The Verse’s Imara Williams-Simpson interviews YONAKA at Patterns on Wednesday 25th October 2017
Patterns hosted an evening of the Hopscotch UK Tour with Stereo Honey, Anteros and YONAKA, a band born and bred in Brighton. The event was open to ages sixteen and upwards, allowing young music enthusiasts to experience a gig which would normally be over eighteen. The crowd was warm and welcoming to all the bands, keeping up their energy and dancing right through into the depth of the cold night.
Before the gig, I managed to catch up with Theresa (lead vocals), George (guitarist), Alex (bassist) and Rob (drummer) of YONAKA.
What brought you all together as a band?
George: I came back from Kent after working there for a year, passed by the window of Rob and Theresa who wanted to jam.
*Rob starts mocking George, who much prefers ‘organised structured fun’ rather than ‘jams*
George: The original guitarist, Bruce, left to pursue something different in music. So we all started writing and playing together and it hasn’t really changed since. It felt really really good.
Theresa: Then we managed to get Alex into playing a gig and he just never left.
During your first gigs are there any stand-out, memorable ones?
Rob: The last time we played here (at Patterns) George split his eye open.
George: Yeah, great escape.
Rob: He whacked himself in the face with his guitar and cut his eye open really badly.
George: I didn’t know what it was and someone threw a bit of loo roll onto the stage and I thought, that’s a really weird way of heckling someone.
Theresa: And the one that we did at Sound Control was really fun. It started off with us having no idea of how it was going to be. But turned out to be really chaotic. There was crowd surfing. I did two in one song, which was over the top, but great! *giggles*
Rob: Reading and Leeds were good. Also, the Brighton Centre with The Libertines, mainly because it was on our home turf.
George: I’m still going back to the first time we played Truck Festival.
Theresa: We went on stage and there were about ten people there. We started playing, then thirty seconds in there was a storm of kids running into the tent just loving it.
George: It was the best gig we’ve ever done and also the [achiest] I’ve been. Because you get really excited out of nowhere when you see a full tent at a festival. I couldn’t walk properly the next day.
Is there any other festival that you have really enjoyed?
Theresa: They’ve all been amazing.
George: Reading was cool.
Theresa: They’ve all be really good actually, I don’t think we’ve had a horrific experience.
Rob: Actually, Isle of Wight, getting cut off, that was a bummer. It was raining all day and we got cut off early. We were there for ten hours just waiting to play in this tiny conservatory tent and it was miserable. We got cut off because of the main stage. It was just really shitty.
George: We all had in-ear monitors and none of really knew that we were turned off, for a good twenty, thirty seconds. *Rob and Theresa start giggling* I had just gotten out of the barriers into the crowd at this point, well I was about to…
Theresa: …You were hanging, over like that.
Alex: And Theresa was mid-word and there was just no noise.
George: That’s the only bad experience festival-wise.
For the next festival season, what do you hope to do? Do you want to travel more?
Rob: I’d like to go out to Europe. Hopefully maybe South by South West.
George: We’ve been confirmed for one?
Theresa: No, um… ten.
George: Ten! So that’s a bit more than one.
Rob: That’s sick! That’s great news for me man.
What’s your favourite part of sharing your music?
Theresa: The reaction!
George: It’s the risk!
Theresa: Yes, because you’re offering your heart and soul really to everyone and anyone. You’re just waiting for someone to react. Yeah, we just want a reaction.
George: Release day reminds me of our first gig, it is exciting and you’re just nervous and vulnerable about the whole thing. It’s awesome that we have a whole EP out. It’s like releasing a support set.
Theresa: It’s nice that we have a little parcel of something for people to listen to, rather than just one song. That’s been great for us because we’re eager to put out music.
George: I listen to the EP on loop. I’ve worked out that it is the exact length of one of my common commutes. The outro of Heavy fits perfectly to the end of my commute. It works really well, but it’s also kind of sad that I worked that out.
And that is good to hear that you still listen to your music.
Theresa: It’s nice.
George: It comes on shuffle a lot.
Theresa: I think some people get embarrassed when they hear their own song.
George: I love our music!
How do you create your music? Does one person do set parts, or does it change between each creation of a new song?
