Victims of the New Math – “The Gift”

Victims of the New Math is composed of the singer-songwriter team of Thomas Young and Joseph “Joe” Young, two brothers who can’t seem to escape from the mid-‘60s-to-early-‘70s pop-rock era–even though they were (a little) too young to have listened to music at that time.  They didn’t start paying much attention to music until the latter ’70s.  But even though they love all kinds of music from all eras, every time they write a song, it always ends up sounding like it came from that era.

However, don’t expect them to do covers of any oldies – they write all-original songs because, says Thomas, “We’re just too lazy to remember things like words to songs… so if we screw up the lyrics of our songs, no one will know the difference.”

For Thomas and Joe, music is their passion and their hobby.  Their goal has never been to make lots of money or to be famous musicians.  Joe was born in Burbank, California, and Thomas was born in Boston.  Their dad was in the military, so they travelled around a lot.  That’s why they’re so close – they didn’t know anybody in the new places, so it was just the 2 brothers and sister Sue.  They’ve been doing their music off and on since the ‘80s, Thomas starting out on the guitar and Joe playing keyboards.  They would jam together, and write songs.  After Joe got recording equipment, they started recording.

In the ‘90s, they took a break for a while, going to college and starting their careers and their families.  Then about 10 years ago, they released their first CD, Set Theory Infinity, and chose a name for the band: “Victims of the New Math.”  Their band name is kind of humorous and maybe appropriate.  It has a certain rebellious connotation, required of a ‘60s kind of band – alluding to a time when innovations like New Math were all the rage – and Thomas and Joe apparently never entirely escaped from the clutches of mathematics: Thomas ended up majoring in engineering and became a process engineer for a utility company; Joe majored in math and he’s a programmer.

The album title, Set Theory Infinity, was another allusion to their mathematical inclinations, although sales figures were too low to require much math…nowhere near infinite.  They didn’t do much marketing.  It was pretty well received and did a good amount of downloads on the Internet.   The album contained what would become their trademark mix of sounds – tight melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and raw guitars. Standout tracks included the upbeat pop-rock of “Thinkin’ Lately,” the goth-inspired rocker “Little Martin,” and the country-folk tinged story-song “Six Feet Under.”

They hadn’t planned on doing more albums, but when Thomas’s wife Kelly bought new recording equipment that connected to the computer and set up a studio in their home, they decided to do it right this time.  Their first album had songs that were way too long.  This time, they’re short and sweet. . Satellite Head, release in 2016, tightened the sound, with the 10 tracks barely clocking in at 30 minutes total. Acoustic guitars, solos, and crunchy rhythms accompany the flippant rocker “Not Apparent to Me,” the driving, thought-provoking “Another Day,” and the spacey rave-up “Satellite Head Part 2.” Album opener “Brand New Day” presents a rocking slice of optimism with a rumbling bass and bright trumpet accompaniment, while the Bowie-esque “Satellite Head Part 1” tells a tale of loneliness and desperation.

Their latest album, New Victorians, is a great blend of all they love and then some. A bright, Kinks-style rocker, “New Victorians” opens the album lightly poking fun at trends and trendsetters. “The Gift” is an upbeat, organ driven song with both new wave and country influences that, despite its happy sound, tells a sad tale. “Can’t Stop Loving You” is an upbeat love song that finds influences in 70’s R&B and early Lenny Kravitz, never sounding quite like either, but having more of a groove than your typical VotNM song. With its roots in Alt country and featuring a slide guitar on the choruses, the thoughtful, spikey “Are You Happy?” asks and answers its own philosophical question. “Love One Another” is another country influenced song, this time as a slow, beautiful profession of love.

Shaking things up quite a bit, “Unfinished Business” is a hard rocking, fuzzed up song of revenge, featuring some intense lead guitar and a message not to mess with the singer. “Noise” is a commentary on the 24 hour news cycle, showing off the Donovan and Flaming Lips influences, complete with breathy vocals, white noise and a fuzzed up solo. A super lo-fi song (the rhythm guitar track was recorded on an iPhone voice memo app), “Not the Only One” is a reminder that we are not alone in all we face. “Paul Knows the Way” is a Guided by Voices influenced tribute to Thomas’ Golden Doodle Paul and his amazing senses of direction and empathy. The album closes with “Find Your Way Home,” a classic-rock style ballad with a simmering build, a powerful climax, and a fade that is sure to surprise. Clocking in again at just over 30 minutes, Ne Victorians is a melodic, vintage sounding, homemade album with great tunes, great lyrics, and a good mix of thoughtfulness and fun.

Thomas lives in Phoenix and Joe lives in Charlotte NC.  The goal of Victims of the New Math, as always, is simple – for people to hear their music, and to like what they hear.


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