By Nina Corcoran
Photo by Stephania Dulowski
The first time I heard Unwound, I struggled to find words worthy of their sound. Their music combined elements of post-hardcore, noise rock, and this beautiful, pensive contemplation, something that suggested both pent-up frustration and utter bewilderment with the world around them. They found a place within ‘90s rock music that had yet to be explored, a space that felt strangely comforting, edgy, and openhearted in the best of ways.
Yeesh do the same thing. The Chicago trio don’t dodge genres, but rather play around with them. They pull sections from post-hardcore styles and mix them with the grittier side of pop rock. They deliver lines with the heart of emo but the scratches of post-punk.
On this year’s Confirmation Bias, the group’s sophomore LP, Yeesh explore territory that’s equal parts noisy and introspective. They’re reviving a post-hardcore sound that touches on Japandroids’ energy and Cloud Nothings’ anger, and they’re doing it in a time of ‘80s revivalism and trap loops — that is, a time that desperately needs a rock record that can hold its own from start to finish.
Much of the group’s sound comes from the familiarity of friendship. Back in 2010, guitarist Alex Doyle and drummer Peter Reale started Yeesh while at college, taking their name from one of Rosario Dawson’s lines in the film Sin City. Two months later, they asked Greg Obis to join on bass. After a short hiatus that allowed everyone to graduate, they relocated to Chicago and started fresh in 2012.
Compared to their 2015 full-length, No Problem, this year’s album carries a tighter sense of urgency and anger. “Alex and I have been in a sort of ‘loudness war’ for the past year and a half,” laughs Obis. “Each of us just kept buying — and continue to buy — louder and louder amps, and I think that drove the music to be more aggressive and brutal as our sonic capabilities changed.”
As they look to the future, Yeesh have three goals in mind: make a living playing music, tour Europe, and get louder amps. It’s hard to imagine them not accomplishing all three. At the very least, Confirmation Bias is a big step in the right direction.
Your music wears its influences on its sleeves, particularly Unwound, Shellac, and Drive Like Jehu. How do you take those styles and merge them into something of your own?
Reale: I don’t consciously try to sound like other bands or show influences directly. Our songwriting process is entirely collaborative. No one ever brings formed songs to practice. At most someone might bring a musical idea. I’ve been listening to a lot of Nails and Cattle Decapitation.
Alex Doyle: To piggyback on Pete’s comment, our musical influences are similar but also vary pretty heavily from each other, and we are constantly critiquing and rewriting each other’s parts so we end up mashing together ideas from different sources. I’ve been listening to a lot of Drake.
Obis: I’ll definitely echo what Alex and Pete said. However, I also have tried very hard to emulate Bob Weston’s bass tone! I also work for him, which is kinda funny that we’ve drawn that comparison recently.
There’s a feeling of improvisation that pops up occasionally in your songs. Were any of the sonic or lyrical changes added last minute in the studio?
Obis: A lot of the lyrics and melodies on “Well Adjusted” were written the day we recorded it. I had a solid chorus, but only a vague idea of how I wanted the verses to sound, mostly thinking about the stream-of-consciousness writing of Parquet Courts, which I was big into at that time. It’s a new poetic voice for me, and I am very pleased with it. I plan to explore it more in the future.
From the inside looking out, what drives your record? I feel like there’s a lot of chaos and anxiety pent up in it, but that may just be my reading of it.
Doyle: I made a choice on this record not to write about the past. The songs are all very personal and the issues unresolved and up-to-date.
Obis: I definitely feel the record is driven by cumulative frustration about a lot of things in our lives. For the songs I sing, “Well Adjusted” is definitely a collage of envy and self-loathing projected onto people that I perceive as more put-together. “Speechless” is about someone very close to me who suffers from substance abuse issues, and it’s kind of this outraged scrawl of disbelief and trust issues. It felt good to write those songs.
There’s a great line in “End Results” where you talk about perfecting the subtle ways to waste a day. What’s your ideal lazy Sunday?
Reale: Not practicing, probably cooking food, and doing something outside. If we’re talking “ideal” here, record shopping, because ideally I would have some money to buy records.
Doyle: Ideally … drink coffee, work out, read and see friends, get a drink, go to bed, wake up and realize it’s not Monday and I don’t have to work.
Reale: Drinking a lot of coffee is implied in mine.
Obis: Play Civilization 5 for 12 straight hours. And drink coffee.