Theresa: So, we usually get guitar and vocals ready and kind of create a skeleton of the song. Then we will go into a big room and make it all bigger and get everyone on it. Then sometimes we will try this new way of going straight into the laptop before actually all playing it together, which is quite fun. Mainly because there is less restriction.
Rob: We can kind of focus on self-production side of stuff, effects and taking more time to focus on the actual stuff going into the song. It sets a nice mood for the track, having all those sounds.
George: The most usual way is just having a guitar part and vocals.
Theresa: I like it like that because you hear it in its simplest form and if it sounds good then you know if it’s going to be fucking amazing!
George: It’s quite good, the laptop, when we’re all in the room. It’s great. They all come out different and it’s just expanding a bit more.
Theresa: It’s like you’ve got the song before you’ve even got the song.
*Everyone nods in agreement*
Theresa: I don’t have a preference for which way I prefer. It’s good to do both.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your music?
Theresa: For me, lyrically, it mostly comes from my own experience and life. Then musically is comes from everything. I grew up on Motown but now I’m really into big hip-hop. All of us are big hip-hop fans. Now I’m into Jeff Buckland and Amy Winehouse. I could just listen to them on repeat for the rest of my life and just not listen to anything else. There is also so much amazing new music coming out. I love the blend of listening to new and old music. I’ve totally forgotten what I was saying.
George: *Helping* Where do you draw your inspiration from?
*Theresa laughs nervously and finishes with a content ‘yeah’*
George: Don’t worry you got it all done. For me, I love hip hop and heavy music. A lot of movie music is really great as well, it’s quite atmospheric and…what’s the word I’m looking for?
George: Theatrical…yeah. What’s the word that Ross always uses?
George: Yes! I like that kind of thing and weird chord sequences that shouldn’t work but do, I really like that. A nice cadence.
Alex: The last song on our EP, Heavy, could be considered ethereal and that would be good to explore that a lot further. That’s probably the first time we’ve really done a song like that. I really liked it and I’d love to continue down that path.
What other bands do you hope to work with?
Theresa: Like play with?
Theresa: Any really. I really love MØ, the Danish singers. Kendrick…whaaaaa, he would be up there!
George: It depends if they’re nice and that. On this tour, we’ve been lucky to be around such a lovely group of people.
Alex: It makes such a difference. It’s as important than the actual music itself.
For other people that are wanting to put music out there, what advice would you give to them?
Theresa: Just do what feels right.
Rob: Don’t over think it. A lot of people overthink the types of music they want to make and that will just put you in a box. If you just make music that is not self-indulgent, and not trying to be something it’s not, or fall into a certain scene then I think you’ll be on a good mission to be kind of successful with it. You’re not trying to be something because it’s trendy and you’re not trying to show off.
Alex: If it’s from an honest place and you work hard, then I think people will eventually fell connected with it regardless.
Rob: Be genuine as well! Don’t write about shit that hasn’t happened to you.
Theresa: Be true to yourself.
Rob: Don’t copy and it will all come through.
George: Give into the weird.
Alex: And be willing to do the groundwork to get to a good position.
Theresa: As David Bowie said, you never want to be in your comfort zone. You don’t want everything to be perfect because what it the point.
George: Yes, I love that phrase.
As the final question. For each of you, what was the first live gig you attended?
Rob: Whoa, mate I can’t even remember.
Alex: For me, it was The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Hyde Park 2004. With James Brown supporting.
Theresa: You’re too cool for this game man!
Alex: It was sick!
George: Mine was Gallows back home in Chatham at the Tap N Tin, when I was quite underage. Well, I think it was an eighteen gig and my hairdresser managed to get me in when I was fifteen.
Rob: Were you the only one in there with hair?
George: Well I just go it cut, so…
Theresa: Mines a bit embarrassing. Scouting For Girls. I might have been fourteen or something and it was in Folkston.
Rob: Mine I think was a folk festival called Cropredy and I was really young. My dad went with my mum and me and my little brother and it was jokes. We watched some proper folk music. There was a band called Fairport and Richard Thompson who is another proper folk guy, but I can’t really remember. I was really young, like eight or nine. It was jokes though.
YONAKA will be on tour in the new year. Details can be found here.