You Won’t is the musical duo of Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri, who first met in 1999 as unlikely fencing partners in a high school production of the Broadway flop “My Favorite Year.” Some 17 years later, they are still collaborating closely but no longer assaulting each other with pointy metal rods. Since the release of their full-length debut Skeptic Goodbye in 2012, You Won’t has toured across North America, garnering praise from the likes of SPIN, NPR, KEXP, and The New York Times for their raggedly infectious and charmingly idiosyncratic sound. Their dynamic and enthusiastically unorthodox live performances have earned them support slots with The Lumineers, The Joy Formidable, Josh Ritter, Lucius, and Deer Tick, and an appearance on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly. Their mixed feelings about social media have earned them scorn and derision.
Revolutionaries, the band’s second LP, is at its heart a reflection on the crumbling of youthful idealism in the face of the compromises and moral ambiguities of adulthood. The title pays tribute both to the duo’s childhood home of Lexington, Massachusetts (site of the first battle of the American Revolution) and to the enduring, quixotic sense of shared purpose that has fueled their creative partnership for more than a decade and a half. Prior to forming You Won’t in early 2011, Arnoudse and Sastri had already been making theater, film, and music together for nearly a dozen years, enduring countless false starts, disappointments, and disillusionments along the way but never wavering in their support for each other and their collaborative vision. Their platonic marriage as a two-man rock’n’roll band proved the biggest challenge yet to this sacred artistic mission, and not coincidentally Revolutionaries is rife with references to shaken beliefs, shifting loyalties, and wounded pride.
Self-produced by the band at home over a period of two and a half years, Revolutionaries is the product of a long, often Sisyphean recording process and approximately 10,000 hours spent banging foreheads against walls. The album’s raw, driving, cacophonous aesthetic is more expansive and sonically adventurous than that of its predecessor, the natural outgrowth of the four-legged noise circus You Won’t has been bringing to dive bars and rock clubs across the US for the past few years. At its musical core is the merging of Arnoudse’s evocative lyrics, lilting melodies and punkish guitar with Sastri’s nimble, jazz-inflected percussion and seemingly endless supply of obscure instrumentation (whirly tubes, electronic bagpipes, and singing saw are all employed here). Over 15 intertwining tracks, Revolutionaries tells a story of curveballs, wrong turns, and injured buttocks, interspersed with the occasional moment of unexpected clarity. Taken as a whole, the album is a thoughtful and frequently witty meditation on what we choose to believe, who we choose to believe in, and how these choices shape our lives. Most importantly, it represents the latest and most public salvo in a revolution that the members of You Won’t have privately been leading, in one form or another, for the past 17 years.