Monday, June 12, 2017

An Interview with YJY's Steve Sachs and the Premiere of YJY's First and Final Full-Length Album

YJY (Tim Fitzpatrick, Steve Sachs, Dave Sachs, Ricky Lorenzo)

The Enduring YJY

From the far western reaches of New Jersey emerged a band called YJY. Their name was a visual joke meant to symbolize a human face. Steve Sachs, Dave Sachs, Ricky Lorenzo, and Tim Fitzpatrick made sometimes jangly, sometimes shoegazy, sometimes surfy, sometimes snarky, but always catchy pop music and released two very solid EPs with Sniffling Indie Kids.

The band made several incursions into the Asbury Park music scene, even playing a couple of memorable shows for CoolDad Music at The Carousel and as part of our Indie Pop Winter Formal. They were regulars in the basements of New Brunswick and even began making inroads into Philly, Brooklyn, and beyond.

YJY became experts on how to be a successful indie rock band and, with a year's experience under their belts, put together a post for us at the end of 2015 on their "8 Weird Tricks To Help Your Band Succeed." Despite helping the careers of countless bands with that post, the realities of life eventually caught up with YJY; and they've decided to call it quits as a band.

They have one, final blowout planned for this Saturday, June 17th, at Asbury Park Music Foundation in one of their adoptive hometowns. The show will double as a release show for their debut LP for Sniffling Indie Kids, The Enduring YJY, which we are premiering for you today.

Joining YJY on the bill will be friends and fans, Avery and The Man Devils, NGHTCRWLRS, Jeff Lane, and Julian Fulton and The Zombie Gospel. After the show, everyone will head to the Overlook in Asbury's Convention Hall for the Weird Summer 1st Birthday Celebration and official afterparty.

I had a long chat with singer, guitarist, Steve Sachs, about YJY's past, its members' futures, and their debut / final LP. What follows has been edited for clarity from a long conversation between two people who love hearing themselves talk.

I was gonna do that thing where I put the album premiere at the bottom of a long interview, but screw that. Here's The Enduring YJY.

Read while you listen. Then, come on out to Asbury Park Music Foundation on Saturday to say farewell to a great band made up of, truly, some of the best people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

Simply, can you give us a little bit of the history of YJY? How did you get together as a band? What were your initial goals?

I was living in Baltimore in 2013-2014, going to school for visual arts. Following a solo project that disbanded, I wasn't really playing with anybody and I was missing playing music. So I called up Ricky, who's been one of my best friends since high school and said, "Let's get together and play some of your songs with my brother, Dave, who's capable of playing drums. I just wanna play."

Pretty quickly, we went off script and started writing a song. By the end of that first time we got together, we had a song finished. I said, "Hey. I'm here for the month. Do you wanna do that again?" We got together again and had another song. We said to ourselves, "If we do this three more times, we could have a set and we could open for someone."

…and none of these were your songs from your solo project?

No. It was chemistry. I was just kinda magic. Ricky and I had lived together for 4 years in college, known each other since high school, and all of our other projects had been kind of joke bands, parody bands. But we pretty quickly hit onto something.

We figured we needed a bass player and decided to call Tim. It didn't take much convincing because Tim is the best.

YJY at The Saint

When was your first show?

I ended up going back to school in February of 2014, and our first show was in April. Somehow, our second show ended up being that month at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn.

…and your goals for the band in those early days?

Our goal wasn't really to do anything. Our goal was to hang out, and then we wrote a song. We said, "Was that a fluke? Maybe we could do it again." So I guess our goal was always step-by-step.

Once we started playing more shows, Sniffling Indie Kids — who are the best people, the easiest to work with, and so helpful — got in touch with us. We started taking everything day by day as it came to us.

While our first EP, Couch Surfin' USA, was being mixed and mastered; we got an offer to record from Converse Rubber Tracks. We picked four songs that weren't on Couch Surfin' that seemed cohesive and did them with Converse as The Same Noise. So we ended up with this weird problem of having almost a full LP recorded in the form of two related, but very different fidelity-wise EPs.

So, at this point, where are your minds at? Are you thinking, "We’re a real band now. Let’s run with this?" Or are those things like life and work still pulling at you?

My personal dream has always been to play in a band, so I was working at restaurants and stuff to try and stay flexible. But life happens, man. Work starts to happen. We're really lucky to have been able to do this as long as we did.

If you look back at any interviews we've ever done, you'll see I couched things as, "We're really happy to be doing this, and we don't know how long we'll be able to sustain it." It takes a lot of sacrifices.

