super in depth about what we’re talking about, but just bouncing ideas off of each other kind of opened me up a little bit more, and seeing the way that Sara performs as a vocalist in a studio environment just made me want to kick myself up a gear. So I will borderline improv things sometimes, just to see what I can get to happen. Whereas Sara can do like, five takes in a row of one line, and she knows exactly which word needs to be extended the next time around, and there’ll be borderline identical because she knows exactly what she hears in her head. Whereas like I’m like, “Okay, well, I have these words and I know it needs to feel like this, but I can’t get to that certain place.” So watching Sara track was one of the biggest impacts on me and how I’m going to be proceeding forward.
Sara: That’s nice.
Ryan: It was really cool just because we had these rules where we weren’t going to force anything. But without forcing things, we also tried new stuff. Like, Youth Code never uses guitars. We were able to put guitars in, or do a piano break, and just kind of see where it would take. And then I opened it up to Sara, who was starting to do more melodic parts. And it was cool. It was like a crash course in a lot of things that I had wanted to do musically. But now we have the chance because it wasn’t just a Youth Code release.
And I think it set up a path. So you can follow where we’ll go on our next record, instead of coming out with the next Youth Code record with, you know, hokey choruses and guitar parts that come out of nowhere. [Laughs] So now we’ve opened these doors. We’ve opened the doors of depression [Laughs]
No, but we’ve opened these doors to new things. And for me, I’ve never really considered myself a producer. I didn’t really know where I sat in the world of music. I’m used to seeing noise projects with a fold-out table and some boxes. That’s how Youth Code has done shows and just how we’ve worked. And now working with Yosef I’m able to see the power that you can get it from actually putting audio into a computer and manipulating sound there. Instead of just like, what you see is what you get. It’s really cool. We’re able to take it a step further now.
It’s cool that you still feel like you’re learning new things and getting comfortable with fresh techniques.
Ryan: Absolutely. It seems like it should be a no-brainer, if you make music, but if you would have asked me if I was a producer, like, four years ago, or whatever, I would have been like, “What are you talking about? I like to sit on the floor with electronics and record them.” And now I have a better understanding. I just come from a different world. I didn’t really understand. I thought production was something you went into a studio and did with someone that’s an engineer. And now I can see like, “Oh, I can do a lot of stuff on my own too.” It’s been not liberating.
Ok, so you had sort of a spatial concept of what it was like to record and what a producer does for those recordings, and now you have a better concept how that works within what you were doing. Do you feel the same way Yosef?
Yosef: Very simply, as far as produces go, Ryan and I are very different types of computer musicians. So the maturity he has towards music, because he comes from a more like analog setup, and isn’t computer reliant, and vice versa. I’m always learning from YouTube and being on the computer all the time, but his not doing that is what I’m taking away from this is. The gift that Ryan has given to me is understanding how to get outside of the box a little bit more. How to get away from the computer screen and how to jam a little bit more, even though we’re not using acoustic instruments per se. Like how to get a little bit more improvy, or with certain things, just tracking them in, and that’s the end of that.
Ryan: Yeah, the approach is more reliant on chance. Instead of razoring it in the computer and shaping out an idea you have, it’s more like, “What is going to happen in the next 20 minutes, when I’m plugging all this shit together?” You know? “Can I get something out of it?” I mean, you can do that in the box too. You can definitely experiment with effects and stuff. But it’s cool it spontaneously. I think we both picked up techniques from each other that previously we hadn’t had.
Yosef: Weirdly, I always describe it as being parallel to each other. Like, I said, Ryan coming from analog into computer, and I’m coming from computer into analog.
Yosef: So there are these little gaps in between that neither of us hadn’t understood that we are teaching each other through this project. But yeah, I would say also that I learned a lot from Sara’s practicalness in the studio, and the way that she’s able to just like pull performances out of herself to get to the exact place that she hears in her head. She has such a vision for things. That and then Ryan’s production style. Those are the two things that I’m taking forward with me.
Last question. What is everybody’s favorite Weezer album? [All laugh]
Sara: Least favorite?
Sara: Oh, my favorite? Like my number one favorite?
Number one favorite.
Yosef: You have enough time for this question? Because Sara is about to go off.
Sara: Both of them don’t have good taste! I’m the only person that’s gonna answer this question. The number one is Pinkerton. And the second one is Blue Album. And any record after that is not really my zone.
Yosef: I was thinking about this recently, I think the reason we can poke fun at each other, and why, specifically, my music taste is funny to Ryan and Sara, is because I like a lot of things that are older than me. So I get to see a lot of things as a bystander of the future. Versus, Ryan and Sara, who lived through the cultural changes and probably the shitty fandoms of some of the things I like, so they know how punishing certain things were when they came out. Whereas for me, I’m just like, “Oh, it’s just a cool record.” But I also didn’t exist when these things were coming out and getting to see how people were about it.
Ryan: People in JNCO and stuff. You don’t know.
Yosef: Exactly, I’m like “Korn is sick!” but I also didn’t watch Korn come out.
Sara: I was there for Korn for sure. [All laugh] I was fucking there, but now I’m not so sure. But I was at one point, I was fucking there now. Not so much now.
Yosef: Can I explain pretty simply though, “The Beverly Hills” song came out when I was like… I think in elementary school. They were an old band by the time I came into having any actual capacity to understand music.
Sara: The thing that you need to understand is before that song came out, when you were in elementary school, the band took a big hiatus. So Weezer, to me, is personified by the Matt Sharp records, who was also in the Rentals.
Ryan: Oh, Rentals are great.
Sara: Exactly! Matt Sharp was on Pinkerton and the Blue Album, Those are the only true Weezer record to me. Matt sharp, or GTFO.
Yosef: If I don’t like something, I basically get a 30-minute musical history background lesson from my older siblings.
Sara: Not everything can be like mosh parts and sing parts, my guys. Most stuff exists outside of that realm.
Yeah, but the mosh parts are the sickest part so we want to keep those
Sara: Okay, yeah, I’ll be crying to Weezer while you guys mosh it up.
Well, that’s all my questions. I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. I know that you probably want to get on with your Fridays.
Sara: What is there to on a Friday? We’re just gonna sit around and talk for another four hours.
Yeah, well, I mean, if you guys want to, reconnect after this call ends and debate the merits of Korn, I’m not gonna stop you. I want you to have that freedom if that’s what you want to do with your afternoon.
Yosef: Their first couple of records are sick.
Sara: I was in the Korn cage back in ’98. Rockin’ out!
Yosef: There is probably footage of that somewhere
Sara: I tried to find it because there were at the LA Forum on the Family Values Tour 98 show and you cannot see me! I searched for it on that on YouTube. It’s not there!
Yosef: I love that you’ve already searched for it.
Sara: I tried to do it because I was like, “I have to tell someone!” I have to have proof besides the fuckin souvenir piece of paper that I saved saying I was in the Korn cage. I wanted visual proof. But the only thing I have is that picture of me and Borland and that’s that. That is my visual proof. All right. Ryan’s out. He’s seriously turning tomato red right now. Good bye!
Photo courtesy of Youth Code.