I was instantly drawn to the name ‘Yakuri Cable’. It probably has something to do with my love of Urusei Yatsura; in this case a funicular, not anime, draws a Japanese connection. How did it come about?
“I’ll give you the very long answer! We decided to form the band when we were out for my birthday just over a year ago and someone had given me the book ‘Occupied City’ by David Peace, which is set in Japan. It was thought that choosing a word or phrase at random from that book was as good a way as any to pick a band name so we briefly ended up being ‘Tokyo Metropolitan Police Board’. I then discovered that there is of course a pretty well known Canadian band called ‘Tokyo Police Club’ so it was probably wise to change it – a decision that I didn’t really mind!
This left us with no choice but to go the pub after practise one day and hit “random article” on Wikipedia until something suitable came up. I think Yakuri Cable has quite a nice ring to it (though people seem to have a very hard time remembering it) and of course the synchronicity of it being Japanese meant it definitely had to stay!”
Musically the attraction was equally satisfying; almost like falling in love at first listen. Better still, the sense of wonder continues right through to the end with the last track ending up being the favourite. ‘Adventures in 86’ is a dangerous song title to wave in front of someone who was in the third year of University that year. What adventures are being referred to here?
That’s Andy’s song, so I thought I should ask him. Here’s what he said –
“Well, Adventures in 1986 relates to my obsession with all things 80s (did you know about that?) and that was the year my two favourite 80s films came out – Big Trouble in Little China and Aliens. There were also many other fine films released that year, inc Blue Velvet, The Fly and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, to name but a few.
Several legendary 80s records came out in ’86 – including So by Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon’s Graceland and – one of my all time faves, Control, by Janet Jackson, all of which have had a big influence on me. I should also point out I was 6 years old in 1986!”
And yes, he is as 80s obsessed as that makes out!
At first, I thought you were a brand new band in the usual sense, but there was just too much polish and depth in both the music and the lyrics for that to have been the case. Although it was actually harder than I thought it would be, this is the summary I’ve managed to come up with – Discarded Hermit crabs, of which 2 are still in Baffin Island, with a new singing drummer and handclapping guitarist. Could you point out the gaps?
“Congratulations on your detective work and thanks for the compliments, but I really would say that we are a brand new band! We were all in The Hermit Crabs for varying periods of between 3 years and a few weeks, but that was and is very much Mel’s band and I would say we were in more of a supporting role in that instance.
It’s harder to say if Jo and I are still really in Baffin Island as that band exists in 2 continents and is almost entirely the work of Jeremy and Mel. I would record a transcontinental bass part for Jeremy any day though!
Oh, and we don’t really have a drummer. Andy plays some on the recordings, but in practice, and as we will be live, we are accompanied by backing tracks.”
The ironic thing is that if the fairly recently released Hermit Crabs EP had showed up in my inbox, I would have written back that it is quite lovely and while there is definitely something a little extra going on musically, I’ve grown somewhat tired of Twee pop, in general, and expect more from it these days. -And now you’ve gone and delivered it. What prompted the change in approach/instrumentation?
“Like I said in the previous answer, this is a completely different project. As far as I’m aware, The Hermit Crabs still exist, it’s just that we’re no longer a part of it. When it became obvious that there didn’t seem to be a place for us there any more we decided that we enjoyed playing together too much to stop, so we’d just have to form our own band! Our ethos was that any one of us could write a song, anyone could sing and basically anyone could contribute in whatever way they liked. I think the golden rule was that we should all be as creative as we liked, but more importantly that it should be fun to do it. Most of us have been in bands before but I think this might be the most input any of us has had into how the band operates and sounds. ‘Stars Fall Down’ was the first song we had and that was a rough template for our sound (Andy really loves synths!), but it’s gone in a few directions since then.
Careful with the “twee” word as well – a lot of people really hate it! If by that you mean what I would call indiepop then I think the scene is actually healthier than it has been for many years. Allo Darlin’ are my favourite band in the world right now and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!”
