YATTE - 'Man in the Shadow' | An Interview
Since YATTE glided into our collective harbours just under 2 years ago it's safe to say he became the talk of 2020 with his timeless vibe rich tracks that have drawn comparisons from Phil Collins to Michael McDonald. Stellar company to be somewhat compared to but there's no doubting the path he's carved for himself in delivering some of the best music we've heard in an absolute age.
This oceanic pop rock wonder to date had released Two Albums in 2020 'Shadow Work' & 'Sweet Shelter' and shows no signs of lowering the anchor as he sets sail with another album to drop this year and albums 4 and 5 already being buffed and polished for presentation.
With waves of modern Synth production and drawing on influences from the Yacht Rock era of the 1970's he's been a fixture on a ton of discerning Retro influenced Podcasts & Radio Stations and I'm so excited to see his star ascend as only true skilled Musicians should.
His collaborations with other favourites DUETT are on endless rotation and with the duo's production capabilities intertwining the tracks they create are as addictive & refreshing as long island ice teas.
He drops a fantastic new Single today 'Touch' where he splits the vocal duties with Paul Murray and we couldn't wait in Forged to interview the man that has in essence been the beating heart of our playlists here in Haus of Neon. Enjoy!
Thank you so much for sharing your time with Forged today and Congratulations on ‘Sweet Shelter’ such an amazing Album. Although it is out about 2 months now I feel it broke new ground for you in a way. How do you feel the release had gone?
Thank you! You know, I don’t stress too much on how the releases go. There are so many algorithmic and world-event factors that go into who listens and when, that I’m happy to just be consistently throwing stuff up, doing the latest promo techniques that I have time for, and enjoying hearing from fans about the new stuff. I would’ve loved to have seen something pop off as much as Time Wasted did single-wise, but I’m not stressing figuring out that magic formula.
Although YATTE is a relative newbie to the scene all things considered with your first single release ‘Time Wasted’ released towards the end of 2019, the music feels and seems timeless, when how did you first start your journey to becoming YATTE?
In 2012, me and my college buddies in Indiana had a band called Wonderbitch, and most of us moved to Austin to exercise our live music muscle with that band. We went at it in the local scene for several years, did a couple tours, and some members changed in and out. Our work is still on streaming services if anyone is curious. At some point, I had an intense desire to work in some vibes that had been pulling at my gut, namely yacht rock, high production-value 70s/80s art rock, old VHS nostalgia, and early-mid 80s RnB. All very producer-forward genres. We released a final album called ‘Oceansoft’ together, and were quite happy with it.
As we got older, our schedules made it hard to be on the same page (especially since we were mostly all in a second full-functioning band called Mid-century too), and I was going nutty not being able to create our retro stuff everyday with them. And so I asked the team if they’d mind me taking leadership, changing the name to something less challenging to algorithms (potty words are a nono), and making it more of a Gorillaz/Damon Albarn type scenario where I can just make stuff and they would be more than welcome to hop in on any track they felt inspired by, even to the point of writing whole sections of songs. They agreed, and that’s how it’s been trucking along since then.
Of course, listening to your Albums, the learned amongst us would draw keen comparisons with those smooth Summer sounds, that Doobie bounce of the Yacht Rock West Coast Era that has seen somewhat of a resurgence. You’re on record as citing Phil Collins as one of your earlier inspirations, who else?
Yea Phil is my spirit animal, bar none. The last several years, I have been really laser-focus-interested in artists that transformed around 1980 to keep up with label/audience demands in modern sound. The 70s were all about mastering your instrument, and now we get to 1980 and the goal is to master new electronic techniques, radio-friendly structures, and big production.
Many early fans of these bands resented the change, but I find it so fascinating, because we have these masters of musicality being polished and pop-forward for survival. So there’s a deep iceberg layer of musical magic in their pop albums. Some big ones for me: Yes, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, Steve Winwood, the rest of Genesis and all their solo projects, The Police and Roxy Music. Also gotta throw in 80s RnB, namely anything produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (exemplified in Alexander O’Neal’s album ‘Hearsay’).
I’d love to know how you came upon your stage name?
Quick clarification, YATTE is the name of the project, not necessarily my personal stage name; sometimes if it helps, I’ll just go by YATTE personally, but really I see myself as the ‘captain’ of YATTE, the creative director. While I was looking for a new name for the project, my friend and song co-writer/main guitar player Paul Murray and I had been messaging each other in a stupid funny nonsense language we were (and still are) inventing in moments of boredom. I was at the coffee shop and asked him if he wanted anything, and he ordered a ‘col bonilla yatte’, which I knew to interpret as a cold vanilla latte.
