Buzzed Bands Podcast, Ep. 2 w/ Cold Blood Club

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wild Yaks, The Brooklyn Ski Club Interview

As you may have noticed Wild Yaks have quickly become one of Brooklyn Ski Club's favorite bands. In fact, they might be the only band we can all agree on. Tom sat down with boys from Wild Yaks the other day at their practice space, keep reading for that and make sure you check Wild Yaks out tonight at Matchless and tomorrow at Public Assembly.


It’s 7.15 and I’m waiting outside Wild Yaks rehearsal space on Meserole and its starting to rain. I’ve been here since 7 o’clock and I am really wishing, right about now, that it will not really start coming down. Rob (singer, frontman) has assured me that he’s due to arrive any moment and that he is very sorry for the wait. I have taken him at his word.

Now it’s 7.20

Now it’s 7.25

I’m just about to call Rob again – I’ve got the phone in hand and every call I make is precious to me right now because I’ve got virtually no battery life left until I make it to a wall socket – when the man himself, on his bike, miraculously materializes on the horizon like a streaking gazelle. In short, he is fucking flying.

“Sorry man,” he says. “work was crazy…”

“What’s work?” I ask. I have no good idea what I am asking at this moment.

Apparently for Rob, work* as it were, concerns something that – for the sake of prudence – I am not going to plainly state. Let’s just put it this way, there was a delivery involved, and he was the delivery man. And he had to make a presentation of sorts. And today, this took, em, a little longer than expected today. And he is sorry it took a little longer, but it couldn’t be helped. And no, if you catch my drift, he doesn’t ride around Brooklyn on a fixed-gear delivering and installing Verizon Fios.

We’re riding up to the space and the interview, whether I like it or not, has already begun. I don’t have a pen in hand, but I have a captive and animated subject – to say the least. Upon entering the door to the space we find Dan (bass player extraordinaire) tuning up his instrument between bites of an organic salad bowl. He’s alone apart from an obnoxious alarm bleep that goes off at regular interviews every two minutes or so.

“Hey Dan. This is Tom from GQ Magazine,” Rob says introducing me, “he’s here to interview us today.”

Dan politely introduces himself. We shake hands.

“Wow! You’re eating a salad!” Rob says, and immediately picks up the bowl and takes a bite. “You gonna eat this egg…”

“Nah,” Dan says, “It’s cool, I already…”

“Thanks man,” Rob says, devouring a hard-boiled egg.

Suddenly, Rob appears pensive. “Wait,” he says to Dan, “you didn’t get this at Hanna Foods did you?”

“No, why?”

“I didn’t tell, you? I had an altercation with those guys.”

“No, what happened?”

Evidently, Rob had wondered in late one night with his backpack on and disturbed a bottle of maple syrup. The maple syrup then seized its opportunity to plunge to the floor and explode. This irked the late-night Hanna Foods crew, who became determined to charge a “tense, weird, [and] stoned” Rob for what they described as a “15-fucking-dollar bottle of maple syrup.” It didn’t help that Rob was carrying a backpack full of, ahem, work samples. Fortunately things were resolved by Rob “going [fucking] bananas” and giving flight. “It was ok,” he explains, “they were all smaller than me.

“A $15 bottle of maple syrup,” he concludes. “Those guys are just fucking war profiteers. War profiteers. Who [in this neighborhood] can afford that?”

Things quiet down and I situate myself with my note pads. Rob becomes occupied with rolling a spliff (tobacco and pot, for those unfamiliar with the term) and searching for an “A” string for his guitar. He does not have one. We all hope that Zach (lead guitar player) will have an extra string when he arrives. Dan wants to know who else I’ve interviewed. I mention a few acts that I’ve met with.

“Ah, the Muslims, that’s cool.”

“Yeah,” I say, “that was even back (early last summer) when they still had a cool name.”

What?” Dan is surprised.

“Yeah,” Rob chimes back in. “They changed their name to ‘The Soft Pack.’”

