One of the first songs we wrote that still consistently finds its way into our set list is Yeah Right. Like an old cast-iron frying pan it’s stayed remarkably intact over the years and carries a bit of flavor from all the things that have been cooked in it. Looking back at the last few years and thinking about a path that started in the basement of a defunct gas station on a busy street in South Burlington and wound up at the band we are now I can hear Yeah Right at every major intersection.
Back to that defunct gas station – back then we were just two. Initially Chris Klug and I became friends through skateboarding, but I quickly learned he was a very passionate and talented drummer. In a very short time we were getting together regularly in the basement of the house he was renting where we would have long improvised jams. Usually it was just drums and keyboards and whatever sound making electronic devices we had available. Delay pedal connected to a cassette player with a tape of knives being sharpened? Hook it up! Often abstract, it was experimental in the truest sense. We were exploring ideas and keeping a keen ear open to sounds that we could extract and develop into something that was our own. Somewhere in those long jam sessions the bass line to Yeah Right stood out and was snatched up.
Taking our cues from the earliest examples of modal jazz, we found a simple and open structure to build our song atop of. This suited our then interest in more free forms of expression and allowed us to reimagine the piece at will. As a result, the identity of the song developed in tandem with the way we would communicate with each other musically.
Somewhere in the fall of that year, just before Simon arrived on the scene and long before Chris headed back to Wisconsin I was sitting down after work in my tiny studio apartment. A healthy dose of random lo-fi fuzz-core was being broadcast by our local college radio station and, feeling adventurous, I continued listening. Before long I heard something I felt I should recognize, but couldn’t immediately place. Thirty seconds or so into this bizarrely familiar track I realized it was a version of Yeah Right that we had recorded a week or so prior. Though I didn’t know it at the time, Chris had sent a DJ friend of his a copy to listen to and while maybe it was not remarkable that he decided to play it, I was surprised to hear this somewhat manic rendition of our song being played while I was actually listening. Curiously, this hissing track, captured on a portable cassette recorder is probably the first time we played it in this more aggressive style. We haven’t been able to resist doing so since.
These days you’ll find Yeah Right at almost any point in our set list. Of course, one of the advantages of instrumental music is that the listener is free to impart their own meaning on what they hear. To me that meaning changes with each performance – leaving something lingering in the jumbled filing cabinet of my memory that crystalizes into form only after some time.
Really, the point I’m getting at is that it’s a curious thing looking back at our experiences. We tend to need some point of reference or our memories dissipate into the mist of just another day. I guess it’s because Yeah Right has often been such a fun song to play that it does nicely as a touchstone for the collective experiences of our group and I suppose in some way all these experiences get absorbed back into the music. Probably best to just go have a listen.