Young and Restless: The Young Something's Alex Bonyata and Bella Beyer are growing up and outgrowing folk

The band plays the April installment of Rock The Park in downtown Tampa.

click to enlarge The Young Something, which plays Rock the Park Tampa at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa, Florida on April 5, 2018. - JACK WOOD
Jack Wood
The Young Something, which plays Rock the Park Tampa at Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa, Florida on April 5, 2018.

There was a time, not long ago, when teens Alex Bonyata and Bella Beyer were a fresh-faced acoustic folk/pop duo performing under the name AB+ Positive. The sound was softer, the looks cleaner cut, the pair's songwriting more innocent. They played regularly on WMNF and at music festivals across Tampa Bay, including Tropical Heatwave, Et Cultura and Brooksville’s Will McLean Music Festival. The Young Something recorded two EPs (Alex & Bella and Take Me Away) and played gigs at Skipper’s Smokehouse, Hideaway Café and The Ale and the Witch. Despite their age, Bonyata and Beyer opened for Foreigner, Andy Grammer, Sister Hazel and Ringo Starr at private events organized by Ruth Eckerd Hall, inspiring envy in countless singer/songwriters decades older.

The St. Petersburg natives met in 2015 while participating in the Grammy Museum’s Music Revolution Project at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

“I wasn’t even supposed to do it,” Beyer says. “I was 13; you had to be 14. They called me at the last minute and said a student couldn’t make it. If that hadn’t happened I never would have met Alex.”

They formed AB+ Positive during the program, and started dating soon after. Like a lot of high school (well, homeschooled) sweethearts, they’ve grown up together. Now students in St. Pete College’s Music Industry Recording Arts Program, Bonyata, 17, and Beyer, 15, have reinvented themselves. They’re edgier, louder. More confident. Less conformist. In May 2017, they ditched the duo and launched a full band –– The Young Something –– with friends Ben Buffington on bass and keyboard, and fellow Grammy alum Trey McHugh on drums.

About This, the band's first EP as The Young Something, was recorded in Nashville with producer Stephen Leiweke. Bonyata, who describes the album as straight indie rock with “a twist of pop production,” says the transformation was driven in part by the couple’s strides in songwriting, Beyer’s fascination with Lorde and Bonyata’s love of Jack Antonoff’s Bleachers and ’80s synth pop.    

“We were trying to find ourselves with the first two EPs,” says Beyer, whose breathy vulnerable vocals harken back to an early Jewel, or more recently Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir from Of Monsters and Men. “We didn’t know what we wanted our sound to be, or how to convey it.”

They dropped the album on Valentine’s Day, teasing its Spotify release with a 30-second video clip, in which Bonyata and Beyer look restless and moody in a series of highly-stylized fast cuts, shot mostly at the beach after sunset. In one scene, Bonyata is seen lying underwater. In the next scene, he’s holding his head and whipping his drenched hair, dramatically back and forth. The act could be interpreted as either exasperation or liberation. Given where the band is headed, it’s safe to say it’s probably both.

Rock The Park w/The Young Something/Golden Era/Kolby Stancil
Thurs. April 5, 6:30 p.m.
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 North Ashley Drive, Tampa.

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