FEATURE: Spotlight: Yonaka





PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images



THE boys of Shame will be next on the parapet…



that is the Spotlight feature. They are another band whose name can be written in lower or upper-case lettering (I'll go with the former - the latter bugs me a bit!). One of the reasons I wanted to feature Yonaka is because of their female lead: Theresa Jarvis is among the most important and original voices in new music. Joined by George Edwards, Alex Crosby and Robert Mason – the quartet whip up a heady sermon that has got critical tongues drooling and fans pumped! They have been on my radar a while but there is a reason why the guys will steam and roll through 2018: where they are based. Brighton is a city I will throw a separate spotlight on very soon. It is, alongside London and Manchester; a place where an artist/human can feel connected, alive and fulfilled. (My passion for Brighton is unquestionable and undiminished). Their shows are the stuff of fantasy: a band who knocks the roof off and can peel a tattoo from a mosher’s nuts from fifty meters! Theresa Jarvis is the insatiable and energy-infused lead who can get every crowd exhilarated. The band signed a major-label deal in mid-2016 but, as they told NME last year; the gig they played that night was a fuzzy-headed and shambolic thing – too much free champagne flowing when they all provided their wet signatures! The band already had a solid live reputation by that time: a willing crowd would forgive some off-key shouts and unruly setlists. The wake-up call came when they started to craft their E.P., Heavy.

In a music scene where there are some great female-led Rock/Alternative/Punk bands – including REWS and False Advertising - it is refreshing to see Yonaka on their own. They are non-conformist and unique: this comes across in every note of the E.P. Bubblegum, the standout single, combines a melodic sensibility of No Doubt with elements of Hole, Queens of the Stone Age and Smashing Pumpkins. The band wanted to create (an E.P.) that had consistency and distinct personality; they wanted to put something out with diversity – so it appealed to a broad taste. Singles like Drongo, Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya and Ignorance suggest a group who do not want to be labelled and honed. Heavy’s light-dark shades mix fire and cool; an accessible core and barbed-wired boundaries. The Atlantic Records-signed band, ever since 2016, have been verbalising their insistence they are not your workaday Rock band. They sniff at the posh and whimpy bands: the kind who vote Tory and get annoyed if the local Marks and Spencer runs out of their most pretentious sandwiches. Brighton seems like the perfect place for a band of friends who want to stand out. In an area defined by colour, diversity and equality; it is encouraging they are getting more attention and making their way to the masses. Maybe they will move to London in time – more chances to play and more money – but it seems like spots such as Green Door Store and Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar are right up their street! The band – ‘Yonaka’ is the Japanese for ‘the dead of night/midnight’ – gained important exposure as early as 2016. They have already played The Great Escape, and so; with that sort of experience under their belt – I expect this year to be an even bigger one. They have had their lows and bad gigs – doing the ‘toilet circuit’ like everyone else has its risks – but have learnt a lot from it. They want to be big and make a living from music; hit it properly big and make a success of it.

They have the ammunition and talent to go as far as they want. One of the dangers of having that exposure and acclaim is a certain compromise: making allowances and trying to adapt your music for the mainstream. One hopes the band don’t appear as judges on a future series of The Voice – or appear on any reality shows – or start hanging out with Ed Sheeran on the sly! The mere images are enough to make me want to vomit my own blood: I know the band will not succumb to such cheap and fetid lows. They want to be big so they can take their music around the world and rock some epic stages. So far, in a few years, they have managed to transcend from the remnants of other bands to get where they are. The reason they have such a diverse and ever-growing look is the music the band listens to. They might be investigating Grime or Pop; throw some 1970s Punk into one day – it all comes out in their own sounds. I have been excited by Wolf Alice: a band with similar broadness who are making incredible strides. They are another female-led band who seems unlikely to squander their own path and tread down the rather colourless and fame-hungry one of the mainstream. Yonaka have that diverse spirit and variation in their ranks.


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Albums from Jeff Buckley and Dr. Dre feature in their collection; they take a lot of influence, overly or not, from the latter. What stuns me is the way they manage to integrate and mingle all the various colours and shades together. Lesser bands would come across rather uneducated and lazy. For Yonaka; they want to take chances and add an injection of originality to the scene. The world is growing bored of genetic and formulaic Popstars: the rebellious backlash are showing their anger and trying to usurp the established order. The day will come when the Brighton-based band are ruling the airwaves and taking to the Glastonbury stage. I hope, when they get there, they get to a headline spot. The festival has been accused of sexism and booking rather predictable bands to top their stages. It might take a few years but the chemistry in the camp means patience is not an issue – a lot more music will come from the quartet. So…what of 2018? They had an eventful and career-high 2017: one would hope that momentum and acclaim translate into something big this year. Peers such as Cabbage and Shame are coming along and adding something honest, real-life and working-class into music. It is a slow transition but there is a tangible need for change and revolution. It might not be on the same level as the Britpop motion of the 1990s – that is not to say bands like Yonaka cannot inspire others and make genuine changes in the industry.



I shall leave things here – but it is a good start to their careers. An E.P. has been released and the guys have played some great gigs. So far this year; the band has played Green Door Store and made NME’s list of the one-hundred acts to watch this year. They have played with The Cribs and brought their brand of music to the people of Reading and Cambridge. They have some minor festival dates booked for later in the year: one wonders how many other offers will come in the next few weeks! Alongside the wave of innovative new bands – including Shame and False Advertising – I feel a whole new festival could arrive. It could be one for artists who subvert the mainstream and bring anger back into music. I am not sure what the festival would be called: whatever the outcome; Yonaka would own it! Their future is bright and, with a series of stunning songs out there; I can see the fans flocking their way. I feel this year is going to be a massive one for a band who…


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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