When describing the beginning of a movement, someone once coined the phrase “first you feel the buzz, then you hear the roar.” It was descriptive of a stampede of sympathy building in the distance; a din that will eventually engulf you.
In rock and roll, however, the sequence is often reversed as the roar of an amplifier stack precedes the buzz of an eager crowd when the next generation of talent emerges from the garage and announces itself to anyone within earshot.
That’s really one of the great things about rock and roll. Despite the fact that many of the formulas and components are pretty simple and well defined by this point, they can be made totally fresh by the attitude and approach of a new talent whose time has come.
Which brings us to YUM.
YUM is the sonic collaboration of Elise Poirier and Cody Marecek. While musical duos often conjure up visions of Simon and Garfunkel or Seals and Crofts, YUM mines a completely different aural territory. Depending on your generation you might call it punk or garage rock – it is honest and, even in their most pensive moments, the emotions are real, raw and conveyed over the tones of a vintage Sunn tube amp turned up to “roast.”
The first question to these self-described “pissed off Michiganders” seemed kind of obvious: You are young, talented and people seem to dig what you do. Why so angry?
Singer / Guitarist Poirier tried to clarify the emotion behind their music. “Its not really angry as much as it is feeling stuck. Restricted. This isn’t the greatest local music scene if you play originals. We still have to worry about school and pleasing our parents. It’s more frustration and wanting to get out.”
Marecek was much more succinct. “I am only angry when I play the drums.”
The laugh that ensued indicated I may have slightly penetrated the crusty exterior of the punk rock pair and Elise clarified “That’s right. I am the pissed off one.”
To some degree, the fact that these two would end up in music might seem more like a destiny than a choice. Both picked up their instruments at young ages, as Poirier talks of strumming the guitars of her musical father and brothers as a 10 year old and Marecek first sat down behind a drum trap in elementary school.
True to their genre, both are largely self- taught. I often wonder if this rite of passage for musicians – hours locked in your bedroom bent over a record player (oops, MP3 player) listening to your favorite songs and copping all the licks is both cause and effect when it comes to the angst eventually conveyed in the music. Intelligence, inspiration and isolation are often an interesting stew for the creative mind.
On the other hand, maybe I am the one over thinking it. The way that Poirier puts it is far simpler: “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
When you take a listen to YUM’s debut release (“YUM”
– available for download at http://yummusic.bandcamp.com/
), many of the influences become clear.
“When American Idiot came out, I locked myself in my room and learned every song,” says Poirier. “Green Day was always my biggest influence.”
You can hear the vestiges of Billy Jo Armstrong’s trio and other hard rock touchstones sprinkled across YUM. From the opening feedback drone and fervent drum beat of “Shotgun” to the dripping disdain for others on the self-titled closer, you’ll hear references to Hendrix and The Kinks through Black Flag and The Minutemen to The Offspring and the Breeders, who I was surprised to find out Poirier had never heard.
Much like Jack White, who I knew briefly back when he was the drummer for Detroit cow-punk band Goober and the Peas, these kids have got it and they get it. These are old musical souls packed in 19 or 20 year old bodies.
Poirier is the main writer for the band and, much like her hero Armstrong, she mines a lot of territory in her songs. “I like to write in a lot of different styles.”
You will see this on the debut album just by looking at the track lengths, which range from a Ramones-worthy 1:55 on “You Don’t Care About Me” to over 5:00 for “Down,” which almost qualifies for opus status in the genre.
If you make the wise (and supportive) decision to download the album, what you are going to get is straight ahead rock – humbuckers into an overdriven tube amp over powerful, frenetic drum parts. It’s angular, tough and everything that made you love the Sex Pistols the first time you heard them.
When I asked Poirier what makes a good song, one that she keeps, she indicated “I guess I keep something when it feels comfortable. If it is still in my head the next day, we’ll work on it. If it seems memorable, we’ll keep it.”
Marecek made an interesting comparison with the Specials and other ska bands that pepper his favorites list. “I like songs where the song sounds happy, but the lyrics are really sad. It’s kinda like my personality.”
Ever the drummer, keeping the downbeat.
While much of the discussion was about reference points and somewhat backward looking, it is unquestionable that YUM is a thoroughly modern band. With neither member quite old enough to drink in the bars where they play, they really don’t remember a world before the Internet. I asked them to compare their own experience in building a following with that of previous generations, whose mimeographed flyers and home produced cassette tapes served as crude precursors to all of the tools available to a band trying to “make it” in 2013.
“We hate that Facebook is so important, but we have to admit it is kinda nice,” explained Poirier, “we get a lot of referrals for gigs that way. It’s how we have gotten into Grand Rapids, where one person likes us and another invites us back to play somewhere else.”
The band has also utilized self-help sites like www.bandcamp.com
to host their music for those that would like to hear, download or buy it. For what it’s worth YUM is asking the same $5 we used to for a cassette, but without all the hassle of handmade production or the need to occasionally re-wrap it with a #2 pencil.
Another recent effort, coordinated with Groovebox Studios
in Detroit, included a fundraising campaign on www.kickstarter.com
. On this site bands and other artists can seek funding from small donors to sponsor their creative projects. In a little over a week, YUM raised enough money to cover their costs. They also built in a little fun, with access to the recording session and grab bags of YUM goodies for particularly generous donors. You might not be able to get the average person to pay a cover charge to hear you play in a bar, but it appears it is entirely possible to have your most loyal fans cover the costs of documenting your music. It’s a good gig if you can get it and YUM seems to be off to a good start.
Speaking of gigs, live performances present their own issues, with the challenges often faced by fans, rather than the band. Poirier explained “Sometimes people have a problem getting into the shows, because we are playing in a bar and they are under 21. Or, like at one show, we went on at 1:00 in the morning and a lot of people just couldn’t stay that late if they had work or school the next morning. Plus, it’s hard enough to find places to play originals to begin with.”
Elise and Cody summed up much of this topic with the statement “Most of a band’s success is how social you are. A lot of getting anywhere is just getting recognition. Social media can help with that.”
That and being young, talented and ambitious. Because, at the end of the day, these really are things that make people go “YUM.”
YUM will be performing at Review Magazine’s ‘Wishing Upon the Stars Holiday Showcase’ Benefit for Local Charities on Sunday, Dec. 8th at Bemo’s in Bay City. The Showcase will run from 3:00 – 10:00 PM and