Even though he was given a guitar at the age of 10, it wasn’t until he fell in love with Guitar Hero that Ji Sharp Yehia found his love for the instrument. “I realized that if I put the same amount of dedication into a real guitar, I could get even more of the gratification and euphoria that comes along with learning something, especially music.” Once he learned the instrument, Yehia found himself in over a handful of bands, but it wasn’t until 2014 when he started the psychedelic ‘jamband’ Road Waves that he found his footing. After an impressive performance at last years festival, and reeling from their first cross-Canada tour, Road Waves are more than ready to headline the outdoor stage at Livestock Niagara.
What was it like in 2014 when you started road waves? Did you have a vision? Or was it just kind of trying to get something started, moving and going?
I definitely wanted each member to be unique in their own right. That’s basically all I’ve ever truly wanted with the music. Irreplaceable members – and we’ve changed members a couple times but its always drastically changed our sound because we write in a loose way that allows a lot of interpretation.
Also, we have always been a band that one would call a ‘Jam band’ which has become more of a buzzword than anything at this point. The common misconception is that were just noodling on stage or have a ‘jam session’ the whole time. We are extremely improvised, but the fact is that we take a lot of time to talk about our improvised sections so that the character of the song still holds true while still interpreting each gig and jam as a unique experience.
So then, how do you craft the songs to that you’re able to elaborate on them on stage?
I know audiences like to respond in two ways – to the music they listen to at home, and as well the stage show and whatever’s being conveyed on stage. How do you blend those aspects together when writing music?We try not to create too many set in stone ‘parts’ – like exact drum beats to play or an exact way of phrasing the same melody – there are some things we do the same every time, but even then if I do something the same every time it doesn’t mean everyone is doing the same thing under that particular part. So there is always some sort of variation and I think it helps that we all take the music and practice really seriously because it translates into an infinite well of possibilities.
Our songs still have particular structures like usual, except we don’t prohibit anyone throwing in new ideas when they feel them and the more we do it the better we get at executing fun and new ideas on the fly. Some songs are more available for improvising, due to looser rhythms and structures but even songs that are basically played the same every time can have a more bubbly feeling one day and a more heavy touch the other. I think it’s actually harder for me at this point to play things the same, but I definitely work harder on that.
But basically we try to keep the familiar character of a song, while still being mindful of the fact that the song is alive in that particular moment and will resonate differently no matter how hard we try to keep it the same. Mistakes in a jam turn into unique turns that would have never happened without the whole band being on board to take that risk.
Road Waves recently released the single “The One/Ghastly Spirits”. Did you have any expectations of it? Is that song part of a larger work that will be coming out in the future?
That release was a low budget project and I also consider myself a better live performer – I like to feed off the crowd; we only went in for a day and then came back another day to do some vocal overdubs. That being said, Jordan Rutledge [Two Flamingo Studios, St. Catharines] is brilliant and guided us in the way that good engineers do – it turned out better than I expected. We have plans to hit the studio sometime at the end of the year if everything works out nicely.