Yi: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Shoegaze, Post-Shoegaze, Noise-gaze, Post-Noise, Post-Everything
File next to: Sonic Youth, Massive Attack, Blur, Beliefs, Rolemodel
Playing: Class of 2017, Saturday January 21 @ The Silver Dollar Room. Get Tickets!

Yi, featuring Jesse Crowe of Beliefs and Jordan Allen of Rolemodel, is a brand new project under renowned Toronto indie label Hand Drawn Dracula. Having secretly jammed for some time over the past few months and played a debut show back in July with label-mates Vallens, Yi now joins Wavelength, Exclaim! and NeXT’s bill alongside a number of other great Toronto bands representing the Class of 2017. We at Wavelength could not resist the opportunity to get Toronto artist Yi Shi — the person the band is named after! — to interview Yi, the band.

So Yi is a collaboration project between you, Jesse from Beliefs, and you, Jordan from Rolemodel. How did the collaboration happen?

Jordan: When I first moved to Toronto, I was working on some new Rolemodel music and had a song (“Until”) that just wasn’t working for my vocals at all. I had been thinking maybe it was time Rolemodel started involving some more musicians and collaborations. I’d been familiar with Hand Drawn and Beliefs already, so I just contacted Jesse out of the blue to see if she’d be interested in working together on it. Luckily she said yes, and it worked out really well, so we just thought, why don’t we try something where we can both be part of the writing process and see how it works out?

Jesse: Jordan and I started out writing “Until” for Rolemodel. The writing went really well and I found Jordan to be a warm, supportive and comfortable person to work with. It’s rare that you sit down to work with someone who makes the writing process that easy. Every time we sat down and picked up two guitars after that, we were writing full songs out of nowhere.

I think many have noticed some surprising changes in the musical style of the once very “shoegazey” Beliefs during recent live shows, and Rolemodel could be described as an indie synth-pop shoegaze project. What kind of music does Yi play? Any influence from the two (or more) bands you guys play in?

Jesse: I think Yi is a combination of what Jordan and I felt we couldn’t fit into our main projects at the time. Beliefs were just finishing a record and not in writing mode, and Rolemodel was going in a more synth-based direction. Yi came out of just writing gritty, simple songs without trying to be a certain genre or fit into our bands. Jordan wasn’t playing as much guitar in Rolemodel and I wasn’t able to write as straight-ahead-on vocals in Beliefs, so we both got to fulfill those desires.

Jordan: I think there’s always going to be a little bit of influence from the other projects due to your own level of involvement musically; people always have their habits and melodic tendencies. The idea with Yi was for us to try to get away from writing the way we do in our own projects, or at least focus the music into genres that we typically couldn’t work into those other projects, maybe.

How do you guys feel about the importance of having a supportive record label (Hand Drawn Dracula) and local music community in terms of creating good music?

Jesse: Toronto in general has been such a great environment to make music in. Rolemodel and Beliefs both find their home in Hand Drawn Dracula, and James who runs the label is a very very supportive friend. If anything, we all have too many projects for him to juggle at this point. Ha ha ha ha. I really find camaraderie with our label-mates and am so proud of all of their records.

Jordan: The community in Toronto is so great. Both competitive and nurturing, I think. In a big city where there are so many different artists and genres going on, you can afford to do your own thing regardless of whether or not you think it fits into X or Y scene.

Welcome to the Class of 2017! 2016 was one of the toughest years according to some of us. I know making New Year’s resolutions is a bit clichéd, but what kind of expectations do you have for 2017? 

Jordan: I’d like to get out of the city and play a bit more, so hopefully that. Personally I’d love to learn a new trade like coding, or a new language, and hopefully do some more custom music for film or video projects.

Jesse: Personally, I’m dedicating more time to writing music. I have three projects to work on and I’m trying to narrow my focus. I would love to paint more and start taking more photos of Toronto musicians.

Saturday’s show is going to be the first 2017 show and the second-ever show Yi’s played. What can we expect from Yi in 2017?

Jesse: Yi are soon to release our first single, “Not So Dead,” along with a video soon, and an EP to follow. Fall will be [when we plan to release] our next EP, and hopefully we’ll write a full-length over the spring! With the addition of Braeden, Luke and Pat, we’re hoping to try a more live approach to writing this time around.

And how did you guys come up with the name? “Yi interviewing Yi” seems fun, right?

Jordan: I think we were talking about naming the band as the name of a person and your name came up, haha. We both said how much we liked you and the name, and it kind of stuck. It has some interesting meanings to it too, it seems — suitable, proper, decisive, firm, joy, harmony, ceremony…

Jesse: Jordan answered this one well, haha. We just love you and your name. You embody a true music lover, fan and friend.

Aw, this warms my heart! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! *gives participation medal*

Jesse & Jordan: We accept!

— Interview by Yi Shi