The self-deprecating boy band BFFs from Sydney’s inner west recently launched back onto the scene with an absolutely stellar fourth album, Yes No Sorry. The record, which came about after some much needed R&R for the guys, is disco, dancey and a touch depressing but certainly the best we’ve seen from them yet.
We caught up to chat past, present and future with Andrew, Nathan and Rick.
From nearing a break-up to their most well received album in Yes No Sorry, the road of Yon Yonson has hardly been a smooth ride.
HAPPY: You guys, prior to this one, have done three albums together. Where did the band come from and where did the name come from?
ANDREW: The name’s easy, that came from a Kurt Vonnegut book Slaughterhouse-Five so there was a guy in that called Yon Yonson. There’s no real reason we chose it we just thought it was a cool name. Where did the band come from? I think Nathan and I had been writing music at school and stuff, we played in really bad bands for a while, and then I don’t know we were just at uni and we thought it would be fun to do something.
I guess the idea in the beginning was to set no limits on what kind of music we wanted to write, trying not to be stuck to any kind of genre and just thought it would be fun to play around with a bunch of stuff – so that was kind of the basis of it and then… [to Rick] when did you come along? We started playing live shows…
RICK: You started getting gig offers, I’d hit you up a bunch of times saying “I like your shit”. My band broke up like a week before that.
ANDREW: I think that’s called serendipity.
RICK: Never looked back.
ANDREW: None of our friends are musical, like I don’t think we have any musical friends and I didn’t know you that well back then… so yeah we were like “oh hey, Rick wanna come play some music with us?” And then we became friends.
RICK: They took a chance on old Rick.
ANDREW: We took a chance on old Rick!
NATHAN: I remember when Rick became part of the band though, down at Culburra.
RICK: We popped a nice bottle of Dom Perignon and then we played a shitload of Mario Party.
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HAPPY: Has the music style changed a lot since you guys were first throwing stuff together?
ANDREW: I think it’s probably become less DIY, because that was the other thing; we wanted to do it all ourselves. I did most of the sound engineering stuff, mixing stuff, but I didn’t know how to do any of it so the first stuff sounds pretty rough I guess.
NATHAN: It also changes based on what we seem to be listening to at the time. So a lot of the older stuff was… like there’s a lot of Animal Collective and that kind of sound ‘cause that just happens to be all that we’re into, and then it became a little bit more hip-hoppy and we did more sampling.
RICK: I think we’ve gone a bit more electronic than what the earlier stuff was, mainly because whenever we played the old songs live with real drums they sounded shit, so we’ve used beats more.
ANDREW: With the album before this one, with It’s Natural, we were way more conscious of how we would play it live so it was always at the front of our mind. With Yes No Sorry we tried not to think about that as much, let’s just write whatever songs we feel like writing and try not to think about “oh how are we going to put this live” which poses a problem.
RICK: I think we played three songs off that album at our album launch.
HAPPY: How have you found performing new material and for the first time in a while? Especially stuff that’s maybe quite difficult for a live audience.
RICK: It’s been pretty good on the most part, the songs we’re playing are pretty simple for us to play live.
ANDREW: We got better at turning things into live songs because when we first started off we had like three guitars and two keyboards.
RICK: We had a glockenspiel on stage. We had drums that we would play intermittently throughout the night.
NATHAN: We’d switch instruments during songs.
ANDREW: It just made it really obvious how bad we were at playing guitar and stuff… well not Rick, Rick’s good at stuff.
NATHAN: Rick’s like a competent human being.
ANDREW: Rick belongs here.
NATHAN: The other good thing is it’s been the longest break for the band since we wrote an album and also the longest since we’ve played live, so by the time we put the album out we were really ready to play shows again.
RICK: Yeah, we were actually excited, and I think the new stuff’s actually gone down alright live. I mean, Berlin has got the most attention any of our stuff ever has.
ANDREW: This Evening has bizarrely gone alright live.
RICK: Every time we’ve tried to play a slow song live…
ANDREW: It always sucks, it’s just people talking and I feel like a dickhead playing some stupid song.
RICK: This time it’s been quiet for it and everyone sings every word.
HAPPY: I feel like that would be the best feeling ever.
ANDREW: It’s crazy man.
RICK: It is crazy, and for that song too.
ANDREW: Yeah! It’s bizarre and for a song for people to learn all the words, it’s got a lot of words, most of our songs have got one line.
RICK: Which we make purely for that purpose.
ANDREW: It is nice to have people give a shit about it.
RICK: And listen to it rather than just be like “yeah I’m at my friends show”.
ANDREW: I feel like we’re hard to love as a band sometimes because we don’t really, we don’t really do that much… like we put albums out on Christmas Eve and shit. I don’t think we do things the right way at times, so it is nice when people care about what we’re doing. It’s pretty cool.
HAPPY: This Evening is pretty different to everything else that’s on the album – it’s slow and sad – what’s the story behind it?
