When Americana springs to mind, one thinks about those events and ideas that are uniquely American. However, that can be a broad stroke of the pen. Based on the history of this nation, you would think that the songs themselves (not necessarily just their instrumentation) would encourage both examination and conclusion.
Listening to Denver's scintillating new group, The Yawpers, brings to mind a rigid Southern gothic framework on which all manners of hair-raising tales can be placed. For their new Bloodshot album, "Boy In A Well," (produced by Replacements legend Tommy Stinson), the band establishes a solid foundation without a bass. The guitar regularly duels with the drums over which rhythm to follow like tense travelers trying to delineate the quickest path. All while their dexterous vocalist effuses, whispers, whines and howls over some of the most original music you will hear this year. And an album we hope the genre will openly embrace.
The trio took time from their busy touring schedule to illuminate us on all things Yawper.
SIGNATURE: What is the origin of the name? It sounds Southern and unique, like a street gang in one of those distant towns with only one street and one flashing yellow light.
YAWPERS: It's actually from a Walt Whitman poem, though I suppose it is reminiscent of some Southern colloquialism.
SIGNATURE: "Boy In A Well" shifts radically from quiet moments ("Room With A View") to a bracing howl that would make Robert Plant shake ("The Awe And The Anguish"). How do you balance these shifts out? I imagine a lot of the recording went off without many overdubs and you were just looking for that "live" essence to go to tape.
YAWPERS: Dynamics are the fourth instrument in our band. Having a spartan lineup means that we have to keep things interesting without making them instrumentally complex. As such, we've just developed a specific dynamic style through the years, one that steals from a lot of other people.
SIGNATURE: There has been a lot written in 2017 about the "end of rock ‘n’ roll." You guys seem to be out to prove that it is alive and well. What are the inspirations going into this album?
YAWPERS: People have complained about the death of rock ‘n’ roll since Buddy Holly's plane went down. People love to decry the passing of great things, because it's always easier to be uncomfortable with where you are. And definitely easier to make alleviate your responsibility for it by claiming it is some sea change. I wouldn't say we are out to prove rock ‘n’ roll is alive, because it doesn't need it. We just make the music we make.
SIGNATURE: A song like "Mon Dieu" has a lot of grit in its lyrics and is delivered like a fiery sermon. Do you feel like when you write a song, you are putting the same amount of feeling into the words existing on the page as they will when you sing them live?
YAWPERS: Hmmmm. That's an interesting question. I guess the answer is no. Or maybe yes. I think the amount of energy is the same, but the type is different. Performance is a very different world from writing.
SIGNATURE: When you test a song live, how do make those adjustments that would lead to tracks as concise and yet fire-breathing as "The Awe and The Anguish"?
YAWPERS: To be honest with you, we didn't test any of these songs live before we recorded them. We've kept nearly the entire record quiet up through. Aside from one performance on NYE, 9/4 will mark the first time we play much of this material.
SIGNATURE: "Mon Nom" is a real swampy slitherer. Are you assuming a character, are any of your songs delivered in character?
YAWPERS: All the songs are delivered in character. This one is told entirely from the perspective of the eponymous character.
SIGNATURE: As you write, what are you reading. I feel like I hear a lot of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner. It feels very old South in the burning hot summer.
YAWPERS: All the songs are delivered in character. This one is specifically told entirely from the eponymous character perspective.
SIGNATURE: What are the beginnings of your band? Did you rise from the ashes of others?
YAWPERS: Years ago, Jesse and I were in a mediocre alt rock band that I'd prefer remain nameless. Noah is all over the place with bands. Good drummers get more action than a riverboat blackjack dealer.
SIGNATURE: A lot of the best rock albums are written within their limitations. You guys having no bass does NOT stop the gut-punching propulsion of these songs ("Face To Face To Face" in fact is a devilish swing). How did your instrumentation come about? As you play shows and make records, do you feel like you will expand the sound?
YAWPERS: We just kind of wound up in this incarnation. Nothing particularly intentional about it. It just worked for us. If we ever feel the need for something else, we'll do it. I'm not married to any aesthetic.
SIGNATURE: "Reunion" has a little R.E.M. (and that cool T.Rex piano) in it. What do you take from the idle comparisons that folks like me make? Is it like Peter Buck once said, "You always keep 50 percent of what people tell you?"
YAWPERS: For whatever reason, the swath of comparisons we get is immense (one reviewer compares us to Red Hot Chili Peppers !?). I've stopped really paying attention as it's just so frequently.
SIGNATURE: Do you have anything with the Americana scene? It always seems like the most staid and the most poppy take the most success from it, while the true believers just keep hammering that nail hoping they can either find the hook or stay together long enough to earn respect.
YAWPERS: I'm no purist, but I do value authenticity. I do feel like much of Americana strives for the infantilization of an adult audience, which has its place, I guess. Personally I find it repugnant.
SIGNATURE: Are there bands of today you would like to tour or collaborate with?
YAWPERS: Give me Nick Cave, or give me death.
Well stated. The Yawpers must be heard with discerning ear and a mind ready for the stories to be told.