L-R: Noah and Rick at their studio space
The first time I had met Noah of YVETTE, we were in the Lower East Side on a warm June evening and he was with a group of friends discussing the Korean myth that is “fan death.” I must have been eavesdropping a little too loudly, because at one point, they all looked over at me and gave me that look people give when they know you know exactly what they’re talking about. “Yeah, it’s true, my people believe that if you sleep in a closed room with the fan on, you will die from asphyxiation,” I confirmed. Silly, right? We exchanged laughs and then we exchanged names, but I already knew exactly who Noah was—at this point, I had already seen YVETTE play several times and have written about them in my now defunct music site. “Blew our faces off” is how I had described the experience of seeing them live for the first time. And while I’m not easily impressed by new bands, YVETTE is one that constantly crawls back into my radar. Or creeps back, rather—they have that creepin’ quality about their music, which can be credited to the atmospheric hollows that offset and complement the heavy noise they pummel with their instruments.
I saw YVETTE again a couple weeks ago at a CMJ showcase thrown by GODMODE RECORDS, the label to which they belong, and that was enough to break my two and a half month hiatus from interviewing bands. If I needed any reminder of how "face-blowing" they are, YVETTE put on a performance so intense, it involved all sorts of wailing, microphone-beating, and even some butt muscle-pulling. Ouch. The following week, we met at the band's rehearsal studio, and I finally got to meet the other half of the duo, Rick, who, when not pounding on drums in YVETTE, sells industrial building materials. Noah spends his days working in public radio, but bring the two together in the studio and things get even weirder and noisier than their day jobs. Their music can be best described as "noise rock," even though Spotify will have you believe they also make smooth Brazilian dance music and cheesy German techno pop (more on this later). In the spirit of Halloween, we also discussed superstitions and rituals (though nothing spookier than lucky underwear), and lastly, the logistics of becoming an astronaut-slash-musician. I have a feeling things would get even more experimental if we put them up in space.
NOISEY: Hey guys! So I’m a huge fan, as you know, and every time I see you live I’m always entranced by the music. It hasn’t really occurred to me until recently that you are probably singing about something when you’re wailing into the microphone. What is your music actually about, if you care to share?
Noah: Oh man. [Laughs]
I know, I got real deep with the first question.
Half the time, I don’t know what I’m singing about either. When we write these songs, it always starts with the actual music part and then the lyrics come later. Usually, I will come up with the lyrics by just blurting random words. I’ll grab a few words and make something out of that, or go with the way a song feels. A lot of times, there are violent textures to the lyrics and just rumination on life in general. [Laughs] How do I say this without sounding like an idiot?
So maybe it’s better that I don’t find out what you’re actually singing about…
Well your music feels very much like a sum of all parts.
Yeah, the vocals are just another element. We’re not a singer-songwriter type band where every song is a story. It’s a little more abstract than that.
Rick: We have a lot of space to fill out, too. We try to make everything as loud as possible and sometimes the vocals are an afterthought. They’re just not as audible and I think we want it to be that way.
Does your mind ever wander elsewhere when performing live?
Noah: Sometimes.There have been songs we haven’t recorded yet, so we’re still trying to figure out the lyrics. Sometimes, I’ll be spouting off nonsense and no one has any idea.
Just thinking, "Shit, I pulled my butt muscle."
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Anyway, let’s talk day jobs! What do you do outside of the band?
Rick: I work down in south Park Slope in an industrial building material supply warehouse. I sell hardware and do their e-commerce business. It’s kind of like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. It’s 9–5 and then I come here and it’s a totally different world.
Noah: He eats two slices of pizza at once.
Do you ever borrow the products and use it for recording?
No, we haven’t gone Blue Man yet. We’ve contemplated stuff, but if anything, it’s just to fix things, like pedals.
Noah: And I work for New York Public Radio. I’m in the listener services department, so what we do is take a lot of the comments and questions that come in and redirect feedback to certain departments, handle membership, and things like that… The cool part about my job is that I’m required to know as much as I can about every part of the station.
Cool. What kind of feedback do you get?
It varies. We get the whole spectrum. People are very devoted to public radio.
I like that!
Yeah, it’s neat. I talk to random New Yorkers every day, so it’s like a window into their lives.
What are the worst or wackiest jobs you’ve had in the past?
Rick: I was a salesman at—have you ever heard of the restaurant Cracker Barrel?
It’s mostly Midwestern. They also have a really tacky store in the front and I worked there. They sell sweaters for old women, ceramics, and things like that. I shamefully worked there as a salesman in Indiana, saving money to come to New York.
Noah: It’s not wacky, but right before we became a band I was working at a screen-printing studio. The first seven-inch we put out we designed the cover there.
Rick: Our day jobs are horrible.
Noah: I’m trying to think! One summer, I worked at a boutique toy store. The owner ended up shutting down the store at the end of the summer after finding out he had Parkinson's disease, which was followed by his wife having an affair with his best friend. That got a little nuts towards the end.
