Class of 2016: Yak attack: “We like it to sound a bit crunchy and nasty”

A furious whirlwind with a penchant for drone-notes and noise, there’s a zest to Yak’s psychedelia that defies their nonchalance.

Yak are a tornado. Barely off the road all year, they’ve swept up all manner of fans through their unhinged live show, redefining the word raucous with every step. There’s chaos wrapped up in everything they do – a mad collection of happy accidents informing every step of their otherworldly, psychedelic thrash. Every now and then, though, the real world catches up. “We just got through about fifteen parking fines,” explains drummer Elliot Lawson as the group collectively look over their shoulders to check the van’s alright where it’s sat. “We really don’t need another one.”

Despite frontman Oli Burslem having been up til half five that morning writing lyrics, and the band collectively heading straight into a studio “behind a fish factory,” they’re in remarkably good spirits. “We’ve built up now, from the one single, then the second single… Now for the first time, we are definitely doing an album,” states Oli, a note of relief in his voice.

True to manic form though, they’re not about to hole themselves up in a studio for weeks on end. They’d only get restless. “We’ll go in for like two days, and we’ll probably expect ourselves to do six or seven songs – it’s quite quick,” Oli continues. “With guitar bands – all the music we like’s a bit more rough. We don’t like it to be overdone afterwards or polished, we like it to sound a bit crunchy and nasty.”

Hammering out all their kinks live, there’s a frazzled edge to every Yak track – a feeling of containing the madness of that live show, crushing it into the tiny confines of a studio and recording the resultant explosion. “Great records, like The Fall, they’re like documentations of the time, rather than ‘Here we are!’ and the curtain falls down and we’re all there in sparkly suits,” Oli grins.

“Live can be like an energy thing though,” he qualifies, “you get up there and swing your guitar around, tell everyone to piss off or something - you can’t really do that on a record,” he admits, “can’t really mid-take just throw a guitar and go, ‘Yeah!’”

“When we go and play no songs and just do noise, I think it’s interesting”

— Oli Burslem

They’re quick to denounce the supposed hardships of touring, too. “It’s easy!” says Oli, “I don’t know who even says that! You literally play for twenty minutes. We’re used to having normal jobs – I had a job for two years once, and I was thoroughly depressed every day I woke up,” he grins, “It’s just a walk in the park.” He laughs remembering a show where they “literally played one song” over an entire set – “I really enjoy that! Improv kinda stuff – it’s noise to most people, and it’s quite challenging, but I really enjoy it. So when we go and play no songs and just do noise, I think it’s interesting. I’d prefer that than seeing someone press the space bar and do a dance routine. Seeing someone have a breakdown, it’s quite nice.”

Not many bands would find the Yak way of life “a walk in the park” – no setlists, no planning, no instruction – but then there aren’t any bands quite like Yak out there at the moment. Not that they let that go to their heads – in fact, even heading into an album, all expectations are off the table. There’s a nonchalance to their every move that either suggests they’re aware of their brilliance, or that that brilliant is the happiest of all the accidents that got them to this stage. Oli shrugs: “We’re only as good as we are.”

As featured in the December 2015 / January 2016 issue of DIY, out now at stockists across the UK. Alternatively, read below, get a copy sent to your door, or subscribe for a full year.


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