Rocking out with Young Jesus

By Sophia Coleman

Rock ‘n’ roll will save your soul, for Jesus has risen in the form of a local “party-angst indie” quartet.

With zero ties to the Christian Rock genre, Young Jesus has made it a goal to create relatable, passionate music for those who love fluid guitar riffs, hearty vocals and trance-like rhythms. The band—made up of John Rossiter on lead vocals and guitar, Shawn Nystrand on bass, Cody Kellogg on lead guitar and Peter Martin on drums—was hard at work last summer producing its first full-length album, “Home,” which was released Jan. 24.

The Chronicle sat down with Rossiter to discuss the reaction to the band’s biblical name, inspirations behind “Home” and his take on the Chicago music scene.

The Chronicle: Why the name “Young Jesus”?

John Rossiter: The name came from Shawn while at a party with our lead guitarist, Cody. Shawn had a really long beard and long hair, and someone said, “Hey, young Jesus, pass me a beer,” and immediately we thought, “That would be a cool band name.” So the name stuck.

The Chronicle: Have you ever been mistaken for a Christian rock band?

JR: Yeah, we have been a couple times. There’s this really weird lady who keeps sending us weird emails and comments on our Facebook pictures with things like “Praise Jesus” or “In the light and love of Christ.” She’s trying to start her own ministry, I think. We keep up with her because she’s really crazy.

The Chronicle: What inspired your recent album, “Home”?

JR: The inspiration behind it was the storyline of these two characters, David and Eloise, [whose story] had started a couple EPs back. For me, those characters became a way to write about people that I know and love, and [I could] write about myself without having to say “I” all the time. We wanted to tell the story of them falling in love, falling out of love, getting involved in drugs and alcohol and being in and out of college. We wanted to give a voice to those people who were scared and caught in this place that they didn’t necessarily put themselves into, but circumstances sort of f–ked them over.

The Chronicle: How would you describe your music or style? What big-time band do you think you most resemble?

JR: Pete came up with this really neat faux genre, “party-angst indie,” that I think encapsulates us pretty well. We like to have a good time and get really crazy at our live shows. We get compared to [the band] The National a lot, I think because I sing pretty low sometimes. We really look up to a lot of local bands like Alkaline Trio, Wilco and the Smoking Popes.

The Chronicle: What influences your music, and what do you like to sing about?

JR: We try to make the songs relatable to people. It was really amazing to find out through music [that] people I’ve never met before were going through the same things as I was. I was kind of a loner as a little kid, and so it was really important for me to write an album other people could relate to and get some light and hope from. We write about growing up and trying to face the world on your own.

The Chronicle: What do you like about the Chicago music scene, and what do you hate about it?

JR: It’s really different from Brooklyn, LA or Austin. There aren’t many bands that come out of here, based on crazy buzz. From my experience, everyone in the scene that we’ve dealt with is really cool and down-to-earth. I hope, at least, there’s not as much pretention, which is why I don’t really like the Smith Westerns because I think they paint the Chicago music scene in a really pretentious, über-hipster light. For people that have been [in music] for a while, it can be frustrating.

Catch Young Jesus at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., on Feb. 25. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more information on Young Jesus, visit