Whoa, that's crazy. So anyway, Rick, the first time I met Noah, we talked about fan death—the silly Korean myth that if you sleep with the fan on in a closed room, you will die.
Rick: Oh wow.
Noah: It should go on record that we have a couple fans in here right now.
In the spirit of Halloween, do you guys have any superstitions or charms or maybe voodoo dolls of each other?
No voodoo dolls. [Laughs] Sometimes, I have lucky pieces of clothing. I won’t get into specifics but—
What else, right? As long as it’s not a bra.
No, nothing racy like that.
Rick: We’re not very superstitious, I don’t think. We pretty much wreck our stuff and buy new stuff.
Noah: We sacrifice an ox before every show.
[Laughs] Of course, of course. Any pre-show rituals other than that?
We try not to practice the day of. Not much, though. You know, stretching.
Rick: Noah reminds me of everything we have to do right before.
Noah: And Rick usually disappears an hour before.
Rick: Yeah those are our only rituals. I walk off for a while.
Noah: We give each other a high-five.
The last thing I know you guys put out is the Erosion/Cold Sweat seven-inch earlier this year. Can we expect a new release soon?
Yes. Actually, as we speak, Nick Sylvester (of GODMODE) is finishing up a mix for a forthcoming single. He mixed one and Matt LeMay did another. Those are going to be mastered very soon and the release should come out November 13th or so.
Psst, my birthday…
Oh, no way! Well, we did it specifically for your birthday.
Oh, thank you. You and many other bands, actually.
Hah, yeah. It’s just gonna be two songs again. I think we’re just doing a digital release right now.
Did you notice on Spotify that your artist page has a lot of questionable albums? Spotify is really bad at grouping artists and dating albums.
Yeah! We have to share a Last.fm page with this Brazilian lady.
On Spotify too! There are a bunch of YVETTE’s. Look:
The only ones this particular YVETTE put out are S/T and Erosion.
Rick: Let me see. Oh, I’m okay with that.
Noah: Yeah, I’m alright with that. It’s great. I’m stoked to be sharing this page with these bands.
Rick: We can handle the competition.
Or maybe they’re ALL you.
Noah: That’s the secret—we actually make dance music as a Brazilian woman.
You guys do have a specific sound, but do you ever want to change it up a lot in terms of style or genre?
Yeah, I think in our own way. The single that’s coming out is more dancey. We’ve been writing new songs that border on other types of music, so it’s not just crazy noise.
Rick: We’re in the process of hopefully recording a full-length, so we’re trying to write some balancing songs—something that has a bigger picture.
Noah: I think if we were to do a dance song, it’ll still come out sounding like us, which is nice. Experimentation for us still ends up sounding pretty weird.
But hey, it’s that noise that seeped over and caught GODMODE’s attention, right?
True, yeah! There are a lot of non-traditional sounds in our music.
Do you label your music a certain genre?
No, we haven’t figured that out yet. Sometimes we just say “noise rock” or “no wave,” or sometimes it’s even “dance,” because it’s more fun to say that. I don’t know.
Rick: We don’t know what we’re doing.
Noah: Scrape music.
I love that your band name doesn’t evoke that at all.
Yeah, that’s what we were going for.
Rick: We just wanted something that we didn’t have to worry about. We didn’t want to be pinned to anything, we felt like we could do anything. We have fun and make whatever we want.
Noah: We’re not the Beatles… [Laughs]
I’m totally gonna "accidentally" transcribe that as “We are The Beatles.”
[Laughs] Yeah, right? We are the Beatles.
Rick: I like it, I like it.
When did you two realize you were on the same page with the band? How’d you get together?
Noah: Oh man.
Rick: Tell the truth.
The "looking for new friends" option on OkCupid?
Noah: We met off of Craigslist.
Rick: I don’t know if we were 100% sure from that first time we played if we would continue.
Noah: It was definitely awkward the first few times, but we kept going. Mostly, I was just awkward. It was the first and only time I’ve done that. I was playing with friends, but nothing was coming of it, so I decided to try this. I got a ton of crazy responses and the only totally sane one was Rick’s.
[Laughs] What kind of responses?
Oh man, this was so long ago. The one that sticks out is this goth techno person who wanted to do really weird, glitchy, goth music. There’s somebody else who yelled at me over the phone and asked me why I wasn’t calling him back.
Oh no, that’s a red flag right there.
If you weren’t doing music at all, what would be your dream day jobs?
Rick: Well our dream day jobs would be to do music.
Noah: True, but it would also be cool to be an astronaut.
Rick: I feel like that would really take time away from the band.
Noah: Yeah, that could be rough.
Rick: Would be hard to schedule.
Noah: But I could wear diapers and practice in space.
How great is that for a press release, though? “These songs were written in space.”
Yeah, it would be a really good press opportunity. We’ll have to figure out a way to do that.
Rick: Clearly, I was missing the big picture.
Catch YVETTE live: They are playing with Metz at Knitting Factory on November 20th. See you there.
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