An Interview with The Young Presidents: Building Their Coalition

The elections may be over, but The Young Presidents are still touting their campaign of change and hope. They are seeking your support of their music—which has been described as a blend of ’70s and ’90s rock—and its message. “We still live in the greatest country in the world, and the idea is that we’re looking for change in leadership and just the way we all treat each other,” explained bassist Mitchell Kaneff. “We’re looking for a group to say, ‘Hey, enough of this guy or that guy,’ and blaming people and shaming people. It’s all about lifting our country up—we don’t care who it is or which party it is. That’s the philosophy behind what we’re writing.”

Last year The Young Presidents released their debut album, Freedom Of Speech, and this year they have been back in the studio working on new material but taking a different approach to disseminating it. They’re releasing songs one at a time. The upbeat new anthem “We The People,” a soulful classic rock brew featuring Living Colour’s Corey Glover on vocals and Ivan Neville and Blondie Chaplin on backing vocals, arrived just in time for Election Day. More singles are on the way. “Our thought is every three months we’ll put out new songs and then do an EP,” said Kaneff. “Then more new songs and another EP, then eventually roll out an album eventually with two other bonus tracks. That’s our plan for 2013.”

In the spirit of harmony espoused by their music, Jake Hertzog and Mitchell Kaneff have brought in some experienced musicians to help them with their new music: singers Glover, Neville, Chaplin and Steve Augeri as well as drummer Anton Fig, who is known for playing with the CBS Orchestra. It’s kind a Santana-esque approach to creating an album, and TYP hope that despite the different configurations on the different types of songs—they even have a remix of “Never Far Away” by Ruwanga Samath that features rapping from Kali—that all of the music will be stamped with a special sound.

Take a listen to “Unacceptable You,” their previous single/video with Glover, and their principle seems to be holding true. It’s a funky, aggressive tune that was inspired by toxic relationships. “There are a lot of people that you meet in your life that come from a dark, weird place,” noted Kaneff, “and life is too short to be surrounded by those dark, challenging people. Sometimes you have to say goodbye and move on.”

A song that is as upbeat as “We The People” is their cover of Edwin Starr’s “War,” which the four aforementioned guest singers were contributing to on the day that the Aquarian visited the group at Avatar Studios in NYC. The only cover TYP has ever done, it features the same kind of rambunctious energy but with some notable differences—Kaneff pinpointed the lack of horns and the U2-ish guitar sound that Hertzog injects into it.

The twosome hopes that this fresh cover of “War” will find a home with listeners at radio and online and perhaps in a movie or tv show. Beyond aspiring to deliver the highest quality music, The Young Presidents need to find ways to reach the masses, “which oftentimes is in a movie, on a tv show or a commercial,” observed Kaneff. “In the old days it was called ‘selling out’ to some people, but in today’s world it’s the only way to really make money. Or we could go on tour for 365 days a year, which we’re not really set up to do. We’re taking the Steely Dan approach and Santana approach to writing great songs. Our idea is how do we get it into a Ford commercial or a great movie?”

The studio collaboration of The Young Presidents is certainly flowing with energy. Interviewing the various players en masse, their bubbly banter indicates how they all get along and have been enjoying the process, which certainly allows the players of different ages to learn from one another.

“Not to call us vampires, but there’s something great about working with new energy,” said Augeri, who is working on a solo album and has recorded and toured with Journey, Tall Stories and Tyketto. “Sometimes it wakes up us old-timers—well, I’ll speak for myself—and you remember what it felt like. They’re going for it, and it sounds great. Mitch and Jake have something special going on here. We’re going to take away just as much and maybe more than they might take away from us, so it’s good to be here.”

“We’re all still learning, man,” believed Neville, who plays with the group Dumpstaphunk. “Once you stop learning, it’s time to quit.”

“I think the coolest thing that we’ve been enjoying about this is the vibe exchange,” asserted Kaneff. “At the end of the day, we’re just joking and laughing. Pretty much the entire moment we’re together to the moment we leave there is no argument and no bloodshed. Nobody’s bringing their ego to the door. Jake and I just say, ‘Here’s what we’ve got, what have you got? And let’s figure out the best thing we can together.’”

“Everybody loves music, and these guys have been playing music longer than us and love it just as much,” stated Hertzog. “We’re united by that.”

“I think the songs are pretty good, and they were very free to let us play and feel it out without constraints,” said Chaplin, a long-time touring member of the Rolling Stones, about why he was inspired to join The Young Presidents’ coalition.

Once the music has been finished, the next challenge will be to get the music of this multigenerational gathering out to listeners, particularly younger ones who are not as willing to pay for music and do not understand the behind-the-scenes mechanics and time involved.

“The challenge is the kids don’t understand that this studio costs $2,000 a day,” reported Kaneff. “In a way, we’re an independent music company. Nobody’s funding us. Nobody’s giving us a deadline. We don’t have anybody we have to report to or a schedule that we have to meet. But at the end of the day, we’re funding this project, which a lot of people think is just magically going to happen.”

The Young Presidents are not letting such thoughts deter them. “We’re still operating under the philosophy that if we make stuff that is good enough and resonates enough, the business will come,” stated Hertzog. “The album is like a commercial basically. You can’t sell it. It’s like a car commercial that you hope will make people want to buy your car. That’s what records are turning into, a commercial for a brand. You don’t have a band anymore, you just have a brand.”


The Young Presidents will have a new album out in 2013. For more information, go to