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Ray Cappo isn't your average dude in a band. The 45-year-old Manhattan resident is a full-time yoga teacher (at which he is known as Raghunath), husband and father of four. And he's a hardcore straight-edge icon thanks to his tenures in Youth of Today, Shelter and Better Than a Thousand. Teaching yoga, he says, is "a satisfying job that I love," which might be part of the reason why Youth of Today's Sunday and Monday shows at the Glass House in Pomona are their first SoCal appearances since 1989.
Since disbanding in 1988 (the 1989 shows were one-offs), Youth of Today performed in Pennsylvania and Europe in 2004, a handful of overseas shows last year, and a weekend trip to Russia in March. More dates are scheduled, but Cappo is quick to point out the band are not hopping in a van and playing 200 concerts per year.
"We're just doing a few reunion shows," he says. "I have a whole career that I'm really passionate about, so I try to work my schedule to play here and there, but I don't see myself doing this much longer. I like it, but I've been there and done that."
Youth of Today's singles and full-length albums (Can't Close My Eyes, Break Down the Walls and We're Not In This Alone) were at the forefront of the post-Minor Threat, East Coast straight-edge scene thanks to anthemic lyrical content that dealt with refraining from meat ("No More"), looking for the good in life ("Positive Outlook") and being open to people from all walks of life ("Break Down the Walls"). No one would ever call Youth of Today's music complicated—it's your standard power-chords-and-yelling hardcore—but that was the point.
You'd think a group singing about positivity would be free of controversy, but Youth of Today—and, perhaps even more so, Cappo himself—have been the subject of more gossip than you'd find in a tabloid newspaper, a topic he'd rather not address these days. The rumor mill might have something to do with the way the singer presents himself onstage. Cappo is unabashed in his beliefs and has never been one to shy away from speaking to a crowd between songs. These speeches can come off as preachy lectures to blogging teenagers who want nothing more than to find holes in his staunch beliefs, but it's hard to fault a guy who promotes the benefits of positivity and healthy lifestyles. For him, this penchant for communication isn't an act: It stems from what he says is a natural proclivity for meeting with and engaging people.
"I'm not a born singer," Cappo says. "I'm a public speaker, a presenter or a character onstage. When I teach yoga, I speak. I'm a communicator, and I can get a message across, which is what I did in Shelter and Youth of Today. That came easy for me. I can get in front of 200,000 people or a dinner party and be very comfortable."
After Youth of Today's break-up, Cappo founded Shelter, a band who slowly moved away from the screaming, frantic rhythms of the previous outfit and toward a more melodic sound dubbed by many as "Krishna-core." Shelter's record covers and lyrical content often promoted Krisha consciousness, which didn't sit well with the portion of the audience that wanted to hear songs about being straight-edge, not pious enlightenment. Shelter helped Cappo combine his love of music with his burgeoning spirituality and gave him a platform to engage in an open, honest manner.
Cappo's honesty is apparent when he discusses the upcoming string of Youth of Today shows. The singer says he "can't believe people still care" and admits that he is not the impetus for these gigs. Even though being a musician is not his main priority, he says he enjoys his time as Youth of Today's front man whenever the occasions arise.
"I'm only doing it by demand," he says. "I'm not trying to hold on to some career that's quickly fading. It can't go on because I don't want it to go on anymore. . . . This sounds like such a crappy interview, but that's just the way it is in my life right now."
This article appeared in print as "Core Values: Ray Cappo takes a few days off from his yoga career to play shows with his hardcore band Youth of Today."