Friday, July 25, 2008
Band of the Week
The Dreadful Yawns
" With nothing left to lose, I let go and flew into something new"
Some times things don't appear to take shape until you truly let go and allow yourself to do something completely new. It may be a new project, a new relationship, a new career, a new friendship, life is consistently changing and evolving and when we are not willing to expand and create, new opportunities we may get lost. Let your mind wander, let your guitar roll and growl and search, let brush flow and move, let your ideas bloom into realities.
Cleveland's The Dreadful Yawns have allowed their ideas to "Take Shape" on their fourth album Take Shape. The album progresses and expands with each track, and by the time you reach track 9 the band explores and reworks for a solid 10 minutes. A mixture of rock, retro-pop and far reaching psychedelica, Take Shape shows growth and a true understanding of their skills as musicians. With Ben Gmetro on vocals & guitar, Elizabeth Kelly on vocals, keys, bells, & tambourine, Chris Russo on drums & vocals, Clayton Heuer on keys & violin and Eric Schulte on guitar & vocals The Dreadful Yawns have really flown into something new.
Recently, Eric and Clayton were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): The title of your fourth studio album is Take Shape. Is this as much as statement about your careers as anything else? Do you feel you at a point where everything is starting to take shape?
Eric Schulte (ES): I told ben that I really wanted to name the album. I didn't have a lot of songs on the album like IBen and Chris, so I wanted to leave my mark. Ben had a ton of better album names, but since i do most of the booking and PR stuff I started refering to the album as Take Shape. It stuck. mostly because of our history. It's old news, but during the recording of the last album, Rest, the whole band, except for Ben, quit. He built this new band, and we all collectively felt that on some level it was a statement about the direction of the band. I had been managing and booking the Yawns since 2002 so for me this loud, fuzzed out, velvets-esque album was what I always wanted the Yawns to do. It's the album they should have always made... and finally things were starting to take shape... ta da. i did it and came full circle!
OA: This album seems to be about sonic exploration. How is the decision made to take a 2 minute pop song and expand it into a soaring and roaring 10 minute adventure? It seems like the rest of the album is building up to that moment, like you are almost holding back on the previous tracks? Are those 8 minutes improvised?
ES: I guess you're talking about the song Don't Know... Ben had the first part and the last part of the song and he wanted something spacey in the middle. when we recorded it we were hot as hell, under pressure for time, and we didn't really think things were going that well. at one point in the song, and we have it on film somewhere, chris kicks over some of his drums and runs around the room mid song. we recorded it and just let loose. the 8 minute jam was all recorded live in one take. when we got the tracks back from ryan (weitzel, label head and the guy that recorded most of the basic tracks) and we heard it, we couldn't believe how great it turned out. chris and ben did some mixing and presto we had a song. i think the building up feeling is just how it turned out as we didn't really have a song sequence in mind. our main thing was to sequence it with the vinyl release in mind. side A was the shorter poppier stuff and side B (last three songs) would be our three spacier more open ended and adventurous tunes. you know, the pretentious side.
Clayton Heuer (CH): Those are the times we end up listening to each other the most, because we're not concerned with playing right notes in the right rhythm. It's like it's our turn to be the audience, only we happen to be playing. It's the difference between listening because you have to in order to stay together as an ensemble and listening because you're just into it. It might suck for the real audience, but that's because it's their turn to listen because they have to. I mean, what else are you going to do in Cleveland? (see question 4) But really, each time we emerge from a psych freakout, we have a better idea what each others' instruments are capable of doing.
OA: The cover of this album is amazing, and a little scary. As people walk by my little cubicle they picked it up and say "Oh my, what is this?". It definitely grabs peoples attention, but I feel it may stand in contrast the actual sound of the album. Was this the intent? Can you tell us a little about the cover design and the artist Jon Hicks?
