For most bands, releasing an awesome debut album and touring the world would be enough for a year. Yak, though, aren’t most bands, and on the eve of their biggest European tour ever, vocalist Oli Burslem is only looking forward.
Releasing debut LP ‘Alas Salvation’ in May, the band have already followed up with monstrous single ‘Heavens Above’, a suitable title for a track that feels biblical. It’s one of four songs recorded with ‘Alas Salvation’ producer and Pulp bassist Steve Mackey in a single day. It’s joined on a AA-side single by the hyper-political ‘Semi-Automatic’, a track with more than a slight reference to one Donald Trump - “build a new wall to form a division.”
“‘Heavens Above’ took me about ten minutes to write,” Oli remembers. “I wrote it on a child’s guitar in the back of a van.” It’s the sign of a frontman who’s itching to write and record as quickly and furiously as possible, and would be in the studio for every moment of downtime from touring if it were feasible. “We’ve had to be very resourceful with the limited resources we’ve had at our disposal. We can’t be delicate about it, because we don’t have the time.” Delicate certainly isn’t the word to describe ‘Heavens Above’, and it’s the solid six months of touring since ‘Alas Salvation’ came out - and a great deal more before its release - that’s given Yak the itch to follow it up.
“I’m just so excited about the new songs, and the prospect of even more,” he beams. “Yesterday, I was waiting to pick my friend up from a tube station in the car, and was writing a new song. I end up just going to bed so excited about these new songs.”
“I end up just going to bed so excited about these new songs.”
Oli cites the varied nature of ‘Alas Salvation’ as a blessing, as to not be pigeonholed by its sound, allowing the band to blossom further under no preconceptions. “What I’m writing now is definitely a continuation,” he says. Despite this, he believes a “respect” needs to be given to what the band have achieved so far, when thinking about their next steps.
“I like all kinds of music, personally, but I respect what we’ve achieved with the band, and I don’t want to veer too far off that path, and don’t think we should. It was important for the first album to be quite varied though, as it gives us the scope to do whatever moving forward. We didn’t want to have any kind of limitations, as you never know what you’re going to write next, and that’s one of the exciting things about being in a band.”
“I wrote it on a child’s guitar in the back of a van!”
With the trio’s biggest UK and European tour currently in progress, they wanted to release ‘Heavens Above’ and accompanying B-side ‘Semi-Automatic’ “to get people excited about what we’re doing next, before we all get crew cuts and go travelling.”
Far from just tiding fans over, the new release sees Yak surging towards album two, not pausing for breath. A bit of downtime is set for around Christmas, with studio time scheduled for January, when work begins. “It’s important for us to just keep doing what we’re doing at the moment, and I’d be in the studio at every available moment if we possibly could,” he says.
Though Oli uses the term “keep chugging away” when talking about where he finds inspiration for new songs, it’s inevitable that the massive year Yak have had will have fed into their makeup post-‘Alas Salvation’. “We’ve been everywhere this year,” he says, “which is obviously going to change us as people and give us more experiences.” As well as the constant touring, there have been particular experiences that felt more important - “we were in Paris on the night of the attacks, for a start, and saw the refugee camps in Calais first hand,” he reflects.
It’s a year that’s bound to affect and change any band, let alone one touring their debut. 2016 has seen Yak lay waste to Glastonbury, tour relentlessly around the UK and beyond, and give ‘Alas Salvation’ the riotous live showing it deserves. The tour for the album isn’t even up yet, but all eyes are placed firmly forwards.
And even though they’re looking ahead, the band aren’t too bothered that there’s not a firm blueprint; the sense of jumping into the unknown keeps Yak as one of the country’s most exciting, invigorating bands. “It’s not that we’re disorganised,” he says, “but our view is that you should never play a gig with any expectations, and never enter a studio with any expectations. That way you can go into the experience and come out with something you never thought, and surprise yourself.”
“I always look at it like a shitload of doors in a big room. You have to choose one door at each turn in order to carry on, and by the end you probably wouldn’t be able to find your way back. You got there though, and that’s what makes it exciting.”
Photos: Louise Mason / DIY
Taken from the November 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below.