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Interview with YA NO
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I think the spark that lit the fire for me was Nirvana. Nevermind came out when I was 12, and when they appeared on SNL, my mind was completely blown. It was like The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or Joy Division at that Sex Pistols show moment for me. I heard something that was incredible but seemingly within reach musically. I soon realize that Kurt writes incredible songs, and is a incomparable singer, but the simplicity of the chords and tools really changed my perspective of how great music can be made. I started a Nirvana cover band with my best friend, wrote some shitty songs. Got better and better, evolved into different genres and on it went.
If I hadn’t gotten into music, I’d probably be a painter or some kind of traditional artist. I was also passionate about art and drawing, but music was my obsession.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I’m a marketing Creative Director in my day job, where I do a lot of graphic design, photo shoot direction, other creative concept work. I think my job and my music have always lived symbiotically throughout my life. Where my music influences the way I think of brands and marketing, and my day job shapes how I present and market my music. So they inform each other, and each makes the other better.
How long have you been making music?
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based in Montreal. Montreal had a big shiny moment in the 2000s, with Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, The Unicorns, Stars etc. The sudden interest in the city really lit a fire under us, inspired a lot of bands to take themselves seriously, and aspire to bigger things. It also brought in investment, labels, promoters etc. And the Canadian government was willing to invest in small bands, given the likelihood of success. The attention took many of us to a different level, including my former band Hexes & Ohs. We had a couple of decent selling albums, topped Canadian college charts, had consistent government support, movie/TV syncs, and our music videos on rotation on MTV Canada and Much Music.
With my current project YA NO, geography feels less impactful in that way, but I would say the Montreal indie sound of the 2000-2010’s has left a permanent imprint on me.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
YA NO is a very new project, and playing live hasn’t been a focus thus far. However, I did play a private party with Avec Plaisir (the band of some close friends). It was in their rehearsal space, a very enthusiastic crowd of about 30-40 people. It was casual and a total blast, and I’d like to play more intimate shows like that. With my previous project Hexes & Ohs, we played hundreds of shows. Highlights include a sold-out show with Sloan, opening for Tokyo Police Club at the Horseshoe in Toronto, shows with Mates of State, Kid Koala, and Au Revoir Simone.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The Drake Undeground in Toronto was the venue I have played the most in my entire life. Really great sound, usually a good crowd. I also love the Queen Street West area. Otherwise, Casa Del Popolo in Montreal always felt like a second home. In terms of where I’d like to play, nowhere specific, I think something atypical. Perhaps an art gallery, a clothing boutique, a corporate event for Apple.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I’m really into Yaeji and Toro Y Moi right now. Stylistically, aesthetically, I feel like I’d be a good fit there. They also seem like they’re nice people.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Try things. See what works for you. Don’t be afraid to sound stupid. Ignore what people say. Copy the music you love, keep doing it. Be really diverse in what you listen to. Eventually all those things become yours. My advice to my younger self would be to think less. Do what feels right. Stop analysing.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I think that would be “All or nothing”. Musically, it was a bit of a leap for me, it came together more organically that previous songs, rhythmically, it pushed me in a intuitive direction. Most of the vocal parts were based on improvised arrangements, and the hook came together in a very natural spontaneous way. Overall, I landed on a sound that was brand new for me.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I think “tides.wav” is my favourite to play, and most have singled it out to me. Of all the songs on the album, it’s one of the only that was written as a piano and voice song, arranged as a traditional pop song, so it’s more suited to performance in a singer-songwriter sense, which I probably am at my core.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I listen to music constantly. That tends to feed the inspiration machine. I let it go in, and trust that it’ll come out at some point as something else. I make a lot of voice memo recordings on my phone. Something will pop into my brain, a melody, or a line that sticks for some reason, I’ll hum it into my phone to rediscover later. When I’m actively producing and writing, I usually start with a vibe in mind. A beat, or a particular synth sound. I mess with it, build it up til I have a solid vibe going, then I cycle through my voice memos, see if something fits. I then sing a bunch of gibberish, loosely based on some of those voice memos, and shape it from there.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
My music is mostly about vibe and mood. I like to get people to feel something, perhaps something that connects with them intuitively, that feels personal. The lyrics are written that way, I go for imagery. I write to conjure up pictures, and less about telling a specific story. It’s decidedly melancholy, which is odd because people who know more wouldn’t say that I’m habitually moody or melancholy. It just tends to come out when I play, and arrange, and I guess I gravitate towards sad music, cause it makes me feel the most.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I’m going be putting out some singles as they come, to keep pushing my comfort zone, try things, see how people react. The bigger vision though is to turn YA NO into an art project, I’m hoping to put together a small clothing collection, based around the YA NO branding, those cartoon faces and all that. And maybe some weird artsy videos, mixing in my passion for graphic design
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
Follow me on instagram @yano.world