I turn up to meet Yonaka midway through battling with, what I’m pretty sure is, the worst hangover of my life. After being ushered into the restaurant of a swanky Soho hotel by a slightly sceptical waitress, I’m filled with sadistic glee when the Brighton based quartet show up minutes later armed with three pizzas and with the same heavy heads that only a night of poorly advised drinking can bring about. Though, unlike myself – who just can never say no to a “sesh” – the night before we meet Yonaka performed an incredible set to a sold out Borderline, so their sore heads from celebrating the success are, somewhat, more justified.
Made up of Theresa Jarvis, George Edwards, Rob Mason and Alex Crosby, the four-piece first met when they all moved to Brighton for uni and became friends. Deciding to make music about two and a half years ago, Theresa and Rob were practicing together when George caught a glimpse of them through a window. “We were working with loads of people and then George walked past,” vocalist Theresa explains. “He just walked past the window one day and texted me like ‘oh, do you wanna jam?’” This statement cues a roar of laughter from guitarist George who vehemently denies the use of the phrase – “Fuck off did I say ‘do you wanna jam’!” – but he can’t deny it was the start of something brilliant. Recruiting bassist Alex shortly after when they booked a show for one month away – with one song and no bass player – after saying he’d step in for a gig, he ended up never leaving and thus, Yonaka was born.
Finding their sound after what drummer Rob describes as “a very natural process”, Theresa explains how she wanted to bring some darkness into their music. “I got into Jeff Buckley and Nirvana quite late and totally fell in love with it.” She tells me. “Their lyrics and the pain that you get… I knew that I definitely needed to have an aspect of darkness to the stuff.” This darkness also stems from the band’s mutual love of hip-hop and, as Theresa says, “the kind of aggression [in it] but in, like, a bouncy way.”
This is evident in their fantastic debut EP “Heavy”. Five tracks of swaggering alt-pop, each track stomps and sizzles with that kind of dazzling ferociousness only certain bands are able to conjure. Theresa’s powerful vocals wow on every track and each song is packed with rousing anthem-ready rhythms that perfectly blend the band’s pop, rock and hip-hop influences. “It’s gonna be five tracks.” Theresa says. “The first track is ‘Bubblegum’ and that song’s about desire and wanting something. It’s basically about wanting something and not stopping until you get it. And then we’ve got ‘Gods and Lovers’ which is about what’s left to do in the world. Like all we do is get fucked and feel like we’re in this amazing place for a little while… Do you know what I mean? It feels like there’s not a lot of stuff that’s better to do so we’re trying to, like, search for something and we get to this sweet spot in our minds for a little while and then it goes and then you end up just feeling lonely and stuff like that. And then we’ve also got ‘Run’ on there and ‘All In My Head’ and a new song called ‘Heavy’, which we’re really excited about because we’ve not played that one yet.”
Released last week, when I meet the band a few weeks before, their excitement to get it out is palpable. “It’s good to bring some new music out so people can stop asking us ‘when’s the new music out?’” Rob laughs. “We’re really looking forward to getting some more music out because we’ve only got a couple of tracks online and it’s been a while since our last release, which was really well received. It really felt like people were listening and, kind of, perked up to it, so we’re excited to see how this EP goes. Hopefully it’ll just fucking outdo it.”
Already making plans for an album next year, Yonaka are showing no signs of slowing down. “This EP’s a bit of a new thing,” Theresa explains. “Some stuff we were going to put on the album is now on the EP, so I think we’re going to write a bit more. We do have quite a few songs already written and we’re fairly close to an album title, there’s a few ideas there. I think that’ll be, kind of, end of next year, because we want it to be like the perfect time and we want the people to be there… We just want the best for it.”
Now set to head out on the UK-wide Hopscotch Tour with Anteros and Stereo Honey, the quartet are certain to gain a plethora of adoring fans along the way. Already with a loyal fanbase, they tell me how they saw some familiar faces in the crowd at their gig and end up whipping out their first bit of fan art – a beautiful personalised photo book a fan gave them at their gig – to show me.
A clear indication of what an exciting and enthralling band Yonaka are, we can’t wait to see what they do next… Unless that involves the pub.