“More Zelda than Mario,” Yukon Blonde’s feelgood fifth album ‘Vindicator’ is the sweeping statement of a band that is confident in who they are and what they want to be.
for fans of The Flaming Lips, Tennis, Tame Impala
Stream: “Get Precious” – Yukon Blonde
‘Vindicator’ is more Zelda than Mario. “In Love Again” is like the Water Temple.
Yukon Blonde let the music flow naturally for their fifth studio album, staying true to themselves by keeping things “as simple as possible and as fun as possible.” They made music that felt right and exciting, and the result is a smorgasbord of sound, color, and emotion that inhabits an entrancing psychedelic world unto itself. “More Zelda than Mario,” Yukon Blonde’s feelgood Vindicator is the sweeping statement of a band that is confident in who they are and what they want to be.
You’ve been so wrong
About me living in hell
You can tell me that it’s urgent
Tell me what you feel
Tell me what you need
Nothing’s gonna change me
You’ve been so wrong
About me living in hell
I’m just doing fine
I don’t get angry at my phone
And I don’t mind sleeping on my own
If I don’t respond it’s not because I’m cold
Drama free, I leave it at the door
Get precious, so precious, get precious
Get precious, so precious, get precious
Released November 13, 2020 via Dine Alone Records, Vindicator is an impressively expansive, all-consuming offering from Vancouver mainstays Yukon Blonde. Active for a decade now, the Canadian quintet of Jeff Innes, James Younger, Brandon Wolfe-Scott, Graham Jones, and Rebecca Grey continue to push themselves and their boundaries in a multifaceted record that has many faces, and wears them all quite well.
Vindicator follows 2018’s release Critical Hit, a solid release in its own right but one that feels very different in comparison to the new LP. “Critical Hit is a very cool record that sometimes takes itself too seriously,” Jeff Innes explains. “In retrospect, it’s clear that we lacked a great deal of confidence in some of the aspects of production, limiting us to convention. It’s very well produced, but does it need to be? Vindicator is, if anything, a symbol of our collective confidence, or at the very least, our collective conviction. By some metrics, we may have obliterated some elegant sonic elements that in others hands might have shone. We probably could have used an extra chorus here or there or jammed out less. But to us, it’s not the point. We made it, and we’re happy with it 100%.”
‘Vindicator’ is, if anything, a symbol of our collective confidence, or at the very least, our collective conviction.
Innes continues, “The first few songs we had written and recorded for the album hadn’t initially been intended to be Yukon Blonde songs, or really released material at all. We were just experimenting and having fun, as was pretty typical in the past, but this time, we just kept going. Everything we were making was so fun and devoid of the usual stress we endured when making a record. We had a sort of collective epiphany and realised that we didn’t really need a “professional producer” or trained engineer and these songs, (which normally would have made it into a demo pile), were exactly what we wanted to make; something rough, weird and most importantly a truer expression of what we are.”
Yukon Blonde dwell not only in ethereal soundscapes, but also in musical space – that sonic “in-between” – throughout Vindicator. Songs like “Good Times” and “Fuck It” showcase a willingness to loosen the reigns and let the sounds they’ve carefully built wash over the ears; meanwhile, singles like the blues rocker “Get Precious,” the dreamy “In Love Again,” “Good Times,” and “Your Heart’s My Home” find many of those same psychedelic guitars and synths shining through groovy rock structures and pop melodies.
It’s the closest Yukon Blonde have gotten to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – experimental and accessible, Vindicator glides from start to finish with effortless ease and a finesse.
It was never made for Top 40, but it will find favor amongst music lovers who are looking for a little more depth and color to their listening experience.
