By Chris Illich
Throughout the course of their existence over the past six years, Kelowna rock band Yukon Blonde have drastically changed in sound.
While their beautiful blended harmonies are constant throughout all their albums, their 2009 debut EP was indebted to 70s radio rock. 2012’s Tiger Talk was full of jangly power-pop, and the follow up, 2015’s On Blonde, found them creating synth-laden pop songs. Yukon Blonde have changed their style throughout their short career, all the while maintaining a distinct sound to call their own.
But they aren’t paying homage or chasing trends, they are trying to evolve as musicians from record to record.
“We’ve just gone into an electronic feel with our music these days. Jeff [Innes] just got wrapped up into learning how to use synthesizers. He’s always been interested in electronic music and he brought that element to this record. He programmed all the drums and really dove in hard, and all that really came from him, so that was really cool,” said Brandon Scott, guitarist and one of the many vocalists in the band.
The change in sounds between records were also partially due to the recording process. For Tiger Talk, the band were desperate to put a record out and they went in and did their record live off the floor in two weeks, most likely on a break from touring.
Prior to On Blonde, the group took some time off to work on some side projects and reflect, Scott worked on his beautiful solo EP titled The Postcard Writer, which was just released this past January.
They then took over the now defunct Hive Studios to work with Colin Stewart [who’s credits include Japandroids, Ladyhawk, Dan Mangan, New Pornographers], but this time around they were able to work at their own pace.
“For On Blonde, we just took our time. We had a break before making it and some of the songs were there and some of the songs weren’t. We went in and wrote a lot in the studio. We had never done that before, so that was really fun. We’d have to go home and think about the songs for a little while and rebook time in the studio again and we probably went back three or four times in a period of six months,” said Scott.
“It was a total collaborative experience. It was nice to hear everyone’s opinions on what should go next or go in certain places, or what sounds we should go for. Also, we had Colin’s input on certain structure ideas. We were just kind of playing with things after we recorded it while we were editing. It makes a big difference, to be able to listen back and have fun with it.”
The end result paid off, with On Blonde being their strongest record to date. The tracks were mixed by Tony Hoffer, an American producer who’s notable works include Beck, M83 and Phoenix. This led to On Blonde becoming a shimmering, glossy record, and their first two single’s “Saturday Night” and “I Wanna Be Your Man”, showcased that.
The different sounds on On Blonde proved to be difficult to reproduce in a live setting and the band had to recruit Rebecca Gray to lend her hands to the synthesizers.
“We never really rehearsed that record because it was mostly written in the studio. We had to figure it out from the ground up. It was a lot of fun building the set and reworking old songs like “Wind Blows” and adding synth elements to it,” Scott said. “We had played our older songs to death, so it definitely added a little bit of life to them.”
After the record came out, and the band had figured out how to translate the songs to a live setting, the group went back out on the road. While on tour they collaborated with Hey Rosetta! on the touching non-album single “Land You Love” – a protest song about the 2015 Canadian federal election that was played 148,000 times on Vimeo.
“We were very careful about how we approached that situation. We weren’t trying to influence voters on a particular party, though we were biased towards a certain wing and I was really glad we made it work,” Scott said. “They were in Germany and we were in Australia and we found a way to record and splice it together. Tim [Baker of Hey Rosetta!] wrote such a great song and it has volumes to the lyrical content.”
After they each returned home, the two groups went out on the road together, and played that song every night as an encore, something Scott remarked as a wonderful experience to hear people singing it back and thanking them for helping raise awareness to the Canadian political landscape.
Now, after a brief rest through the New Year, Yukon Blonde are once again, back on the road, doing their first Canadian headlining tour in over three years.
“For us, traveling is the always the best thing. It’s really a great thing to see where we’ve come in all these years. It’s always been our goal to tour as hard as we could, whether or not that has been good or not on a mental state is another thing. You know, Graham [Jones, drummer] and I were homeless for a year and a half, but it’s been the best seeing new places and meeting new friends.”
Yukon Blonde performs at L3 Nightclub on February 23 with On An On. Tickets are available at Mindbomb Records or through ticketfly.com