We’re living in a 1970s
economy, so the L.A.
band’s seventies stomp is good mood music.
BY BRIAN STAKER
Every once in a while a band
comes along and almost convinces you they invented rock ‘n’ roll. Los Angeles’
The Yelling isn’t necessarily that band, but with their debut Long Time My
Love (being self-released this fall; already out is the single “21st Century Freak”) they do put their own stamp on rock ‘n’ roll of a certain style
and period. Economically, it seems like we are living in the ‘70s, so we might
as well listen to music with roots there. And this ain’t no disco either, but tunes
that come from the distended frontal lobes of bands like Grand Funk and
Steppenwolf right up the glam spectrum almost to Bowie territory.
The quartet – Nathaniel Cox
on vocals, guitar, Robert Davis on guitar, Michael Judd on drums and Daniel Cervantes on bass – has cohered surprisingly well in just a year, although Cox and
Davis had been playing together for years in Illinois where they grew up. They
moved to LA, met Judd (originally from Johannesburg,
South Africa), and
recorded other music before they founded The Yelling barely a year ago. Still,
this album is a relatively new set of songs, but then they take a workmanlike
approach, often shaking the walls of their practice space seven days a week.
Aside from the usual suspects
of Bowie, the
Beatles and Stones, and even the Ramones, they say if you listen you can hear a
little Radiohead. And even something a little more unexpected – like Can.
“As a drummer, I love how he [Jaki Liebeszeit] plays,” explains Judd. “He
applies a classical influence.” Regardless of echoes of other groups, they have
created an amazingly individual and seamless sound for a debut recording.
“We subconsciously draw from
a lot of different sources,” says Cox. “Things we’ve heard in the past will
linger, and influence our melodies.” Adds Judd, “If we don’t come up on a
groove collectively, Nathaniel will have an idea. It’s a lot of dance rock in
LA, but we’re not into that scene. We’re our own little bubble; we know what
makes us feel good.”
Their instincts so far have
damn near right on target, because it’s a “feel-good” set, in the rock ‘n’ roll
sense of the term, the kind of rock music that gets asses in motion. Their songwriting
process varies from song to song, but they don’t try to force it. “Before I
wrote ‘Blood On the Steps’ I was walking through a street called St. Andrews in
a rougher part of town, and a powerful riff came; the words just kind of
followed,” Cox recalls.
Judging from several of their
song lyrics, you might think they were elder statesmen of rock; consider the
highly dramatic lines from “Burning For What” (“the weight of existence can
crush a boy’s dying innocence”), or the song title “Remember When We Were
An outcry like “Mother
Carried a Child” might sound like a call for Dr. Freud, but Cox says it’s not a
personal lyric; rather he just likes to play with imagery and the sounds of
words. “If any one song is autobiographical, it’s ‘When We Were Young.’ It’s
about being really young; a small child. ‘Burning For What’ is drawn from
things I see on the news. I don’t really think about these things too much. Music
is emotion, and words come out of that.”
Okay, so they aren’t the new
rock ‘n’ roll poets, but they lay down a riff like nobody’s business, in a ‘70s
hard rock mold, and the lyrics match perfectly. Perhaps the name of the band
itself came with more difficulty than their lyrics. “We used to be called Mary
and I,” explains Judd, “but people couldn’t remember it. As the music got more
aggressive, we wanted something harder.” With their manager, they researched
libraries and old war books for their own moniker that would go over like the
proverbial lead zeppelin. The Yelling was just about the only name not taken,
and they say girls at the coffee shop liked it, so the name stuck.
“It’s ironic too, because we
have some [songs] that aren’t loud,” notes Judd. “We like all types of music; we
don’t want to be pigeonholed. Nathaniel’s voice ties it all together.”
That voice is really key to
their sound, with a trace of Bowie,
shades of Steven Tyler and even a pinch of Axl Rose in the upper register.
“Fire and a Microphone,” the opener on last year’s self-titled EP used to test
the water with five songs that are also on the full-length, is an apt
descriptor of what they bring to the table. This is music with enough
combustion to spare, in an age when a lot of pop music, both indie and major
label is courteous and mannered. They couldn’t be artificial if they tried.
[Photo Credit: Scott Soens]