PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Saradjola
F.W.T.B. is available via:
11th May, 2018
ONE of the reasons I am arranging my reviews…
so that I am making room for YONAKA is to complete a weekend of hard and raging sounds. Yesterday, when featuring Gold Phoenix, I had the chance to look at sounds equivalent to Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood. I investigated the state of Rock in this country and whether venues/T.V. shows, when booking bands to play, are taking enough risks. That is an area I want to reinvestigate when speaking of YONAKA. I will also look at Brighton and why it is an area that infuses the spirit and compels great music; why acts like YONAKA are not only inspiring but deserve bigger focus; reality and genuine personalities in the music industry; looking out for those future stars that will define the scene – I’ll end the section by having a gander at bands’ connection and why YONAKA have a chance to help change the scene. I will come back to Rock and its complexities – like I did yesterday – because YONAKA are a band who can certainly turn up the wick! As opposed to those who play straight-ahead riffs and are all about the physicality of the performance; YONAKA are more concerned with lacing in dark Pop moments and Alternative strands. They are fierce and determined but able to create melody, variation and a sense of drama. I am not suggesting Rock artists are lacking sophistication and compositional nuance: YONAKA are concerned with more than slamming guitars and rousing percussion. The guys work a magical concoction that is starting to take a hold in the industry. The reason I am drawn to the band is because of their passionate and effusive performances. There is something electric and scintillating you get from their music; the layers and genres they splice together is deeply impressive. I guess you could call it ‘Dark-Pop’ or ‘Alterative-Pop’ but there is definitely some Rock and Grunge nods working alongside. I feel something is happening in music where bands/artists who can scare the senses and appeal to a certain ‘demographic’ are being overlooked and not given sufficient focus. That may sound snobbish but let’s think about the type of fan that would go to a YONAKA gig. People like me, with cool taste who knows a great thing, are drawn to them. We may not fit the conventional mould of a friendly and amiable music listener – that would be a rather judgemental assumption!
By that, I mean I am not a Pop fan who you’d find flocking to an Ed Sheeran gig and clapping my hands above my head for the whole show. Instead, when you watch YONAKA, you are treated to a rather more exciting and lively atmosphere. It all comes down to artists who are not boring and predictable. The mainstream is still so concerned with fostering artists inoffensive and conformist. Whilst that helps create a rather nice and incontrovertible environment; artists being elevated to the forefront are not really talking about the realities of life and appealing to a wide audience. There are a few mainstream artists capable of stretching their mind beyond basic love and clichéd themes: we still see too many music tropes and dull songs coming through. YONAKA, because of that, might be seen as outsiders – something they would be okay with, I’d assume. Fans and those with better hearing are demanding bands like YONAKA are given more time and appreciation. The band market itself is a little unsure at the moment. There is still that leaning towards solo artists and what they provide. Look out at what is favoured and the albums voted the very best of the year – the majority will come from solo albums/duos. The new breed are giving me hope there are bands who can challenge the established order and provide some variation to the market. YONAKA are one of those acts to watch because their sound does not copy what is out there; they do not aim for stadiums and try and pander to the critics. I will explore this subject more but it is interesting to see how the underground is shifting focus and starting to prick the senses. We have always been interested in what is happening in new music but now, as the mainstream starts to plateau and halt, we are looking underground and seeing who will come through in years to come. I may be rambling but am a bit stunned by bands like YONAKA and how ready they are to succeed.
The quartet of Theresa Jarvis, George Edwards; Alex Crosby and Robert Mason are a solid unit and one based out of Brighton. I am not sure whether they are still based there – or moved to London – but Brighton is a great area for new music. I was down there a few days back, just after The Great Escape, but had a great look around and saw some terrific venues. Maybe London is still the to-go-to place for big artists and those looking to get the biggest crowds. Most of the labels and big radio stations are based in London but that does not mean there is nothing outside the capital that warrants curiosity. When I was over in Brighton, even though it was a bit overcast, the atmosphere and vibe was hard to fault. Every time I am down there, there is that friendliness and easy-going vibe that is infectious. There is rarely any stress and people are calm and helpful. Whether walking down Brighton Pier or wandering The Lanes/North Laine; you are always in for a treat and in a good mood. There are venues like Green Door Store and Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar that are established and respected. Whilst there is not the same vastness and range you get in London; Brighton seems like a safer economy and one of the most upcoming spaces to discover the best of tomorrow. The vibe and colourful bliss you get from Brighton, coupled with the solid and unique venues, means YONAKA are in a great place to hear their music succeed. They are based close enough to London – and may relocate there soon – but, right now, with the weather warming and the seasons changing; who would not want to be near the sea and alongside the people there?! I wonder whether YONAKA will stick down on the coast and see how far they can get in Brighton. It is a sad inevitability that, the bigger artists become, the lure of the big city wins them. I hope YONAKA stay in Brighton because it is guardians and ambassadors like them that attract labels and radio stations down there.
