The track, Wake Up, is available via:
The album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is available via:
31st May, 2019
Asylum Records UK
THIS time around...
PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes
I want to talk about bands and artists coming out of Brighton, addressing subjects like toxic relationships in music; mixes of Pop and Alternative in music; female-fronted bands and why festivals/the industry needs to take more notice; a bit about underground artists are their future in the industry – I will end by speaking about YONAKA and where they might head. It is interesting addressing YONAKA because I have been following them for a little while now and have seen them grow as a band. Their album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is out and it is the culmination of years of grafting and hard work. The guys have a really tight connection and great sound that they have forged through live gigs and regular play. It is testament to their chemistry and abilities that they have released an album that is gathering great reviews and going down a storm with the fans. They have got a lot of exposure in London but I think it is their roots in Brighton that has helped them to stand aside from the pack. I live in London but I know full well that there is more room and time to breathe in Brighton. It is a part of the country that inspires the senses and allows one to recharge. There is far less bustle and stress than in London and the people are fantastic – there are nice people in London but nearly as many as in Brighton. It seems like, despite one or two venues closing, there is a really strong live scene and some great artists bursting through. There is a lot of emphasis on London – because this is where most of the big venues and labels is – but one cannot discount the appeal and strength of Brighton. It has a fantastic mix of people and great venues like The Green Door Store give space for artists to cut their teeth and hone their craft. More than that, there is this feeling of community and support that one does not get from other parts of the world – there is also the convenience of being quite close to London in terms of commuting to gigs.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Saradjola
I wonder whether a lot of people are aware of Brighton and why bands like YONAKA are thriving. You only need to go down to Brighton and spend some time there to understand there is something in the air; a sense of wonder and relaxation that gets into the bones. The variety of music on offer down in Brighton is also impressive. You can find all sorts of genres and styles to suit your tastes; this real blend of colours and textures to amaze and dazzle. Great record stores like Resident provide a chance for in-stores and inspiration; festivals such as The Great Escape display a banquet of artists and give local groups the chance to ply their trade and impress the crowds. This year has seen Brighton in the spotlight. I think The Great Escape – where YONAKA featured – is more balanced (in terms of gender and genre) than most festivals and brings a lot of new followers and faces to Brighton. There is so much emphasis on London and what is happening there but I feel so many people are heading there and it is getting harder and harder to stand out. I think, in terms of YONAKA’s sound, they sort of take from the scenes and sights around them but they possess a sense of innovation and brightness I do not think they’d have if they were in London. That might sound strange but I think they are influenced by their surroundings and the people of Brighton. It might be the case that they relocate to London so they can find more opportunities but, as Brighton is so close in terms of a commute, I do hope that they remain put for a while because, as their new album takes hold and gets buzz, they will get a lot of gig requests and love from Brighton. I shall move on but I think it is interesting in Brighton right now. I went down there a few months ago and saw pubs and venues boasting live music; a general vibe that is hard to ignore and a happiness that one does not get from London. Maybe the reality is different but one goes to Brighton and they are instantly lifted; their troubles melted and their mind opened.
It is interesting addressing YONAKA because I have been following them for a little while now and have seen them grow as a band. Theresa Jarvis, the lead of YONAKA, brings a lot to the party on the band’s album. Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’s title suggests taking the bull by the horns and seizing the day. There is that need for urgency and getting out of bad situations; not putting things off and taking chances when they come your way. I will quote an interview from YONAKA in a bit but, when looking at themes on the record, it seems that toxic relationships play a big role. I am not sure whether Jarvis has been on the receiving end of bad love and mistrust but it seems like she is taking from her own experiences. Everyone can relate to situations where one person in a relationship is controlling or is exerting a lot of pressure. Getting away from that and moving on can be hard but YONAKA’s lead feels that it is possible – taking those steps and realising you do not need to be with that person if they are bringing you down. There is more to YONAKA’s album than relationships alone. The band address mental-health (on the album) but manage to fuse serious messages with songs that have a distinct bubble and pop to them. Look at this interview YONAKA gave NME earlier in the year and they explain what inspired their recent material:
“I want them to feel strong,” starts Theresa Jarvis of what she wants people to get from Yonaka’s debut album. “I want them to feel empowered. I want them to feel like they can kick the door down and go get what they want.”