And it’s all thanks to the laissez-faire, “back to basics” approach that helped Yukon Blonde rediscover themselves and their craft. “On Blonde and Critical Hit were methodically combed through. We’d mastered some pretty complex systems of MIDI implementation, agonised over lyrical cadence, guitar tones, drum sounds etc., and sometimes it was fun, but mostly it was just a ton of work,” Jeff Innes explains. “On Vindicator, we just made music that felt right or really excited us: As simple as possible and as fun as possible. This isn’t to say we didn’t work harder on it than the others – but if something felt annoyingly strenuous for too long, we’d ditch it and never look back. I guess the ideal objective was to reach that coveted flow state during the process, and to be honest, when we were on a roll we we’re recording a few tracks a day.”
“Most of the hard stuff came when trying to limit the amount of parts and instruments happening at the same time, making it as simple as possible. All of our favourite music is dead simple, yet so damn enjoyable. But simple isn’t always easy.”
In some ways Vindicator feels like a reintroduction to Yukon Blonde, arriving a full decade into their career.
Innes agrees. “Well for starters, we have a different band member sing a lead at some point on this record,” he notes, referring to Rebecca Gray’s increased presence across the album. “I’d have to say Rebecca shares leads with me throughout the entire record and not a single person is defined in a fixed position on any song. We all play everything, share writing duties here and there etc. Vindicator is also almost entirely made by us, James and I produced, Bran made all the lyric videos, I did the press photos, album art etc. There were some exceptions made for exceptional friends, of course. I’d almost say that I feel like we’re an entirely new band, only that wouldn’t be true.”
The truth is that we’re becoming the band we were always supposed to be. We just got out of our own way.
In premiering the album’s second single – the Rebecca Gray-led “In Love Again” – earlier this August, Atwood Magazine praised the song as “a burst of bright psychedelia channeled through a warm alternative lens.” Sonically in line with Tennis and Alvvays, the track is a special highlight off a record – but as Innes himself notes, it’s just one out of their eleven new tracks that can’t be captured through a single song or sound.
“I love that song, but I don’t feel like it defines anything on the record but itself. Each song is a tiny little self contained adventure, but they’re connected by the larger world of Vindicator. To use a video game reference, Vindicator is more Zelda than Mario. ‘In Love Again’ is like the Water Temple.”
Innes cites their most recent single “Good Times” as one the band is generally excited about, but says he doesn’t necessarily have a favorite out this batch; sometimes, an album is really meant to be listened to as an album.
Part of that has to do, again, with the way in which these songs were conceived. “The vision and course had changed so many times on this record in theory, but the practice was the same throughout. Once we had a ton of songs, we started labelling everything and splitting it up into EPs and other projects and everything. But it really became clear near the end that this was, in fact, the most true Yukon Blonde record we’ve ever made. It felt so right for all of us to give the project its final form and “label” and move in that direction.”
“Then the pandemic came. And I really hate to try and make light of such a tragic and bizarre time in our lives, but to be honest, we might have just worked forever on this and it made way for us to finish it. James and I set out to finish and mix the absolute most enjoyable songs to work on from the batch, as was the general mantra of the project. After we wrapped them up, James mixed it. And such an incredible job.”
Now that Vindicator is out in the world, Innes says he hopes it inspires future generations of music makers to stop overthinking and worrying, and instead make the art that’s true to themselves.
If Yukon Blonde can do it, you can too.
“I really hope that people like it enough to go as far as reading about its creation maybe, and feeling like they can do stuff themselves too,” Innes says. “I’m sorry to end on a semi-bleak note here but, sometimes, I think about all the time in the world that used to be spent mastering art, music, language, sports martial arts etc, and whether or not the capitalization of our attention and rampant narcissism is in danger of destroying that.”
“But then I see these young kids writing and painting and performing at a level never achieved in history. So I don’t know. But in any case, if we can take the attention of someone and direct them from the dredges or social media for a minute, and inspire them to want to work on themselves in a meaningful way – I mean, that would be incredible.”
