Lubbock, Texas' own Yele definitely have their own unique style. This may seem like generic cliche, but given the band's inventive style of all-encompassing indie-isms on their first EP,
The Potential, it's clear that the five-piece have carved their own niche in the dusty nights of West Texas. Armed with Beat Happening-esque vocalist and songwriter Travis Pope, keyboard player and singer Katy Brizendine, guitarist Ryan Young, bassist Philip Secrest and drummer Travis Maret, the band certainly have a future as a bright spot in the underground outside-Austin Texas music scene. Stream their Potential EP and check out a wonderful interview conducted by TMC collaborator Kacee Boswell right here!
TMC: So I'm here with Yele, and the members are; Katy Brizendine, Travis Pope, and Philip Secrest.
Travis: No relation to Ryan Seacrest unfortunately.
TMC: My first question is about the name Yele. What's the story there?
Travis: Well I can't tell you that. I heard it in a Wyclef Jean song; that sounds weird, but it was his first album, I listened to it while I was in Italy. It's from one of his ending songs, it's all in french. The word yele is actually Haitian, for uprising.
TMC: It's a really cool name. So how did you guys come to be?
Travis: Well I used the name Yele for a song I was writing, I was in another band. Usually in the studio it would just be me and another vocalist; I would do drums and everything. It started like that but when I got to Lubbock I just kept going with it; we played open mics with my ex-girlfriend Karen, umm and then we broke up. I kept playing open mics and I found another drummer and Phil's my roommate, now we have a house up in Lubbock.
Philip: I was forced into this
Travis: He plays guitar, but then he started playing bass in around August?
Philip: Yeah, I haven't been playing very long.
Travis: I had a gig up in Tahoka they had a big stage, and he had to learn how to play, so he's just been learning this whole time.
TMC: Hey it sounds good.
Travis: And then Katy has been a friend of ours, who always hangs out.
Katy: I've been a big fan. I was just a fan and then I got into the band! If you stalk a band long enough they might ask you to sing backup…That's not true, I'm just kidding.
TMC: My two favorite songs are 'Devil's Corner' and 'Three Speed Anthem'. I'd like to know the thoughts behind both of them. Let's start with 'Three Speed Anthem'.
Travis: Anger. I already had the guitar rift down, I wrote it while I was working at FedEx; 3AM to 9AM, then going to class, or not going to class because I passed out from loading boxes.
TMC: That'd piss me off too.
Travis: Yeah, you feel like your just running by the clock, you live by the clock; oh it's 10 I have to go to class, then it's 5 I have to go to my other job, now I'm done with my other job and I have to go to sleep. And then wake up by 3AM again.
TMC: All the days kind of bleed together.
Philip: I didn't see much of Travis during that job.
Travis: I'd get back at 9AM dirty with black stuff all over my hands from loading boxes.
TMC: That's crazy. Isn't the slogan for FedEx "You're in good hands"?
Travis: No you're in bad hands, they do not like packages. Everyone who works there is really disgruntled; they throw, they kick. This guy, he worked there just because he hated people; he'd cough on all the boxes, hoping it would get people sick.
TMC: That's pretty intense.
Travis: That job was. One other influence for 'Three Speed Anthem' was when we played open mics we see all the bars, the dive bars, and this biker came up to us, he had a hole in his throat from smoking too much; but he liked our stuff and he told me the quote I use at the end of the song, "out of a world of wolves I am the sheep". It was really weird he came out of nowhere and told me he liked our stuff. "The whole world's wolves man, and I'm a sheep".
Philip: He was drinking.
TMC: So 'Devil's Corner' has a totally different feel.
Philip: I didn't write it, but I wrote the baseline for it. It's probably my favorite. When we played at the Thirsty Turtle I came up with it. Ah, I was under the influence of some drugs… yeah and it's a really good song to chill out to.
TMC: The lyrics impress a really high pressure situation.
Travis: It's the whole thing with the Sirens of Odysseus. The Sirens would sing so the sailors would crash, it's about temptation calling you. The Devil is in the corner, and he wants to see you fall. He likes the fall.
TMC: Maverick's flow really fits in well with that theme. How did you guys hook up with him?
Travis: Open mic. He does a lot of open mics in Lubbock, he rapped on our other song and I really liked it. he does really well with this kind of music.
TMC: You should definitely keep that relationship going.
Travis: I know, people tell us it sounds good. Rockin' with the glockenspiel in the background.
Philip: The glockenspiel.
TMC: As far as a general taste in music, what are you guys' favorite bands, what are your strongest influences?
Philip: What was that thing that one guy said… if you play covers you're like a monkey and people just put a quarter in your butt. That just came to my mind for some reason.
Travis: It would just be so easy to be a cover band, I always like to do something different.
Philip: Influences, that was the question.
TMC: As a group, who influences you?
Philip: I don't try to emulate anyone, because I'm not good enough to do that. I like Incubus, I've been listening to Mute Math a lot, they're really good. I grew up liking Tom Petty a lot, he's one of my faves. Bob Dylan for sure, Travis doesn't really like Bob Dylan.
