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Interview for Sandman Magazine.
It’s probably the hottest day since records began. I have no meteorlogical proof for this but sitting in our snapper’s sweltering studio it definitely feels the case, and the heat, along with a 1-0 win for England, seems to have conspired to make for a slightly tipsy Yell. Apparently Mr Brown was a bit scared of leading them into the planned photoshoot at what is essentially a china shop, but the boozy Saturday afternoon vibe leads to an entertaining interview.
The Yell are a band that are something against the grain of what’s going on round these parts at the moment. Their dizzying blend of electronica, shouty indie, daftness, seriousness, artiness and pop is hard to classify. Even when you put their new single, double a-side ‘My Baby’s Into Witchcraft’ and ‘Pyramids’, into iTunes, it comes up with the genre ‘unclassifiable’.
They’ve not been around too long. Singer Dan (also generally known by the moniker Idle Hans) started making music with guitarist James around three years ago.
“Can I plug your cousin?” says Dan to James. “I was going out with James’s cousin for a year, and I’d seen him a couple of times and he looked tall, played guitar. It was always in the back of my mind that he was the man I wanted. That’s how it all started, anyway, and we picked up this bunch of bastards on the way.”
That “bunch of bastards” being synth player Tom, drummer Ian, keyboardist Rachel and Daniel on bass.
“We were originally called Inter-View,” says Dan, “but we had to drop that name because we sounded like a bunch of fucking students.”
Toying with, frankly, atrocious names such as Captain Crucial, and Naked Truth and the Epidemic, they settled on The Yell. “Everyone loves two syllables, so we went for that,” acknowledges Dan.
“It’s great to be in a band with no egos,” says Daniel, The Yell’s newest recruit, “It’s probably the best musical experience I’ve ever had. Don’t cry! I’ve not been around that much!
“It’s nice to work with people who are quite talented and have ideas outside the box. Hopefully that’s what we’ll be doing for the rest of the year. Violating boxes.”
The sound and vision of The Yell has way more in common with the old Sheffield bands of the 70’s and 80’s than the current crop of Sheffield megastars.
“I used to play bass in a couple of bands who were punk cover bands I suppose, it was something to get out of the house for, you know,” says Dan. “One Christmas me mum bought me dad that Made In Sheffield documentary, and it were brilliant, and I thought that was exactly what I want to do. I saw bands like Artery, and 2.3, and Cabaret Voltaire, and thought that’s exactly what a band should be like in this City.
“When I met James I made him tapes of Cabaret Voltaire and Artery, and Clock DVA and stuff.”
It’s in their blood, see. Dan’s dad is John Clayton, an early member of Artery and a member of one of Sheffield’s few punk bands 2.3 (The Yell throw a cover of 2.3’s only single into their set every now and then).
“Me dad kept saying to me ‘I was in a band yeah’”, says Dan, “and I were like ‘fuck off you old bastard’. You don’t think your dad’s cool at the time, do you? But now… well I wouldn’t say it to his face…”
Tom’s dad is veteran local music scribe Martin Lilleker, probably the nearest thing the Sheffield music scene has to Gandalf. It was this link that led to a fortuitous conversation between Dan and Tom in a Sheffield drinking den’s urinals about the merits of Artery, and the rest is history.
The band are creating their own sound, much like the vintage bands of the Steel City’s past, and recognise Sheffield’s heritage for individuality.
“There’s such an amalgamation of influences [in Sheffield],” says Daniel, “which is why there’s so many great bands, like Smokers Die Younger and Champion Kickboxer, and they’re all influenced by different bands, and I think that’s what makes Sheffield music really exciting. People don’t like the same thing, but still work together in making some really exciting music.”
Although not sharing too much musically with the current crop of Sheffield chart stars, they don’t see their contemporaries’ success as a bad thing at all for the ‘scene’.
“It comes in waves,” says Tom “and all those bands on an elevated platform help all the other bands on the rise and the fall…”
“Not that we want to be caught up in any particular wave of music,” says Daniel. “We want to do our own thing. I think that’s what people have got into, not that the bands that come through it, that group together, are a bad thing, but we’ve consciously wanted to go in our direction, in the direction The Yell should go, not what’s fashionable or what will sell lots of records.”
As already stated, it’s hard music to categorise, and many reviews have centred on Dan’s vocal resemblance to a certain Mark E Smith, although he insists he only owned one Fall single before these comparisons were made.
And if Dan’s vocals have a slightly Fall-esque twang, it’s about all the easy references you can make, as the band have a whirlwind of influences that take in everything from punk, to rubbish 80’s synths, to a touch of ska. Their MySpace describes it all as a “funky punky arty farty party.”
“I don’t think we sound like anyone,” says Daniel, “but we’ve got a really pop aspect to us, we’ve got some good hooks, and melody. We want to write pop songs, but we want to write really interesting pop songs. It sounds like a cliché, but we want to do that without selling out.”
The band’s debut single is being released by London label Marquis Cha Cha, making The Yell labelmates with fellow Sheffielders Bromheads Jacket, with whom they’ve been touring.. The Yell’s live show, which sees various members falling about the stage and Dan prowling around like a slightly surly, pissed ringmaster (sometimes complete with top hat), has won them fans across the country. Was this live dynamic planned?
“That came by accident,” says Daniel.
“We did drink a lot, a number of times,” says Dan.
“You’ve got two choices, of either being really tight and have a good or bad show, or get pissed and have the best gig, experience wise,” says Daniel. “If you want to listen to music you can stay at home and so, if you go and see a band you want to see them putting on the best show they can, and that’s what we try and do.”
It wasn’t without casualties.
“Tom did lose a few keys on his keyboard,” says Dan.
“Yeah, it looks like Shane McGowan’s face,” says Tom.
With a great single poised to be released, fans across the UK, the world seems like theirs for the taking. But aren’t they worried about one glaring oversight of their name? That is when it comes to opportunities on the world wide web, Yell.com has already been taken.
“Oh, I love that,” says Dan. “I had the idea of doing summat with those ‘Just Yell’ adverts around town, but Smokers Die Younger did that with their X Wants The Meat album”.
“The thing is,” says Daniel, “if you do ring us up and ask us for local takeaways we do know the numbers, and we can’t put you through either so you save money there.”
So The Yell, not just there for the nasty things in life, but to create some fantastic tunes, put on the show to end all shows, and fall about pissed in the process. You can’t say fairer than that.