I N T E R V I E W
‘Hope for the Best’: A Q&A with Yann Le Dorre of YOLK
With Ian Duggan
Another whose music we have been loving up here is Wellington’s ‘YOLK’, having featured a couple of his tracks on our Hamilton Underground Press/The Hum 106.7FM's Tekau Nga Waiata Pai Top 10; ‘Angels are Real and I Know Them’ in February and ‘Losing Day’ on our May countdown. On the back of a brand new release, 'SADEGO', we talked to the person behind the project, Yann Le Dorre, about the change from high-fi to low-fi between albums, his high musical productivity, and more!
HUP: I particularly like your ‘Bad Water’ album, released in November 2018, and especially tracks like ‘Angels are Real and I Know Them’ and ‘Your Independence Will Kill You in the End’, which remind me a lot of Australian band Gerling. Who are your influences?
Yann: Thank you! ‘Angels’ was written during a period when my son and I were temporarily homeless. A couple of friends really dug in deep for me so that song is pretty much a complete ode to them (shout out to Casey and Grace). Musically I had been thrashing ‘White Light/White Heat’ by The Velvet Underground, so the almost abrasive ‘pop’ style of the song could be attributed to that and the weird vocal treatment was reminiscent of ‘Sandy (Alex G)’. ‘Your Independence Will Kill You in The End’ began its life as this soft little country number but once again after White Light, I really wanted something completely overdriven with high energy. I thought it was a nice contrast to end the album on; you gotta dig through the shit to get to the gold. As far as general influences go, I am huge Neil Young fan, alongside Dylan, Springsteen, etc. ‘90s alt-rock is cool too; Silver Jews and Smashing Pumpkins (weird contrast) though local acts such as Womb, Seth Frightening, and T.I.M.E. have been huge inspirations to me also.
HUP: Your recent album, ‘Sadderdays’ (and new one SADEGO) is so different to ‘Bad Water’. ‘Sadderdays’, in particular, is super lo-fi, to the point of having the clicks on it at the start of songs, which seem to be where you have pressed record on a tape deck. Why the massive change in sound between releases?
Yann: ‘Bad Water’ was a very experimental album for me, not only in terms of instrumentation but also production. It was the first album I had gotten somebody else in to master. I wanted to get as close to high fidelity as my means (small bedroom studio, limited knowledge - hah) would allow. It was a very bright record but in hindsight, I didn’t feel it was a true representation of my ‘sound’, or what I want to sound like. ‘Sadderdays’ was essentially a rebellion against ‘Bad Water’. I wanted to throw the subtle nuances of hi-fi mixing out the door (as they were beginning to drive me insane) and just make something as raw as possible (within reason). My dear friend (New Zealand’s best kept musical secret) always recorded straight to tape through a Panasonic dictaphone he brought for a couple bucks at the op shop. While hitchhiking down south I was just playing his tapes all day, something about the raw quality of the audio just made it sound like god to me. So when the chance came for me to buy one it was a no brainer. The entire EP was recorded and ‘mastered’ in about five hours, all of the songs were intended to be throwaways so I felt like I didn’t really care too much about the production and the tape just made it sound super lo-fi regardless. I left the clicks in there because I’m lazy. If you listen closely on pretty much all my albums you can hear mouse clicks and spacebars, but it also just adds a nice Cobain home demo element to it.
HUP: Do you play all the instruments on the recordings?
Yann: Unfortunately, yes… I have a live band though consisting of some pretty competent musicians, Baxter Perry (STINK) on guitar and Josh Brown (Heavy Chest) on drums. I would love to record a live album but the allure of my bedroom can prove too strong sometimes, haha. However, Baxter and I have been trying and will eventually succeed in recording and releasing the songs we play together.
HUP: You have released five albums over the last two years. How have you stayed so productive?
Yann: Hmmm, it's kinda crazy when you put it like that! I’m kind of an O.C.D. songwriter. I'll write at least one a week and I get these ‘periods’ in my head where I feel the songs of a specific time are all meant to be together on an album. I record with these grand concepts as quickly as I can so I don’t lose any of the magic or excitement, in hopes of capturing sonic timepieces of my life. I firmly believe “we only leave behind what we create”, so it’s some weird cathartic madness I live by. I am planning to release two more full-length albums by the end of the year.
HUP: What is your background? Have you been in bands previously?
Yann: Well… it’s a long convoluted story, haha! I was born and raised in Nelson, went to a Pearl Jam concert when I was 15 and saw the video for [Nirvana’s] ‘Heart Shaped Box’ on C4 that same weekend, and I guess it was all over from that moment on. My uncle Bob Heinz (Christchurch Jazz master) brought me my first guitar around then and I haven’t looked back. I played in a two-piece acoustic grunge band (Selfless Selfish) for a couple of years just after high school; we were really. really raw. The birth of my son in 2014 forced me to change pace as the guttural screaming wasn’t really a pleasant thing for him to sleep through, and thus I began my journey down the deep hole of folk music. I was in enamoured by artists like Nick Drake and J. Tillman. Their super-soft delivery with this emotional intensity seemed to fit nicely into my pastoral life I had begun living at the time. I moved to Wellington shortly after and formed this crazy psychedelic punk band called LEFT; we played only one show and broke up but rocked nonetheless (ha ha). All the while I was recording and releasing albums under another moniker (Lightpaw), which was super introspective alt-folk - and though it was beautiful music, it felt pointlessly vague or too poetic for its own good. YOLK was a decision to cut the crap, shoot the shit, and bring all of my influences together. I wanted to try and write the real and just go nuts with the music. I don’t want to be held down by any genre constraints or whatever, so this moniker embodies that.
HUP: How do you see the music scene in Wellington at the moment?
Yann: The scene is always changing. It felt like a couple of years ago things were a lot more gothic sounding, whereas these days I hear a shit load of good times indie. Bands exist for a minute then disappear; the life span of a university student seems to be three years or so, which often translates into these groups of bands all playing together while everybody is at school and once that's over they dissipate into the void of real jobs or travel, etc. In saying that, it’s always a healthy and positive experience. Everybody likes everything and the bonds of fellowship seem to be pretty strong around here.
HUP: What are your aspirations for ‘YOLK’?
Yann: To keep rocking in the free world, release another hundred albums, play some shows, a tour would be cool? I’m happy to be heard, but I’d be here no matter what the weather. I don’t see music as some lucrative business and I am aware of the small niche in which YOLK appeals to, so to just keep trucking and stay alive is a fair aspiration. Hope for the best, expect the worst.
Visit YOLK's Bandcamp HERE, and his Facebook HERE.