It’s a strutting, confident message from a band who’ve spent the past few years growing in strength; collecting their power and kicking down whatever doors have been stupid enough to stand in their way. The end result is ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, a record that captures all that growth and, alongside a blossoming belief, twists it into a celebration of everything that the band stands for…
“I definitely do think what we’re doing is important. When we get offstage, all these young girls come and speak to me saying we’ve given them confidence to do this or ‘thank you for talking about this, you’ve made me feel better’. If young girls are saying that, that’s fucking amazing. It’s definitely important,” beams Theresa. “We were getting the album together at that point as well, which helped solidify it,” continues George.
“It’s saying reach out to someone, change something or do something about it. Don’t leave it too late. I was going through some really bad anxiety myself. I couldn’t sleep properly and I was feeling really shit. I started reading Matt Haig and his writing captured exactly how I felt, but couldn’t explain. That was really important.”
She continues: “Sometimes you feel really lonely, like ‘It’s just me, I’m going to die’. To know someone else feels the same way I do, that helped me when I wasn’t feeling good. I’ve got family and friends who suffer with depression and it really gets heavy on people. People’s brains, they can take over and put you in this horrible place. ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is a message to let you know you’re not alone. Other people are going through the same stuff and you can reach out and talk to someone”.
It is great that YONAKA have managed to inspire young girls when it comes to big subjects; stuff that is not necessarily being broached by their friends and at school. YONAKA put mental-health at the front and, when it comes to loneliness, they know that there is someone out there who feels the same – Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow is that realisation that we can all find someone to relate to and we need to discuss these sort of themes. Whereas a lot of artists are still concentrating on their own struggles and very narrow themes, YONAKA are a part of a new wave who are going deeper and being more inclusive with their sounds.
PHOTO CREDIT: Elina Lin
It is hard to describe the sound of YONAKA but they seem to mix Pop, Punk and Alternative together. I look the Pop edge because it gives their music a sense of colour and lightness. When they address themes like toxic relationships and loneliness, it is important the messages resonate and strike but, in terms of memorability, they have made the palette a bit less stressful and tense; it allows the songs to convey something important but make people move at the same time. I do think modern music lacks a sense of smile and fun and, even though YONAKA are dealing with some serious stuff on Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, they are able to write some big choruses and lace in something charming. Led by Jarvis’ excellent vocals and intoxicating spirit, the band come together wonderful and have this busy and exciting sound. I guess there are artists putting together Alternative and Pop but I do feel it is a style of music that should be more popular and exposed. There are too many downbeat songs around right now so it is a relief to discover YONAKA. They can make you think and highlight something pretty raw but, at the same time, they want people to move and feel free. This is a potent combination and something that makes their album a real hit. The band give us big hooks and you are never in short supply of rush and energy. Their music definitely awakens the senses and this is music you can sing along to. Whereas some artists are quite closed-off and can be pretty dour, YONAKA are bursting with life and their music gets people together. Those who have seen them live – I should do next time I am down Brighton way – state how friendly YONAKA are and how they always have time for their fans. Their live performances are excellent and you can feel some of this energy in the album. Rather than produce something polished and fake, the band have kept close to their roots and have released and album that will please existing fans and bring in new support.
PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes
Going forward, I hope YONAKA will keep their sound true and not feel the need to change too much. I love the fact that YONAKA have these great choruses and can put hooks in the mix but there is this rawness that makes you want to get into a mosh-pit and let everything fly loose. YONAKA have strengthened as a unit and I am sure they will say their new material is more meaningful and nuanced than their earliest days. I know Jarvis has looked back at some of the early songs and wonders what she was saying. It seems the band is riding a high now and, with industry backing and a growing fanbase, they seem ready to take the next step. I do think they have an important role to play in music. There is some great Pop and Alternative around but nothing that has the same sound as YONAKA. They bring together some shades of the 1980s and 1990s – always good when you want to cross the generations – so that is something that speaks to me. They are always in the present day but, as they do straddle time and moods, their music has this variety and width that means everyone can take something from it.
