For almost eight years The Yolks have been cooking up hits in their mother’s basements, garages and other practice spaces which have carried this band into the legendary pantheon of veteran players in the Chicago scene. There are a lot of facets to the sound of The Yolks, they always have a cogent way of changing between them, but sometimes you struggle a bit to define them. One thing’s that always consistent though, is they make you wanna dance; The Yolks seem like the heart of the party at all times. Did you ever know that dude in high school that could make the lamest parties these legendary ragers just by showing up? It was like all of a sudden when he walked in the door the music would instantly stop sucking, the women would get all liquored up and shit would really start kicking! That’s The Yolks in an eggshell. There’s a biting punk frat rock edge to these really interesting R&B and country-surf influences, all wrapped up in a do-it-yourself mentality that’s perfectly suited the band over the past near decade, at this point. While hard at work on their upcoming follow up to the 2009 Self-Titled LP, they’re invariably most well known for their killer streak of singles that have been dropping since 2007’s Introducing The Yolks sold-out for the first time. I hate to over simplify music and I really like to look deep for the meaning and message in music, but with The Yolks I just can’t help but tap my toe and drift off. Then I start bobbing my head and eventually I’m bouncing around in my chair like a kid with ADD in algebra class; I can’t help it, this shit is infective! They’ve got all the best aspects of the DIY sound, perfectly distorted and blown out drums, along with lyrics that pair up ridiculously well with the bouncing guitar riffs that stumble and stagger drunkenly out of the bar all somehow perfectly on time. It’s a hell of a party, seriously. If you aren’t already down with The Yolks, I don’t know what you’re waiting for but you’ve got a full-fledged fan kit for the band below. There’s an awesome walk through of how the band started and the scene they formed out of. There’s awesome inside info on the recording of the material for the streak of awesome singles and there’s some very serious Chicago love to boot. I’ve talked to a lot of people that love Chicago and the scene there, but The Yolks even bleed it in their sound. That’s enough of a sneak peak though! Let’s get down with The Yolks, Psychedelic Baby style!
Listen while you read:
What is The Yolks current lineup? I know you all have been around for a while, has the lineup changed at all over the years?
Nathan: Aaron Stringer plays drums. For the more punk/rock ‘n’ roll/pop songs Nathan Johnson plays guitar and Spencer Johnson plays bass. For our R&B/soul/frat rock bangers Nathan plays organ and Spencer plays guitar. We practiced with another drummer for a few months, but we’ve kept the same lineup since January 1st, 2006. Any other lineup wouldn’t be The Yolks anymore, we’d have to call it something different.
Nathan and Spencer
Aaron: I'm not the original drummer. Spike, Nate, and I were deejaying parties and stuff before The Yolks got started, so we were familiar with each other’s musical tastes. They called me when their drummer couldn't make it to practice one day.
Are any of you in any other active bands at this point? I know you all religiously practice but you don’t play out that much, do you kind of get your fill in those rehearsals or are any of you involved in any other bands at this point? Have you released any material with anyone else in the past? If so can you tell us a little bit about that?
Nathan: Spencer plays in Spike and The Sweet Spots, I play in Uh Bones and The Rubs. I teach high school, run Randy Records and party really, really hard, so my life is in complete shambles. I live in chaos. It’s seriously a shame. I have no time or energy to maintain anything at all. Still, I want to start another band or two, to be honest.
Aaron: The first recording I was on was a rap for my friend’s band in junior high. We played shows at the veteran’s hall and stuff like that, house parties... I also tried out for the sixth grade talent show with spike, playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit". That ruled.
Where are you originally from?
Nathan: We all grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois and went to high school together. Spencer and Aaron were in the same grade, and I was one grade older.
Aaron: Evanston, we all met in Lake Forest at school.
What as the music scene like where you grew up? Did you see a lot of shows when you were a kid? Do you feel like that scene heavily affected your musical tastes or the way that you play today?
Nathan: I wish I’d known about more rock n roll that was happening when I was in high school, in particular a lot of the budget rock stuff that was going on, and the Gories, etcetera. I really, really wish I went and saw The Donnas when they played at Fireside in 1998. I love them. Most of the cooler older kids that knew about music were listening to a lot of indie rock, math rock, pop punk, etcetera. I’m mostly just happy I didn’t really get into that stuff too hard, because it just wasn’t for me. I did really like The Jesus Lizard though, and still do.
Aaron: Fireside was a teen hangout.
What was your home like growing up? Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved or interested in music?
Nathan: Spike and I’s dads and uncles really dug the Grateful Dead, so I’ve liked them since I was really young. My uncle Bob loved to tell the story about how he saw them in 1969 when he was eighteen. My first concert was The Grateful Dead when I was like three years old. Our dad played guitar and sang pretty often, and I raided their LPs and found some Blondie’s LPs and a lot of good Jazz records. Aaron’s dad played drums in Chicago bands in the late sixties and early seventies. His band recorded at Chess Records as a matter of fact, so Aaron grew up playing drums. I’ve seen pictures of him behind a drum set when he looks like he’s about four years old.
Aaron: My dad was a sick drummer in the late 60's.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?
Nathan: Michael Jackson on MTV in the early eighties, probably.
Aaron: Beastie Boy's License To Ill cassette on my Walkman.
If you had to pick one defining moment of music, a moment that opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music and changed everything, what would it be?
Nathan: I remember I was taking a shit at my friend’s house at which I was couch surfing after moving to Berkeley, and I read an interview with Billy Childish in this Thrasher that was in the bathroom. I’d never heard of him, but he was talking about how he really liked good old fashioned three-chord rock n roll like The Kinks, The Sonics, Jimi Hendrix, The Ramones, Chuck Berry etcetera, and all of a sudden I realized “Hey, I think that’s the kind of music I really like!” And from that point on it was my goal to figure out what rock n roll was, and to find all of the best rock n roll music to listen to.
Aaron: Finding my parents old record collection.
What was your first instrument? When did you get it and who gave it to you?
Nathan: Piano. We just had one in the house I’m sure. I took lessons for a year or two when I was five or six. I took a year of jazz piano lessons when I as a freshman too, and have pretty much taught myself since then.
Aaron: Trumpet in the elementary school band, then drums.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about?
Nathan: I was living in San Francisco, but I was planning on moving back to Chicago where Spencer was living. We just decided that once I got back we were going to start a band, and when I moved back we did.
Aaron: I’ve been recording sounds and stuff since I was a little kid, it was just fun.
How and when did you all originally meet?
Nathan: I met Spike probably the day after he was born. Aaron I met in high school, but I don’t remember exactly when. He was one of Spike’s friends, so I knew him and was cool with him.
Aaron: Around junior high, an early memory is cruising in spike's mom's green van to watch the high school talent show.
What led to the formation of The Yolks and when exactly was that?
Nathan: I moved back to Chicago, we started playing with a different friend playing drums who missed a practice or two, and Spike and I really wanted to practice, so we called Aaron. He came over and he was so good we immediately decided he was going to be our drummer.
Is there any sort of code, creed, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Nathan: Our goal since the very beginning was to try to make rock n roll music that makes people want to dance, especially in our organ set. Not much has changed, but we also focus on trying to write really good songs. We see ourselves as entertainers. We aren’t sensitive artists, we’re not trying to change the world, or be especially creative or ground breaking. We’re trying to play music that people want to listen to, that makes people get psyched, that makes the party more fun. Our focus is playing our instruments well, writing good songs, putting together good sets and throwing awesome shows. We cover a lot of songs because people love to hear people play songs they know, and because why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to? Why struggle to write awesome songs when there are hundreds, if not thousands of awesome songs out there? There are probably people out there that write us off to a certain extent because we do cover a lot of songs, but in the end, no one can deny that we turn the party out. And our original songs are great songs too.
Aaron: "Play the hits".
For some reason your name evokes some really vivid imagery for me, but I read a lot into things that are often times turn out to either be trivial or completely unrelated to the things I associate with them. What does The Yolks mean or refer to? Who came up with the name and how did you go about choosing it?
Nathan: Our buddy Jeff Warren suggested it and we thought it was great. I don’t know what it means or even what it refers too, but I like it because it’s kind of a play on The Strokes, and a food. And my favorite band when we started was The Milkshakes.
Where’s the band currently located at?
Nathan: Chicago, Illinois.
Aaron: Yolks headquarters.
How would you describe the local music scene there? Are you very involved in the local scene? Do you book or attend a lot of shows?
Nathan: I go to shows every weekend, and am very involved with the scene. I seriously love so many of the bands in this town and all of the rad rock n rollers, and I hope they love me back. At this point we are arguably the oldest rock n roll band in Chicago that still has all of the same members and are the same exact band; though many other Chicago rock n rollers have been at it much longer but have started different bands. I run Randy Records out of Chicago, and I’ve been putting out the first records of some of my absolute favorite local bands, Uh Bones, Slushy, Today’sHits, and we put out the first Yolks record ourselves too. I book some shows for other bands sometimes, but mostly just Yolks shows.
Do you feel like the local scene has played an integral part in The Yolks history or the way that you sound, or do you feel like you all could be doing what you’re doing and sound the way that you do regardless of your location and surroundings?
Nathan: To be honest, we really came to existence in a bubble. As far as we knew, we were the only rock n roll band in the country when we started. I barely knew about any bands. I figured out about The Dirtbombs, Black Lips and King Khan and BBQ, but that’s it. I had no idea there was a local scene at all. So our original sound is completely ours. That being said, I’ve definitely been influenced by a lot of local bands, and find myself writing Today’sHits or Uh Bones style songs every once in a while.
Aaron: For sure, maybe.
I know at least one of you is heavily involved in releasing local music. Who all is involved and can you talk a little bit about your involvement in recording and or releasing local music?
Nathan: We put out the Introducing The Yolks 7” ourselves back in 2007, probably. We didn’t even make up a name for our record label. We just put the record out. We pressed 300 and thought we’d have them forever. The right people heard about the record, and they were gone within a few months. It was totally surprising and awesome. Criminal IQ pressed another 500 with a different sleeve, and then I decided I wanted to start a record label, so I pressed another 100 records and decided to call the label Randy Records. I pretty much run it myself, but I do have Randy as a spiritual advisor who helps maintain a certain clarity of vision and purity of intentions, which is crucial. At the same time we rereleased Introducing The Yolks we also put out the Teenage Lovers 7”, which is basically a side project of Max Kacacek from the Smith Westerns. That record fucking rules if you’ve never heard it. I love Max and the Smith Westerns forever, for sure. We also put out a comp 7”, and later The Yolks LP, and then I took a break. Fast forward to 2013, and I decided to start up Randy again. Lately, I decide what band I want to put out a record for when I see them live and they slay. It’s a pretty good system I think. It beats listening to demos or combing the internet. It also means I put out a lot of local bands because that’s who I’m aware of. I really want to be a very Chicago/Midwest focused label, because I think our scene is as good or better than just about anyone else’s, and I want to promote the local scene and get people to open their eyes and see that our bands fucking rule. As far as recordings, most bands just send me their recordings. But The Yolks have always recorded themselves, and I recorded Slushy’s 7” in my garage. Their recordings were always good, but they’d always overdub bass, and a full drum set, and I was like, “That’s not your band! You guys are a two piece, and you guys are a bad ass band with just the two of you. Come over and let me record you exactly as you are”. And so we did that and the record sounds pretty goddamn good, I think.
I am good at a great deal of many things, or at least I’d like to think that I am ha-ha! Describing bands unfortunately has always been difficult for me. I’ve never found it easy to quantify, label or describe something that seems so ephemeral to me. Rather than me making some inane attempt at doing so, how would you describe The Yolks sound in your own words to our readers who might not have heard you yet?
Nathan: One half of our set is very Ramones-inspired, garage pop rock n roll songs. Our focus is on clever song writing, good melodies, driving rhythms and catchy hooks. We maybe sometimes sound something like The Gizmos, Eric and the Happy Thoughts, Nobunny, The Nerves, etcetera. For the second half of our set, we are basically the best frat rock band around. We haul around a 250 lb. Hammond organ, play a lot of blues progressions, instrumentals, soul and garage rock covers, and turn every show we play into a party, and every party into a riot. Spike rips on guitar, I hold it down on organ, and Aaron fucking owns it on the drums, and its pretty fucking rad.
While we’re talking to so much about the background makeup of the band do you mind taking a moment to talk about some of your major musical influences? I hear a lot of different stuff when I listen to your music, can you tell me who some of the major influences on the band as a whole are rather than just individually?
Nathan: When the band started I wanted it to sound like The Milkshakes, The Sonics, and The Ramones. I listen to a lot of British invasion stuff, especially The Kinks, the first Who LP and The Troggs. I love The Velvet Underground so much, as well as The Gizmos, Booker T and the MGs, The Nerves, Bob Dylan, and a ton of other bands. I think each of these bands definitely influence our sound.
Aaron: In terms of drums, The Gories, The Husbands, taking very smooth rhythm and blues music and stuffing it through a meat grinder of primitivism and blue note, verve jazz; a lot for style as well as substance and spirituality.
Can you tell us about The Yolks songwriting process? I know you all practice as much as you possibly can, is there a lot of jamming or exchange of ideas that happens at those practices that you all later work out and translate into a song, or is there someone who comes to the rest of the band at practice with a more finished song or idea to work out with the rest of the band?
Nathan: Usually I write some chords and a melody, and figure out the words later. The best songs usually happen when Spencer and I get together to work on the lyrics, but that doesn’t happen enough. Some songs Spencer writes completely, and some I write completely. Usually we have a song completely done before we play it as a band, but with instrumentals and the more R&B stuff we end up hashing it out together as a band.
Do you all enjoy recording? As I mentioned before I know at least one of you is involved with releasing music but I don’t know if you’re involved with the recording angle of things. For most people, myself included, I think that the final product is hard to beat. There’s not a lot in the world that beats holding an album in your hands knowing that it’s yours and no one can ever take that away from you. What’s it like recording for The Yolks?
Nathan: Recording is cool. It’s nice to have a record, but it’s also kind of stressful. It’s like, there, it’s done. That’s it. You can’t go back and do it better now. But the new LP has been fun to record, and I’m pretty happy with it. I know I like it, and I hope other people are going to dig it too.
Aaron: Fun. It opens up a new dimension of tightness and trimming away the extra so it’s all killer.
Do you all utilize a more DIY approach on your own time and turf or do you all head into studios to do your recording?
Nathan: We just record in my garage. I really think everyone should just record themselves. You know how you want to sound, cut out the middle man.
Is there a lot of preparation that goes into a Yolks recording session where you all work out all the arrangements and whatnot getting things to sound just the way that you want them, or is it more of a situation where things have room to change and evolve a little bit during the process?
Nathan: We really don’t know what we’re doing. We set up mikes and go for it, basically. We learn as we go. Every time we record a new song we learn a little bit more about the process. Some of the songs already have tight structures and we’ve been playing them for months or years, but some of them, like the more R&B type songs, are a lot looser, and we just hit record and let what happens happen.
Let’s talk a little bit about your back catalog. Your first release was 2007’s Introducing The Yolks 7” which was originally self-released and subsequently repressed by both Criminal IQ and Randy Records. It seems like Introducing The Yolks must have been received pretty well considering that it went in to four different pressings. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for Introducing The Yolks? Where and when was that recorded? Who recorded it? Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you? What kind of equipment was used?
Nathan: We sold 1,100 copies of Introducing The Yolks, which I’m really proud of. We recorded about eight or nine songs which were basically the first songs we ever learned, and chose the four we liked best. We recorded in Spike and my mom’s basement using only two mics at a time and Pro Tools. We had no idea what we were doing but it ended up sounding pretty good.
You followed up Introducing The Yolks with the Wandering 7” on Bachelor Records in 2008. Was the recording of the material for that single very different than the session(s) for your first single? Who recorded that material? Where was that at and when was that recorded? What kind of equipment was used?
Aaron: Peter Landry. "Mob City Hustle" I think it was on a dat machine. That was cool.
Nathan: Same place - mom’s basement, same material, but a little more know-how. Also, we decided what two songs we were going to do and recorded them. The B-side, “Mob City Hustle” was actually recorded by our friend Pete Landry on his 8-track machine, all live. He does sound for a living, and he did a fucking awesome job and that song is one of my favorite Yolks recordings.
You also released the "Girl Like You" b/w "Sir Charles" cassingle on Pizza Party Records in 2008 as well. I did a little bit of looking and from what I can gather that was a limited release but couldn’t find any details about how many copies are out there, do you know? Can you tell us about the material for the Pizza Party Records cassingle? Were those tracks written and or recorded specifically for that release or had they been around for a while looking for a home? If they were recorded specifically for this can you tell us about that?
Nathan: 100 cassingles were pressed. We recorded both songs during the sessions for our first 7”. “Girl Like You” is a cover of The Donnas, and the cover of the cassingle is basically the cover of their first LP with their heads cut off and replaced with ours.
You released your lone proper full-length album so far in 2009, The Yolks. Did you approach the songwriting or the recording of that material radically differently from your earlier singles? Did you know the material was going to comprise an album when you were recording it? What was the recording of the material for that album like? Where and when was it recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Nathan: Again, mom’s basement. For this album we were able to use more than two mics at a time, but we still just used Pro Tools. We decided it was time to make an album, and so we did, but it kind of took a lot out of us. At that time we’d had a modicum of success with our 7”s, so we went into the album trying to live up to our hype, and that was kind of a mistake. We didn’t write awesome songs trying to write awesome songs. We wrote some great songs by mistake when we were just trying to write good ones. So even though I really like the album, I think it would have been even better if we hadn’t taken it so seriously, if we hadn’t put so much pressure on ourselves to make a great album. I wish instead we’d just relaxed, written some songs, recorded them, and just moved on. That’s basically what we’re doing with our new LP and its coming together really well.
You also contributed a track “You Don’t Care” to the Half-Assed Chicago 12” compilation on Johanns Face Records and the track “Shim Shang” to the Florida’s Dying Party Platter 12” compilation as well. Were those tracks written or recorded specifically for that comp or were they unused recordings from earlier sessions?
Nathan: “You Don’t Care” was a left over track from the LP. “Shim Shang” was written for the Party Platter in particular.
Last year you released a cassette tape collection of unused recordings and cover songs entitled Songs The Yolks Taught Themselves, Vol. 1 on Randy Records. As far as I know that release is out of print at this point although an updated digital version Songs The Yolks Taught Themselves, Vol.05 which also includes several of the tracks from The Coach Sounds House sessions. How many copies was the cassette tape limited to, do you know? Are there any plans to physically release the material from Songs The Yolks Taught Themselves, Vol. 1 and or Vol.05 in the future?
Nathan: 100 were pressed. We sold a lot on tour, and the rest in Chicago and over the internet. There were two originals and six cover songs on the cassette. We won’t be rereleasing the cassette, but I would totally be down if someone wanted to put out a 7” with some of those songs. I personally hope we record another eight cover songs and release Songs The Yolks Taught Themselves Vol. 2 someday soon.
Can you talk about the recording of The Coach House Sounds sessions? I can imagine from the name where it was recorded but who recorded it and when was that? Was that material every physically available or was that just a digital release as I know it’s up on your Bandcamp page along with almost everything you guys have ever released; which is awesome by the way. Were there a lot of tracks left over from the previous sessions that went into this release or did the outtakes just kind of add up after five years of recording and releasing music?
Nathan: Coach House Sounds was recorded in a coach house after we played with Nobunny the night before. My voice is pretty shot, which is a bummer. Also, some moron had thrown a bottle and hit me in the head when we were backing Nobunny, which sucked. You can see the wound on my forehead in the picture. But, we basically just recorded those four or five songs in one take each live. Coach House Sounds recorded a lot of different bands while they were around, so they have a pretty great back catalog of recordings that you and other people might consider checking out.
You’re back to your old tricks again releasing your newest 7” via the ever amazing Randy Records earlier this year (2014), Two Dollars Out The Door. Where and when was the material for Two Dollars Out The Door recorded and who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Nathan: Recorded both songs in the practice space in my garage on a Tascam 38 8-track reel-to-reel machine.
Do The Yolks have any music that we might not have talked about yet? Maybe a song on a compilation or a single that I might have missed?
Nathan: I don’t think so.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music?
Nathan: The RandyRecords Blog page or the Randy Records Bandcamp page. Also Florida’s Dying usually carries all the Randy Records and tons of other awesome records. Finally, if you’re in Chicago, go to Bric-a-Brac or Permanent Records and spend all of your lunch money there.
With the completely insane international postage rate increases the last year or two, I try to provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up import releases as I can. Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to snag your music?
Nathan: Overseas, definitely hit up Bachelor Records.
And where’s the best place for fans to keep up with the latest news from The Yolks like upcoming shows and album releases at?
Nathan: Friend “TheeYolks” on Facebook.
Are there any major goals that The Yolks are looking to accomplish in 2014?
Nathan: Put out the new LP, go on our second tour in eight years this summer, make out with all the babes, and drink all of the beer.
Aaron: Getting invited to play parties and shows is pretty rad right now.
Do you remember what the first song that The Yolks ever played live was? Where and when was that?
Nathan: No, but I know the first song we ever played as a band was “No One Else” by The Milkshakes and the first show we played was at Phyllis’ Inn in Chicago. I remember distinctly looking out into the crowd and seeing two cute girls dancing, and being totally in awe of how quickly all of my dreams were coming true.
Aaron: “She's My Baby”?
What, if anting, do you have planned as far as playing out goes in 2014 so far? I know you guys are pretty notorious for not playing out all that much, and basically never touring. Are there just time constraints and limitations that have to do with your lifestyles and stuff that prevent you all from touring, or is it just something that doesn’t interest you very much?
Nathan: We are just old ass dudes with real ass jobs, so it’s hard for us to tour, really. In terms of local shows, we try not to play too often, because after eight years of being a band the honeymoon stage is over. People have probably seen us play way too many times to give a fuck anymore, no matter how good or bad we are. So we only play every once in a while, and we try to setup really the best shows every show so that each of our shows is an event, a party, a real fucking radical time. And since we’re such an established band and all of our shows rule, we can ask our favorite bands to play and they say yes, and so the party’s are awesome, and it becomes a self perpetuating feedback loop of real righteous radicalness. So yeah, it works out decent for us. Plus, we don’t want to haul my organ out any more than we need too.
I know you all have been out on the road at least once before, albeit a few years ago at this point. What was life like on the road for The Yolks at that point?
Nathan: We like to listen to Charlie Sheen interviews to get us in the right mind state, and maybe three hours straight of The Velvet Underground. And then we’re like “Holy shit, there is no other band I could listen to for three hours straight besides The Velvet Underground”, and we gain new appreciations. We’re grown ass dudes who’ve been friends since forever, so we get along good, have good conversations and what not. And the shows on the last tour were mostly really good, and some were fucking amazing, so that was great.
Do you plan to continue the basic no touring policy or have you all thought about getting back out on the road in the future possibly?
Nathan: This summer. Last time we went all the way west and that was cool as fuck, especially since Spike and I were born in San Francisco and both lived there in our early twenties. But that’s way too much driving, this year we’ll probably go to New York and back and do most of our shows in the creamy Midwest.
I know you don’t play out all that often but you have definitely been around the block and you seem to have impeccable taste when it comes to music! Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the years?
Nathan: Romance Novels, Nobunny, Jay Reatard, Black Lips, Cococoma, Shannon and the Clams, Traditional Fools, Boys Club, Real Numbers, Apache Dropout, Okmoniks, Eric and the Happy Thoughts, lots of Chicago bands. I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton.
Aaron: Wax Museums, Nobunny at sxsw last year and Jay Reatard are a few of my most memorable.
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Nathan: King Khan and BBQ.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from any of your live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Nathan: We were playing a show with Nobunny and Thee Makeout Party, two of whose members now run Burger Records, at the Bottom Lounge, and we hear that Justin is sick and won’t be able to make it to the show. Jason, Nobunny’s guitarist and a friend of mine, are like, “Dude, you have to be Nobunny tonight. Will you do it?” And my initial reaction was, no way! There were hundreds of people at the show, so it was pretty intimidating. But then I remembered, it just so happened that I hadn’t done laundry for a while, so I was literally down to my last pair of underwear and that last pair of underwear were these blue-green tighty-whities, with I think jaguars printed all over them that my girlfriend at the time bought for me as a joke. So, I thought to myself, “What are the chances that the one and only time I’ve ever worn these underwear is the same night I am asked to be Nobunny?” Obviously, the universe was telling me something. So we cut a picture of Jimmy Fallon out of a magazine, cut out his eyes, taped it too my head along with some paper ears, and I went out that night and was Nobunny. I knew probably one verse and the chorus of every song, but I did my best, people freaked out like it was a real Nobunny show and it was awesome. I’m sure some people were pissed, but probably as many or more people didn’t know any better. In the end it was fun, and I’m one of the few people that can honestly say they were a teenage Nobunny. Later that night we all partied at my apartment and Spike and I had a jukebox playing straight hits and it was a seriously fun party; tons of people, babes, dancing, beer. It was rad. At around 4AM Spike got the idea to light off one of the mortars we still had from the 4th of July. Only, he thought it was a good idea to just hold the tube and aim it down the alley. Of course, the fucking thing didn’t shoot off, and exploded right in his hand. The neighbor was yelling at us all, I was yelling at Spike, he was trailing blood all over the house, and it was chaos. We kicked everyone out, I took Spike to the hospital and he hit on all of the nurses impetuously, it was hilarious.
Aaron: The second time we played in Lafayette, we played to a room full of ripe Indiana teenagers who love rock and roll, the energy was sweet.
Looking at your releases, you all seem to be pretty across the board but I’m always curious withal of the various mediums of release available to people today why artists choose and prefer the methods that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music? If so, can you talk a little bit about why?
Nathan: Vinyl is king. I’ve collected them since I was fourteen, and I just love them, personally. Plus, they’re way less disposable than any other format. I don’t feel like I “own” a piece of music unless I have it on vinyl.
Aaron: The portability of the internet, the object quality of wax, the novelty of cassettes and the sound too, sometimes nothing beats warped and cloudy.
Do you have a music collection at all? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Nathan: Yep, collected lots of vinyl since I was in high school. Mostly rock n roll, but a good chunk of 90’s hip hop, soul, jazz, ska/rocksteady, country, and scattered representatives from other genres. I have the jukebox still so I collect a lot of 45s. In general, I’m not at all about collecting rarities. I just try and get the best records I can find. Some are rare, but mostly I’m about having every Beatles record, every Booker T and the MGs record, every dance hit ala “Wooly Bully”, “Louie Louie”, “Shake A Tail Feather”, etcetera on 45. A lot of people get obsessed with rarity, but almost all of my favorite bands are popular; The Ramones, The Sonics, The Kinks, etcetera. Bands like that are popular for a reason. Really, I focus on trying to get the very best danceable rock n roll and soul I can find. I don’t DJ much, but when I do I like to bring the hits.
Aaron: 90's hip hop, soul, and jazz LPs, a pretty good amount of party starter rock n roll 45's and a few garage rock 7"s from my favorite bands of the last few years.
I grew up around a fairly large collection of music and I was encouraged to enjoy it from a young age. I would just wander up to these seemingly endless shelves of music that stretched on forever and ever in front of me and pick up something that I had never heard. I’d pop it into the player, kick back in the beanie bag, stick on some headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the artwork and let the music carry me off. There’s a rush to experiencing an album like that for me, to have something physical to hold in my hands, something concrete. It makes for a more compete listening experience, somehow it makes the music real for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Nathan: Yes, I used to go to sleep every night listening to a different side of a different LP when I was in high school. At the time, really there was no mp3s, so physical music was always a huge part of my life.
As much as I love my music collection portability has always been a major issue with me. I absolutely love being able to listen to stuff wherever I damn well please. Digital music, while lacking the charm of physical media it allows me to enjoy the music that I love where and when I want it. I can fit more music on my phone than I could have stuffed CDs and tapes into my truck a few years back. That’s not even the real story though, the internet is the real game changer here. When teamed together, digital music and the internet have exposed people to an entire cosmos of music that they otherwise would never have even known existed. It’s somewhat levelled the playing field for independent musicians really willing to work hard and promote and keep up an online presence. But it’s never just good or bad and illegal downloading is running rampant in the industry, it’s harder and hard to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there and most importantly music is becoming more of disposable commodity than something to be appreciated and valued by a lot of people. As an artist dying the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Aaron: Playing to a small audience, a lot of the people who come to shows also play in bands, and they buy records and tapes because they're into collecting stuff and are into the same bands so...
Nathan: I really don’t care how people listen to our music, so long as they listen. It would be cool if it was the ninety’s and everyone had to buy 7”s and LPs to listen to music, at least because we might have a better idea if people actually do listen to our music or not. But we pretty much have our entire discography online for people to download for free. We don’t need three dollars for you to have our mp3s. Take that shit and like it. Our game plan is to be the best band we can be, get our music out as much as possible, and hope that it’s good enough to still be relevant in the future so that maybe someone remembers us. If not, oh well. At least we’re kicking ass presently.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s just not enough hours in the day to sift through even a percent of the amazing stuff that’s going on out there right now. I rely on people such as yourself to be my eyes and ears a lot of the time, is there anyone from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of that I should be listening to?
Nathan: Uh Bones, Today’sHits, The Sueves, The Rubs, American Breakfast, Son of a Gun, Slushy (Interview here), The Morons, Gross Pointe, The Wet, The Man, Spike and The Sweet Spots, Heavy Times, Negative Scanner, Outer Minds (Interview here), Twin Peaks and Flesh Panthers (Interview here).
What about nationally and internationally?
Nathan: The Memories album was my favorite album of 2014, so I was really psyched to put out their 45. My other favorite was the Dead Ghosts album, so, again, psyched. In the Midwest my favorite are Real Numbers, Cozy, Apache Dropout, Vacation Club and the Chicago bands. I went to SXSW a few weeks ago and really dug Hector’s Pets, Fletcher C. Thomas, Juan Wauters, Peach Kelli Pop and Zoltars.
Thanks so much for taking the time to finish this monster, it took me a good while to write and I can only assume it took even longer to assemble the answers, so thank you again! Before I let you go though, is there anything that I might have missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or my readers about?
Nathan: I just want to reiterate that I truly and deeply love Chicago and the rock n roll scene out here. I’m glad to be a part of something that I respect and enjoy so much. I always try to be a very positive person, and a very friendly person, and I hope that the people out there recognize that I’m one hundred percent down for the cause, one hundred percent in love with rock n roll, and that I one hundred percent genuinely love you all and I’m really proud of all of us. The Yolks are forever thankful to anyone who ever danced at one our shows, turned out a party with us, or had a heavy makeout session while one of our records was playing. The Yolks always were, and we always shall be, so we look forward to partying with you all in the future. <3
(2007) The Yolks – Introducing The Yolks – 7” – Self-Released/Criminal IQ/Randy Records (Self-Released 1st pressing with no label limited to 300 copies, Criminal IQ Records 2nd pressing limited to 500 copies, Randy Records 3rd pressing limited to 100 copies, Randy Records 4th pressing limited to 200 copies)
(2008) The Yolks – Wandering – 7” – Bachelor Records (Limited to 500 copies)
(2008) The Yolks – "Girl Like You" b/w "Sir Charles" – Cassette Single – Pizza Party Records (Limited to ? copies)
(2009) The Yolks – The Yolks – 12” – Randy Records/Bachelor Records
(2009) Various Artists – Half-Assed Chicago – 12” – Johann’s Face Records (Limited to 500 copies on Translucent Green Vinyl, The Yolks contribute the track “You Don’t Care”)
(2010) Various Artists – Florida’s Dying Party Platter – 12” – Florida’s Dying Records (The Yolks contribute the track “Shim Shang”)
(2013) The Yolks – Song The Yolks Taught Themselves, Vol. 1 – Cassette Tape – Randy Records (Limited to ? copies)
(2014) The Yolks – Two Dollars Out The Door – 7” – Randy Records (Limited to 500 copies, 100 copies with handwritten labels, 400 copies with printed labels)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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