Posts Tagged ‘The Yawpers’

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The Yawpers fourth album delivers more great rock ‘n’ roll. The Denver trio The Yawpers are blazing a trail of roots rock brought bang up to date with balls and panache that gives one hope for the current state of American rock. It ain’t dead yet. On their last album – 2017’s Boy In A Well – they veered off left field to deliver a concept album set during the First World War, but on “Human Question”, their fourth, they deliver ten songs that, whilst having an over-arching theme of redemption, self-destructiveness, and the healing that can come from unity – be that in a band or society in general – is a ride filled with great songs that raise you up, smash you to the ground, and drag you to your feet again, until your ears feel like they’ve been in the aural equivalent of a mosh pit. These guys do tension and changes in tempo with real finesse.

Opening track “Child Of Mercy” sets the scene with its discordant intro. There is a Doors-like guitar hovering lightly over the dark rhythm. The vocals are shamanic, the lyrics full of street shaman smarts over a heavy, tight blues beat. The drums pound. The guitar gets dirty. There is a heavy bridge, the guitars slicing through like power tools, building up into an explosion of sounds ravaging the streets.

Dancing On My Knees is more heavy blues with a 60s rock beat. The drums pound out the message hitting the beats on the vocal punches. The background vocals are like police sirens and a devil’s chorus. The bass veers off into demonic deepness. The violent chaos is controlled, brought back into subtle rhythm and a bottleneck guitar shrieks and howls like an animal in pain at the side of the road. There is more control on Human Question, a 70’s psychedelic rock infused song, but it’s a control filled with tension. It is the beauty of desperation and it builds up layer by layer. Man As Ghost is Americana tinged with folk music and displays a more contemplative side to The Yawpers. This is music played on a porch, staring across at a mountain sheathed in clouds, wondering about life.

Next up, Earn Your Heaven, is a raw slab of Stooges like rock ‘n’ roll mayhem. The drums pound and pound and hold it all together as the guitars strew the studio with mayhem. Time to take a breath with Reason To Believe – a delta blues number that resonates like a memory from some dim remembered past. It is elegiac and full of spirit. Carry Me is a gorgeous, slow-burn of a song that fuses gospel, soul and rock that starts slow and mournful as the singer lays out his sins and builds up into full throttle rock voiced fervour as he begs for salvation. Stunning. Forgiveness Through Pain is fuzz boogie woogie with Led Zep influences to the fore. It’s dirty blues, heavy with salaciousness. Can’t Wait returns to the laid-back folk tinged Americana sound, with a lighter touch that feels like the sun emerging after a storm. Album closer Where The Winters End has a 50’s ballad opening, followed by jangly 60’s rock. It’s a haunting rock prayer that is a perfect, thoughtful end to a great album.

It’s not always easy to say why a band sounds the real deal but these guys do. Part of it is due to it being so effortless, as though rock runs through their blood and into their muscles and straight into the instruments. This is roots rock at its basic level but so much more with complex shades that are revealed on repeated plays – that’s if you can switch off from the physical response your body has to the visceral blues rock hybrid. It has everything a good rock album should – rock out tunes with violent energy, nuanced moments of folk and blues, thoughtful lyrics and band members who all complement each other, each taking a moment in the spotlight but always remaining a band.

Recommended for people who like real rock ‘n’ roll music.

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“‘Human Question’ cements The Yawpers’ position as one of the best rock and roll bands around at the moment. They’ve developed their musical palette beyond the potential shown on previous releases and this has resulted in their most complete-sounding record yet… This may well be The Yawpers’ masterpiece…Flawless.”

Denver three-piece The Yawpers return with their third record‘Human Question’. There are few acts around with a back catalogue as strong as they have over the space of two full-lengths, with killer rock n’ roll their speciality. This latest release takes the bona fida Yawpers sound and ramps it up infinite notches.

On the opening, ‘Child Of Mercy’ frontman Nate Cook howls and hollers his way through a three-minute thrill ride, and results in easily one of the most exciting singles of the year. There is little respite as the frantic White Stripes-esque riff of ‘Dancing On My Knees’ follows, as Cook wails “I’ve taken all the medicine, but I’ve still got your disease”. On the rip-roaring ‘Earn Your Heaven,’ the frontman takes on the role of preacher, at one point welcoming the ghost of Harry Connick Jr to a crucifix, amidst maniacal, crashing drums and frenzied solos. It’s another highlight on a record choc-a-bloc with them.

