Here’s to end times

On his new album, Cameron Park musician Young Aundee mines youthful tribulations and ponders the apocalypse

Biblical anxieties? He’s got ’em.

Biblical anxieties? He’s got ’em.

Photo by Steven Chea

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It started with Young Aundee’s role as the small-statured singer in Who Cares, the electro hip-hop group. It’s here that the musician first collaborated with producer Dusty Brown in 2010 for the band’s retro-futuristic Teenage Ego Trip. What no one understood at the time, however, was that the record would eventually lead to Aundee’s solo debut, Fear in the Fold.

It’s not entirely accurate, however, to attribute Aundee’s solo venture to those Teenage sessions with Brown—he says he never intended to make an album in the first place. But after finishing, Brown and Aundee, the latter born Andrew Southard, continued meeting, making beats for a Who Cares follow-up. The two would eventually stray from the hip-hop format to craft sounds of a more “cerebral electronic” nature.

In the process, the two found themselves getting back to ways not explored since Brown gave Southard his start as a vocalist in 1999.

“He featured me on his very first record, Volume One,” said Southard, who will perform at the Sacramento Electronic Music Festival on Saturday, June 1.

Southard contributed vocals to Brown’s “Dropped Change” and “My One,” but there’d be no follow-ups to that collaboration. Instead, as the opening track on Fear suggests, the young man was “Aimless.”

Southard, now in his 30s, grew up in Cameron Park (where he still resides) and started playing music in the ’90s. There, he and his friends formed bands, inspired by East Bay punk acts such as Operation Ivy.

He briefly joined post-metal band Giant Squid, contributing keyboard to the 2005 Monster in the Creek EP. As the aughts wore on, he immersed himself in deejay culture, divorcing himself from bands to be a studio rat of sorts. Sessions at the Hangar studios led to meeting Eric Broyhill, an engineer he admired for Broyhill’s mastering of Chk Chk Chk’s Louden Up Now. Southard turned over demos to Broyhill that became Should We Party?, an unreleased “fun” collection of songs he likens to the tongue-in-cheek dance music of Wallpaper.

Only one song did survive those sessions: “Of a Small Stature” was reworked from its original sampling of the ’90s alt-rock band Live to a brooding chiptune beat. Mastered by Bil Bless, the highly sought after glitch-hop producer, Fear is an end-times record. The conceit evolved from a partnership with childhood friend and songwriting confidant Jeremy Dawson.

Dawson co-wrote seven of the album’s songs, with Southard playing him musical fragments, “oohing and “aahing test vocals as the blueprint for the lyrics.

Growing up together, both were members of ska band Secret Six, and their shared history is evident in Fear’s vulnerability and maladjusted themes. Themes that draw on young tribulations: a junior-high friend committing suicide; Southard being sent away to an out-of-state Christian rehabilitation school not long after; upon his return, the teenager’s move to hide from his family at Dawson’s home until he turned 18.

It’s Dawson whom Southard trusted to convey Fear’s biblical anxieties. For most, the paranoia subsided after surviving December 21, 2012, the Mayan-calendar myths and numerous cult proclamations on the end of days. But for the friends, there’s still the looming second coming to consider, and it’s why Southard closes the album with an open-ended question of “Where Do We Go?”

“Vulnerability is a big part of it all,” he said. “In the writing process, we get excited to paint the broken pieces; always being around loss and heavy situations from a young age.

“Everyone has trauma,” Southard added. “I can’t discard anyone’s experience, but that’s what we pull from. I’m not so much of a salesman as I am a vessel.”