Yes You Are

Recently we sat down with a band who plays an unfamiliar genre of music, and hails from a place we here at PEV don’t get to feature often enough – getting to the point, we sat down with 5-piece “black pop” outfit, Yes You Are (Kianna Alarid, Jared White, Jacob Temeyer, Joseph Wilner, Willie Jordan), proud residents of Kansas City, Missouri, and as they put it, translators of this universe. If we look at how Yes You Are’s black pop approach is assembled, the pop portion is somewhat clear – Yes You Are unnamed-2catchy hooks, melodies, rhythms. The black however…is something of an abyss. As Alarid, says, part of it is “lyrics that come from another, strange place.” It seems to be a language that makes up the world around this band – lyrics formed from details gathered from all the little things in everyday life – a song, a passing conversation, a sign, a glance.

Thankfully, Yes You Are is working on a collection of songs (you’ve probably already heard “HGX”, as it debuted on Pepsi’s Superbowl 51 commercial), new music that the band has completely dedicated itself to. White told us more about the effort: “This album is full of hard learned lessons set to melodies that stick with you, whether you like it or not. One of the main processes in writing this album has been the process of learning what real patience is about. It definitely IS a real virtue, being able to wait for what you want, with expectation and to wait cheerfully. You have to fight to do that, against the natural response to complain or resist. Before this album could be written we needed to be taught who we are and what we’re doing here – who we’re writing for and why. In some places on this album we are trying to come to terms with those things and at other times, we’re trying to get out from under the weight of those things.  But all in all, people can expect catchy tunes and eternal themes.” Click to to prepare for the new music to come from Yes You Are – we look forward to the explosion. For now, do keep reading. There’s still so much more to learn in all the answers to the XXQs below.

XXQs: Yes You Are (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out from others in your genre?

Kianna Alarid (KA): I like to say our sound could be called “black pop”, which is a play on the term black metal. We make music that is accessible but at the same time it’s challenging. Our songs can create a feeling that might make you ask “Have I been here before?” Like, you remember the song but you’ve never heard it. The lyrics come from another, strange place, and are anchored here by all the things that make pop music comfortable: hooks, catchy melodies and danceable rhythms. All of that is present, but alongside a shadow that makes you wonder about yourself. I think that sets us apart possibly, from a lot of music.

PEV: Calling Kansas City home, what kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

KA: I actually grew up in Omaha, Nebraska with parents who loved music and listened to it all the time. My dad was either playing Black Sabbath, The Beatles, all kinds of 50’s doo wop, reggae, Hank Williams, Gypsy Kings – OR he would only listen to classical music for long stretches at a time. My mom listened to Squeeze, Steely Dan and a TON of female pop artists like Madonna, Cindy Lauper, Taylor Dane, Sade, Linda Ronstadt. I see very clearly how all of this helped to shape me in my formative years.

Jared White (JW): My dad has always sang and played guitar, piano and harmonica, both in our home growing up and later on he started a cover band, which he still plays in to this day. The majority of the material he worked with was/is 60s and 70s folk and rock. All that got in me pretty good, from an early age. My first concert was Chicago and The Beach Boys in Detroit. I was really into it. Then I saw Meatloaf and I really loved that too. My parents took me to both of those concerts and they definitely left an impression.

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?

KA: Starting out in Kansas City was rad because the people in the music scene here are super supportive and willing to come out and see new things. At our very first show, we opened for some friends’ bands, unannounced. We weren’t on any flyers or anything. It was super fun to just get in front of people and play outside of our rehearsal space for the first time. The crowd danced along with us and really got into it, it was a blast!

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Yes You Are show?

Yes You Are unnamed-1KA: I think it’s safe to say that people can expect us to bring a ton of energy and an authentic desire to connect with them. That’s our main goal every time we get on stage. It’s like, “We made this, we hope it makes you feel something and maybe have some fun with us.”

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

KA: My first thought as soon as I step on stage is a very determined, “Alright, let’s do this.”

JW: I always take a look around and think “What kind of crowd is this going to be?”

PEV: How has playing in Yes You Are been different from working with other artists or projects in the past?

KA: You could say it’s like night and day. For example, my last band (Tilly and The Wall) felt like innocent happenstance, whereas Yes You Are feels like an intense guided mission. With Tilly it was like friends having fun at a party, but with Yes You Are, in a way, it’s like being on the front lines in a war zone – it’s just a totally different thing. It’s not that we don’t have fun, it’s just a more serious kind of fun, which is actually the best kind. It’s pure adventure.

PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?

JW: I think our best ideas come from experience. How do we convey this peculiar experience in song? Can we use a song to cause someone else to have an experience like this? Also just by living and listening we get a lot of ideas. If we hear or read a certain phrase or line that resonates we write it down in a list then maybe see if we can cook up a song from the fragments in the list. But there’s no other way to say it: the underlying inspiration is a mystery, one that can be deciphered…but only if you really, REALLY want to figure it out.

