The Sylvia Platters unpacks complicated cultural upbringings in Youth Without Virtue

The pandemic was a meditative catalyst for the healing EP

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photograph of four band members crouched down together at a sidewalk.
The band bonded over their lived experiences of growing up in conservative religious households. Photo Courtesy of Megan Lambert.

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, Arts & Culture Editor

If you were looking for a short and sweet EP to listen to during coffee breaks on your sunlit patio this summer, I’ve got just the remedy for you. The Sylvia Platters (TSP), an indie-rock band from BC’s Fraser Valley, released their melancholic EP titled Youth Without Virtue on June 24. The album was created throughout the pandemic and the quiet moments of reflection it allowed.

The Peak interviewed TSP bassist, Stephen Carl O’Shea, to learn more about the band and their creative direction. He explained the album explores the clash between conservative cultural upbringings and one’s own adopted values as an adult.

“There exists the world your parents raised you in, and then there is the world you interpret to be authentic and real. Social conditioning within tightly controlled conservative communities employs fear-based tactics to ensure the community’s boundaries are established and held,” said O’Shea. “For each of us, we chose to unpack these complicated histories of upbringings and channel them through energetic expressions of upbeats, downbeats, and vocal harmonies.”

O’Shea said the band bonded over their shared lived experiences of this dissonance between the values they were raised on and the values they ultimately chose for themselves.

“Each of us knew the strict sense of rules and performative social presentation that were required by elders within the community. As we found this commonality amongst our lived experiences, the themes of the album galvanized as cathartic healing through the pandemic’s isolation.”

As someone who navigates the treacherous effects of religious trauma, Youth Without Virtue played a special role during my loneliest moments. The lyrics and upbeat instrumentals felt like a breath of fresh air and sunlight pouring through a dark room at the same time. Rather than being a sorrowful reflection, it’s a resounding soundtrack for hope and healing.

illustrated album cover of Youth Without Virtue
Youth Without Virtue album cover. Photo Courtesy of The Sylvia Platters.

I love listening to the EP on loop because it seamlessly flows into the next track and the EP’s poetic imagery is on theme but not repetitive. Some of my favourite lyrics are found in “Doldrums:” “Dredging up some old sins / So bored of this insurrection / With no unearned affection.” But my ultimate favourite song has to be the title track, which has an upbeat industrial production that clears away for the lyrics of the verses to shine through. The lyrics resonated with me deeply, especially when they croon, “When the guilt starts getting the best of you / And your faithless friends are falling through / Listen to your sister / Take her word for scripture,” and the bridge: “You’re never enough / You’re never alright / You kill what you love / It burns you alive.”

Youth Without Virtue was released physically as a cassette. When asked why, O’Shea explained it felt like the best option in terms of time, cost, and sustainability.

“In this world of intangible releases, another digital EP felt incredibly underwhelming. We desperately wanted to embrace something tactile that TSP fans could hold in their hands,” said O’Shea. “We landed on cassettes as the perfect format as it connected to our upbringing of long family road trips in Chrysler Voyager minivans and their stock cassette decks. For good measure, we got exactly 66 cassettes made up to suit the thematic elements of Youth Without Virtue.”

O’Shea revealed that Youth Without Virtue is a part of a Youth Without… series of EP releases, with plans for the second one being drafted up.

“All of us in TSP are very passionate about our artistic endeavours as an expression of our lived experiences. The band remains an outlet for creative expression and cathartic release,” said O’Shea.

To learn more about The Sylvia Platters, visit their bandcamp page and follow their Instagram page. You can listen to Youth Without Virtue on all major streaming platforms.