ELECTRIC YOUTH IN LOS ANGELES, JULY 2014. ON AUSTIN GARRICK: T-SHIRT: SANDRO. ON BRONWYN GRIFFIN: TANK: T BY ALEXANDER WANG. STYLING: KEEGAN SINGH. MAKEUP: NARS, INCLUDING LIP LACQUER IN GALACTICA. HAIR PRODUCTS: ORIBE HAIR CAIR, INCLUDING SHINE LIGHT REFLECTION SPRAY. HAIR: MIRA CHAI HYDE FOR ORIBE HAIR CARE/WALTER SCHUPFER MANAGEMENT. SET DESIGN: SEAN FABI.
The story of how Torontonian electro-pop duo Electric Youth came to spend the last three years making their debut album, Innerworld, is something of an internet-age fairy tale. Producer Austin Garrick’s grandfather, a retired philosophy professor, was so moved by the story of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009 that he wrote a poem about it, which he asked Garrick to turn into a song. “I was like, ‘Wow, Grandpa. Okay,’ ” Garrick recalls. “I didn’t know how I was going to make a song about a hero cool. It can be one of the most uncool things.”
He massaged the lyrics a bit, enlisted Bronwyn Griffin, his partner in Electric Youth and in life (they’ve been together for 15 years, ever since he asked her out at a friend’s bar mitzvah), to provide a pure, shimmering vocal track, and teamed up with their friend David Grellier, who records as College, on the instrumentation. The result, “A Real Hero,” was very cool indeed—romantic, evocative, catchy as hell—as you’ll know if you saw the 2011 Ryan Gosling neo-noir thriller Drive, which used the song as an emotional keynote. To this day, Garrick and Griffin don’t know how director Nicolas Winding Refn’s editor, Matthew Newman, found their song. “He must have really been digging,” Garrick says. “A little bit of a mystery, I guess,” Griffin concedes.
What’s certain is the doors Drive opened: Because they own the master rights to the song, “A Real Hero” provided enough to live on while working on their debut LP full time. Innerworld is a tight, dreamy collection that finds inspiration in synth pioneers like Depeche Mode and in further-flung influences, too: Italo disco, the Cranberries, films like Mad Max and Heavenly Creatures (they try to watch a movie a day). It’s a labor of love, in more ways than one—Garrick and Griffin, both 28 and now based in Venice, California, aren’t shy about the effect that their relationship has had on their music. They finish each other’s sentences sometimes, but are just as likely to hold back and listen respectfully. “We’ve grown so closely together,” Griffin says. Not surprisingly, Garrick agrees: “We have so much to do with the person that the other is.”