“We come to this place full of rock, ready to rock, but with a head full of books bound to us, too. American books, works like those of the great unencumbered tellers of the stories of our land.” August March looked up at me as he worked on his latest masterpiece, a listing of all the humans he had ever met, ranked by rockingness, of course.
“Those tellers include Whitman, Dylan and Lamar, in case you are interested,” he told me. “What do you think of that?” he continued, oblivious to the deadline that was quickly approaching.
I thought it sounded quite literary and told him so. He said he got the idea from a band interview he did early this week. It turns out that Colorado-based power trio The Yawpers—a rock band in fact named after a few lines from verse 52 of “Song of Myself” in Leaves of Grass by the old master Walt Whitman himself—are playing a gig here in Burque on Thursday night.
The reference goes something like this, March gravely intoned, saying, “The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me—he complains of my gab and my loitering/ I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable/ I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”
That sounds like the band itself, I agreed. Their sound is broadly American, mythic in scale and gritty in character, just like Whitman’s roughly clad, grand-like-a forest-protagonist, I thought, as I later listened to The Yawper’s new single “Carry Me” at rollingstone.com.
What’s the interview like, I asked March. “Why don’t you read it for yourself,” he said as he motioned to a copy of Weekly Alibi sitting on his desk.
Weekly Alibi: Hey, is this Nate Cook from the Yawpers?
Nate Cook: Yes, indeed.
I wanna talk to you guys about your show that’s coming up in few days here in Burque.
Your new album is titled Human Question, so here’s another for you: Where are you all coming from musically, and where do you want to go?
Ohh ... Those are big questions. We like rock and roll. And we like punk rock, fucking country, all that sort of shit. We try and make an amalgamation of it. That’s what our music is. We like to push boundaries. We kind of very loosely fit into the Americana genre but we really try to push the boundaries of what that can mean. We take influences from Krautrock and more dramatic art, stuff like that.
I was just listening to your new single, “Carry Me.” It starts out kinda dirgelike or like some sort of cowboy death song from a doomed cattle drive, but it transforms into a blues-drenched and soulful anthem—some of the high notes you hit remind me of Janis, it’s got that kinda Texas-style rough Western swagger to it. Discuss.
That’s cool. This record in particular focuses on that sound a little bit more. I am from Texas originally. That explains that bleed-through. But yeah, I made this record with a lot more country-rock, Southern R&B feel. Our previous effort was not so much of that. We try to change, album to album.
How has your sound evolved to allow the embrace of experimentalism in what’s ultimately a form of American folk music?
We’ve definitely gone through a couple of iterations. There have been a bunch of band members. When we initially started, we were a two-piece, but with guitars. We didn’t add a drummer until later. And nowadays we don’t even play acoustic instruments anymore. It’s all electric. But I think, you know, I’m not really interested in making music just for the sake of making music. I want it to be challenging, something I have to grow with. We intentionally try to force ourselves to do different things, and do things that are outside of our comfort zone, outside of our wheelhouse. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But in either case in makes for the act of creating music.
Does that creative process involve listening to a lot of different kinds of music? Does it involve having a diverse musical background?
I think that everyone who has ever been in this band has had a very large musical palette. That’s something we just try to encourage. It’s certainly something that I try to embody. I try to listen to music constantly, from all across the board. Usually there’s somewhere in the writing process that’s indicative of that. A lot of times, I’ll write something and bring it to the band and we’ll decide on another direction. But it’s always almost always influenced by something that we all listened to together and we kinda want to take little pieces from here and there. I think one of the strengths of the band is having a very diverse and in-depth knowledge of music, different genres, composers and writers.
Speaking of such, I notice that your name references Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
We have literary references from many sources in the songs. Our first EP was named after a Wallace Stevens poem.
Oh, really? Dude’s one of my favorite poets. He was an insurance attorney in real life.
Yeah, I love him. He was a piece of shit in real life.
But he wrote great poetry. And got into fistfights with Hemingway. What sort of music do you use to supplement those sorts of poetical readings?
I’m on a super Krautrock kick right now. I’ve been listening to a lot of Can. Like almost exclusively for the past three weeks. I haven’t been listening to anything but Can—on repeat.
That’s fascinating. They seem to be making a big comeback among Millennial and Generation Z musicians. They’re almost more popular now than they were at their height in the late 1970s.
There’s some wild stuff in there. I think you’ll hear that sort of influence on our new record. I don’t know what else I’ve been listening to but Nick Cave has always been in constant play.
What do you think his new work, Ghosteen?
What a sad story, Jesus Christ. But he has a really brilliant way of getting in touch with his vulnerability. He’s the sort of artist I strive to be.
I was trying to analyze your music and that statement gives me a lot more to think about.
I definitely take a lot of narrative cues from Cave.
So what’s going on with your tour? This is just a quick jaunt through the Southwest, que no?
Honestly, Albuquerque has traditionally not done well for us.
A million bands could say that.
Albuquerque’s been hard on us. We’re basically doing a tour around a big show in Phoenix at the Crescent Ballroom. This is like a weekend outing for us. After Albuquerque, we’re off for the rest of the year.
You also mentioned that you’re working on a new album. What’s that about?
I’m working on a new album with The Yawpers and then there’s talk of me releasing a solo album this next year, too. I’d put together a band for that. It would be different project than The Yawpers.
In terms of what you’re doing, I feel like a lot of young people feel that rock and roll has passed them by. Even though EDM and hip-hop are becoming the mainstays of American popular music, there’s always been this undercurrent of folk music, of Americana, that seems to stay in the limelight. How does that affect you?
I think that what people forget is that one thing that never goes out of style is authenticity. And I think rock and roll, for a number of years there, got to be more about the glamour and the dick-swinging and the costumes than it was about the music. And people realized that. Say what you will about the avarice of hip-hop or whatever, at least the intent is to make these characters authentic, to make music that feels real. That’s what people see. That lack of authenticity turned people off to rock and roll. But then there is always that underpinning of Americana or folk music. That never goes out of style because it’s ingrained into the American experience.