ES: Really? See, I look at it and to me it looks exactly like the album sounds. maybe i just can't remove myself from the whole process of making the album. Hicks use to have the radio show before mine on a college station in town. but i knew him before then from mutual friends. he is the premiere concert poster artist in town and to me the best graphic designer i've ever seen, hands down. it was a no brainer to go to jon as he did the layout for Rest and a bunch of yawns related projects in the past. if you ask jon to do something it's always amazing. so trusting in that we went to him and told him,"you have full reign. make us something cool for a psychedelic album with the phrase "take shape" in mind." he asked us to pick three colors, and we looked at some other bands' artwork and told him what we liked and didn't like. a couple weeks later we had this masterpiece. when we got the albums back from manufacturers it was breathtaking. for me it was like, "screw what people think about the album, this artwork is worth $12 by itself." you can check out a bunch of his stuff at http://www.jonhicksdesign.com/
OA: Being from Cleveland, (we all know Cleveland Rocks!) what is the scene like? Is there opportunity for a young band to find an audience?
ES: Cleveland is amazing. to the day i die i will proclaim cleveland one of the top 5 music scenes in the country. pound for pound in terms of talent we can compete with any athens, brooklyn, portland, or chicago. people are broke in cleveland. going out to shows for some of us is a choice between eating lunch the next day or rock and roll, i shit you not. so there is a pretty small regular concert-going crowd (which is one reason why it's so close knit). will bands get big and tour in big buses in cleveland? no. but will you be surrounded by ridiculously talented artists and get to see them on a regular basis with 20 of your best friends? absolutely. that kind of isolated atmosphere, almost like being in a vacuum, facilitates some stunningly original and satisfying art. plus there are a million great artist centric clubs in town, beachland, tower 2012, pat's in the flats, matinee, and the zephyr in kent.
CH: After the second week on tour, I got homesick for people with that self-depracating, sarcastic humor. It seems they only live here. I love them. I love people that make fun of themselves, and Cleveland gives them a lot of material.
OA: This being your fourth studio album, and having experience in the industry, do you feel that new media (blogs, myspace, youtube, etc.) can benefit musicians? Do you feel that blogs can effect concert attendance, sales, and just fans in general?
ES: we are lucky in cleveland to have two awesome college stations WCSB (Cleveland State) and WRUW (Case Western). so unlike most places, radio is not a complete wasteland. but newspapers are dying and our two alt-weeklies are merging into one next week. so print media is fading fast. cool original print zines come and go faster than i change my diapers. rock magazines are on their way out too. no depression is dead, magnet went from bi-monthly to quarterly, DIW is gone... so almost by default internet based sources of news have filled the gap, or maybe just hastened the old-guard's demise. i absolutely believe that blogs and myspace can benefit musicians. as with all things it's sifting through the crap to get to the good stuff. once you find the good stuff though it becomes almost like a bible. and i'm hardly an original person, so if i do it i bet a ton of others do it too. as far as attendance, sales, and fans... anything that gets your name out there helps. but especially in the rust belt you have to do more than just depend on electronic media to get people to buy your stuff. that's what touring is for, and making sure you melt faces when you play live.
CH: The chemicals that make those mags all glossy are putting us in early graves anyway. Trees love blogs too.
OA: What's next for The Dreadful Yawns?
ES: staying away from cops and their illegal searches.
CH: Another tour, unless Eric is serious about retiring from booking. I hear the pension plan sucks buddy, so you better keep your nose to the grindstone.
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in Cleveland?
ES: Do bears shit in the woods? Clayton will answer this one with authority.
CH: If you consider a half hour drive east to Concord Twp. still Cleveland (and we do), it's at this place by my house in the rural far reaches of Lake County, Bellasano Coffee and Cuisine. I ordered an iced coffee, and the owner was back there like a freaking scientist pouring beakers of stuff over ice, swirling, looking through the light, I think I saw some damn litmus paper at one point. It took forever, but I have never been so full of jittery-eyed joy in my entire life. It's worth the half hour drive.
OA: What was the last great book you read?
ES: I just re-read The Cassette Mythos by Robin James. It's a series of essay about the cassette underground, and diy culture that grew up around cassettes in the early and mid eighties. this book is as close to scripture as i can get. other than that all i really read anymore are grassroots historical analyses of the american revolution.
CH: Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.
Like Song (a. All Indian Summer Long b.The Owls)/Catskill/Kill Me Now (mp3)/Saved/All For Me/Expecting Rain (mp3)/All the Dead Soldiers/Don't Know What I've Been On/ Mood Assassin
For more information on The Dreadful Yawns please visit their website, and to order a copy of Take Shape (Exit Stencil, 8/26) visit the Exit Stencil site.