I will move onto my next point soon but, before then, I will remain in Brighton. Listen to the sort of music YONAKA are making now and it is more enforced by local influence rather than national tastes. By that, I mean the mixtures of darker Pop and Rock seems a perfect fit for Brighton; the band take all the scents, personalities and flavours of the area and put it into their music. I am not saying music from bigger cities lacks personalities but it is harder to stand out and create something vibrant when there are so many people around and there is a certain expectation on the shoulders. Brighton is known for its rare spirit and distinct personality. It is less crowded and, whilst fewer big names are based down there, the local breed is free to create as they wish and produce music that differs from what is out there. YONAKA might relocate in years to come but, right now, they are doing their thing and standing out from the masses. I am not surprised Brighton is inspiring so many great artists and seeing so many native artists hit the big leagues. I feel YONAKA can make some big differences in the music industry and help create development and improvement. The guys are on the rise right now and enjoying music – creating songs that are pure to them and stand out in the mind. I am finding fewer songwriters that showcase imagination and tell stories. You look at a lot of music in the spotlight and there is that commercial sound with lyrics that do not really force intelligence and depth. YONAKA are part of a wave of artists who are making music that provokes imagination and genuine interest. I will come to look at their current single in a bit but I am determined to highlight the band as possible stars of the future.
I feel like there is too much of an imbalance and surfeit in terms of bands. Have a look at the mainstream and you will see few decent bands enduring and evolving. The greatest bands of the moment have been going a while and, if you look at the new acts tipped for glory; the majority of the big names are solo artists. Maybe it is a change of tastes and a phase but I feel there is a slight fatigue when it comes to bands. It is not like we have Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin playing in the mainstream and showing what a genuinely stunning band can come up with. That is not to say the current crop lacks ability and longevity: things are becoming too routine and there is more affection put the way of the solo artist. It will be hard to overturn the dominance anytime soon but I feel, if we allow a passage thorough for bands like YONAKA, then changes will come. We have bands like Wolf Alice and Goat Girl who are splicing darker Pop and Indie with jagged guitars and fierce vocals. They are making headway and there is a reason why both band’s current albums enthralled critics – this is what we want in music and need. It is not as easy as opening the door for YONAKA and letting them change things and help bring about a revolution. The makeup of the market means there is still that core that prefers a certain sound and is unwilling to bend and break from their tastes. That is fair enough but there are so many out there who are scouring record shops and attending small gigs so they can get their fix. By allowing greater opportunity for bands like YONAKA, you will add balance to the industry and mean it is more balanced. I feel like the mainstream Pop market has too much say and money is more important than quality. I opened by looking at music T.V. and why I was keen to focus on Rock/harder sounds this weekend.
YONAKA are the type of band I could see doing a great set on a music T.V. show. Look at current options like Later… with Jools Holland it is a breeding ground for the best of modern music. There is no other T.V. show that gives that chance and, seeing as YONAKA are a bit too new to warrant a slot on the show, I wonder whether it will take a lot longer for them to get where they deserve. The guys are doing some great gigs and putting their music as far as they can. Another reason why I feel the guys are destined for something big is because they are genuine people. There are no guarded words and pre-planned quotes. They are not consulting with their people when answering questions and hesitating from tackling the big topics. Instead, the band is honest and revealing; they have a lot of guts and a sense of humour that comes through in everything they produce. You can hear their honesty and openness when chatting with magazines and radio stations; their music has personality and originality that does not aim for the safe seats and those want things sanitised, radio-friendly and vanilla. That is not to say the band is crude renegades that want to offend everyone and burn bridges. There are so few artists who want to be themselves allowed much of a say in the forefront of music. I know I keep mentioning bands like Wolf Alice and IDLES but, when you look at the quality of their music and how they come across in interviews; why would you hold them to boundaries and not give them a bigger say?! Maybe these band are more comfortable working just-outside-the-mainstream but I feel music’s elite need to take listens from these great bands. Look at YONAKA and they tread the same sort of lines. The music they put out gets inside the head and stays in the mind. It is so hard, with the music we have out there, to keep it all in and remember. That may sound worrying but there is so much choice – how often do we retain music?
