The Youthful Exuberance of Youth Portal
Images Your Meal
What do you do when you’re stuck in a relatively moribund college town with nothing much to do? If you were the members of dream pop band Youth Portal, you’d start a band almost immediately with friends you’ve only recently met.
The boys – with a mean age of 21 – all met in Limkokwing University. Their friendship was instantaneous and was based on their mutual tastes in music. For instance, vocalist/lyricist Tobu and guitarist Zaki bonded on a bus ride as they exchanged phones to review each other’s similar playlists. The pair then struck up a conversation with Aiman (bassist) – who wore a Mac DeMarco t-shirt – in an elevator at the university. They eventually met the other members – Ash (guitarist and sound engineer) and Ridho (drums) – and began jamming together as Youth Portal thereafter. Over cups of green tea at the JUICE HQ, between playful teases and inside jokes among themselves, it seemed to us that the chemistry and rapport among the boys are similar to that of childhood friends.
“There is nothing to do in Cyberjaya, so we decided to post our songs on SoundCloud,” offered Aiman. One positive that the town has given them though, is becoming the inspiration for the aptly named song ‘Ghost Town’. Their songs – an encapsulation of their collective experiences and thoughts – serve as a token of remembrance for when they are older, which is a prospect that the young adults met with grimaces. “We don’t want to get old,” stated Zaki, the youngest of the group, “If we get old, this ‘youth portal’ will bring us back to our youth.” Twenty-year-old Tobu similarly divulged, “Yeah, we have a fear of growing up, we just want to stay 18 or 19,” before quickly changing his tone as he snickered at the idea, “Youth Portal… So pretentious doh.”
Even though the boys are busy with classes, still, they’ve allotted some time to jam every week to work on new material. However, when they hit the occasional dry spell, boredom, or when Zaki and Ridho head back to their home in Jakarta, the remaining members would humour themselves by watching food-related videos, or in their case, upload a video entitled ‘Youth Portal EATS’ where Aiman chomps down on a gourmet sandwich of coconut jam and potato chips – a quintessential culinary food hack for broke college kids. However, their musical abilities are not as crude as their culinary skills, though with the exception of Ash and Ridho, the rest of the band admitted that they are not very adept at their respective instruments. “I’m not very good with my instrument, but I can make music that sounds good to my ears,” confessed Tobu. Zaki echoed his bandmate’s statement, “We don’t care about the tempo or anything, as long as it sounds right.” Their approach to music-making is one that is determined by intuition, feeling, and what simply sounds good to their ears. “Being technical about music is not really our nature, we’re just enjoying the music, we’re just enjoying ourselves,” continued the vocalist.
As a result, all of their songs have a tendency to sound the same. Some may argue that it’s a lack of technical abilities, but we think that their body of work is a coherent experimentation of their still-developing sound. Their infectious ditties are evidence of their culminated tastes in music; the song structures – in its melodious repetition and concise, straightforward lyrics – are emblematic of the musicians and bands they admire, such as alt rock staples Joy Division, The Strokes, Mac DeMarco, and DIIV. Nevertheless, their infectious pop songs were the subjects of a few covers by other SoundCloud musicians such as b4bylotus and ZSYIA, even before the latter was HOAX’s main bitch.
Covers are flattering, but receiving praise from their musical heroes DIIV is incomparable as the American band can be credited for the direction of Youth Portal’s penchant for dream pop. Tobu took a chance to tweet lead singer Zachary Cole Smith about ‘Loop’, and to his surprise, he replied back with praise in tow. “I was in my grandmother’s house and it was 4am and I wanted to scream!” Tobu was still in disbelief as he recounted that thrilling moment – Aiman even compared the compliment to winning a Grammy. And for a bunch of fun-loving dudes with a band, the honour is relative.
Youth Portal plans to release an EP or an album this year.