Everyone who sees them live tends to say the same thing: they are one of those bands that you cannot forget and you want to see again. It is obvious YONAKA are among the most exciting groups coming through right now and they back that live reputation with incredible songs that stay in the brain. I find so many modern tracks have a sort of doomy skin and it can be a bit depressing. I yearn to uncover great artists who can talk about something serious but have a fun time whilst doing so. YONAKA is what we need in music at the moment and I cannot wait to see where they head next. Let’s move onto something else because I am keen to look at YONAKA as a possible future-headliner.
I have been very feminist-minded the last few days and, whereas I am continuing today, I do feel that so many great female artists are being overlooked. YONAKA might be underground and rising right now but that is not to say they will be quiet for too long. They have this great local reputation but are starting to get a lot of attention from further afield. I look at festival line-ups this year and there is a lack of female headliners. There are not even female-fronted bands at the top and that worries me. Considering there are so many great women around right now, I do wonder what is holding festivals back. Look at European festivals like Primavera Sound and they have the likes of Robyn and Solange rocking the crowds. They have shown that a fifty-fifty gender balance is possible at festivals. I wonder why we here are not able to match Primavera Sound because they have shown how easy it is! As this BBC article shows – when putting Primavera Sound in the spotlight – there are a lot of great female artists and bands out there:
“Charli XCX, Lizzo, FKA Twigs, Christine and the Queens, Robyn and Sigrid are just a few of the names on the bill. And when headliner Cardi B pulled out Primavera managed to replace her with another big name - Miley Cyrus.
"We love music and if you love music in 2019 it's quite obvious that it's done both by men and women the same way," says Primavera's Marta Pallares Olivares.
She says it was only when last year's festival ended that they decided to try and achieve an equal gender balance this year - something they're calling the "new normal".
"It's not difficult once your mind is set - when you decide that you want to do this, you start looking for female bands and see that you have been listening to them during the last month," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
"I will say to all those people who say there are not enough female acts out there - because I've heard that - that it's simply a lie. They are out there - because they're here".
PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes
We do need to address festival imbalance and show that an equal gender split is what should be happening every year. Great female-led bands like YONAKA might look at festival line-ups and feel that they could never headline because they are fronted by a woman. Look at Wolf Alice – a band who won the Mercury Prize – and one wonders why they were not chosen to headline any festival this year. I can name so many great female/female-fronted bands that are capable of producing a great headline set – one wonders if they are even considered and part of the conversation. It is sad to see but it makes me wonder what festival organisers are looking for in headliners. I think YONAKA tick a lot of boxes. They have these immediate songs that are memorable and get the crowd pumped. Their live sets are fantastic and they are getting stronger with every new release. I do think that, when they have another album or two under their belts, they can own a headline stage. I do wonder if, by that time, festivals will be more attuned to the variety of music and how many great women there are. In any case, we need to change where we are now and stop holding women back. I do actually think that female/female-led bands provide that perfect mix. I prefer a female voice up front with a band because I think there is more depth and emotion in the voice. Having men and women in a band, I feel, gives the music more variety and different voices. There is a chemistry in the ranks that leads to terrific music and that translates readily to the stage. Who knows where music will head in years to come but I do think that bands like YONAKA warrant the chance to headline. They are underground right now but, as I said when talking about Brighton, there are some really good bands emerging that you need to look out for.
There are distinct themes that run through Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow. You only need to look at the song titles to realise escape, movement and defiance are all high on the list. The opening to Wake Up is one of the most compelling (introductions) on the album. The band are masterful when it comes to providing these great introductions and giving each song a real sense of character and voice. We get some great percussion leading from the back and a mix of tripping strings and warped electronics. It provides this contrast of buzz and nimbleness that drags the mind and senses in different directions. When Jarvis comes to the microphone, she talks about, when she closes her eyes, she makes some sort of compromise. Before I continue, I wanted to say that, apart from a couple of songs on the album, the band have brought new material to the plate on their album – whereas a lot of other bands tend to cram albums full of old songs. Also, every song on the album is between three and four minutes long: none last any shorter or longer, if you see what I mean. One can hear hints of YONAKA’s earliest material but there is freshness on songs such as Wake Up. That sense of being allowed to wander – without being too long-winded – means the tracks breathe and expand. Jarvis, when talking about closing her eyes, knows that this is not real life. I do wonder what she was referring to when she said she was compromising – maybe having dreams of love and being stuck in a bad situation. Maybe she goes to sleep and pictures horrible scenes from a relationship and knows that, as this is a dream, she has control in real life, maybe? It is an intriguing line of thought and Jarvis continues with lines about kissing people she does not like and experiencing all these bad moments. Things seem a bit rough when she lets her imagination take control but, as she keeps telling us, this is just a dream and she can wake up.