Vindicator is dynamic; it is effervescent and relaxed; it is buoyant and groovy; it is cool, poised, and self-assured. Yukon Blonde really aren’t trying to be anything they’re not here – they lean into what they know and own it with uncompromising resolve, and that shows from the second they wax on in opener “It’s What You Are,” to the moment they close in “Big Black Cloud.”
this movie’s about to start
when the credit’s already rolling
it already feel apart
you’re gonna do what you gotta do…
I say “fuck it”
– “Fuck It,” Yukon Blonde
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Yukon Blonde’s Vindicator with Atwood Magazine as the band take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their fifth album!
Vindicator is out now on Dine Alone Records.
Stream: ‘Vindicator’ – Yukon Blonde
:: Inside Vindicator ::
It’s What You Are
“Jeff had this song kicking around in various forms for a while. I went to stay over on Galiano Island wit him and we went at the song for 16 hours straight. Jeff played drums, as I programmed some electronic drums over them. We both played bass, then he added some synths, as I recall I had just bought Serum Vst, so he just used that. We did the vocals in like 10 minutes, it was ace. Then with the song sounding astonishing and us pretty tired and drunk, we went outside and lay on the dock and watched the stars for a while. The outro was recorded at a later date, it was all Jeff, and the delay pitch shifting between the parts was a happy accident.” -James Younger
“Fickle Feelings was a song that had been kicking around James’ laptop for years that really came together at the Island Sessions. Graham threw down a one-take-wonder of some of the best drums on the record, James used a wicked Arturia Mini V bass synth that he ran through a stereo chorus, and he [James] and I worked on lending the the vocals a bit of a RnB, lo-fi feel. Vocal sessions were done half on the island, and half in James’ at home studio/walk in closet. It’s so lush and dreamy. One of my favourite songs on the record, with some of my favourite memories of recording tied to it. “ -Rebecca Gray
“This was a demo Jeff made around 2011 that was included in the batch of songs written for Tiger Talk, but ultimately was not used. We revisited the demo while recording Critical Hit in 2017, however the overall production when we finished ended up too polished and over tracked, and again, ultimately it never made the record. For this record James and Jeff were sifting through those track files from 2017, keeping what worked and stripping what didn’t. They re-tracked drums/guitars/synths, and fully re-produced the song to capture the lo-fi charm that the original demo loop had (even though we didn’t use it until 2020, our good friend Shad sampled the opening horn section loop for his song “All I Need” on his 2018 Lp A Short Story About War.)” -Brandon Wolfe Scott
You Were Mine
“We were all on Galiano island for this recording. James brought the initial idea to the table, and after several hours of jamming, eating Scooby-snacks and drinking Churchill martinis, it started to fall apart in the most perfect way imaginable. I feel like this song somehow epitomizes the spirit of a successful collaboration in our band. Words like “compromise” had no place in that session; everyone sings leads at some point, everyone plays everything. It’s certainly among our favourites from the record.” -Jeffrey Innes
“I was away for the initial recording process of Play Along, but remember getting a text from Jeff very late one night saying “Get here as soon as you can. I need you to sing on something”. I took a float plane over a few days later and James and I got to work immediately. It was a very open and collaborative vocal session; we were experimenting with a lot of effect, a lot of harmonic layering, and working together to find a delivery that was, at once, earnest and cutting enough to portray the feeling of the song. “ -Rebecca Gray
In Love Again
“In Love Again is every bit as chaotic, nostalgic, and sentimental as all love stories, new and old. It’s the complexities of navigating a relationship; the way you carve a place of tenderness for one another, about how sometimes, cacophony and complexity can come together seamlessly, beautifully. It’s a real departure from the rest of our new material, but a lovely song that we’re all immensely proud of.” -Rebecca Gray
“Pure collaboration. The 5 of us built this song from scratch on a piano that Rebecca’s mum gave us. Started with a kinda Spoon style piano progression, and we just thought it was funny to talk about being at home all bummed out, while you think your partner is out having a good time. The lyrics were spontaneous and fictional, and we all had a shot at singing. The hardest part was the outro, which at one point was a full Chic style disco 5 minute thing, then me and Jeff just decided to switch it up and go full analogue synth and drum machine, used some pitch shifted vocals, and flangers and stuff to make it feel like Dan Snaith was partying with us that day.” – James Younger