We found the word Yatte so funny that we started using it as a replacement for any English word. I googled the word and found it had a simple meaning in Japanese (part of ‘to do/to give’), and also mused that it sounds like some old mysterious tech corporation or airline that has always existed. And it’s like a yacht/latte combo. From that, I thought YATTE could be a fun thing to name the project.
I must admit I have DUETT to thank for introducing me to your music all the way back to July 2020 when I did an interview with him. How did the recent collaborations come about? Are there anymore in the pipeline?
Everyone’s favorite illustrator/retro collector Mizucat showed our works to each other awhile back. I can’t remember what happened in the interim, but after recognizing mutual fandom, I think I just said “shall we collab?” and we did so. We have an ongoing WhatsApp chat going where we throw ideas and thoughts at each other, and sometimes there’s a click and we send files back and forth. Very relaxed collaborative environment. We are planting seeds for more tunes at the moment, can’t guarantee the fruits of that tree of course, but I would love to keep realizing more.
What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
It used to be playing live, but without a doubt it’s now the process of relaxed collaboration with brilliant friends. One of the best vibes I’ve experienced (outside of sharing a giant energy with a live crowd) is having some fresh but spot-on ideas thrown down by a friend, then sending them a rough mix later, and getting a “YESSSSS RAD!!” back from them. Another amazing occurrence worth mentioning is when a fan will hit us with the most specific, almost psychic positive feedback, showing that they received the song purely, with the exact vibe that was intended. It’s pretty magical.
Tell us a little about your creative process, how long would it take for you to lay down a track?
From scratch, I can get most of a song figured out in a day or two. My brain/spirit/whatever will say “ooo I want to make a song as cool as ‘song X’ and I’ll get cracking. Often, Paul will come in with a cool starting idea that he’s worked out on his own too, and we’ll ‘YATTE-rize’ it. Then it’s just down to musical problem-solving, testing ideas, and creative direction with collaborators. Lots of dragging mp3s into chat apps. Finishing is up to our schedules interacting, but the process has gotten pretty fast and fun, and I mix as we go.
Can you tell us a little about any current and future projects you have in the pipeline?
Album 3 is finished, just prepping that stuff now. Album 4 is in progress. Album 5(!) is being planned. I will be popping up as a ‘feat.’ on a couple cool electronic artists’ albums and singles this year. I am currently structuring out an e-learning course for people that want to learn some production processes that I do, tentatively called “Classy 80’s Production and Arrangement with YATTE”.
What is your favourite song to perform?
Unfortunately, COVID put the kibosh on our first ever planned show in late March 2020, so I am not sure yet!
Anyone on the scene at the moment that you enjoy listening to?
I’m gonna sound like a recluse here, but I don’t find myself taking much time exploring new music. My ears are usually ruined after fiddling with my own stuff for hours a day, and laser-focusing on the details of one or two old masterful songs that I want to learn the magic from. That said, I’ve really been enjoying digitally hanging out with the Nightride fam, the Forever Synth fam, the Retro Promenade fam, and the Synthwave Afterparty fam and taking in a handful of the latest awesome bops when I can. There really are some fantastic songs coming out! But I must admit, my inspiration doesn’t really stem out of these scenes, it’s still just old beautiful productions, as it’s always been. I do love all the communities I’ve visited and I love hanging out there and taking things in when I can manage to visit.
What is the one guilty pleasure you cannot live without?
Guilty pleasures are my bread and butter with music, especially stuff from the 70s through 1992. The cornier and cheesier it is perceived as, the more I want to make an artistic stand and say “actually, smooth jazz is cool.” So let’s say, 80’s smooth jazz is the one I can’t live without.
What would you say is the best advice you have ever been given as a musician?
I was at a little local Austin panel talk about the music biz. When an established session guitar player on the panel was asked “how in heck do you keep getting hired to be on everyone’s record?” his reply was “be a good hang.” That goes way deeper than it would appear.
Link to stream: https://vibe.to/touch
A message to your fans….
THANK YOU!!! The things you’ve expressed to us about how our stuff has made you happy, or has gotten you through a tough period, that’s the magic I get from music as well. I am in awe and grateful that I can be one of those conduits for you.