Young Romance is out September 28th, via City Slang Records
Pop music is a difficult formula to perfect. You’ll always have your fair share of skeptics ready to drag its good name through the mud, but true aficionados know the skill and talent it takes to craft the ultimate chart-topper. It’s not just about catering to the masses or writing a catchy tune: it’s about the alchemy of melody, lyricism, restraint and abandon that makes a song undeniably, universally good. Roosevelt, aka Cologne-based singer, songwriter and producer Marius Lauber, is set to prove that he is one such maestro with his second studio album, the slicked-back and scintillating Young Romance. After releasing his self-titled debut record in 2016, playing sold-out shows and acclaimed festival dates across the four corners of the world, and remixing artists like CHVRCHES, Rhye and Glass Animals, Roosevelt is ready to launch a new phase in his career, one that draws from the disco, house, and tropicalia influences of his debut, but steers his music in a decidedly fresh direction.
“The way I see it, almost every aspect of my first album is still there on the second record, but just in a more extreme and more emphasized way,” says Roosevelt, on how he was able to evolve his well-known dance sound on Young Romance. “So the catchier tunes are definitely even more so. On the first record, it really felt like I held back a bit on going too much in one direction, but on this one, when a song in the studio turned out to be going in a pop structure direction, or in reduced, stripped back direction, I just wanted to make it a more precise version of that.”
Young Romance’s lead single, “Under the Sun”, is a summery, mid-tempo candy burst, packed with disco-funk guitars and catchy synth lines. “It kind of made sense to preview the album with it, because it has a lot of elements that represent the aesthetic of Young Romance. It’s still close to what people probably expect from Roosevelt, but it definitely has some elements that I wouldn’t have done in the past, maybe more modern production techniques. So it has a good balance between being a bold statement about what changed on the new record, but still establishing a certain Roosevelt sound.”
The same could be said for tracks like “Losing Touch” or “Better Days”, two songs that also showcase a distinct growth in Roosevelt’s sound, albeit in completely different ways. “While I was making the record, I almost wasn’t listening to any other music, because it can get really distracting,” Roosevelt explains, giving another glimpse into his studio life. “Of course, there are always some all-time favorites, like Fleetwood Mac, Human League, Talk Talk, Chic, David Bowie… those would be ’70s and ’80s acts that have always had an influence on me. Although for ‘Losing Touch’, LCD Soundsystem was quite an influence.” And it’s true: the track has similar driving beat and dance floor appeal, but more European disco fantasy than gritty NYC club realism. “With ‘Losing Touch’, I just wanted to make a track about that euphoric–but also disconnected–feeling of being on the road. You sweat it out every night, and get lost in it, and there’s something incredibly fantastic about that, but something really sad as well, because you’re kind of disconnected from any kind of healthy lifestyle. It’s about realizing that, and being fine with it and moving on.”
Road life is one thing, but it’s in discussing “Better Days” that Roosevelt’s true studio geek personality begins to shine through. “It’s definitely a track where I tried a few different things, compared to the other ones. For example, there’s a lot of collaboration going on; it started with my bass player, Matthias Biermann. We both really have a thing for Blonde, the Frank Ocean record. It has this really vulnerable and intimate vibe going on. We were kind of just jamming, trying to reproduce that vibe, and he came up with the chords that run through the track. There’s also this amazing guitar player from Canada called Curt Henderson. He has this great style of like, early John Frusciante, that I could really imagine on a more stripped-back Roosevelt track, so I got in touch with him through Instagram. And there’s also friend of mine in Cologne who recorded his brass section in the studio, like a proper saxophone, trombone, trumpet. That’s how the track came together, and it was really exciting because I almost felt like an executive producer. It really felt like something new and exciting and I tried to leave it as demo-y as possible, to preserve the original vibe of it. It’s the track with the most vulnerability and it’s really true to what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to leave it raw.”
Young Romance is permeated with a palpable sense of vulnerability. After all, what is more tender and fragile than youthful love? “Young Romance started off as a working title, just the name of a folder on my computer,” Roosevelt says. “It definitely reflects the years, maybe from 17 to 20, when everything was still really fresh, and you experience a few things for the first time. It’s a kind of coming-of-age album, in that sense. When I was 16 and I started playing music, that was a ‘romance’ for me. You know, this utopian idea of coming from this small city and going out in the world and playing my music for people. It’s that age when you’re full of dreams, full of opportunities.”
But surely, Roosevelt’s dreams and opportunities are only just beginning. If his debut album introduced him as a force to be reckoned with in the international dance music scene, Young Romance both solidifies his presence and shows the new heights he is capable of reaching. “Paul McCartney once said that the best pop song isn’t written yet, and I think that’s quite a clever statement,” Roosevelt says with a coy smile. “That’s how I feel, also. That wasn’t the only challenge on this record, but somehow it really excited me: the drive to make really excellent pop music. It’s a big challenge, but I really wanted to see my music survive in a more mainstream environment, without losing any authenticity, or having to make any compromises.”