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The growth of The Yawpers’ sound has come alongside the frontman’s development as a lyricist. Cook has said that the songs were written as a form of therapy for this record, as opposed to his previous method of an excuse to wallow in his own misery. The results are certainly candid. He sings of an “elegant fear” on the title track questioning religion and existentialism, which is more abundant when he howls to “please show me something I can believe in, something that takes it away” on ‘Child Of Mercy.’  Cook also questions his own self-doubt and acute self-awareness as the root cause of his anxieties, singing “how I look in darkness, is what makes me quiet in the light” and “I’ve been looking for some comfort in this world that’s escaping me” on ‘Man As Ghost’ and ‘Can’t Wait’ respectively.

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Despite the near-morbidity of the lyrics, the latter is as radio-friendly as The Yawpers have ever sounded. The pounding drums of new member Alex Koshak set the pace, as frontman Cook does his best Springsteen impression, and more than pulls it off. Ending on a mellow note with ‘Where The Winters End,’The Yawpers give a tender send-off to an absolutely wonderful record.

‘Human Question’ cements The Yawpers’ position as one of the best rock and roll bands around at the moment. They’ve developed their musical palette beyond the potential shown on previous releases and this has resulted in their most complete-sounding record yet. Incorporating country, punk, rock n roll, gospel, indie, blues, and pretty much anything that sounds good alongside excellent songwriting, they have created an extremely special body of work. This may well be The Yawpers’ masterpiece.

Through their first three albums, the group divined a signature style what Pitchfork described as “an expansive vision of rock ‘n’ roll, one that cherrypicks from various folk traditions: punk, rockabilly, blues, whatever they might have on hand or find in the trash.” The sound is a front-heavy, groovy, fire & brimstone punk-blues overlying a dynamic and metaphysical roots rock. On their fourth album “Human Question”, the Denver trio zooms out to a more vast and accessible stylistic and spiritual universe. The 38-minute thrill ride generates growth and cathartic self-reflection for audience and performer alike. If there was justice in this world, the Yawpers would be the savior that rock-n-roll didn’t know it was waiting for.

Following their critically acclaimed and meticulously plotted concept album Boy in a Well (set in World War I France, concerning a mother who abandoned her unwanted newborn), the Yawpers created Human Question with a contrasting immediacy. The album was written, rehearsed, and recorded over a two-month period with Reliable Recordings’ Alex Hall (Cactus Blossoms, JD McPherson) at Chicago’s renowned Electrical Audio. The band tracked live in one room, feeding off the collective energy and adding few overdubs. Through the new approach, ten songs connect with an organically linked attitude and style.

On Human Question,lead singer and guitarist Nate Cook writes his way out of trauma, rather than wallowing in it, as was his self-destructive formula in the past. “I wanted to take a crack at using these songs as therapy, really,” Cook said. “I think I’ve always been inclined to write more towards the dregs of my psyche, and explore my depressions and trauma, rather than describe a way out.” The self-reflection engages the band’s trademark dangerous, emotionally fraught choogle, and the listener is constantly kept on edge, not knowing when to brace for a bombastic impact or lean back and enjoy the ride.

The band skillfully balances that Jekyll and Hyde formulaIn “Child of Mercy” guitarist Jesse Parmet revs the engines with a disintegrating blues guitar framework, backed by a breakneck beat by new drummer Alex Koshak. Eventually, the tune whips into a cyclone of distortion and Cook’s sustained falsetto, as he howls, “Won’t you please wake me up when the night is over.” For such a raw and kinetic sound, the Yawpers are never stuck in one gear for long. They deftly navigate shifting dynamics and moods, and if you squint your ears, the Sun Studios’ Million Dollar Quartet transmogrifies into the ghosts of Gun Club, Jon Spencer, and Bo Diddley.

“Dancing on my Knees” is the direction that Dan Auerbach could’ve taken Black Keys: raw yet poppy, outsider while mainstream, danceable while thought-provoking(lyrics include “It wasn’t what I asked for / But it’s exactly what I need / You’ve said there’s growth in agony / And we finally agree”). There are moments of blunt Stooges raw power (“Earn Your Heaven”), shaker rhythms behind ‘70s psychedelic rock(“Human Question”), and the  salacious boogie of Zeppelin (“Forgiveness Through Pain”). Through it all, Human Question is impossible to confuse with anything else—it’s distinctly the Yawpers.

“Man As Ghost”, “Can’t Wait,” and “Where the Winters End” reveal a softer and contemplative side, blending touches of modern Americana and folk music. In these moments of sonic respite, Cook and company display their range through acoustic guitar strums, relaxed and aired-out tempos, and big yet dialed-in vocal runs. But, no song exhibits the band’s extended capabilities like “Carry Me,” a Gospel-soul burner that builds from hushed to impassioned, with the lead singer begging for salvation in full open-throated fervor by song’s end.

