“If you like this music, you are a part of it. You’re not a fan of me, you’re just a supporter of what Arrested Youth is.”
Photo: Olivia Amaral
Twenty-five year old Ian Johnson is the genius behind the artist known as Arrested Youth. Arrested Youth officially came together as a project in 2017 and made his musical debut with his song “All My Friends Are Robots.” Momentum was gained for Johnson when his second single, A Painting in Paris was placed on one of Spotify’s biggest rock playlists, Rock This. Fast forward to September, Arrested Youth geared up for his first ever tour opening for Yungblud, which is where we sat down with the artist and his band for Arrested Youth’s first official interview.
As it was his first interview, we asked Ian to talk about Arrested Youth and what it is, as most people might not know. As it turns out, Arrested Youth first began about two and a half years ago while Ian was still in college. But most of the songs were recorded while he was traveling for his corporate consulting job. “I lived in 10 different cities in 1 year working for that job cause I’d be at different offices across the US so like, I’m pretty sure every one of those songs, maybe two were in the same spot but every other song off Fear was recorded in a different hotel, in a different city in the US” Ian told us.
Ian’s goal at the time was to create music that was worthy enough to make an album out of. And then as soon as that happened, he would quit his job that he oh so hated. Luckily, that day came sooner than expected, but was also unfortunate cause Johnson quickly realized “Oh fuck, I don’t have it all figured out yet.” So he moved back to New York to live with his parents for a few months and then moved out to LA and lived in a house own by the company Trap Nation, which his current label is under. Once in LA, Ian sat down and was like “Ok, I have this music but what is the artist? What is the act? What is this exactly?” Upon being added to the Rock This playlist, he realized people actually cared about the music and that he now had a platform.
Soon after, Arrested Youth submitted to open for Yungblud on his first US headlining tour. To Ian’s surprise, he got it the gig. But there was a few minor details missing - he had no band and he had never performed a day in his life. Luckily, he knew one person who could be of assistance. His friend Gavin Gottlich played guitar, but he also has played drums in the past. So when Ian offered him the gig, he was like “Oh cool, I’ll be playing guitar.” And he was the guitarist for 3 days. Then Ian and his manager approached Gavin and said “We need a drummer and you’ve been a drummer. So you’re gonna be our guy.” Also to count in the factor that Ian knew no drummers in LA. But luckily, Gavin knew someone who could play guitar. They met with Aaron Shadrow the next day and he was brought on as a session guitarist. As for whether or not Arrested Youth will continue to be marketed as a solo act, that remains unknown. As Ian said, “There’s so many unknown for Arrested Youth, but it is 100% a project for the people.”
Photo: Olivia Amaral
Ian then moved onto talk about the message of Arrested Youth. He explains how he started Arrested Youth because he wanted to create something bigger than himself and he wanted to do something that helped people. “I knew if I stayed at my job, yeah I would be successful, but I would just a successful unhappy person.” Ian wants his music to be an outlet for real frustrations and real problems that are going on in the world, not “numbing it out with some bullshit.” He does not want to be an artist who preaches about how fucked up the world is and how we’re all just fucked, because he tries to see the brightside out of situations, in his personal life and as an artist. Johnson thinks we already deal with enough of the bad in the world because we’re hyperstimulated by it all on social media. He wants to be an example for their supporters by being off his phone entirely once a week. His friends will joke that he sings about his friends being robots but he is the biggest one of all cause he’s always on his phone, mainly responding to messages from supporters on his instagram page. So he’s encouraging others to put down their phones for a day and then share with him what their life was like without being glued to a device. When it came to finally putting into one sentence about what Arrested Youth is, Ian said “It’s honest, it’s high energy, it’s real, it has a valid statement behind it.” The artist has a punk rock “fuck it” attitude about everything because at the end of the day, “it’s all shits and giggs anyway.”
We decided to touch back on this being Arrested Youth’s first ever tour and to get Ian, Gavin, and Aaron’s opinions on whether it had met or failed to meet their expectation. Collectively, they all agreed that this tour completely surpassed any expectations that they had. All three were definitely skeptical about saying yes to this tour because everyone, including their tour manager, left parts of their life behind to be gone for a month and a half. Not to mention the headliner, Yungblud’s, team were more than welcoming to the new band. “We have been treated better than any opening act deserved to be treated” Johnson told us. None of the three have any specific expectations that they could recall, but as Gavin told us “It’s hard work, but it’s so much fun that it doesn’t even matter.”
Over the course of the month and a half tour, Arrested Youth has gained a very large amount of dedicated supporters. Despite being a very new band, there have already been over a dozen fans have gotten tattoos dedicated to Arrested Youth and others are already promoting for the artist to come back to their city. We asked if they were having any trouble with boundaries with their new found recognition. “Not at all … This music is for you guys, the supporters. Make of it what you want and be a part of it” Ian said. Arrested Youth focuses on making sure their supporters feel as connected to them as possible. They spend a lot of time after shows talking with those who support them and always make their best effort to reply to all their message on social. As we noticed over the course of our shows, we never heard a single person say they were an “Arrested Youth fan,” but they would always refer to Arrested Youth as their friends. “We like to try to be friends with everybody. Our supporters are such interesting people. We’re lucky that they consider us friends as opposed to just a band they’re a fan of. I love that they feel connected to us” Aaron expressed.
Before we ended our interview, we asked if any of the three had something they would like our readers to know about them or Arrested Youth. Aaron talked about how he didn’t consider himself a guitarist at all before performing with Arrested Youth, as he saw himself as more of an electronic producer. But now after playing with Arrested Youth every night and performing for their incredible crowds, he’s found a brand new love for the guitar and he “couldn’t be more grateful for that opportunity.” Gavin kept his statement short and sweet by expressing how blown away he is by all the love and support they have been shown. And wants all the supporters to know that this is only the beginning for Arrested Youth and he can’t wait to see what happens even just a year from now. As for Ian, his statement was a bit longer. “At the end of the day I’m an American kid who loves music and wants to build something for the youth and I’m just gonna give it everything I have.” Ian expressed how he has already had the conversation with himself that if he died tomorrow, would he be happy with what he’s doing with his life? And of course, his answer was yes. He’s never felt so passionate about something before, and he hopes the people who support him will go out and find something they’re just as passionate about. Because “that’s what this is all about, truly fucking growing and owning your shit as a human being.”
Photos: Olivia Amaral
Once we closed out the interview, we decided to take some portrait photos. As Ian decided, this ended up being in the men’s bathroom. Of course this was the time everyone had to use said bathroom so we ran into so funny situations, but it ended up going pretty well. Then Arrested Youth had to soundcheck. Despite a few minor technical difficulties, everything else went pretty smoothly. An hour or so later, doors opened for a sold out show in Boston. It was an interesting venue, and could essentially be described as a dive bar. But with everyone packed in it, it was going to be a great show. The crowd had an amazing response to Arrested Youth and their energy was absolutely crazy. In fact, I think it was the craziest we saw them on stage so far. As the show ended, we all said goodbye as this was Punk Junk’s last show of the tour. But we promise, there’s a lot more coming from Arrested Youth in the future. Who knows, maybe even some more Arrested Youth X Punk Junk features.
Check on the links below to listen to Arrested Youth's music and follow him on social media!
All photographs taken by Olivia Amaral