“That’s lame.” Dan says. We all agree that this is very lame. In fact, I go one step further and intimate that money, specifically other peoples’ money invested in them – they appear to have a lot of PR behind them and that ain’t cheap – had something to do with it.

“Yeah,” explains Rob, “We played with them last summer at Union Pool. They bumped us from our slot. It was our show. We were suppose to headline….” Rob goes on to relay yet another anecdote that I don’t have the space to recount ensues regarding this particular show. “I don’t know. I don’t mean to slam them [The Muslims, er, that is, The Soft Pack]. I’m tremendously supportive of anyone playing live music, anyone writing songs. But it [The Muslims, er, that is, The Soft Pack] just seemed Packaged.

“But as long as you mean it,” Dan chimes in.

“The name was awesome,” Rob concludes. “You dare to call yourselves that [The Muslims]…and then the change [of the name]…well that was the last…I dunno, I never believed it. I saw them, and I was like, ‘I don’t believe this.’”


Brooklyn Ski Club – Your songs are almost all presented as anthems of sorts, is that something you strive for?

Rob – Yeah. Well actually, I went to military academy at Valley Forge, actually. And I discovered marching music there. We’d march and sing cadences…[he starts singing] “she wore a yellow ribbon!!!” The company next to us for years, which would march with us, they were called “Field Music.” They did like, trumpet and percussion. We would march with them and they would hit the bass and the snare. And the songs were spiritual, you know? Like a communication to the GOD. And we’d sing songs in church [too]. [Starts singing, again] “ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS, MARCHING AS TO WAR!!!” I loved that shit!

Dan: I was an altar boy. We didn’t sing.

BSC – Would you hold up a particular Wild Yaks song as THE anthem. THE song that represents that ideal?

Rob – Well, “River May Come”…that’s one of the core ideas of my life. It’s a celebration of life and also, of death. It’s really about a fascination of death; and a celebration of it as well. It’s about spending time with meditating upon mortality and the fragility of life! You know, the moments of our life are NOW. And there’s no tomorrow. Typical rock shit! You know…

BSC – What’s the songwriting process like? How are songs developed?

Rob: I’m trying to write hits, man. I was talking to Quinn from Suckers recently, and they have this song that goes in the chorus “it gets your body moving!” And that was a real influence for [Wild Yaks tune] “Angel Eyes.” (Editors Note: The chorus of “Angel Eyes” goes “She’s my real locomotion”). So it’s like, man, let’s write some hits and get our of this grimy misery! I’m over it! Let’s get to the beaches of Paris!

BSC – How much collaboration is involved in the process of creating the tunes?

Rob – I played guitar by myself for ten years. But [pointing at Dan and Martin, Wild Yaks’ resident drummer] the three of us learned to play together. And now, with the lineup, for me, it’s like Iggy said about the Stooges, when they would play together. I just go nuts. And, when Zach gets going, it raises the bar for all of us! He can shred. But yeah, anyways, the band fleshes [things] out. It gives the feeling, it brings the mayhem.

BSC – Well, what’s the brief history then, of the current group here?

Zach – well, I’m the longest standing!

Dan – about 8 months

Rob – about 6-7 months, starting in December/January. Look, there are so many dramas and stories that led to the four of us being in this room. Ultimately, it’s about commitment. [All four guys here] are going to be doing this regardless…

BSC – Could Wild Yaks exist outside of New York City? Would this group even come together?

Rob – you know what? I’ve been thinking a lot about Nirvana a lot lately – and the Minutemen – and those groups had…well, Nirvana the three of them would get together every day of the week. And I read that for the first hour of practice they just jammed. They just jammed the first hour of every practice! That’s so hard to do in New York City.

Martin – yeah, so maybe [being in a group] might be easier elsewhere.

Rob – well, it might be easier when we were, that is, if we were younger. But, I didn’t get anything done in my 20s…it might have been easier [then]. But I was just…hanging out.

Martin – but, then again, it couldn’t have happened any other way.