Human Question isn’t meant for the meek or casual listener. It will make you dance, mosh, sing along, and dig deep into your soul. Some people lament that rock-n-roll is dead. They just haven’t heard the Yawpers yet.

The Yawpers Are:
Nate Cook , Jesse Parmet , Alex Koshak

yawpers cvr censored 0 The Yawpers give a track by track breakdown of their new concept album, Boy in a Well: Stream

Back in 2015, Denver outfit The Yawpers brought their blues rock sounds to Bloodshot Records with their label debut American Man. The trio are now back with their follow-up, Boy in a Well, set for release this Friday, August 18th.  Produced by The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson (who also plays on the album) and Alex Hall (JD McPherson, Pokey LaFarge), “Boy in a Well” is a concept record about just what its title suggests. Set in WWI-era France, the story follows a mother who abandons her child down a well, where he grows up alone and afraid. The complex and ambitious tale is told both through 12 muscular, unpredictable rockabilly tracks as well as an accompanying comic book by the Legendary Shack Shakers J.D Wilkes.

“I wanted to write a melodramatic tragedy, but one so tragic that it has kind of a necessary levity,” says frontman Nate Cook, who wrote the record in the wake of his failed marriage. “Musically, the intention was to make a biting, frenetic, punk fueled record that sounded like it was recorded in the ’50s. Nodding to the past, present, and future. Emphasis during recording was placed almost solely on the spirit of the take and or song, often sacrificing polish for authenticity.” the band has provided an exclusive track-by-track breakdown of the entire thing. Cook takes us through the record’s theme and creation, while drummer Noah Shomberg digs into the songs’ structure and dynamics.

“Armistice Day”: Nate Cook (vocals, guitar): As the first song of a record that’s both historical and narrative, the writing on this one proved maybe the most difficult. Sonically, we all tried to maintain a very muted, fogging opening, and then midway tear through to something more immediate. On the narrative side, this is the song where the eponymous character is conceived by a young French girl and a soldier returning from the front lines. Instead of hope, I tried to set up a life that is entirely perverted by and beholden to the past.

Noah Shomberg (drums, vocals): One of the main musical themes Jesse [Parmet, guitars/vocals] and I attempted to address with Boy In A Well was to create intensity without using large dynamic shifts as a tool. However, sometimes you just have to smash. The song starts out nebulous in groove and slowly builds intensity via rhythmic shifts. The purpose of the drums and guitar here is solely to create a bed for the vocals to rest on. The song builds progressively throughout the third verse but not necessarily in volume until the last vocal melody refrain.

“A Decision is Made”: NC: Obviously a more rockabilly tune, and necessarily. We needed to forward the narrative substantially here, so there’s quite a bit of exposition and explanation. Rockabilly lends itself to wordier songs, and so I was able to cram a pregnancy, parental abuse, a birth, and a messianic complex into three minutes.

NS: Straight up rocker. I tried to re-imagine the “rockabilly” shuffle on the drum kit and explore different ways of phrasing it. Where can I place accents to help build tension and build intensity through the verses?

“A Visitor is Welcomed”: NC: The girl who threw our titular character down a well has dealt with the trauma through delusion. She believes her child is the second coming of Christ, and brings offerings of food, gifts, etc to the monster that is growing underneath.

NS: The groove on this song was inspired by a few late nights watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz. We wanted to use a groove that sounded like the “Big Four” as a nod to our musical heritage. It’s a groove that originated from drummers in second line bands in the late 1800s.

“Room With a View”: NC: The first song told entirely from the perspective of the Boy in the Well. I attempted to not use personal pronouns, and make sure his description were limited to comparisons, as he has had no interaction with the outside world, and has no real sense of “I”.

NS: Stay out of the way. The function of the drums here is to support and add color. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Mon Dieu”: In a shameless ripoff of Steinbeck, this song finds a rabbit falling in the well, and the boy’s desire for love killing it. This becomes the impetus for him climbing out.

Looking back, this song felt like it came together the easiest. It was one of the first songs we jammed on and completed. The drum arrangement is all over the place. It’s maniacal and suits the performance of the song just right. We recorded this song with only one microphone which forced me to hit the cymbals a little bit differently. Instead of crashing with the middle of the stick, I played everything with the tip of the stick. I think it adds a cool sonic texture to the drums in this song.

