Bora York Talks New Album, 80s Music Insults, and Chillwave Obsessions with Rift Magazine

We caught up with local writer Kelsey Simpkins for a Rift Magazine interview, talking about Secret Youth and 80s and chillwave...

They’ve been teasing us for a while now, releasing singles here and there – as far back as a year ago, with “Let Loose,” and “Leagues.” Minneapolis-based five-piece Bora York (Rebekah Bartels [vocals], Chris Bartels [vocals, guitars, keys], Brian Seidel [guitars], Bjorn Nilsen [drums], Jamie Kauppi [bass]) has finally released their second full-length album, Secret Youth, following their 2013 release of Dreaming Free. Collaborating with talented names such as Matthew Call, Josiah Kosier, Charlie Wirth, and Cory Wong, this brainchild project of Chris Bartels radiates the energy of many. It’s unabashedly a pop album, with the heart of an indie rock geek; which makes for a stellar party-playlist pick, road trip mix, or live performance. Although Secret Youth is already out in the world (released July 21, 2015), this Friday, Bora York takes to the stage for a real-time debut of their best material yet.
It’s kind of a funny story, but I met Bora York at their first show. I had just moved to Minneapolis in 2012, and was at 7th Street Entry for possibly the third or fourth time ever. (I’ve since lost count. Fifty, sixty, maybe?) Forever remembered for the moment’s combined novelty, I gushed to Chris and Rebekah about how wonderful they were live, how I planned to work in the Minneapolis music scene, and promised to keep in touch. Sometimes it’s fun how things turn out.
A few weeks ago, I got to catch up with Chris and Rebekah Bartels of Bora York, over beef and lamb gyros, quinoa salad, and garlic mashed potatoes, and hummus and pita at Zakia Deli in NE. Besides the food, we discussed everything from where Secret Youth got its inspiration, and the pros and cons of playing lots of lives shows, to managing a musician’s life with a young kid at home (their son Elliott now just around one year old).
These two juggle much in their lives, but seem no worse for the wear. In fact, Bora York’s second full length was produced and released independently on Chris’ own Anthem Falls Music. Rebekah herself is on the cover, making the most of what they thought was a bad series of photos at a press shoot. And she won’t admit it outright, but her fantastic voice isn’t her only talent – she also plays drums (although not on this album). They’re a pair, and five-piece, overflowing with skill and creative ideas, but a humble bunch at that. So since they won’t come out and proclaim how fantastic their new record is, I’ll hail back to that excited young woman of 2012 to help them do it.
KS: When did Secret Youth start happening? Was there a lot of left over material from Dreaming Free or was there some kind of break in between before something new?
CB: It was such a fun process with Dreaming Free, I don’t think we ever considered not making another album, so it was just a matter of what kind of style. We wanted to grow, but also have that same essence to it.
RB: After we released Dreaming Free, we played a bunch live. After a while, we were like, we need a couple new ones. Once we started brainstorming, and getting creative with where we felt like we were moving to, we’d add a couple of those in. There was a single we’d play live, and thought ‘we should put that on the album!’ Because it didn’t fit with the other one.
CB: “Midnight Glow” was a song for fun, that was before any of the Dreaming Free stuff. It matched the new style more… thought ‘that’s a fun one to do… let’s do that one.’ But playing live definitely influenced where we went with the album.
KS: “It sounds like the 80’s” isn’t an insult in my book unless it’s the only descriptor you have for a band. But Dreaming Free does have the shoegazey side of the 80’s, and Secret Youth is more the dancey side of the 80’s. There’s more of a mellow sound in the previous release, and now it’s more of a peppy feel.
CB: The first one is more ambient… but the few dance elements we had, are so fun live, and we get the most reaction out of that, and we were listening to more of that. Dreaming Free was more exploration, was supposed to be a folk album. I knew Rebekah would sing on it, but then was like ‘no, you need to sing this chorus’ and then… we needed another front person. The new album, you know, let’s make some heavy hitting pop songs, intentionally from the start. “Secret Youth” and “Forever Ocean” come to mind.
RB: The second album has a lot more power behind my vocals. This one is groovy, funky, powerful songs, for me especially.

Read the interview in full here.