Yena Veldt Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
“Yena Veldt 1” has proved to be one of the most interesting & hardy collections of demos to have wandered off the disillusioned streets of this septic isle into the snug confines of the tMx Bunker in the course of the opening months of 2005. The post-hardcore-Beefheartean-deconstructist-shuffle of “Semite Song”, the stutter-wobble-Shellac-isms of “I Died Of A Broken Leg” & the Wire-on-steroids-shamblefest of “Abbreviation Is A Long Word” have gone a surprisingly long way towards cementing a reputation of some renown.
During the course of the following Yena Veldt interview the myth has already become the legend:
W White Acre
U - Uptonius
trakMARX - Tell us about the birth of Yena Veldt.
M - It started with Uptonius and myself jamming in his bedroom in Rochdale around January 2004. We got Dave’s next-door neighbour White Acre in on bass soon after and Jude came in around June 2004.
W - It was born with the umbilical cord around its neck and we wrestled it from death. Good job too.
trakMARX - We don't get many new groups using Yiddish sayings as monikers. What was the inspiration behind yr choice?
M - I suppose I picked it because like you say, you don’t get many bands using Yiddish at all and it’s such a beautiful, expressive and humorous language. But it also fitted in nicely with the idea of things being created in isolation and far flung places that are populated by strange people with strange customs like most of Lancashire.
W - This I feel has more resonance with Markovitch, but I certainly feel that having such a frontal affiliation with Judaism marks our disregard for pop culture. When was the last time 'Hard Rock Jews' toured your county?
J - The idea was to hit Jewish theme hard, hence the name.
trakMARX - Are there any subsequent religious implications to your music?
M - None, whatsoever. I think we’re all agnostics at the most.
trakMARX - What are your collective artistic influences?
M Musically speaking, anything that’s challenging in an honest way and preferably with a good sense of melody and the periodic ability to rock like a bastard. For me that includes everything from the great American indie rock bands c1980 (Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, Sebadoh etc) present, small amounts of thrash metal, jangle pop, shoegazer, British post-punk (especially regarding the vocals) and bits of folk/Americana (though you probably can’t hear to much of that in Yena Veldt).
In terms of other art, I like generally strange and thought-provoking and generally dark films like the stuff by David Lynch (especially Twin Peaks) and Stanley Kubrick.
W - Metal, punk, jangley pop (eek!), indie of various kinds, decent pop (anomalies in the pattern), IDM, rock, math...
J - Joy Division, Nirvana, Sepultura, Soundgarden, Fugazi, Sonic Youth. I'd say these were my chief playing style influences, but I listen to some other bands too.
trakMARX - You make your music in isolation of any scene & detest flavours of the month. Do you feel individualism is under threat in 2005?
M - It always has been. I think humans are generally orientated towards gang opinion but I think that’s more so now as too many people think that all the best music and art has already been created and there’s nothing original left to do which I’d just put down to a lazy imagination.
W - Fuck yes, being an individual whether it’s your music or fashion seems to be frowned upon these days. People are punished rather than rewarded for stepping out of the box, and therefore via what is basically social electric shock treatment we get this hideous sheep culture that plagues us all. Every time someone’s spirit is broken, a new storm trooper to herd us is born.
J - No more than any other time in history, so far as I'm aware. There have always been great personalities in the great wash of the asinine which we call the human race, and criticism and opposition towards any given status quo still exists, in any field I can think of - if you look hard enough, I dare say you can find at the very least some kind of underground collective of ideas be it art, sciences, politics, whatever.
trakMARX - What do you make of the contemporary UK scene in 2005?
M - In terms on mainstream music I think it’s at the lowest point it’s been for as long as I can remember. This resurgence of retrospective “The” bands is just so stagnant, depressing and irrelevant to what is actually happening in our daily lives. Everyone is just trying to recreate something that went on 20 years ago and that misses its original meaning. It’s like a kind of escapism in rock n roll (a clichéd and tired out concept if there ever was one) just like how people would rather read about what celebrities are doing than actually think about their own lives. Besides if I want to listen to something that sounds like Talking Heads, I’ll listen to Talking Heads. And furthermore it’s all so disposable and transient. Bands barely last past one album. I think the last important mainstream band we had was Radiohead.
In terms of an “underground” scene there are some really wonderful bands out there; generally ones that act independent of a scene. But there’s also plenty of cynical shit that just wants to tap into what the NME is hailing.
W - I haven’t heard a band I’ve really liked yet this year. Although Tsuji Giri are still going, and they rawk.