Travis: I don't dislike him.
TMC: What about you Travis?
Travis: Well my favorite band is The Police, so that has had a heavy influence. 'Three Speed Anthem' wasn't inspired by The Police. Not the way you do vocals or something, just arranging. I like Strung Out, and the Pixies, kinda.
Philip: Oh yeah definitely The Pixies.
Travis: But yeah Strung Out, and I went through a little hardcore phase.
TMC: We all did.
Travis: I'm not hardcore but I was in a punk band called Jim Jones and the Kool-Aids. That influences me a little bit.
TMC: What about you Katy?
Katy: As far as female vocalists; Portishead, her voice is just amazing. If you ever watch her live you really believe her, she's really emotional in her singing. She's also kinda crazy but her voice is great. You want to believe what you're singing. Otherwise, Radiohead. He's crazy, and his songs are all over the place, his range is just insane. It's inspiring, his constant creativity.
TMC: Where are you guys hoping to go with Yele? To the top?
Travis: Ooo, the question.
Philip: We're just having fun right now. That's what I'm doing at least.
Travis: You can't have high expectations.
Katy: It's a thing you keep doing while it's fun.
Travis: Getting signed would be nice.
Philip: Technically you're the enemy, correct? I remember that from Almost Famous.
TMC: No I'm on you all's side, but that's off the record. What band would you die to tour with?
Travis: First thing that comes to mind is playing with Rage Against the Machine, right after they put out Evil Empire
. Other than we'd love to tour with Mute Math or Atmosphere.
TMC: Do you think that (being a new band), the nature of the music press (and the rapid rate of leaking and filesharing) makes it easier or harder for a band starting out to make it?
Travis: I think the nature of the music press helps new bands that haven't made it get more attention. I think the age of instant gratification and the use of the internet can be used as an ally instead of a hindrance to gain listening power. I really don't know what making means anymore and I can see where filesharing hurts people who want music to support them into the upper class. My ego would be satisfied with the fact that people actually want to download my songs, plus you can always make a little money playing show (I think songwriting is more natural when you're in a steady state of hunger). So, summarizing my answer, I would say that it is easier to make it with file sharing and leaking, however I have my own definition of making that is different from other people.
TMC: Would you rather be in the same position you are now in a different time period, l.E. would you prefer to release your music in a more CD driven age, a Vinyl age, etc. Or is the digital age really what you guys are going for?
Travis: Hmmmm. The ascension to the top in the CD age (pre-file sharing) would be more defined and easier to plan, but I was born in this age so I choose digital. I was prepared for this age by growing up listening to Lars Ulrich opposing Napster and then watching South Park parody him as a greedy millionaire, so I am at peace with the supposed cons of the digital age.
TMC: When can we expect a full-length LP? Does it have a name yet?
Travis: Haha, when we earn more money. I'd like to take my songs to some people and see if I could get sponsored for more studio time, but who knows. For now I'm going to put the four songs we recorded in Austin together with our single (Earn) that we recorded in Lubbock to make an EP called The Potential
TMC: Very nice. How has Texas (the music, the state itself) affected the way you write or make music? What sort of influences do you draw from the state?
Travis: I feel that moving to Lubbock/West Texas has had an influence on me. Before I moved up here I was raised on classic rock in San Antonio and debating what the genre punk consisted of. Lubbock was really different from the culture/lack of water/landscape perspective, especially the drive. 7 hours from one destination to another caused me to exhaust my music supply and look for new artists, which I had a surplus of because of my DJ work at the local campus radio station KTXT 88.1. I also was fresh off my previous band and wanted to play so I started playing drums for a Texas country band called Tanner Billings and playing open mics. Tanner's lyrics influence me with his detail and attention to geography; it helped me figure out how to convey more with less words. That style of music also has simple root chord progressions with an emphasis on the lyrics to paint the picture. From there I find inspiration in the drunks and dreamers at the open mics and bars. Playing those dive bars and talking to the old guys really killed that dream of youth/immortality and having some big record label sweep me off my feet. I value that because it enable me to lower my expectations and keep moving on with making original music, allowing me to enjoy the process instead of an end product. "Keep it light and you won't hit the potholes so hard."
TMC: Amen, Amen. Well I think we're about done here. Since this is The Milk Carton, and our theme is 'music you've been missing,' what's one band/artist that you think deserves more recognition than they are getting presently?
Travis: Common Market. The band features a gifted rhymer that has a passion behind his voice and a DJ with original mixings. I just think it's refreshing to hear his ideas coupled with the music. I found their art in Seattle when I visited, and when I brought them back to Texas, everyone enjoyed it. They just had no clue who they were haha.
TMC: Sounds good. Thanks a lot Travis; it's Yele, they're from Lubbock, and you can enjoy some downloadable songs from their new EP right here on this very site.
Yele - The Potential EP
1. Intro (Rocky II)
4. Devil's Corner
5. 3 Spd Anthem
Yele on MySpace