I’ve been wondering about the absence (and I really hope it isn’t the demise) of Zoey Van Goey. My initial reaction to your EP was that this moved me in a similar way and, if the worst is true, I might just have found the band to ‘take their place’ in an emotional sense. What is it about ZVG that works for you?
“Firstly, I’m personally very flattered that you would even compare us to ZVG as I think they’re one of the best Scottish bands of the last few years and probably the most musically accomplished. With me, all you need to get me interested at first is a good tune and ZVG have those in abundance. Of course it helps if you have more than that going on and ZVG can write everything from genuinely funny songs (a very hard thing to do) as well as many more emotional ones. They also do all this with an impeccable ear for arrangement.”
We’ve recently become more attuned and sensitive to the artwork and the selection process itself for covers, so I found this peek into the choices you had fascinating. What did you want to convey with the cover art and why did you end up choosing the path you did?
“Well we have a Japanese name, so we thought we’d like something in a comic book style and also something that included the titular railway car itself as that has become something of a symbol for us in the absence of never having done any band photos. We were incredibly lucky that our friend, Kat spent far too much time on us and gave us a range of excellent options to choose from, which we gradually refined until we ended up with the excellent art we have now.
I was looking at someone’s Bandcamp page the other day with the artwork of all the records they’d purchased and it really stood out against all the “arty” photographed covers, which I think is great.”
Really not finding out a great deal about the band, I turned to your tweet history to try and learn some more and it seems a shared Camera Obscura story is called for. There used to be an actual camera obscura at the beach here and I saw ‘Underacheivers Please Try Harder’ so often in the local shops that I thought they were a local band. I must have had it in my hands half a dozen times before I eventually broke down and bought it only to discover that they were from Glasgow (much to my amusement). Surely you have a better one?
“I suppose my best Camera Obscura story is that I bought my current bass off Gav from the band. He has a beautiful Rickenbacker now so he sold me his old Music Man Stingray at a very reasonable price! As a fan of the band, it’s quite cool for me to listen to the early stuff now and think that that’s my bass!
I saw them play the other week and am thoroughly looking forward to the new album.”
“Well I can’t say I understand the lyrics to Pen and Notebook as I don’t see how listening to The Smiths could put you off playing the bass! Go and listen to ‘This Charming Man’ and tell me Andy Rourke’s bass part isn’t the real hero of the song!
It probably has worked its way up to being my favourite song on that album though. It’s very simple in many ways, but there’s a delicate beauty to it that’s impossible to fake.”
I learned of the existence of the Willie Campbell documentary from your feed and since we just did a Charlie Clark piece, I’m very eager to watch it. Did you see it? How was it? I’m really miffed about not being able to see these things over here. Did you also happen to catch ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night’?
“I did see the documentary and it’s worthwhile tracking down if you get the chance. Willie has led a life that’s very much worth documenting!
I lived in Stornoway for 3 years and so I saw him playing live quite a lot. I saw proper Open Day Rotation gigs with large bands but he also plays every Thursday night in the same wee bar in Stornoway. You could walk in and find no one paying him any attention but he would still be there singing with all his might. A very talented man and he obviously loves what he’s doing.
I was lucky enough to catch ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night’ when it was being performed and it’s a real testament to the breadth of creative talent that exists in Scotland today. I think the album that goes with it is a great taster for the Scottish music scene as well. The RM Hubbert and Withered Hand songs on there are a couple of my favourites from last year.”
I even went back far enough to know you didn’t just get on the Kid Canaveral bandwagon. What do think of the new record? I’m somewhat contractually obligated to ask about Cancel The Astronauts at this point. Did you pick up Animal Love Match last year as well?