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“The Awe and the Anguish”: NC: We recorded the first two thirds of this song entirely on a field recorder that was the same [Alan] Lomax used. We used one mic, and self controlled dynamics, which was new for us. This serves two functions, one being demarcating the boy’s transition from the well to the outside world, and also to demonstrate the alien nature it presents to him.

NS: This was another attempt to stay out of the way of the vocals (and story). The melody and guitar part are so vibey, all it needed was some maraca and a few downbeats on a marching bass drum … until the end.

“Mon Nom”: NC: This is a song entirely about the boy’s search for identity, and finds him using personal pronouns as he grasps a greater sense of who or what he is. Given his upbringing, most of his conclusions are pretty menacing. The last repeated line means “I am the second coming of Christ” in French.

NS: In my opinion, this song achieved everything we were trying to do with the performances on the record. We use rhythm to build the intensity of the whole song. The drums start out stripped down, eventually adding each part of the drum set and then variations of the basic groove to build tension. Nate’s vocal delivery is incredibly dynamic, starting in a low Johnny Cash rumble and ending in a Nick Oliveri style scream. The vocal delivery complements the lyrics most effectively on this song. Additionally, Jesse’s guitar playing is straight forward and outside of the box all at once.

“Face to Face to Face”: NC: In the course of her routine visits to the well, mother encounters son. They recognize each other. In a bizarre sacrifice form, and out of some novel primal instinct in him, they have an “Oedipal” encounter.

NS: Rhythmically and harmonically, this song is outside of the wheelhouse. One of the more interesting instrumental arrangements on the record for me. We tested what we could get away with on this one, but still kept the style somewhat familiar.

“No Going Back”: NC: The encounter is predictably violent, and some innate ethical boundary has been crossed. The mother lies still, presumably dead, and the boy, having destroyed (again) something he loves, is wracked with agony.

NS: I don’t recall what inspired us to write a rockabilly song in 5/4, but we got a kick out of how unusual it sounded. It took us several hours of playing various grooves and parts in 5/4 to wrap our heads around it. Nate and I keep the groove straight forward and Jesse does a great job at smoothing out the angular feel. The transition to 4/4 in the chorus gives the song some serious momentum. Some of the playing towards the end of the song is a personal nod to a drum hero of mine, Jon Theodore [of Queens of the Stone Age and The Mars Volta]. Lastly, I think this is another instrumental arrangement that compliments the lyrics/story.

“God’s Mercy”: NC: This is basically a suicidal lament, as the boy throws himself back down the well. Finishing the job this time.

NS: This is a lullaby, so I did what seemed natural: Stay out of the fucking way. We used a ribbon mic placed about three feet above the tom, cranked the gain, and I played the floor tom with my hands. We achieved a pretty cool sound.

“Linen for the Orphan”: NC: Months have passed. As it turns out, the girl was only rendered unconscious during the encounter with her son, and has come to term with their child. Unfortunately, she dies in child birth. Her parents, not wanting the child, decide to get rid of him. After a doctor smothers the child with a sheet, they need to find a place to dispose of the body.

NS: This guitar/drum vibe was inspired equally by the Cramps and the Dead Kennedys. I loved the feel of the song “Police Truck”, so Jesse and used that for some of the inspiration for the verse grooves. My favorite parts are the builds in the song. I tried to use the bells of the cymbals to build intensity rather than just crashing. I also tried to get as quiet as I could but without ever getting too loud. Tension, release, tension, release.

“Reunion”: The body is taken to the well, and thrown onto the bones of its father.

The main riff was taken from a jam session that Jesse and I had from the previous summer. We brought that to a rehearsal and Nate pushed the song into a surf pop direction to juxtapose the lyrical content. Irony, a classic Cook move. We had our pal, Tommy Stinson, lay down some 12 string on this track which added a pretty and twangy sonic layer to the song. All in all, what better way to end the record?

Photo: Paul Beaty

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Led by dynamic young singer-songwriter Nate Cook, Boulder quartet the Yawpers recall a grittier version of Wilco, with as much raw country sensibility as twisted indie imagination. Equally akin to Deer Tick, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Elvis, The Yawpers give a fresh blend of indie-country and rock ’n’ roll. The Band has just released its debut, full-length record,

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Led by dynamic young singer-songwriter Nate Cook, Boulder quartet the Yawpers recall a grittier version of Wilco, with as much raw country sensibility as twisted indie imagination. Equally akin to Deer Tick, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Elvis, The Yawpers give a fresh blend of indie-country and rock ’n’ roll. The Band has just released its debut, full-length record, Capon Crusade.