I love the sounds YONAKA put together; this blend of strong but sweet vocals – in the sense there is light and colour but plenty of teeth – and an incredible composition. In a way, there are similar threads one can find in bands such as black midi (who portray a similar blend of tones in their music) and it is great to hear. As I follow Wake Up, I had to ask myself whether what we are hearing is in the heroine’s past. Is the heroine still going to sleep and trying to escape these bad memories and visions? It appears that, whilst she can wake up and take control, maybe the ghosts of a bad relationship continue to weight her down. It seems like her boyfriend is with another girl and things have not been too great for the heroine. When she goes to sleep, she runs with gorillas in the moonlight and seems to fall into this rabbit hole – maybe the natural result of her building anxieties manifesting into something quite divorced and weird. When she does wake up, it is a chance to run away from the bad dreams but it seems like real life is not so straight-forward. Sure, Jarvis can take some control and get away from a toxic relationship but she still has to cope with a lot of heartache. Even if the heroine talks about s*it getting real and things being a bit strained, the way the song is delivered definitely gets the voice ringing.
PHOTO CREDIT: Rory Barnes
In a way, the words become more memorable and indelible when there is a sense of positive and pop in the delivery. There are definite nods to 1980s Pop when you hear the chorus burst into life. I am not surprised YONAKA have a big live following because I can imagine songs like Wake Up get people chorusing together and in a great mood. That is not to ignore the song’s message and the fact Jarvis is dealing with something pretty rough. That contrast between dreams and a lack of escape and being able to tackle things when awake is pretty vivid. I do wonder whether, in the song, she has someone with her offering support and backing. Maybe her boyfriend is not as reliable and supportive as he should be and one gets the sense the heroine is finding the power and strength to get through some choppy waters. Wake Up is an incredible song that has this breeziness and big heart but there are deep messages that many people can relate to. If you like Wake Up and want to hear more of this sort of track, investigate Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow because YONAKA have produced a dazzling album full of gold.
I shall end things here because, I hope, I have talked about YONAKA enough and drilled down to their core. I am a big fan of theirs and think that Theresa Jarvis is one of the most compelling and extraordinary leads in British music. She is an intoxicating presence and someone who is leading a mighty band right now. YONAKA were at The Great Escape Festival and they seem to have a really solid and supportive home in Brighton. They are a lot of fun and they always provide great interviews; their live shows are exceptional and the music is wonderful. I think they have all the components to succeed and endure for many years to come. Keep an eye on their social media channels because they are busy gigging and, if you can, make sure you get and see them. I wonder whether they have had an in-store at their local record store, Resident, because that would be pretty cool to see – I would definitely come down and see them if that was the case. Their album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, is out and the band will want to focus on that and make sure it is promoted far and wide. I have seen some reviews for the record and there is a lot of love for YONAKA. It is hard to ignore them and I do really believe they will be big in the future.
I love what they are doing and they will definitely inspire other bands emerging. I have talked about Brighton and mixing Pop and Alternative together. I do think that, if you need your creative batteries recharged, Brighton is a great place to head. There is so much happening down there and you only need walk around for a couple of hours to realise how relaxed things are. It is so easy to get the juices flowing and be influenced by what happens around you. This is more or less the start for YONAKA but I know they will be setting their sights on the future and where they will head next. I feel there will be international dates and I feel like they can do a lot of good in the U.S. With an album out, they have this bargaining chip and way in; a great set of songs that would sound amazing in the live arena. Congratulations to the band on Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow and, if you are not familiar with their work, then make sure you spend some time…
FALLING in love with them.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Saradjola
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