Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yip-Yip Interview

At first listen, the music of Yip-Yip could be mistaken for that of the chiptune/bitpop genres and whilst many of the sounds they use may bring to mind the 8-bit soundtracks of old video games, there is much more to the Florida based duo than mere retro mimicry. Since the early 2000s, Yip-Yip have released a string of albums of quirky and frequently hyperactive electronica with sporadic flourishes of saxophone driven jazz and ska thrown in for good measure. As with most of the bands I like, Yip-Yip are difficult to categorize but one thing that unites their back catalogue is the instrumental nature of their music.

Not so with this year's offering "Bone Up", which sees Yip-Yip introduce vocals and lyrics as core elements to the majority of the album's songs. Despite the processed nature of their voices, the result is a much more human and personal effort from the duo. The chaotic layers of vintage
synth sounds and effects that fans of Yip-Yip will know and love remain, but the addition of catchy lyrical hooks and interesting themes make "Bone Up" their most engrossing and ambitious album thus far. Additionally, they have created a series of experimental videos to accompany their songs which can be found on YouTube here. Whilst Yip-Yip already had a distinctive and well-oiled identity of their own, "Bone Up" has proven that after ten years of making music, the group are not afraid to try new things.

  Day Off by Yip-Yip

A much more detailed and thorough review of "Bone Up" can be found on the "Butter Yo Bread!" blog
here. Below is an interview I recently did with Brian and Jason, aka Yip-Yip:

Up until "Bone Up", your music was largely instrumental. What brought about the decision to record a more vocal heavy album?

Brian: We were working on this Nirvana cover a few years ago, so we turned the guitars into synthesizers, and we re-made the drum tracks with drum machines, and Jason played the vocal melody on saxophone. After we were finished it just seemed like it was missing something, and that something was some form of vocals. We had talked about maybe buying a vocoder at points over the years, but the cover helped push us to actually do it, and I ended up liking the vocals on the cover so much that I decided that I wanted to have vocals on all these songs we were working on for our next album, which was everything that became Bone Up.

Jason: The songs we were working at the same time as the Nirvana cover all seemed to be missing something too. Also, realizing how cheap, easy, and and fun those EHX vocoders are was a good push.

With the addition of vocals, it seems that your Devo influences have become more apparent. What other artists inspired your lyrical/vocal style?

Brian: Yeah, I'm not sure why, but the vocals seem to really make that connection for people that we're into bands like Devo. Before the vocals we hardly ever got that comparison, even though they have always been one of our favorite bands. Other vocals I think I thought of early on when figuring out how I'd like to sing in Yip-Yip was Nirvana, Cardiacs, Oingo Boingo, and Bruce Haack.

Jason: Nofx

"Too Much" suggests a frustration with the overload of media and technology. What's getting Yip-Yip's goat?

Brian: I think everyone is probably realizing that even though there are advantages to some of the latest technology, it's kind of consuming them. As much as you might seem like you're saving time with certain things, you're probably wasting a lot more than you're saving. I think there are times when everyone would like to just delete their stupid online accounts and all the crap off of their phones and I've definitely had those moments.

Jason: I don't do the internet stuff, really. I mean the social networking internet stuff. I love the internet, but the social networking thing is annoying. you get an account at some website, then when it's not cool anymore, you have to get an account at some newer, cooler website. Everybody moves from makeoutclub to livejournal to friendster to myspace to facebook to twitter to google+. After the first couple of moves, I just don't care anymore. I guess it's the same with promoting the band., myspace music, bandcamp, soundcloud and whatever else is out there. It's all just too much to keep up with.

Brian: Haha, you said "Too Much", good one, Jason.

  Too Much by Yip-Yip

On "Copy Cat" you say that it's impossible to be original nowadays. Is this something you believe?

Jason: Yes. But I think as soon as you realize that, you are freer. If everything's already been done, nothing is off limits.

Brian: It seems like the harder you try to be original, the more likely you'll be called out if something you do has already been done in a similar way. Most popular artists have it a lot easier because no one even expects you to be original anymore. 

"Hot Plop" also seems to deal with the creative process. Is it based on personal experience?

Jason: I like to think of hot plop as me talking to brian, even though we wrote it together. In the past, I think I've been looser and open to a little less precision. Ultimate precision isn't fun. Mistakes are okay. Letting a little bit of your humanity show helps people warm up to you. Nobody wants to watch a robot play music perfectly. Except maybe Brian. He loves nickelodeon music. But I think he is getting a little more comfortable with letting some of our imperfections show.
I recently came across your video demonstration of the wonderful Mego Muson synth. What sort of gadgets were used on the "Bone Up" album?

Korg MS-10, Micromoog, ARP Odyssey, Korg Mono/Poly, Korg M1R, Suzuki Omnichord, Simmons Multimallet, Synare PS-1, Korg Rhythm 55B, Alesis D4, and a couple of vocoders and effects for vocals. We actually didn't use the Muson on the album, which is sad considering how much I paid for that goofy thing on eBay a while ago.

What was it like supporting Otto Van Schirach and Atari Teenage Riots recently and how is "Bone Up" being received by live audiences so far?

Brian: It was fun playing a few shows that were all weird electronic music, and it's always fun to hear our stuff through really big sound systems. People are just as baffled by our new set as anything else we've ever done, which is surprising because we thought the stuff with vocals sounded way more catchy. People just don't like unfamiliar things, and most people either don't know us at all, or if they've heard of us, we probably sound nothing like whatever they remember of us.

Is it difficult to take the distinctive Yip-Yip sound and reconstruct it in a live context?

Jason: Yes and no.  Building our live setup has been a long process. Not terribly difficult, but long. A lot of trial and error. We've always been able to pull off whatever we were trying to do, even if we later realized that what we were trying to do wasn't quite right. Relying on sound guys to turn us up loud and pump the bass is one of the more annoying/difficult parts of playing live. Usually sound guys are rock and roller dudes and they see a bunch of electronics and synthesizers and other weird things and automatically don't like us, or they're afraid we're going to blow something up, so they don't give us very much volume. 

Are vocals to become a permanent fixture in your music?

Brian: I think we'll do a lot more with vocals in Yip-Yip, but I think we'll also mix it up with more instrumental stuff in the future.

Jason: Yes, i think the vocals worked for most of the new material. There might have been a couple of times we forced them in where maybe we didn't need to, just for consistency. So maybe not for every song, but they're definitely not going away. 

What's next for Yip-Yip?

Jason: Hopefully we won't take another 2+ years to release another album. I think it's going to be a little more fast and loose this time around.

Brian: We have some shows coming up in the next few months with our friends in Melt Banana, Aids Wolf, and OS OVNI, so we're working on a few new songs that we want to sneak into the Bone Up set for those shows. Once we finish writing everything, we're going to record those songs and hopefully put out an EP. We're also planning on taking some time off of work and school next summer to tour a little, so we're looking forward to that too. 

Listen to "Bone Up" In it's entirety here

Buy the album here

Yip-Yip official website

Yip-Yip on Bandcamp
Yip-Yip on Facebook
Yip-Yip on YouTube