Today, we sit down with The Yaks, recent Muse Battle of the Bands winners, and talk about their fascination with cowboys, Outkast, and retro garage rock. Don’t let the 14-15 year old age fool you; these guys know how to rock!
Muse Music Café (MMC):
What’s the name of your band? (What’s the origin of that name? Have you changed the band’s name before?)
The Yaks: Originally, we were called “Nothing But Flying Yaks”. Everyone called us “The Yaks” or “The Flying Yaks”, so we eventually just gave up and shortened it to “The Yaks”.
MMC: Who’s in the band and what are their contributions?
The Yaks: Schuyler plays the bass and sings. Joel plays guitar and sings. Tagg plays guitar and sings. Danny plays keyboard. Creed plays drums and is a recording wizard. We all contribute to the songwriting process.
MMC: What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?
The Yaks: We all listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Our biggest influences are probably older bands like the Beatles and the Kinks, but we also dig newer bands like Grandaddy, Belle and Sebastian, and DR. Dog. Our genre is a kind of a garage rock/country rock/indie pop mix.
MMC: How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
The Yaks: We have all lived in the same small area. Danny, Tagg, and Schuyler are the original yak gangsters, and they started playing together around 2005-ish. Joey and Creed had been jamming in Jazz bands and stuff since before then.
MMC: When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
The Yaks: Our newest version of the yaks came together around this last April. We all loved to jam and play music, and its cool that people think we are the least bit cool and can dig our stuff. We would still be playing even if no one liked us at all. Frankly, the Yaks only try to impress the Yaks.
MMC: What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever’s available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?)
The Yaks: I wouldn’t say we have any brand loyalty or anything. But both Joel and Tagg play Fender Telecasters through Vox amps. Strange. Actually, the whole story of all our gear is kind of a joke, because Creed is really a guitar player, and Joel is really a bass player. So Tagg plays his guitar through Creed’s amp. Joel plays Schuyler’s guitar through Tagg’s amp. Creed plays Tagg’s brother’s drums. Schuyler plays his own bass through Joel’s amp. And Danny plays his own keyboard, which is awesome. Very confusing, but we are all cool sharing our stuff, which is nice.
MMC: Where have you performed? Do you have any upcoming shows?
The Yaks: We have played at Kilby Court , Solid Ground Café, the Velour, and the lovely Muse Music. Our favorite gig though, is at this Halloween party that Joel’s and Danny’s distant family puts on. There are less indie kids, and more costumed dancing kids. It’s very fun. Our next show is at Muse Music on December 18th.
MMC: Does the band have a favorite song to perform? Do you ever play any covers? Do you usually have a set play list?
The Yaks: We usually try to have a set list, but we usually forget to make one. Our newest song, “Pushing Daisies”, makes everyone go wild, so that’s our favorite right now. We play some covers, most of them Halloween tunes like “monster mash”, “I put a spell on you”, and a Harry potter medley. We also play “hey ya” by Outkast.
MMC: Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?
The Yaks: Our main songwriters are Joel, Tagg, and Schuyler. Everyone really contributes to the arranging though. Mostly, we don’t really write about anything. We try to put two words that sound good next to each other, and that’s about it. Every once in a while, a song might contain a phrase about our feelings or something. Maybe someday we’ll actually write about something.
MMC: Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
The Yaks: Someone will bring a cool set of chords to a practice/jam session and from there we just begin building off of it all together. And we eventually have a performable song. But the songs are generally subject to change over a period of time. There have been exceptions from this process when we have written a song around our recording process.
MMC: What are your rehearsals generally like? (Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?)
The Yaks: We know it is an awful habit, but we generally get together and practice/write when we have a show coming up in the next week or two. We hope to fix this by playing more shows closer together. Maybe then will we completely finish writing the material for our next album.
MMC: How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
The Yaks: The overall musicianship and level of our playing has definitely been one of the bigger evolutions in the band. But the depth of the actual songs has gone to a much greater level with better lyrics and deeper grooves.
MMC: What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
The Yaks: Gaining the Indie-kid’s approval as a viable source of music. We are still working on it.
MMC: What’s your ultimate direction for your band?
The Yaks: One word: Hollywood .
MMC: What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
The Yaks: Play what you want, and not what everyone else wants. Play shows only when you’re ready, we found that out the hard way. It wasn’t pretty.
MMC: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a CD?
The Yaks: Right now we only have a Myspace (myspace.com/theyaksmusic), but we have a website in the works and a potential facebook page.
MMC: Any last words?
The Yaks: Nah.