I feel the scene will change so that YONAKA and their allies will have a bigger shout and define the next phase of music. The connection and relationships within YONAKA is what pleases me most. There is genuine friendship and an unbreakable bond that makes their music so authentic and strong. Nothing is faked and exaggerated for them: every note is as a result of a deep understanding and a love of music. I am hearing a few bands that are going through the motions or compromising what they do so they can ‘fit in’. Bands are suffering to get proper attention but that does not mean amending what you believe in so you can easily slot into the forefront. YONAKA want to succeed and get as far as they possibly can in the industry – they are doing it the honest way and proving themselves with consistently great songs and incredible live performances. It is their combination of skills and passions that gets to me. I am hearing a lot of effusive chatter regarding YONAKA and what they can accomplish. They are legends down in Brighton but, through bigger showcases, are getting into the national blood. When I discuss F.W.T.B. in a bit, I will look at the story and why it marks the Brighton-based band for big success. I will end this section by keeping on the road of connection and understanding. I listen to YONAKA play and know there are no standouts. That may sound cruel but, by that, there is equal footing given and a chance for each band member to shine. The songwriting brings the best out of each player and you get a sense every note and utterance means the world to them. I wonder how the band will progress in the next few years and where they are headed. On the strength of F.W.T.B., I suspect they will have plans to release more material and capitalise on their momentum.
Glory-twanging guitars and a funky kick mix with a slight flat-pack percussion sound. It is not the violence and aggression you might expect given the song’s title. The band subverts expectations and brings the song to life with plenty of colour and softness. The guitar sound is fascinating in the sense it creates so much melody and rhythm. The drumming and strings combine wonderfully and you start to conspire images and imaginations right from the off. Our heroine comes to the microphone after the drums tense and things rush to the fore. “Shut your mouth for a minute!” she declares and presents a stealthy attitude and lips that “won’t quit”. Listening to the opening vocals and there is that blend of the unique and nostalgia. I can hear shades of classics acts mixed with something unexpected and new. It is that kind of power and instant prowess that means the song gets into the brain. Jarvis is crawling and strutting around the microphone and flipping a two-finger salute to those who say she cannot succeed and needs to limit her horizons. She is not listening to the boss and unwilling to listen to negative words. I am not sure whether the song was compelled by a domestic and normal job or it is a larger look at the music industry and compromising to fit in with their visions. The band, as with their previous singles, mix Pop and its energy with something gutsy and Rock-lingering. The chorus is a big and emphatic shout-out that has plenty of life and fascination; the band provides some stabbed strings and lashings of intensity. The heroine, in the chorus, is the boss and she is sending a warning to anyone that overlooks her or tries to screw. It is a bellicose and direct warning that is a mantra of self-confidence. She has seen so many people mess her around and, in life, she wants what she wants. There is nothing she cannot achieve and, because of that, anyone who gets in her way is in for a serious kick in the nuts!
