The Washington Post

Evil makes country music on their own terms

The artist behind the timeless ‘Young American’ gets ready to debut a live rock opera

- BY CHRIS KELLY

Sometimes a song seems prophetic when it’s really just timeless. That’s the case with “Young American,” a gentle strummer of a country tune by DMV native Evil. In a dreamy croon, Evil sings of being “desensitiz­ed” and “ready to die,” and the chorus isn’t a rousing call to action but an appeal for resignatio­n: “Young American / Put down your fists / ’Cuz you can’t win.”

Written around 2017 and released in 2019, “Young American” seems to foretell the wave of protests that would wash over the U.S. in 2020, crystalliz­ed by the police murder of George Floyd. In the two years since, there have been plenty more protests, whether after acts of violence committed by firearm or those done by judicial decree. But after two long, contentiou­s years, the energy of 2020 has turned into exhaustion. “Young American” feels like the anti-protest anthem of the day.

“It's definitely something that I think is proving to be way more relatable than I had wanted it to,” Evil says.

In the years since the release of “Young American,” Evil has stayed busy, building on the stripped-down country of their self-titled debut with songs that glisten with orchestral flourishes, Auto-tuned vocals and gurgling electronic beats. Born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley, Evil is a country artist on their own terms at a time when many artists are challengin­g the stereotype­s and expectatio­ns of what country artists look and sound like.

“When I think of my music, I just think about where it came from, and what has made me the person that I am,” Evil says. “It’s just about our experience­s and how the places that we’ve lived and the people in those places have shaped us. … It’s really just about me expanding what we think a rural life can be.”

One of those experience­s was growing up in a “very church-heavy” South as a queer trans person, a fact Evil grapples with on “The Second Death,” a live rock opera that will debut at Black Cat in August. The five-act half-play, half-concert serves as a capsule of Evil’s thoughts on religion and God, for better and for worse. A rock opera seemed like an appropriat­ely dramatic way to share their story.

“I wanted an opportunit­y to flat out express that and show everybody what it’s supposed to be, and then when you take it and make it your own thing, that’s entirely your opinion,” Evil says. “I thought that the best way to do that is to put it in front of people’s faces.”

Performing with shamir on Friday at 7 p.m. at songbyrd, 540 Penn st. ne. songbyrddc.com $17-$20. “Evil: The second Death” on aug. 20 at 8 p.m. at Black Cat, 1811 14th st. nw. blackcatdc.com. $15. Proof of coronaviru­s vaccinatio­n required for both shows.

 ?? Erin Yasmeen ?? Evil, a DMV native who plays Songbyrd on Friday, says their music “is about me expanding what we think a rural life can be.”
Erin Yasmeen Evil, a DMV native who plays Songbyrd on Friday, says their music “is about me expanding what we think a rural life can be.”

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