Rob – yeah. Much of our sound comes from us being older.

BSC - Actually Matt [Ski Club founder/editor] and I were just talking the other day about the current NYC/Brooklyn music scene. Our opinion is that something special is happening at the moment, the likes of which neither of us have seen before since we’ve been in the city. So as kind of a follow up to the last question, what do you make of the current music scene/climate and where do you see things heading from here?

Rob - things are really exciting at the moment in New York. Or really, in Brooklyn. But at the same time, no one’s broken yet.

Martin – still, everyone’s [in it] for themselves. It’s not really a…

Rob —but! Team Robespierre, and NinjaSonik…they love us and the come to our shows so there’s support. But yeah, [as far as the scene goes] the world at large doesn’t know yet. There are a lot of things I am curious to see happen. Team Robespierre is a big part of why I wanted to be in a band. Suckers, the band I mentioned before, they have a new record and Pitchfork is behind it. And Shilpa Ray, I curious to see if what she’s doing has any legs on it…and other kids are coming. They are going to come here like me. So yeah, I’m curious about the next crop of bands.

BSC – on the other hand, do you think Manhattan is dead – for all intents and purposes – in terms of being a center for music?

Rob – I don’t really give a shit about Manhattan. I mean, I like the way it looks and I like the pretty girls, but…well, I like seeing shows at Cake Shop and Lit and Mercury Lounge. But, I don’t think…I don’t think that they’ve produced any kind innovation out of Manhattan in a while. Even the restaurants that I am interested in going to! Most of them are in Brooklyn. And as far as artists and stuff. Well, when weirdos come to town, they have to go elsewhere. They don’t go to Manhattan.

BSC – Well, that said, do you see any correlation between the tanking economy and the vibrant artistic scene that is coming into being? Do you feel like, because of the shift, that a band like yours might have a better opportunity to reach people it wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get an audience with?

Rob – actually, I think if there was more money changing hands we’d be on a record label. If this was ten years ago, we’d be on a label. For example: a label, a few weeks ago, told us they were interested but that “all of our budget for 2009 is spent.” They said if we would make a record and hand it to them, they’d consider it for 2010…but yeah, the economy! Well, I wonder how, well, that is, if things will get kind of like the 80s. In the movies and shit people were fighting cops and authority and stuff. Class consciousness was a big part of popular art then. That would be cool if that came back. Now that the economy is what it is, shouldn’t the “alternative” be cool again?

BSC – Lester Bangs once said something along the lines of – and I believe this is when he was slating Blondie in a live review – that people go see music performed to see pure emotion. And he compared Blondie’s performance with that of Van Morrison (who I am personally, not crazy about). Is that something that you guys can identify with?

Rob – I LOVE Van Morrison!!! He was in a band early on called “Them.” Ever heard them? Them was FEROCIOUS! It was ferocious white boy blues. And he, he was, is, a deeply soulful dude.

BSC – So I gather you identify?

Rob: Well, it’s not surprising that Lester didn’t like Blondie. Blondie was fashion. Me, I’d like to be a punk rock Jarvis Cocker!

BSC – Jarvis Cocker? He’s pretty fashionable, man.

Rob: No-no-no! I’m sorry, I mean Joe Cocker. That’s what I want to be. But I do like Jarvis though (laughs)!

BSC – So it’s not about fashion. Well, and this is something I ask every group I speak with: given the economy and the relationship between music and technology, and the death of the labels and all, can you imagine ever being able to make a buck off of music?

Zach – well, maybe a buck. That is, maybe we can make dinner. A meal.

Martin – yeah, dinner…maybe you can find a girl who’ll take you home and feed you!

Rob – I don’t know man. You know what I say? WRITE A HIT SONG! Something that resonates! If you write a song, that song, maybe it’ll get used in a movie or whatever. Maybe that’s corny. But I’ll take the money and go to Amsterdam for a week.


Some pics from Wild Yaks playing the BSC show at Red Star!





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