On the launch date of Something, Yoof's debut LP, we spoke to Michael-James Dent about the process which got them this far and what will hopefully take them further.
Making a name for yourself as a new band is no easier these days than what it was before. It's claimed that the emergence of the Internet as a marketing and promotional tool has opened new doors for independent musicians, creating a level playing-field to showcase their music. There's always two sides to any coin and with the level playing-field comes the problem of standing out among a lot of repetition, copycats and in some ways far too many would-be musicians who, Soundcloud streaming aside, couldn't snag themselves a gig to save their lives. Musical self-awareness isn't a quality that the masses possess, but it's ultimately the key to relative success and longevity in a market, currently saturated in singer-songwriters, shoe-gazers and dream-poppers. We spoke to Yoofs' Michael-James Dent on their progress since 2011 and the problems facing modern-day bands.
(Phill Walker) How do you feel things have progressed for Yoofs since those early, "Hazy Dayz."
(Michael-James Dent) Well it's kind of a long story but to cut it short, when we did "Hazy Dayz" for Sounds Of Sweet Nothing, we were a three-piece able to jam and practice twice-a-week however, Jamie (drummer at the time) decided he wasn't too keen on playing anymore so we had to go back to the beginning. Going into 2013, Rich and I were kind of burnt out from playing in Yoofs and that's when I started doing some Outlaw Boogie stuff for a bit of a laugh, just because we were having a break and I found myself with a lot of free time. Then I went back to Bournemouth for the summer and we started writing and recording everything ourselves. We decided we didn't want to write the same songs and have the same sound as 2011 - we weren't the same band and the same freedom wasn't there. We worked on the new tracks like a producer of a dance record, in that a lot of the stuff on the tracks use samples we recorded, so the tracks are cleaner and a lot tighter, plus we were listening to a lot of different bands to when we first started.
(PW) It's funny because at the time, the change-up seemed less subtle than what it does now, especially comparing "Hazy Dayz" to the likes of "For Her" - which you put out on Art Is Hard's Postcard Club. I think it's because of the Shady Acres stuff in-between, but listening to those two tracks back-to-back is like a massive head f**k now. I suppose that's the great thing about having freedom to do whatever you like. I bet the samples weren't easy to get used to in your live shows but they must surely add an extra dimension?
(MJD) Well yeah they do seem worlds apart, but I think "Hazy Dayz" was always out of place in our repertoire as it was influenced by stuff like Miles Davis and Coltrane, whereas other stuff was more like Black Lips or Pavement. If anything, it would've worked better on Something, as we've tried to develop a sound which isn't particularly current, but can relate to modern audiences. I don't know if it's actually worked, but that was the intention. I guess how the tracks were recorded has made it tougher to replicate live, but we've brought people in to help us bring it to life. In an ideal world, we'd be a five-piece with two guitars and keys, like what's on the record but we've yet to find a way to get it together.
(PW) We hear way too many bands who you could probably put into your bracket - age, taste in music and the fact they're British - just copying whatever the current hype is - you know, the whole fuzzy post-punk/shoegaze thing at the minute. But the point is that you've actually managed to avoid that and still keep things fresh and interesting - "Toy Organ" and "Déjà vu" are good examples. We tested one of our new writers by giving them "Déjà vu" to write-up and he was completely stumped for a comparative sound, it's seems like you've squeezed hundreds of influences in there and when it all comes together, you're left with something which isn't current to the point that every Tom, Dick and Harry are doing the same - but that's the point isn't it? You've created a sound that's intrinsically yours, still engaging and still relevant, which is becoming very important in this day-and-age. Are you sticking to two-piece or are you looking for potential recruits?
(MJD) Yeah and that's kind of the point! I think the fact there's so many new bands doing the same thing is probably because of how accessible new music is to everyone, and how easy it is for virtually-unknown bands to get a platform thanks to blogs. That's a really good thing, but it also means that there's just too much to take in. We wanted to try and do something people might not necessarily have heard before, but without trying too hard to alienate and patronise people. I mean, we're not original in the slightest, but we just wanna take the elements we love from the bands we truly admire, bringing it up-to-date. When it comes to playing live, we're a four-piece and have been for a while. We did a few shows before the end of last year which were fun, but the players we got in didn't work out so we were back to a duo by Christmas. We've slowly managed to get some other guys in who we're excited to be playing with and we've got some shows lined up for April/May time.
"when we first came out, a lot of blogs wrote about us who have no interest in covering us now...these people probably weren't that interested in the first place and maybe mistakenly thought we were cool." - Michael-James Dent, Yoofs (2014)
(MJD) Music is very throwaway these days and blogs are kind of to blame. From our experience, when we first came out, a lot of blogs wrote about us who have no interest in covering us now, and that's because these people probably weren't that interested in the first place and maybe mistakenly thought we were cool. That's sort of the idea we had when making the album, which was that we wanted to write songs Rich and I would want to listen to. There's a lot of different sounds on there, some of it sounds like Creedence Clearwater Revival and then some of it is more acoustic, folk based. We didn't even think the tracks would ever be released, so we did it just for the fun of writing and recording together. Luckily Strong Island wanted to put our music out and actually agreed to taking the plunge of releasing a whole album, rather than just a 7" or an EP.
(PW) You're spot on there, we've noticed more-and-more sites starting around the same time we did, disappear into SEO territory, opting to cover more viable search terms like Justin Timberlake and Azealia Banks, forgetting who they covered when things first started. It brings into question how much these sites actually care for music. Who wants to read the opinion of someone who has no care for the source of their content, only the result of it. Back to basics I say; "Déjà vu" is a good example of that in terms of style and writing - run us through the idea behind it.
(MJD) "Déjà vu" was a song I wrote a couple of years ago, but it never really formed until we started recording tracks for Something. It was written when Rich was living in his grimey Boscombe house and we were listening to a lot of Neil Young - we would play his album Harvest every day. I was particularly in love with the sound of "Alabama," which was recorded in the barn on his ranch with David Crosby and Graham Nash providing vocals. I was just really into the rough production and the heavy riff in that song, so I wanted to write something that took the vibes of that song but turn it into a pop song. Lyrically it's really generic; the idea is that you've heard them before, hence the title "Déjà vu." Everyone has suffered some form of heartache, so I wanted to recreate this idea of Déjà vu as it's something we can all relate to. I think It's important in lyrics to sing about something people can connect with, The Death Of Pop have this idea perfected and that's why I really wanted Angus James (guitar/vocals for TDOP) to play on the track. He definitely brought something else to the song and it's one of my favourites on the album, simply because I love his guitar solos. We love it when we can get our friends, or people in bands we really love, to contribute because it's not just our song anymore.
(PW) I really love the guitar work as the song progresses, it gives the track an extra dimension. What can we expect following the LP release?
(MJD) Yeah Angus really nailed it! We're actually recording again in February, with the idea of a new EP/LP due for summer. Something has been about for so long and we're kind of sick of it! Rich and I have about ten songs we wanna work on each and, at this point in time, it'll probably just be an online thing but who knows what will happen. The songs that we've got at the moment are a step up from the stuff on Something and they're songs that will be really fun to play live. We're trying to sort out a tour in the summer, we actually think we've sorted a way for it to work this time! We've never played anywhere further than Bristol which really sucks - we love to travel! Hopefully we can play our first shows up North this time around, but I guess it depends on being offered the right shows!
Yoof's released debut LP Something today on Strong Island Recordings, to grab a copy on Cassette, CD or Digital download head here. Stream the full thing below: