Yule’s debut release Aaaarrrggh!!! features an almost schizophrenic change of genres and sounds, often within songs. BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM chats with the Auckland artist about the album’s restless energy.

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AN AUCKLAND-based singer who simply goes by the name Yule is certainly a musician with a bit of drive. Doing all the writing, recording, producing, and promo work himself, his debut eight-track release, Aaaarrrggh!!! certainly hints at considerable promise. Recorded over the last four years in a variety of flats, and in both the South and North Islands, the album musically, seems to have carried over this disjointed recording process. But, for the most part, he manages to use this quite well: the album features an almost schizophrenic change of genres and sounds, often within songs. Twee ukulele songs are followed up by dub, with sudden shifts into post-punk. While at points it doesn’t all cohere together (there’s a rather awkward hip-hop moment, the “digital disco age” line is cringeworthy – but the acoustic break is wonderful, and the Interpol guitar reference of ‘Work Ethic’ is little too blatant, especially given that Interpol rip off Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’ in the same way). But this release is interesting for its chutzpah, a fascinating melange of styles and sounds and its considerable energy: a hint at some considerable talent.

The music drive was started early. “My mum used to take me to music lessons on Saturday mornings to some kind of Auckland College of Education thing where I learned a little bit of piano, guitar, violin, trumpet, trombone when I was five or six.” However, it was a trip to Germany that got music being thought of seriously. “I was living in Germany on a farm and had nothing else to do but read books and I started to teach myself guitar.” He received a digital mixer for his 21st from his father. “I was like ‘man this is a piece of kit’. I’d never had any kind of recording experience before. ‘How do I hook this up to my computer and take this thing seriously?’ It was learning how to record music and try and make it sound professional to my ear. I was fully experimenting with the styles of music that were opened up to me having that equipment.”

He had been playing in bands around Dunedin, where he had been studying. He gained a bit of a rep for lo-fi acoustic stuff. “I was [also] in a band at that time, and I’d recorded an EP without having any experience and it came out pretty good. And the band folded before this EP was finished.” The band, Yule and the Thundercats, were asked to tour with the Chills after only three months of playing together. He admits things moved “really fast, but it was too much for the band-members to handle at that time. A lot of egos got in the way.” After the split “I thought I’m going to go solo and take things easy. I was studying and that made it hard to keep a band going and focus on other things. I‘d had the live experience and thought the next time around I thought I’d be a bit more pragmatic about it.”

The band experience assisted in terms of recording his own stuff. “I thought I’d try and approximate what a band sounds like, not necessarily make it sound like live instruments, but approximate the aural width by filling the gap with electronic instruments.” This led to challenges of working without any other musicians involved for the most part. He admits that “the music on the CD was kinda a bit self-indulgent. I could basically go ‘I like all this kind of music’. There’s no one who had any input whatsoever. ‘I’m going to make a post-punk sung and mix it with drum ‘n’ bass. I’m going to make a blues song and do a dub solo’. I could get away with no restraints on my creativity whatsoever.” This did make it difficult in terms of doing everything himself. “I was trying to learn how to do what I wanted to achieve with basically myself as a teacher or the internet. I’d be like, ‘I’m having heaps of trouble with this aspect and I have to figure out what’s the problem’. Most of the time was spent learning how to produce it to the level my ear wanted.” He now has a band, which he admits works well, something which might have been difficult to do given the rigorous self-control. “I think it comes kinda naturally."

“People tell me who my influences are and I don’t know who they are. I get reviewed about influences I’ve never heard of. I’m influenced by things I’ve heard but I don’t know where I’ve heard it.”

He’s also formed his own record label as a result, keeping everything under his own control and working outside the established models. “It’s difficult because I think there’s some kind of resistance to people pushing their own barrow. The reason I do everything myself is because I don’t have anyone else doing it for me. I basically go ‘I might as well do it myself. I’ve got the skills to do it I might as well do it myself’. The other side of the coin when it’s just you, no-one really knows who you are. I produced it in my bedroom, and I just jumped out, ‘here’s my CD’ and everyone was like ‘who the fuck are you?’ I’m still trying to combat that. It’s early days with live performances and the CD has only been out for a couple of weeks. You don’t expect to come out and hit number one when no-one’s heard of you so far.”

The eclecticism of the CD might be explained by the time-period taken with the recording. He admits to being a bit of a perfectionist, but also movements within Auckland contributed to the time taken. I also ask if there was a shift musically between living in the South Island and the North Island. “I think that there were three songs on the CD that I did once I moved to Auckland. The rest were all done in Dunedin and all pretty heavily arranged and stuff. The ones in Auckland, the focus on each song became clearer. Thematically and arrangement wise.” For songs such as the ukulele driven opener ‘Eat Your Greens’, “my Grandma gave me a ukulele that was my grandfather’s. I didn’t know how to play it. I thought it was a light-hearted instrument and learned a light-hearted song. I just wrote a lot faster when I came to Auckland.”

He admits that he’s not much of a music collector, and his musical influences comes more from hearing music around the place. “People tell me who my influences are and I don’t know who they are. I get reviewed about influences I’ve never heard of. I’m influenced by things I’ve heard but I don’t know where I’ve heard it.” However, this eclecticism might be toned down for future recordings, and being with a band has assisted in that respect. “I think at this point I’ve probably found a sound in what I was doing on that CD even though I wasn’t looking for it. I was trying to do something different on each song. But I can kind of see a style of pop that I think is kinda my own. So I’m looking into playing with that for a little while and developing that as a sound for a while with the band because the band’s quite into it. The next thing will sound quite different.” The album grabs attention for its unpredictability, Yule’s music sounds like a new musician who’s not really afraid to step back and consider coherency or a unified vision. This opens up the music considerably, and allows for a breadth of vision that for the most past, really pays off. If he continues to write with the uninhibited mood this release suggests, there’s plenty of interesting music to come out of it all.