J - It would seem that the spectrum of any major media form is narrowing, in this ever more highly commercialised political environment in which we live, with more radical material cast asunder by the melee to produce guaranteed money-makers - which on the music scene has clearly made for highly generic "retro" bands making it to the top of the tree. What’s the point? Fine if you want to sing along and dance about, but not for the purist in me. The Stooges, Talking Heads, Faith No More and Pantera are great bands that are frequently emulated today, but to be honest they were all very, very good and they wont ever be topped by soundalikes. Record companies in particular have been scared by the fairly rapid changes in technology over the last few years - the internet explosion must be one of the great industrial/ technological revolutions in the history of mankind, I’m sure it'll be remembered as that. Everybody knows about MP3s, etc - CD sales keep falling as Playstation games get more and more popular and file-sharing steals record sales volumes, so the MBA's in charge are pushing very hard to do whatever they can to keep the shareholders/international stock-holding companies happy. Personally speaking, though, this isn’t all that important I’m sure we would only ever associate with the major labels if we could do so on our own terms, and to be fair this isn’t likely to ever happen, some people simply won’t listen to the music we produce. Besides, aren’t Thorn EMI Plc, for one, first and foremost an arms manufacturer? No, ta.
At grass roots, the price of usably good gear gets lower and lower, and the musician thing has never lost favour with the young'uns, so there’s plenty of fresh meat and it stands to reason there may be some good ideas between em. The USA and - in the future, China - can/will develop incredible athletes to represent them before the eyes of the world by sheer population numbers, the same idea should apply here. The wave of nu-metal that swept the nation over the last couple of years will no doubt procreate a hive of great rock bands derived from the kids listening to that stuff and learning to play guitar or drums or whatever, and writing stuff in better pastures new as they get older. Or so we hope..
trakMARX - You seem to have something in common with British Sea Power - would you say you're ploughing roughly the same (or similar) field?
M - I like the fact that BSP go out of their way to do things that wouldn’t normally bode with what a “signed” band is supposed to do, like playing church halls in Windermere etc. I like the slightly inscrutable imagery in which they surround themselves and I suppose musically they’re hardly bandwagon jumpers.
W - If their music raises contempt for all the meaningless boundaries and watermarks of the PAST that bands seem to be working towards these days, then a comparison is well deserved.
trakMARX - You're all in your early 20's - & hopefully still idealistic - what do you want to achieve with Yena Veldt?
M - I’d like to be able to challenge people’s notions of what constitutes good music and what the purpose of music is - and maybe extend that to challenge their notions on how society works and things that they take for granted. I’d like to be able to show people that there is a huge amount of wonderful stuff boiling below the surface.
W - Show some people in this country that there is more to music than 'massive large beats' and catchy throwaway jingles posing as songs. Drumkit, bass and 2 guitars there’s still life in the old beast yet you just got to know where to look.
J - To become influential in the way that my idols were, for the right reasons - or a healthy smack habit - ideally both.
trakMARX - Have you attracted any record company interest yet?
M - We’ve only had 4 gigs so far and haven’t actually really sent many CDs to record companies, though someone from a large publishing company in London was quite impressed.
W - Richard Branson is stalking me.
J - No. We're crap. EMI will be told where to shove it, if they do come knocking. In a bomb casing, perhaps.
trakMARX - Do you believe in the DIY ethic?
M - If it’s done correctly. I’ve experienced scenes run by people with very convoluted and self-limiting ideas of what DIY is. Like shunning bands or people because they’ve accepted interest from record companies etc. But, if done correctly, then absolutely. I don’t believe there’s a good enough music industry infrastructure for artists to rely on in Britain. I think self-promotion/release is the only way forward for bands that are doing something that doesn’t fit in with current trends. Obviously there are exceptions - but self-promotion, etc, can lead to “bigger” things.
J I’m also a great believer in DIY gigs, recording, self promoted releases, etc. Yes.
trakMARX - What events are on the immediate horizon for Yena Veldt?
M - We have a few shows in the next couple of months - one supporting 65 Days of Static and another supporting No Hope In New Jersey. We’ve got rather tired of our old set, so we’re writing some new stuff at the moment - which will probably get recorded in due course.
J - Southampton, Hop and Grape, Club Fandango, a couple of months off to write bigger, better, bolder material.
trakMARX - How can punters best keep abreast of all Yena Veldt activity?
M - The best way is to go to our website. That gets updated regularly - or sign up for our mailing list.
J - Dowse in local fields.
Jean Encoule tMx 19 04/05