Maybe it was a bit premature of me to associate YONAKA with Rock – they mix in Pop and Indie with something Hip-Hop-minded. The chorus has that swagger and fast-flow that makes me think of genres like Hip-Hop and Rao but the way the band work around the vocal brings in Pop. It is a mix of darkness and light that is rich and satisfying. The chorus is instantly gratifying and memorable. It mixes the profanity of the title but it is never crude and meant to shock. Instead, YONAKA are sending out a message to anyone that try and trample and dictate. I did not mention female leads in music and how the industry needs to reshape and recast their mind. I have mentioned bands like Goat Girl and Wolf Alice who boast tremendous female voices but, in YONAKA, you have a different angle and equal weight. The band is not trying to follow the crowd but make music that sounds familiar and relatable. It sprinkles in, oddly, elements of 1980s Pop and would not seem too out of place in the mainstream. What differentiate YONAKA from a popular act of the moment is the intensity, personality and quality they expend in every note. They have accessibility but are raw and impassioned enough to alienate those easily scared and closed-minded. Jarvis constantly has her middle finger aloft and is not allowing anyone to mess with her. The song is under three minutes but delivers great punch and declaration in that time. The band turns the guitars up and provides plenty of swagger and punch to back the vocals. There is a great little standout moment where the song changes pace and allows the instrumentation to shine. It gives the track another twist and visual elements. Before long, the chorus is back in and we are heading towards the finishing line. It is the balance of simplicity and complexities of the track that mean it is so memorable. The chorus is the big star and the mission statement that is intended to get crowds chanting and provoke fevered dancing and fist-pumping response. F.W.T.B. is more confident and assured than anything I have heard from YONAKA so far. I am a fan of singles like Ignorance and Bubblegum but it seems like live performances and time on the road has strengthened their core. I can imagine YONAKA vibing from the success of their latest single and taking that ammunition to their next work. Things are hot with them right now and I am compelled to watch them grow and develop as a band. Their latest statement is stronger than most of the stuff out there and ample proof they are ready to offer something different to the mainstream. There are some great acts who balance Pop and heavier sounds with a fresh edge – none that do it in the same vein as YONAKA, mind. I would love to see the band get the chance to headline the biggest stages and you have to say, on the strength of their newest release, they are capable of handling that sort of pressure and intensity. A fantastic time for the Brighton band who, with every new release, show the music world needs more bands like them.
The band conducted an interview session of Facebook on Friday with the fans and revealed all about their world. They launched their single in Brighton last week and it went down a storm. I wonder whether there will be a music video for the song coming soon. It is the kind of track that would provoke a great storyline and some fantastic images. Maybe the band is working on that right now but, with their latest track fresh and gathering love; there is a lot of new attention the way of the band. The single for F.W.T.B. features an Asian woman with the song’s title on it – Fucking with the Boss – and, to promote the song, the band featured these facemasks out to fans at their gigs. There is a distinct edge and aspect to the band. Each song has its own motif and U.S.P. – rather than the bland and overly-engineered promotional campaigns you get with the bigger acts. YONAKA have some gigs booked over the summer but there are spaces in the diary the guys could rock. I know they will be playing up and down the country but there is still that bigger faith and spotlight in Brighton. They are getting lots of local love and thrilling the fans with explosive live sets and phenomenal songs. I am sure the band will go on to great things but, right now, they are cementing their name where they are and amassing some great songs. I think they have released four or five singles so far. That poses the question: Do they go for An E.P. and collate all their songs or release an album and recorded five or six new songs? I feel the former is more likely but the latter would be a good move. It is clear there is inspiration in the camp and they are buzzing off the support they are receiving.
Their Heavy E.P., actually, was out last year so they might have already fulfilled that part of things. It gets me thinking about albums and what their next step is. In Theresa Jarvis, the band have one of the most captivating and flexible leads in new music. She is capable, like Ellie of Wolf Alice, to go from a commanding and empowered scream to something more delicate and teasing. It is exciting watching the band grow and amassing some serious affection. I will end this by looking ahead for the band and where they might head. I mentioned how there are a few bands like them playing that are standing at the boundaries of music. I feel YONAKA have the chance to take their music on the road and reach all corners of the U.K. I feel what they are offering is popular and will resonate with so many people. F.W.T.B. is another example of what they can accomplish and how far they have come. Every new release sees them grow in confidence and assimilate new elements into their sound. They are never compromising and adapting their music to fit in with the mainstream. Maybe that will limit their rise to the big leagues a bit but, when they get there, they will do so on their own terms! It is wonderful seeing YONAKA take strides and gain the respect they deserve. They are one of Brighton’s best acts and, in a part of England that is producing some pretty fine artists, that is no mean feat! If you are immune to the wonders of the band and what they are producing then make sure you get your mind around F.W.T.B. It is a stunning work from a band who are inching their way…