ANDREW: We usually preface it live by saying “we’re going to play a sad song now”. I dunno, it was the last song we wrote for the album so we kinda had all the other songs there and we kind of felt that we needed one more. The album had a lot of short songs and things that weren’t fully formed songs so we thought we needed one more proper track. So we wrote it a bit later. We’ve done kind of ballady things before, we wrote a song on It’s Natural called No Enemy which follows a similar structure where it’s a piano-y ballad and then the beat kicks in at the end.
NATHAN: The weird thing about that song is it’s the last thing that got written, but it got written so quickly. Whereas some of the minor songs that Andrew’s talking about, the transitional stuff, we just slaved over.
ANDREW: Some of that stuff’s been around for four years!
NATHAN: Stuff we couldn’t figure out or get right, and that song just happened.
RICK: I remember us saying “the album needs a rest” the only sort of slower song on it was Berlin. We went away and it was done a day later.
ANDREW: It’s just the way it goes sometimes, some songs come together really easily, some you have to fuck around with a lot.
RICK: I think the idea, the lyrics and stuff behind it have been touched on with our stuff before.
ANDREW: Yeah it’s a bit fucking depressing I guess.
HAPPY: Some of the best music is a bit fucking depressing.
ANDREW: I think most is, right? There’s only so much Mika I can listen to…
HAPPY: You guys took a fair bit of time off before this came out, and then suddenly went straight into live shows. What was with the time off?
RICK: I think after It’s Natural we were playing shows all the time… got pretty sick of it.
ANDREW: By our standards!
RICK: Yeah! We weren’t playing multiple a week or anything but we were playing a couple a month I would say and we got kind of over it. Became a bit of a chore and we were all pretty done.
ANDREW: We almost broke up.
RICK: We almost broke up, I remember us speaking about it and we were like “oh, fuck this, it’s done”.
NATHAN: Our friendship didn’t break-up.
ANDREW: Thanks for clearing that up. But for a long time I just felt like I couldn’t write, I wasn’t excited by it.
RICK: We made a conscious effort to write stuff… and then a few months later we started sending stuff around.
ANDREW: I think that kicked us into gear actually, because Rick was going away and we realised we had these songs. Once we decide we want to do something we usually move fairly quickly, we’ll just smash it out and get obsessed with it. But there was probably an 18 month period where I wasn’t writing music but I wasn’t even listening to music, I was just not that excited by anything.
RICK: Everything just annoyed me at that time, I think as soon as we started working on it I did pretty much all the mixing a week before I went overseas for six months… that was a big week.
ANDREW: We were just burnt out though, not that we were doing tours and shit but I think we had put out a lot of music, I counted the other day and we’ve put out over 50 songs in the last, I don’t know, since we started in 2012? Which is a lot of music.
NATHAN: We felt that even if we didn’t put anything else out we had a pretty good run with it, like it was always just our favourite thing that we did. We never had any responsibilities with it, or any need to make anything big out of it. So, in that sense we felt like we weren’t giving up much. But there was always sort of this feeling that this is something we love doing. And when we started doing the last album it was sort of a relief, well for me anyway.
RICK: I think as soon as we started doing it we were more hyped than we probably ever have been.
ANDREW: I definitely think it’s the best album we’ve done and I think having the break helped with that.
RICK: I think also with It’s Natural, we again put it out and then didn’t get much response for a few months.
ANDREW: That’s always the way with us, the slow burn!
HAPPY: Are you blown away by the reception of this album?
ANDREW: I’m always blown away by it. I’m always shocked that people care at all about what we’re doing, it’s kind of weird to me. Because for us, it never really leaves our bedroom.
HAPPY: You make it sound like you all sleep in the same bedroom.
ANDREW: More or less! You know it just feels like this little dumb thing that we do and then… Yeah it’s kind of weird when people get into it.
NATHAN: By the time we put it out we’re so sick of the songs, we’ve heard them a million times so it’s nice to think that this is the first time people have heard it and it’s new to them. If people like it then yeah, it’s so much better.
HAPPY: What’s up next?
ANDREW: We wanna do like a rap mixtape thing. The idea is we’re gonna make some beats and try and get people to rap on them, because we’re pretty big hip hop fans but none of us really feel comfortable rapping.
NATHAN: No one wants to hear that.
ANDREW: Yeah so that’s probably the next thing we’ll do… got a couple of things in the pipeline but we’ve been busy lately so not too much.
RICK: I think there are a lot of people who we like and respect and it would be cool to just have a mixtape of people who we think are sick.
ANDREW: We played one of our first ever shows with Simo Soo and we’ve kind of been friends ever since then, sending each other demos and stuff ever since, so we’ll definitely do something with him and his label Yes Rave – there’s a lot of great people on that.
We want to do something with Bilby because Bilby is awesome. We also did a track with Kool A.D from Das Racist, we did a beat and sent it over to him and he did a free style over that so yeah we got a few things happening… Nothing’s that set in stone.
NATHAN: There’s a cliffhanger for you.
ANDREW: I hope you heard some of what we said over Noel…