The enigmatic acoustic musician known as “yesper” released an EP for us near the end of 2012. We’re hoping to write on the album itself one of these days. In the mean time, check out these awesome interview responses. Be sure to enjoy some of his music through his website (link below) or on his YouTube page.
1) How long have you been performing music? How did you get your start?
I picked up acoustic guitar in middle school because it was a more exciting option than home economics, which seemed girly at the time. Apparently I thought that strumming an acoustic guitar would make me a pillar of manliness. Looking back, the ability to cook a meal that doesn’t involve cereal and the ability to sew buttons back onto my shirts probably would have served me better. I’ve been performing and recording as yesper since 2008.
2) Your style is an intriguing blend of chill and aggressive. That’s not a question. What I mean to ask is how did you develop your style? Are you channeling any artists in particular?
The aggressive aspect is probably my attempt to keep myself from falling asleep, and maybe listening to too much metal as a youngster. The chill aspect is just the nature of the beast when you are working alone with limited elements. Things come out somnolent even when I’m doing my best to light a fire on the dance floor. I try to avoid being a mopey singer\songwriter, but it can be difficult to not put out that lonesome cowboy vibe when your setup is pretty spare. I don’t know that I’m channeling anyone in specific, but I really dig artists that find a way to speak a new language on their instrument without letting virtuosity get in the way of good songwriting. That balance of pushing boundaries on your instrument (or song structures) without descending into wankery can be elusive.
3) Tell us about that guitar. For the music techies in the crowd, what’s going on with those flimsy strings?
I had that guitar made for me in my home state of Virginia by a luthier named Stan Vandruff. Drove out to his home in a rural town, picked out the wood from his impressive wood stash, talked with him about what I wanted, drank some tea with him and picked up the guitar about a year later. Totally worth the wait. Plus, the experience was very old-world. I don’t know how often that happens anymore, but I imagine everything used to work that way. If you wanted shoes, you went to the cobbler; if you wanted meat, the butcher. Redwood top, cocobolo back and sides for the wood nerds. The guitar has a longer than average scale length and I tune the lowest string down to C#, hence the floppy strings. The guitar could only be improved if it was made from the reclaimed wood of a pirate ship and lacquered with viking blood.
4) How do you describe your sound? Do you see yourself fitting in with “folk” or just a stand alone version of acoustic?
Describing my sound is always a terrible experience, because there is nothing I can say to make it sound sexy or exotic. I’m a guy that plays guitar and sings. That is hilariously unexciting and vague, and also very accurate. I think folk is a close enough approximation, so I am happy to be grouped in with that crowd. I’m less apt to follow the traditions and archetypes associated with folk, I think, but folk has so many different connotations now. Some people think of Pete Seeger, others think of Bon Iver. I’m somewhere in that spectrum.
5) Your lyrics are quite interesting. They seem quite dark. Can you tell us a little about what you use for writing inspiration for the lyrics in particular?
Sex, death, robot stripper bars, cannibals, carpenters and murderers, oh my. Lyric writing is mostly an exercise in smashing different images together and avoiding cliche. I like words that create an image in my mind without telling me exactly what is happening. I like ugly images and pretty music. Maybe the characters are symbolic, maybe not. I’m generally not trying to spin a tale or have a direct narrative, but there is usually a loose theme when I’m done. The lyrics aren’t intentionally dark, they just sort of come out that way. Most of the lyrics on Cannibal King are about death, aging and sex. Death and aging are mysterious and inevitable, sex is mysterious and awesome. I think all of these things have elements of terribleness and hilarity in equal measure. If I can acknowledge the awfulness and wonderfulness without completely robbing them of humor, then I’m pretty happy. Also, anytime I can mention robot strippers, I will.
6) What does the songwriting process look like for you?
I feel around on the guitar like a blind man looking for a light switch until something clicks. I have a pitiful grasp of music theory, so it is a lot of feeling around. It usually starts with finding an interesting guitar figure, a series of chords or a rhythmic idea that feels exciting. I prefer to write songs that remain interesting compositions even without all the recorded layers, though its not always crucial. Approaching the guitar as a series of instruments or voices that can operate independently, like a tiny orchestra in a box, is fun to me. Eventually I try to sing a melody over whatever I’ve been playing, usually in gibberish. Lyrics are last. It is an excruciatingly slow process. When I record, I typically start with the basic guitar and vocal idea of the song that I would play live, and then I layer shit on top of it until it sounds new to me. Vocal harmonies, harmonized guitar, me kicking a wall and slapping my ass in rhythm…whatever keeps me interested when I listen back.
7) Who are you listening to? What bands and artists should we have our ears on?
Bandcamp has been a pretty wonderful resource for finding new music lately. I really dig Shakey Graves record “Roll the Bones”. Ramshackle, creepy blues and folk that has dozens of harmonies and really interesting melodies. A record by Joel Robert Melton called “Ghost.” Gorgeous bedroom psych-pop with incredible electric guitar noise, unexpected chord changes and unconventional song structures. The new record by Seamonster, “Baldessari”, is also a stunning collection of tiny, broken electronic sounds made into twinkling pop songs. “Fear Fun” by Father John Misty is amazing. Timber Timbre, “Creep on Creepin’ On.”, swampy, spooky blues. I could go on forever.
8) What else would you like our readers to know about your music? (You can be serious or silly with this one.)
There is noise to be found at www.yesper.net. I am available for bar mitzvahs.