Wes James, better known as Le Youth, has always had a talent for production, and the summer of 2013 has proved to be the perfect launching pad for the magic that is his musical creations. They have readily set themselves in the hearts and ears of listeners, critics, and labels alike. His latest single, “C O O L”, was recently picked up by Ultra Records, and its matching EP, fully loaded with remixes of the single by talents like Ben Pearce, ColeCo, Lane 8, and Henry Krinkle, is now available on iTunes.
EARMILK was lucky enough to catch LA-based Le Youth before he boarded his plane to NYC and get his two cents on his inspiration, cassette tapes, and desert island essentials.
EARMILK: So, who is Le Youth?
Le Youth: My name is Wes James. I’m from Los Angeles, and I’m 27.
EM: How did you decide on the name Le Youth?
LY: It started out as just Youth. I realized that wasn’t going to work out and wanted to add some mystery to it so I added the Le. It made it sort of international. I keep taking meetings with people who get so confused that I’m from the U.S. and are like, “Oh you’re American?”
EM: How and why did you first start producing music?
LY: I started playing drums at a young age and started writing songs in high school. I played in a band and it was just a natural thing for me. I always wrote and produced alone. Even in previous bands I was still writing the songs in my own studio, pretty much the same way I do now. I’ve just always been doing it. And why? I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I couldn’t help it.
EM: You have a serious knack for mixing classic R&B hits with house, disco and tropical sounds that basically ensure auditory happiness. How did that sound come about?
LY: I was definitely experimenting a lot. I was probably going for that sound when I first started doing it. It’s kind of difficult to answer that question. I’ve always been drawn to big hooks in pop music and I feel like the 90’s had so many of those, particularly R&B. That’s the sort of stuff I grew up listening to so in that aspect it was natural. As far as producing the music, I just produced what I was listening to, sampling what I was listening to, and I guess it just came out the way it did.
EM: Can you tell me a little bit about what your music making process is like?
LY: It’s not that cool of a story. There’s a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of hours in the studio. It’s all I do. My whole day is in the studio. Going to play shows is kind of draining on me because it sort of puts me out of the studio. I feel most comfortable in the studio.
EM: The video for "C O O L" is totally awesome. Could you explain the vision behind it?
LY: I knew that I wanted to have this 90’s throwback feel but I didn’t want it to be forced. I didn’t want it to be like, “Oh he’s clearly trying to do that.” I wanted it to be a natural thing. We were talking to about 10 different directors and they all sent in their treatment, and we ended up going with Renata Raksha. I felt like she just got it instantly. The other directors were great but I felt that they were trying to please me instead of pleasing themselves. Renata just got it, and it worked out really well.
EM: What inspires you the most as an artist?
LY: Well there are two sides of me–the creative side and then there’s the side that wants to be successful, and I feel like the two are always fighting each other. Usually the creative side wins.
EM: Top three favorite tracks of all time?
LY: Fabulous' “So Into You” featuring Tamia, Ciara's “Deuces” and KB's “Feelin U”.
EM: Who’s ingenious idea was it to make the C O O L cassette tapes?
LY: It was mine! I don’t remember how the idea popped up in my head, but it just felt right. As soon as I got done with it I was calling my manager and the label saying, “Yo, I want to do this” and they were all sort of like “Eh.” We did it anyways and it all just sort of worked out in the end. I’m still into it.
EM: When you’re not producing music, what are you doing?
LY: Uh, I don’t know, what am I doing? I was just having this conversation yesterday and was saying, if I’m ever not in a studio or not working on music, I’m just taking a break so that I can go back and recharge. So basically over the past couple of years, nothing. If I’m not in the studio, I’m sleeping and if I’m not sleeping or in the studio, I’m on a plane on my way to some random city to play a show. It keeps me happy.
EM: If you were stuck on a desert island, what three or four things would you bring?
LY: A picture of my mom, my dog, my best friend, and a guitar.
EM: Shake Shack or In-N-Out?
EM: What’s next for you?
LY: Another track will be out soon, and then a full album. More shows–I’m doing a European tour next month.