“Back on Galiano, Jeff, Bran, and Graham tracked this originally. It was quite a light hearted rock song, and then me and Jeff started adding all these 90s dub percussion samples to it, for no particular reason. That forced us to re-record the bass with that feel. The vocals were recorded accidentally with all the space echo reverb on them; we were gonna re-record but i loved it too much.” – James Younger
Your Heart’s My Home
“James brought this jangly, throw-back tune to the table, complete with a brilliant hook and fleshed-out melody, and the tag line “Your Heart’s My Home”. We were all feeling really good about how we were jamming it that we started recording beds almost instantly. Over the course of the next few days, it turned in to a darkly-sweet sort of mantra on lost love, and how to rebuild yourself afterwards. I’m better now, I’ve levelled up, but I wish you were still thinking about me like I think about you. “ -Rebecca Gray
So, James and Brandon came to visit me for a few days at my house last summer. I live on the water, so we had a plan to just write and record a little, swim, drink beers, y’know summer stuff. We set up our little mobile recording studio, and I built a kinda drum fort in my bedroom – I’d been really obsessed with drums, playing them, but mostly recording them. It’s amazing living in a isolated place because, for the first time, I could just play drums all day, experiment with different recording techniques etc. I was fortunate enough to live by two engineers, Rob and Wolfgang who were always willing to swap mics and gear and give me a hand as well.
So the guys came and Brandon had this demo of a song, it was called “Love isn’t on your mind,” or something, and me and James were ribbing him about the lyrics, but the guitar riff was amazing, so we decided to use it. James got it on his computer, we looped it and then we started playing with this really
Not hip synthesizer, a RolandJV1080, that had all these 90s breakbeat loops built into it. Anyway,at some point I decided to play one of these breakbeats on the real drums, we recorded it, looped it, and then added a Dre / Scott Storch kinda Piano part; thank you to Rebecca’s mum who gave me the piano. After that we added bass, we just wanted to make sure the whole thing grooved in this hypnotic loop. We expanded it, recorded guitars- all through a 70s champ and finished off the track with the Moog Source. Fun fact, that synth has been on every Yukon Blonde single.
The lyrics for Get Precious are more or less collaborative between the three of us. We were just in this space together creating, having such a wonderful time when a conversation struck about relationships came up. As it does. We had all been in these toxic situations in the past where we had friends or partners, who seemed to be upset when you’re thriving outside of their sphere. Like crabs in a bucket. It was almost revelatory how universal that feeling is- and so we wrote a song from the perspective of somebody in an out of these relationships, somehow simultaneous involved, but not affected by them. In other words, they see you in the bucket, they’re just doing something else, and something positive.
Once we kinda finished the song, we decided to add this little psychedelic pocket of a bridge into it; I think it comes down to our ADHD or something, never can quite leave things alone. James thought it would be great to have a French Chanteuse whispering over it, so Brandon asked his friend Maia, a total diva, to whom it didn’t need any explaining. Funny thing, the song was being mastered when she sent the vocals, and James just kinda shoved them on top of the track and through loads of delay on to try and get them to blend in. It was the first song we recorded that summer, and the first song we are releasing. -Jeffrey Innes
Big Black Cloud
“When first thinking about making this record, we entertained the idea of making a “guitar focused” record. Keep things minimal, raw, and limit ourselves. This song and “In Love Again” were recorded within the same week, they both have similar guitar tones and I think of them as sister songs. Obviously we didn’t stick to these boundaries and I’m glad the rest of the album goes on a sonic journey. The overall message of Big Black Cloud is avoiding toxic energy and not getting caught up in drama.” -Brandon Wolfe Scott
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📸 © Erika Saul
:: Stream Yukon Blonde ::