yak are the retro sound of the future of rock and roll
Photography Mehdi Lacoste
Hailing from Wolverhampton, childhood friends Oli and Andy began to make music when they realised that they probably weren't equipped to do anything else. Fronting the band, Oli has the looks of a young Mick Jagger and the confidence to match, while Andy rules the bass. Relocating to London, the duo got their act together and recruited New Zealander Elliot on drums. In a time of predominantly electronic music, it is refreshing to find a band so skilled in their respective instruments performing live with all the energy, passion and volume of a bygone time. With two brilliant tracks Hungry Heart and Smile already on repeat at i-D HQ, we are pleased to present the premiere of Distortion, the third track from the band's debut EP Plastic People, out 25th May. Complete with artwork by Alexander McQueen's friend and collaborator, Nick Waplington, hit play and get to know your new favourite rock stars.
How's the band lifestyle treating you all so far?
Oli: To be honest with you, it's just a better lifestyle that we've become accustomed to. I mean, we've done a run of shows recently and we ate better than usual and it just felt like a bit of a holiday to be honest with you. It's not hard work… there are three seats in our van so we just drive everywhere.
Elliot: Between the three of us, we're a half-decent tour manager I think.
Oli: We played a gig in Glasgow the other day… drove all the way up there, played a 20-minute set, managed to see some sights, climb Hadrian's Wall and had a few drinks.
Andy: Discovered Sunderland too!
Yeah? I've never been!
Andy: I hadn't… and I'll probably never go again either.
Of all of the gigs you went to while growing up, which do you think was the most influential?
Oli: Well in Wolverhampton there are quite a lot of gigs but I suppose the most influential for me and Andy would be the local jam night, 'cause that's where we learnt how to play.
Andy: And seeing bands come into town and play the Wulfrun - that was a good little venue.
Oli: We went to Glastonbury when we were like 15/16 too, which was a real attack of the senses. That in itself was a really influential thing to experience. So many different types of music. Like most people who live outside of London in small towns, we'd see any shit that was coming through - and a lot of it was shit.
Elliot: New Zealand's got a great underground scene with a lot of great, not-fully-tapped music… Flying Run Records has always been a great label and I think America is starting to pick up on it now.
What qualities do you think make the ultimate front man/woman?
Oli: James Brown! He was quite a dude!
Elliot: You always need somebody to steer the ship, don't you? If it's too much of a democracy every idea gets watered down… so you've got to have somebody to take charge in some regards.
Your shows are proper performances. How do you get in the mood for something so high energy?
Elliot: Three pints.
Oli: Well for the gig we played the other day in London, we were all in a mood and we missed soundcheck and me and Andy weren't speaking to each other.
Elliot: I'd turned up on time so I went off and got drunk.
Oli: It ended up quite good though!
Elliot: When we're really hungover we seem to play good shows. And when none of us are talking to each other we seem to play good shows. But when everything's going to plan it just feels too comfortable.
How infuriating is it when an audience just stands there?
Oli: I think it's fine. We've played good gigs to like four people before. Once we played half the set and then gave my guitar to the only person in the audience and he played it with us. The worst thing is when it's not even fun. Some of the early London shows were just people trying to suss it all out… but that's the way it is I suppose.
And at Heaven you were stage diving quite a bit… is that a common occurrence?
Oli: Well we don't normally have that many people, so no!
Elliot: And we don't always have a stage to dive from.
Oli: At first stage diving just feels a bit mad… it feels sort of like you've just had sexual intercourse with all your family members watching, doesn't it? But as time goes on it feels slightly less embarrassing. But yeah, I really enjoyed that show in the end. I went outside and had a cigarette and watched somebody have a fight and it seemed like a good end to the night.
How many amps is too many amps?
Oli: Well all of ours keep breaking, so you can probably never have too many. I'm obsessed with my amps to be honest.
And why did you add a synth into the mix?
Oli: It was always there! I had loads of synths and was quite heavily into early electronic stuff. And then I just got more and more poor and sold everything and the only one that was left was a budget mono Italian synth that just sounds really good. It wasn't worth anything so I didn't bother selling it. It's good cause there's no pre-sets on it so it's hopefully a different performance every night. We decided that we should do that ourselves and never play exactly the same thing twice.
You're playing a fair few shows and festivals this summer… are you looking forward to any in particular?
Elliot: Netherlands will be fun! We haven't played overseas yet.
It'll be like a band holiday!
Elliot: and the night before we're playing Hyde Park, so it'll be like two dates of feeling like a proper functioning band.
Tell us about Distortion…
Oli: That's quite good. It's the third track from the EP and it's got lots of distorted guitar and an organ which we looped and put through tape machines and slowed it down and sped it up and changed the pitch and somehow managed to piece it all together. And then at the end it sounds like a Midlands Christmas.
Photography Mehdi Lacoste