“I’m really loving the new album at the moment, it seems like they’ve really made some big leaps with their sound. I miss some of the humour and poppiness of the earlier stuff, but there’s plenty else there to make up for that. They’re an incredible live band and I was lucky enough to see them at their album launch the other week too. I think even folk that weren’t too keen on the records would be won round by a Kid Canaveral live show!
I’m afraid I’d never actually listened to Cancel The Astronauts before you sent me that link. Have seen the name around a lot of course, but had just never got round to it! First impressions are that they sound a little like Over The Wall though – that’s a good thing!”
And perhaps the most impressive find of all – you had ‘lunch’ with Neil Hannon. It was never a dilemma for me as I bought both at a show (and therefore they feel like a double album) during the Casanova tour , so it might be a little more difficult to answer: ‘Liberation’ or ‘Promenade’?
“I originally really struggled to work out what this referred to (you’ve really delved into my twitter history!), but, yes he was sitting a few tables over from me in the work canteen one day! They were the first band I really loved so it was quite cool in that respect! I originally got into them via Casanova and then I think I got Liberation and Promenade in that order. It took a long time for Promenade to click with me, but it’s definitely my favourite now. Concept albums aren’t really my thing, but I like the story that runs through this. The Nymanesque orchestration is great too of course and Tonight We Fly is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.”
Apparently, Shed Seven is also a shared guilty secret. What’s your favourite song? I might have to go with ‘Bully Boy’. I can’t believe that is over 15 years ago. I’ve moved on though, why haven’t you?
“Well, hopefully I have moved on! It’s just that my friend, Sandy was posting a whole bunch of their videos on facebook one night and that got me to remembering that they actually have a load of great tunes (I like a good tune remember!). I haven’t listened to them that much since then but I did find a Greatest Hits on eBay that was cheap enough to merit buying. ‘On Standby’ is probably the pick of the bunch for me. I actually picked up ‘The It Girl’ by Sleeper for £1 not long after that and if you want a reminder of some of the good pop tunes being made in the middle of Britpop then that’s a far better way of doing it!”
Back to Yatsura Cable as I keep calling it inadvertently but affectionately, what is on the horizon for the band? When can we look forward to some new Yakuri Cable songs?
“Told you nobody can remember the band name! Good question though!
The thing we really want to do in the near future is play live as we’ve never done that before! Have been trying to organise a joint gig with our friends in Bodyheat, but it seems to be a bit tricky to find a date we’re all free. We’re open to other offers too!
I would like to think we’d record some more material this year, but we’ll wait and see. Jeremy from The Very Most talked about putting out a split single a while back so that would be cool to do.
There are no great ambitions, but if we can get a few folk to like our songs and play some gigs with some fun people then we’ll probably be happy.
I did read (and this probably helps to explain why I like the EP so much) that you have 3 song writers. How has this impacted the way you go about crafting your songs?
“Of the 5 songs on the EP, Andy wrote 3 (Line of Sight, Stars Fall Down and Adventures in 1986), I wrote one (Come Apart) and Jo wrote one (Giving Into Silence). Andy’s songs are usually pretty much fully formed by the time we hear them as he does a lot of work building up the various parts in Garageband and we then work up our own additions to this in practice and Ross will magic up a great solo from somewhere! Maybe we’ll decide to add a section here or remove one there, but he’s usually got it pretty much spot on! He doesn’t really like writing lyrics too much though so he might have a verse or half a verse and chorus and I’ll try and complete it. I actually find it much easier to write lyrics when someone has given you a starting point.
You’ll be able to hear that the songs written by both me and Jo are probably simpler in construction. Jo had the chords, lyrics and vocal melodies and we then just worked up our own parts and added a drum loop that repeats for the entire song. Simple but effective I think!
I had created some drum parts and the little arpeggiated backing track for my song on my phone and again we just brought it together in practice.
We have pretty divergent musical tastes, but somehow it seems to all come together in a way that I think works!”
The 5 song EP ‘Beginnings‘ really is an exceptional debut and worth checking out.