[INTERVIEW] John Andrews & The Yawns
Acclaimed musical man of mystery, John Andrews has taken a breath from his various other musical endeavors to conceptualize one that is all his own, John Andrews & the Yawns. His impressive debut, Bit By The Fang was recently released on Woodsist; we spoke to Andrews to get to know him (and the Yawns) a bit better.
Congrats on the release of Bit By The Fang! How does it feel to get it out there after setting the groundwork in 2013?
Thanks. It feels great. I actually wrote a few of those songs back in 2009. It's great to have versions of these old songs finally on a record. 'Bit By The Fang' is my first "official" solo album after years of just putting out small cassette releases on friend's labels, so i felt like i needed to revisit some older material before i could jump into recording all new stuff. My next record is going to be all new songs, and they are my favorite songs i've ever written.
How has the feedback been so far?
My mom likes it. I've also found more torrents to illegally download it, than i have found album reviews. I guess thats what happens when you put out a weird lo-fi record in 2015.
It has a warm and homey feeling to it. Was life at home a conscious theme in the crafting of the album?
Yeah I'd say so. I'm a huge fan of home recordings. I've worked enough in really nice studios with my other bands, so the Yawns is my excuse to just stay at home, in my pajamas, eat cereal and record music in my own environment. I started recording it in my home in Lancaster, PA, and finished it at my grandparents house in NJ. I could only work on it when i was home from tour, so recording on those songs, i was very much, "at home."
The trippy-Western twang fits wonderfully into the Woodsist catalog. Did you have an objective going into the project or did it come about organically?
I've been recording music by myself since i was 16. The first time i heard of Woods, i was in high school, and my friend was like "your music kinda reminds me of this band", and he showed me their two first records,"How To Survive In The Woods" and "At Rear House". I was like, holy shit this rules, and i had been a fan of the whole woodsist catalog ever since. It's really funny how i ended up joining their band years later and releasing my first record with them. My music definitely comes organically. I grew up listening to so much cool music thanks to my hippie ass parents.
For a solo album, each track features quite the ensemble from guitar to lap-steel and piano. Do you plan to brush these puppies off for any live shows?
Right now I'm so busy between recording and touring with both Quilt and Woods, that i unfortunately just don't have anytime to start a backing band for the yawns. I've tried a few times and it just didn't work or i didn't have enough time to get in the groove of it. It's hard living in new jersey and finding people that can join your band, who are good, able to tour, and are o.k. with not making much money. I have my first new york show in a few weeks with Alex Bleeker & The Freaks and EZTV. I'm planning on just playing my wurlitzer solo. I played a show at this farm house in New Jersey a few weeks ago with the same set up and it was nice. It was a cool contrast to the crazy rock bands that played after me. I like to create a relaxing environment. It might not be as easy to do in New York, as it was in the middle of nowhere New Jersey but there's something special about being able to play your songs completely by yourself. It's so nerve-wrecking though. Before i play i get all anxious and stutter a lot.
Any dream players you would want to fill those live spots?
haha, yeah definitely dream players. I just want whoever played drums on Harvest to play drums in my band. Or Ringo. Daniel Bachman on guitar, Biff Rose on piano, Paul Mccartney on bass. I'll just sing.
In the piecing together of each song, did you have a structure to work off: keys, then guitar, then drums, etc.? Or would you walk into the room and just grab whatever felt right in the moment?
I usually record drums first, then i just build the song around that. My friend Doug Tuttle taught me that. It's easier to just get in the groove of everything after the drums are already there. Somedays when i lived in Lancaster, i would start recording drums at like 8 in the morning. I have no idea how my neighbors never complained. it's insane.
The album as a whole has a very hazy, laid-back character. Were any tracks difficult to put in the “finished” bin or did they all come out smooth?
There are a few songs i had to re-record a few times because they didn't have the right feel, and there are definitely a few songs i wish i re-recorded but didn't, and there are a bunch of songs that just didn't make the record. I can't tell if it's harder to "finish" a song, when you are recording by yourself, or when you are recording with a group. Sometimes you just keep pushing yourself to do more and need that other person to be like….dude, it's done! But then sometimes when your recording with other people, and there are too many chefs in the kitchen, it gets kinda hard to finish a song too. I'm in the studio right now with 6 people recording the new quilt record, and that is the case sometimes haha.
I read the album was recorded in your grandparent’s living room. Did the comfort of that environment play a role in the writing process?
Definitely. I feel like my record sounds like it was recorded in a grandparent's living room too. It's not perfect, and it's definitely not like "radio ready" and polished, but it feels like me. I'm not perfect and neither is my record. It sounds more interesting than if i was to go into some crazy studio with no personality and try and do those songs. There are these post Beatles John Lennon demos of him just at his home working out songs on piano, and it's one of my favorite records ever. You feel like your there with him. You hear him fuck up a song, you hear him talking to himself. It's not mixed well. It's awesome. Same with the basement tapes, same with those "30 Days" Beatles demos from the white album/abbey road era. They're so fun to listen to. They're sloppy as hell and there's some weird comfort in that.
Any guest appearances from grandma or grandpa on the album?
I wish. My grandpa used to play Trombone in the Navy Band though, and my grandma used to play ukulele and violin in the 50s. Sometimes on christmas day my grandpa will get out the trombone and play jingle bells or something and it's the best thing ever. Maybe next record, whenever that may be….
Bit By The Fang is available on Woodsist, listen below.