KA: Yes, the process can get pretty mystical if you pay enough attention to the inner and outer worlds we live in. You can become very in tune to what’s swirling around you on a daily basis and discern what the worlds seem to be trying to tell you or show you. You can get good at reading the language of the world, once you realize it’s trying to talk to you…although coming to that place is an odyssey of its own. Imagine a language that is speaking through everything from TV commercials, “random” conversations held by strangers passing you by, street signs and lines from books and songs…all simultaneously and all the time. Being comfortable with that “voice” makes you an artist, being out of control with it could make you schizophrenic…It’s a fine line out there in that kind of place…some would say it’s the wilderness but it feels like home to us.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

JW: I think the trick is to never “arrive” anywhere, but instead always be in a state of becoming. We reflect though, all the time, on what a strange trip it’s been so far…full of signs and wonders, floods, fires and cold solar wind storms that imbed your world in ice…and we’ve only just begun.

KA: Its total insanity to set out on any real quest and then see how far you’ve come. I’ve been a thousand different people in the past 15 years…it’s a miracle I’m alive today. This kind of career is more than just what you see…more than a singer and a songwriter and the songs. You don’t get to be any kind of “artist” or whatever we are, without some serious demolition and repairs. Thank goodness we know a great mechanic and he’s fair and honest! But really, the song is where we get to express all the life we’ve lived and anything we would dare to say. It’s all there.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Yes You Are?

JW: In all honesty, our very presence appears to set off cataclysmic events in certain people’s lives. We have many theories about why, but it’s a truth we can’t deny. We are highly introspective about that fact, we always want to learn and understand…but suffice it to say you’ve all been warned. If you get close to us, you may never be the same again.

PEV: What can fans expect from your upcoming release? Tell us about the writing process behind this work.

JW: This album is full of hard learned lessons set to melodies that stick with you, whether you like it or not. One of the main processes in writing this album has been the process of learning what real patience is about. It definitely IS a real virtue, being able to wait for what you want, with expectation and to wait cheerfully. You have to fight to do that, against the natural response to complain or resist. Before this album could be written we needed to be taught who we are and what we’re doing here – who we’re writing for and why. In some places on this album we are trying to come to terms with those things and at other times, we’re trying to get out from under the weight of those things.  But all in all, people can expect catchy tunes and eternal themes.

PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song or album is complete and you can sit back and listen to it in full? 

KA: Relief. Our process is a struggle. It’s not an easy breezy kind of thing that we do. I mean, what we do is exciting, but in the same way that a trip to outer space is probably exciting to an astronaut…it also involves a lot of sacrifice, study and extreme focus. We are usually just happy that the ship didn’t blow up somewhere along the way and we finally landed safely. Its feels like a relief to just be safely back on the ground…for a little while.

PEV: What would you say is the biggest challenge for musicians trying to make a name for themselves these days?

JW: Getting their priorities straight. You’ve got to build a strong, solid foundation – and that foundation is the song. Concentrate on writing the best songs possible, then concentrate on getting those songs produced as good as can be. All the self-promotion, all the networking, all the style, looks, or good pics on social media doesn’t add up to anything unless you have music that people want to hear. As far as I can tell, the music business is still about music.

KA: Totally. You can flash in the pan for a sec but then the fire goes out. Build the material into something you really, truly and deeply believe in first. Build something you’d burn all your bridges and “plan B’s” for…start there and the other things will fall into place.

PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

Yes You Are unnamedJW: Yes You Are has only played shows in the US so far. We are very much looking forward to playing everywhere to be honest…not one place in particular. Just the world. We are excited to play the whole world.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?

JW: We have always had total support from friends and family. They come to every show they possibly can. They’re our number one fans. Encouragement from family and friends, seeing that they believe in you is priceless – it’s something we could never take for granted. Not everyone is so lucky.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JW: Reading. Hanging out with family and friends.

KA: It’s true, all we do is family first and study if we aren’t working. We don’t have a normal social life or anything like that. We do go to movies sometimes…to eat popcorn in the dark. Livin’ on the edge folks…

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?

KA: Presently, I’d love to do something with Twenty One Pilots because I feel like our voices, sound, and aesthetic would make for some interesting dynamics. Also I’d love to write a song with Timbaland, that’s been a dream of mine for a long time.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

KA: Definitely check out Francis and the Lights if you haven’t already. He’s one of those artists that is always up and coming.

JW: It’s interesting because he’s not widely known yet – he’s done stuff with Bon Iver, Chance the Rapper, Kanye, The Weeknd, and Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend and toured with Drake, MGMT, Kesha, Mark Ronson etc. His music seems to be something that people who do music are really into and have been into for a while but as far as the general public goes, he’s still up and coming.

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?

JW: I would want to run a vast worldwide trucking company…or build houses…or something in waste disposal.

KA: I would just be a mom! 🙂

PEV: So, what is next for Yes You Are?

KA: Most of our focus is set on finishing up our debut album. We have been traveling back and forth from Los Angeles since November and it’s getting so close to completion. That’s the next big thing on the horizon, but until that happens we are really excited about all the stages to come…

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