Originally created 02/23/01

Band plays with high intensity



Facing each other in a small living room, the Augusta rockers Youth @ Risk look quietly into each others' eyes and then, without a word, launch into Masks, a song off their second self-produced album, Roothead.

Hunched over their instruments, they don't so much play the song as attack and retreat, attack and retreat, riding the dynamic waves of squalling guitar and power-funk rhythms. Members Justin Smith, Robbie Cook, Charles Merritt, Larry Sprowls and John Edwards are creatures in their natural environment - a rock band playing rock music.

More difficult for the band, which formed in 1997, was translating its carefully honed live attack to the studio. Without an audience to feed off and forced to play parts separately, they found the process challenging.

"It's always so hard to put the kind of energy you have playing live on an album," said Mr. Sprowls, one of Youth @ Risk's two guitarists. "When we play live we work off each other. The sound builds naturally. That's the great thing about playing live. You can really put it all out there and show a little piece of your soul."

Despite the challenges, the members of Youth @ Risk are new-daddy proud of Roothead.

"We absolutely needed to take this to the next level," Mr. Sprowls said. "On the first album, we just kind of slammed things together, and there were people playing who had just joined the band. I think this is a truer representation."

It was not, however, an easy birth. Rather than forcing the issue, the band spent countless hours in the studio recording, remixing and tracking so that Roothead could bloom organically.

"This is an album that just generally kind of happened," said bass player Edwards. "I mean, we mixed this album down three separate times. That's been for the best, though, because it sounds very different and has evolved into its own animal."

Band members said the objective of their music is to make people feel. Life, they said, is full of pain and joy, and that's what Youth @ Risk is all about.

"I want people to ride the whole roller coaster," said Mr. Merritt, the vocalist. "I want them to get pumped, and I want them to come away with that energy. What I want is for people to come away thinking and excited and believing that we've done something different."

Although Youth @ Risk probably wouldn't shy away from a lucrative recording contract, Mr. Edwards said that isn't how the band measures success. Instead, they believe fans singing along and coming to their shows are the greatest currency.

"I consider Youth @ Risk a success right now," he said. "When I walk into a grocery store and somebody I've never seen asks me when our next show is, that's a sign of success. That's the whole reason I play."

On stage

What: Youth @ Risk

When: Saturday

Where: The Capri Cinema, 302 Eighth St.

Phone: 790-8363

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.



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