“Moroccan topped houmous, I’m all about that life” – An Interview with George from Yonaka

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After regaling Yonaka‘s George with my story about the free Pret pumpkin spice latte half an hour earlier, and their rider of Sainsbury’s carrot batons and classic houmous, we talked about female fronted bands, George’s dislike of genres, and his favourite type of houmous.

Tell me about the name – not George!
So, very English name… No, the band name is Japanese and it means “The dead of night” or “midnight”. Theresa came up with it, she originally wanted to be called “Midnight” but it’s a bit of a nail on the head kind of thing. She was living with a friend of hers who was Japanese who told her what the word meant in Japanese, and from there it just clicked. It really represents the moodiness of the music, and the whole theme of the band, so it works really well.

How did you all meet and start playing together?
We all went to the same university at the same time, we were studying in Brighton. We’ve known each other for coming up to seven years now but we didn’t ever play together, we’d been in previous bands etc. There was one point where Theresa and Rob started up a project, I’d just moved back from Kent to Brighton, I was walking past Rob’s house and heard some music. I texted Theresa asking if they wanted to do some music, and I was like, “This is perfect.” Alex got involved for the first gig, it was only meant to be one because he was involved with loads of other projects at the time, but then he decided to be the biggest lurker! It’s all about timing, people have always been like “Oh you lucked out” but it’s not luck, I feel like we were meant to be a band together. Everything’s been such perfect timing in terms of meeting people, I think it was the right time to do it.

Brighton, especially in recent years, has become such a hub for artists – why do you think that is?
I think it’s saturation and how small it is – it’s a very creative town for art, music, a very liberal town, and I think that’s why. I always call it a gateway town, a place you move to when you’re younger and then move somewhere else when you’re older. I think it’s the saturation and the subconscious sense of competition, you want to be different, not for different’s sake, but you can feel at ease there. You can ride down the street on a unicycle bollock naked and nobody would care, you can be yourself there, which shows in the music. And it’s ever-changing, the scenes change with the seasons, even. I think that’s another reason people stick out because if you don’t follow the trend, like the whole garage/rock thing with Mac DeMarco, the number of Shoegaze bands that come out of there – but in a weird way, it’s easier to stand out when you’re against the scene.

I made a friend promise to force me to go to The Great Escape this year – I didn’t realise how small Brighton is!
It’s ridiculous though because you can’t fit it all in! I live there, I saw two shows that whole weekend. There’s a lot of stuff to do as well, you’ve got to mingle – oh, that sounds wanky – but it surprises us how many interviews there are to do with the press, and then leading up to the show, we were one of the last ones on on the first day at Patterns. It’s such a great slot, we played there last night – brought back memories, last time I played there I split my eye open with my guitar. Not on purpose, but it looked pretty cool.

I mean, your live shows are renowned for being, obviously good, but also quite full on.
You’re staying for the gig, right?

I need some pasta but I’ll definitely be back!
The first band [Stereo Honey] isn’t on until 8 but you need to see them, they’re fucking amazing.

For those who haven’t heard your music, you have a lot of different sound influences, it feels. How would you describe your sound?
We’ve gone with one recently, but genres piss me off, there are so many sub-genres now. It’s so broad, we’ve settled with heavy pop currently, or dark pop. As long as the darkness is mentioned!

Female-fronted bands are becoming more common, it used to be they were always compared to Paramore but now there are more like Wolf Alice, Sälen – what do you think about the increase in them?
I never used to think about this kind of stuff but I was having a conversation with one of our producers about how little women are involved in the music industry and it’s actually quite fucking depressing. There’s going to be bad female-fronted bands and there’s nothing to be helped by that, but I like female-fronted bands because it’s a bit different and there’s not many out there at the moment. But there aren’t as many as there are male rock bands, so we need to change that up a bit. At the same time, I don’t like being pigeonholed as just a female-fronted rock band. You’re going to be in that category because that’s what it is, but at the same time, you don’t want it to just be that.

And this is your rider, presumably?
Yep, carrot batons, classic houmous.

Is this Sainsbury’s?
Sainbos, yep. Classic houmous – my favourite houmous so far has been Morrisons, Morrisons are the best! Moroccan topped houmous, I’m all about that life. My favourite type is definitely the topped houmous, or I had one the other day, the piri piri one – I’ve got a lot of time for that.

I’ve been going to M&S Food a lot recently because a friend dragged me in and showed me the ridiculously reduced vegan food, and they had something called velvet houmous – I don’t understand what it is, but I really want to try it.
Velvet houmous? Sounds dangerous, got to be careful with that bad boy. I think velvet houmous, it’s just going to fall off of everything.

See I like a houmous that you can stand a carrot up in.
Viscous houmous?

Yeah, but that’s a bad name for houmous.

Check out Yonaka’s official video for ‘Bubblegum’ from their Heavy EP below:

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Third year PAIR student and live editor. Also the Wessex Scene's Head of Events. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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