Way Yes are way good, their new EP, Walkability, is our official morning mood setter. Building from a percussive backbone they craft songs which balance their African and Brazilian influences with modern day songwriting. Melancholy balanced with summertime bliss is no easy feat but Way Yes are pulling it off. We caught up with singer Glenn to find out more:
Bowlegs: When we read that your influences range from Fela Kuti to Beat Happening we had to get in touch – how did the band’s sound come about?
Glenn: Glad you got in touch, and thanks for taking the time to interview us! The sound of our band comes from trying to imitate things that we like in music that we listen to. The most common result is that we fail miserably, but sometimes these failures land us somewhere that is new (at least new to us) and worth exploring.
The songs we release are usually a ‘best of’, of at least ten times as many flops. As a musician, it is sometimes easy to get into a slump, feeling like everything has been done before. I believe any fresh sounds are likely a combination of influences that no one else has connected before. For that reason we listen to music a lot. When we find something we especially like, (or dislike), we dissect it, analyze it, and talk about it, to try and figure out why we were drawn towards that song or artist (this drives some of our friends and family crazy). These findings fuel our creative process.
Beat Happening is a great example. There is an honest, playful quality to the tunes they made that influenced Travis and I early on as songwriters. I love how they weren’t afraid to write simple songs. We try to implement this into what we do by keeping a riff or chord progression simple if it lets something else in the arrangement that is more important shine.
Bowlegs: Your new EP, Walkability, is so damn infectious – the title track especially – what was the recording of the record like? As good as it sounds?
Glenn: Thank you! At the time Way Yes was a two piece. It was just my best buddy (Travis Hall) and I (Glenn Davis) building off what we started on our first EP, Herringbone, which we made with our good friend Dylan Meister. We had moved on from listening to almost all African music, and started devouring any Brazilian tunes we could get our hands on. We had no idea at that time that musicians have been influenced by the Tropicália movement from Brazil in late 60s for years. To us, the music was very exciting and satisfied a craving I never knew I had.
Easily my favourite album that we came across from that period was Os Mutantes self-titled debut from 1968. My favourite track from that album is A Minha Menina. If there was a twelve-minute version of that song, I could listen to it all the way through and still feel like starting it over when I reached the end.
We found ourselves totally hypnotized by Brazilian percussion. It’s instantly infectious and could seemingly repeat forever. We are still playing around with the use of repetition in the songs we write, with our toes dangling on the line between hypnotic, and annoying. People usually love it or hate it depending on their context. Compared to amazing Soukous jams, that can be over 10-minutes long, riding on variations of the same riff the whole time, everything we do feels very tame to me.
Ties was the first song to be written that would end up on Walkability, and was also our first time implementing Brazilian inspired rhythms into our own music. At the time Ties was written, we already had studio time booked to record with the engineer who recorded Herringbone, Max Lewis. We scrapped all the material we had prepared to bring into the studio and the songs that actually made it onto Walkability came together in a few short weeks leading up to that session.
Important was written two days before we went into the studio, and Gino only the day before. We showed up ready to record five songs Max had never heard. We ended up having a blast bringing these songs to life over the next three days. When we were finished, we realised we had no idea how we were gonna play these songs live. Max offered to help out and just never left.
Bowlegs: The track Important has a melancholic undertow – what’s it about?
Glenn: It does. A lot of our songs end up that way. Some of our favourite things to sing about are the things we have a hard time talking about. In hindsight this EP was the first time we ended up having more melancholy lyrics while keeping the feel-good vibe of the music going strong. I really enjoy that juxtaposition. Important is about feeling sad when you realise you are no longer close to people who used to be your best friends, and being afraid of dying alone.
Bowlegs: How did you get hooked up with the excellent Lefse Records?
Glenn: They stumbled across a post about us on YVNYL and got in touch. We will always be grateful for Mark taking the time to write about us that day. Lefse Records was started by two guys that just love music, so we feel right at home there.
Bowlegs: Is there an album on it’s way? How might it develop the Way Yes sound?
Glenn: Yes. We are still in the writing process and it’s coming along nicely. With the new songs we have been going for an even bigger, fuller sound. We have even started playing with a new auxiliary percussionist, Tim ‘Kurt’ Horak. You can hear his hands hitting drums along with Max for the first time on our 7” Oranjudio, which was released by Lefse last October. Having two percussionists live has allowed us to execute things we have never been able to pull off without samples in the past.
Bowlegs: Which one of you is wearing the dress in the promo pic?
Glenn: Haha! Max. We picked up a bunch of clothes from the thrift store for a photo shoot with our talented pal Nick Fancher, without trying any of them on. Max fit in the dress really well. We were all still laughing at how good he looked wearing it when Nick told us to look up to the corner of the room and snapped that shot.
I never made this connection until now, but Travis and I have a history of trying to get our male bandmates in dresses. One of the goofy bands we started in college was called TI-83 plus (I think we still have a MySpace page up actually). We convinced our friend Mike to play keyboard in the band because he had taken piano lessons as a kid. He was so nervous about playing on stage in front of people because he had never played in a band before. I asked him what it was that was making him so nervous. He told me that he was afraid of looking stupid. We convinced him he should wear a dress to the first show, that way he would no longer have to worry about looking stupid (the idea being that he would look ridiculous no matter what). He wore the dress, and it worked! He actually wore dresses for every TI-83 plus show from then on.
Max to my knowledge has never worn a dress on stage, but did wear a hot dog costume for a Way Yes set this past Halloween.
Bowlegs: What bands are you listening to at the moment?
Glenn: Personally, a lot of Saintseneca, Dolfish, Sade, Joseph Anthony Camerlengo, Sovroncourt, and Lindsey Buckingham. Any of the other members of Way Yes would likely have a completely different answer.
Bowlegs: And your plans for 2012 include?
Glenn: In 2012 we would like to finish a full length album and tour as much as possible. We have plans to be at SXSW for the first time this year, and hope to get out to the west coast for some shows. I would also like to finish playing through The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, meet Cornelius, and lose a few pounds.
Pre-order the Walkability EP over at Lefse Records