Yoav…a star yet to be so named. This young musician, who until earlier this year hadn't released a full-length album, has already had quite the trajectory, including scoring the opening slot for Tori Amos. He was in Seattle recently, and Glide's
Gabriel Scheer had the chance to meet with him for a lunch conversation spanning the vagaries of "making it" in the music industry, Yoav's next album, and his views on place. Scheer also gave Yoav a loosely-guided tour of downtown Seattle, showing off the mountains and Puget Sound, as well as discussing architecture and the shared intrigue of having proud, talented relatives (in Yoav's case, his father, in Scheer's, his grandfather) trained by world-famous architects (Le Corbusier and FL Wright, respectively).
You obviously had a huge break, going from relative unknown to opening for Tori Amos. How’d that happen?
You’re right; that was a big break. Tori sets her own openers, and hadn’t yet found one as the most recent tour approached. She had listened to 100’s of CDs, and apparently none felt like quite the right fit. When she’s looking for her opener, she’s trying to find music that sets the tone she’s trying to set for the evening, something that will prepare people for her. I lucked out in that a friend of Tori’s got a copy of the CD from my agent, played it for her, and she felt I was the one for this tour. Tori’s incredible, she has a very star-like quality to her; some musicians seem like, well, normal people, but Tori – she seems like a star. It’s unusual for a musician to be choosing their own opener, so I was really fortunate. And her audiences went along with that – she gave me, obviously, an incredible gift, opening for her, and her audiences have really embraced me.What has it been like, going from opening for Tori to touring as solo headliner, albeit with a much smaller following?
The whole thing has been really surreal. In some countries, I’ve developed really big audiences – for example, four thousand in Russia, etc. But at the same time, in the US for example, I am still playing small clubs – which I’m used to, which I like to play. The first night playing with Tori was scary, and the second even more so, because we were playing Madison Square Gardens. Tori practices until the doors, so there often wasn’t time for a sound-check. But by later in the tour, I had relaxed a bit and was more comfortable. Obviously, I was learning a lot, and still am. What has been your goal in terms of making music, and how have you felt about the direction you’ve taken so far?
I have a great manager, who has steered me very well through label talks, etc. I set out to be a different-sounding artist, with my music constantly evolving. I want to make interesting pop music. It’s been really interesting – I opened recently for Underworld, and I know their fans weren’t excited to see a guy walking barefoot, carrying an acoustic guitar, onto the stage – but it worked, and was a great show. It’s a weird time in the music industry, with festivals having a hard time seeking out good new music; so many of the great musicians today have been around a while, like Radiohead, Bjork – who I recently saw, and who was unbelievable. So, I’m trying to offer fresh, new, good music.
On the next album, my sound has to evolve. I’ve been working with Alessandro (Cortini, of Nine Inch Nails) on remixes, which is fun. Sound changes significantly depending on the engineer, who you’re working with; I usually go to a studio with a pretty good idea of how things will sound, but then we add layers as it goes along; I come in with songs that are pretty sparse.
I also want to get more involved with the visual aspects of the show, the live side of things, and lyrics. Some of my songs are getting dated, lyrically, at least to me, so I’m enjoying exploring new ideas. I don’t think I’d be interested, at least not right away, to setting up a standard guitar/bass/drums band set-up, but I would be open to cameo performances. I’m also intrigued by the idea of working with someone more electronic-oriented – maybe pull in some guy with a laptop, add some samples and beats. I want to be careful, too, with the tension of the gimmicky aspect of doing just me and my guitar, versus simply being creative.
Also, with promoting this album – on the one hand, I want it to blow up – but on the other hand, I know I can do a lot better, so I want people to hear me for the first time at my best. I love having meaningful lyrics, but the pop guy in me wants great hooks – and in general, I want people to hear the best of both. You’re making great music, some of it clearly very thoughtful. Do you have much time to do other things, develop other interests?
Yeah, the last few months have been crazy; it’s a very self-centered thing, in a lot of ways, just doing this all the time. There’s not much time to do outside things. I really enjoy art, music, poetry, and have been trying to get my head into new ideas, etc. It’s the same with a sense of place; in some ways, I feel out of place everywhere – I haven’t found a place that really feels like home.
I love the West Coast of the US, and am thinking about moving this direction; it feels really creative, minds feel open. Maybe it’s because there’s more time and space in the west. That feeling helps, though, with my writing; I don’t want to just throw songs together with shit I’ve been thinking; I want to be very deliberate, to be a songwriter, first and foremost. My stuff evolves, but I want to keep writing great songs. And as far as politics in songs, well, of course I’m influenced by global circumstances, but on the other hand, I certainly don’t want to preach.