Jackson Pollock once wrote, “Painting is self discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” When it comes to Matawan, NJ musician Chris Santos, his paintings are comprised of soundscapes swathed in youthful exuberance as evidenced in his now-solo endeavour Painted Young. His musical writing can be best described as one influenced by newer pop-punk sensibilities and early, powerchord-driven emo-rock, which culminates in a curiously hard-hitting neo-adolescent edge. To call him retro would be a mistake- Painted Young is far from marching in line with a revival. Though the band started as a 4-piece-turned-solo act, Painted Young is neither recycled nor upcycled. Rather, it is adaptability that Chris is attmepting to showcase as he wades through a myriad of new and exciting influences- all points that reflect on his being.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting for a bit with Chris about his latest endeavours as a solo project, including reflections on his range of motion within pop-punk and what he has in store for the future. Enjoy!
Ouch That Hertz!: Hey, Chris, how’s it going?
Chris Santos: Pretty good thanks!
OTH!: So, Chris, I took some time to read up on Painted Young. Looks like you started as a quartet when you founded in 2013 and recently became a one-man act consisting of yourself. What events led you to becoming the singular driving force behind Painted Young? I hope it wasn’t anything too tumultuous!
Chris: Well throughout the history of the band, we’ve had different members and constant changes to our lineup while I was the only consistent member of the band. Fans couldn’t keep up with who was in the band and who wasn’t anymore. It got to a point where the other members couldn’t stay in the band any longer and they all came to me at once saying so. I was initially heartbroken, but the reasons behind their decisions were out of their control so I couldn’t be mad or angry with them. A few friends made a suggestion that since most people see Painted Young as “my band” anyway, I should just continue on with the name. So with the blessings of the previous members, I was able to turn Painted Young into my solo project.
OTH!: I’m aware that Painted Young started as a cover band and moved into an original songwriting project. Did you ever write collaboratively with the previous members? Or are originals something that came in time as Painted Young grew into being your moniker?
Chris: The first EP “Looking Forward to Never Looking Back” was our most collaborative project as a band. When we were writing that EP, It was pretty much me, our drummer, and our guitarist at the time writing most of the songs. We didn’t have a bassist until after that EP was released. Some songs were more written by one person with the rest of the band adding their own flair to it. For example, I wrote the majority of “Leave Some Space for Me” and my guitarist at that time wrote most of “Just to Get to You.” Then the other members would add their own touches to the songs. Later on however, the singles “Little Girl” and “Summer Come Back” were all written by myself and I just taught the other members their parts.
“I’d rather not limit myself to one sound for a long time.”
OTH!: Following that train of thought, do you find it more challenging being the principal songwriter and instrumentalist as opposed to previously working with 3 others? Could you expound on some of those personal triumphs and tribulations for us?
Chris: I don’t think it’s as challenging being the only songwriter because I know exactly how I want my songs to sound. Once I achieve it, I also challenge myself and come up with alternative ways to make the song better than it already is. I can also experiment with different styles and genres freely without anyone second-guessing it. Those singles I mentioned before (“Little Girl” and “Summer Come Back”) are songs that I wrote on my own. They’re also Painted Young’s most listened songs and our most popular so that definitely gave me a boost as a songwriter.
OTH!: Well, out with the old and in with the new, right, Chris? Let’s touch about your upcoming endeavours- specifically, your soon-to-be-released single “The Madhouse.” What was the inspiration behind the song?
Chris: I was inspired by horror movies that specifically took place in mental hospitals and insane asylums. I also wanted to use that as a metaphor for my everyday struggles with my mental health and how my personal experiences can occasionally be rather frustrating or angering.
OTH!: I can definitely hear some of that classic, rawer pop-punk vibe in the instrumentation- I hear nods to Blink-182 and Green Day in your riffage and an early Fall Out Boy and Set It Off presence in your vocals. In fact, it almost reminds me of Ice Nine Kills during their SUPER early pop-punk years. I’m not surprised by your influences, but I am curious to see it directly translate to your output. That is, it appears more commonplace for people today to hear pop-punk presented as a sprig from Emo, jammed up with breakdowns and filed under Easycore, or saccharine to the point of more “radio-friendly” powerpop. Given these more common devices, what draws you to this more punchy approach?
Chris: I’ve always been drawn to music that’s rather hard-hitting but at the same time sentimental to a degree. I’m a big fan of any “pop-punk” music that makes me move, whether it’s easycore or powerpop. But I think the reason why I’m so drawn to it is because I’m a fan of everything from underground hardcore to top 40 radio pop. From the heaviest music to the poppiest music, I like anything that gets me grooving and I think pop-punk is like a perfect midway point that takes elements from both sides of the spectrum. At least that’s how I personally see it.
OTH!: Furthermore, is this the musical niche that you anticipate on revisiting frequently in your songwriting, say, for a future EP or LP? Or do you envision Painted Young encapsulating more aspects and soundscapes within pop-punk as you develop under this moniker?
Chris: I’m constantly writing whenever I have the free time so whatever inspiration I’m feeling at the moment will probably go into what I’m writing. As much as pop-punk has been my stomping ground, I noticed a lot of the songs I’ve been writing are leaning towards the “poppier” side of pop-punk. You might see that in my upcoming EP (which will be out in April by the way). But I’m always open to exploring new genres and trying new things, even outside of pop-punk. I’d rather not limit myself to one sound for a long time. I’m not sure where the music’s going to steer genre-wise in the future but all I know is I’m open to trying anything!
OTH!: You’re now less than a week away from Painted Young’s first show of the year as one of the opening acts for Andres & Dead Poet Society. Given that “The Madhouse” doesn’t release ‘til the 22nd, can showgoers expect to hear this new original from you? Are you planning on premiering any other original tracks? Or, perhaps, maybe a couple of covers?
Chris: Yes! I am planning on playing “The Madhouse” at this show. I’ve already rehearsed it with my backing band and I am beyond excited for fans to hear it live. I’m also playing another new song that’s called “Needle in a Haystack.” The only reason why I mention it is because we’ve already been playing it live at shows for the past year so fans are already somewhat familiar with it. I’m also playing a cover that pretty much takes me back to my roots but if you want to know what song it is you’ll have to buy a ticket and come see for yourself!
OTH!: Which reminds me… Given that Painted Young started as a cover band, can fans new and old expect a couple of covers in the near future?
Chris: I have a YouTube channel where I try to post acoustic covers as often as possible. Feel free to check those out and subscribe to my channel!
OTH!: And, speaking of the future, what do you have in store for 2019? What does this year look like for Painted Young and for any other solo endeavours that may be along your path? More shows around northern NJ and NY, perhaps? Maybe some collaborative works?
Chris: This year I’m trying to play as many shows as possible. I really would love to try and venture out of state more often, specifically New York. I’ve played a few really awesome shows there in the past so I’m hoping to get back out there soon. Like I said, I’m releasing a new EP in April so you’ll be hearing a lot about that.
OTH!: Well, Chris, that’s about all the time I have with you. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to add?