We're grateful to everyone who ever liked our music. Even if you didn't like it, but you took the time to listen to us, we're grateful for that, too.

What ultimately made you decide to call it quits? Or was there even one, single moment?

It's boring. I wish there were a more exciting answer. People started getting different jobs and moving to different locations. By the end of the band, Dave is in Jersey City. I'm in Philly. Ricky is in South Jersey. Tim is in Hamilton. At the beginning, Dave and I were in the same house. Tim and Ricky were one town over.

There are no hard feelings. If anyone reading this article wants to give us an advance and support us, we'll get right back together!

The CoolDad Music Indie Pop Winter Formal

As individuals, are any of you going to continue making music outside of YJY?

Yes. Tim is playing in a band called Brackish out of Philadelphia, who are very good. Ricky has been playing with SICK SHIT. I'm going to be moving to Seattle and hoping to find people to play with in Seattle. I'm interested in seeing how my songs can translate into something closer to a solo project.

I always wanted music to be my life. And I'm starting to see that my life is going to be what my life is going to be, and I don't have as much control over it as I once thought. But I need music to be IN my life. So I'm trying to figure out the way I can fit it in. I don't have the answer to that yet.

The Enduring YJY will be your first and last full-length. It shows some new sides to your sound.

I hope that, when people hear it, they'll notice that there's a leap forward in terms of complexity in songwriting and our approach to production. Or, at least, that the songs are a little more sophisticated than what we've done before.

The album is great; and, from my initial listen, I think that comes through. I mean, I also enjoyed your earlier stuff. There is beauty in simplicity, too.

Thank you. Yes. We used to have kind of a Ramones approach. Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus. Not that it was formulaic exactly, but it was all we knew how to do. I think that the process of playing all these shows and having all these practices and rehearsing has helped us grow to be able to ask, "How can we play with this formula a little bit? What can we do that’s a little bit different?"

When you're writing a song like "Somebody Take My Phone," you've got these characters. Are they just characters? Are they you? Is it more observational or more internal?

I don't want to speak for Ricky, but… …and this is kind of a separate answer… …the songs Ricky brought to this album — especially "Not Too Late" and "Loathe" — are fantastic. Musically and lyrically, he really stepped it up.

To your question, though, for me, I think that I start with a real feeling; but the specifics are not always true or from personal experience.

"Somebody Take My Phone" was written for Speak Into My Good Eye’s 24-hour Songwriting Challenge. A song like that comes from a real feeling. Anyone can relate to texting or calling someone when they shouldn't. Did I do that exact thing the week prior to writing the song? No, but it's a sincere feeling.

YJY at House of Independents

Is "Best Coast Weather" a literal reference to Best Coast?

Haha. Yeah. I wasn't sure if this translates for everyone; but, for me, there's a certain time of year that's perfect for listening to Best Coast. To me it evokes a very specific time of year, a very specific summertime feeling.

The first two lines of that song come almost verbatim from a text I received. I thought, "Huh, this text is almost like a Best Coast lyric." The song grew from there.

If you listen to a lot of our songs, you'll see that I don't shy away from pop culture references. "You Don't Believe Me" mentions Twitter. It mentions Words with Friends.

Do you worry that something like that could date your songs?

Maybe a little. But I think there's value, poetic value, in using shorthand like that.

I was listening to The Replacements the other day, to the song "Answering Machine." The whole song revolves around a technology that we don't use anymore, but the feeling of being alone and unable to express yourself is timeless. We're not The Replacements, but I hope those elements of our songs will function in the same way.

Did you know that The Enduring YJY would be your final record going in?

At some point during the recording process, I think we realized we couldn't keep this band going the way we wanted to. We weren't going to be able to play or practice with the frequency we'd like. We wouldn't be able to be as tight as we wanted. So, if we weren't going to be able to give the project the love and attention it deserves, wouldn't that be kind of disrespectful?

And so the title, The Enduring YJY , has kind of a double meaning in that way. Like, we knew this was it; and, hopefully, the songs will endure. But it's also, obviously, tongue-in-cheek as in, does anybody really care about any of this outside of our little scene?

Can you talk a little about the differences in making The Enduring YJY as compared to your first two EPs?

We recorded the first one at Silent Barn and did Converse for the second. We recorded demos for both of those with Tim, who's a really good engineer. Erik Romero had mixed and mastered The Same Noise, and we knew we wanted him to mix and master the LP. We had Tim do all the engineering and actual recording of the record at our rehearsal space in Bordentown.

That gave us a lot of freedom to try new things. We weren't under a time crunch. We recorded Couch Surfin' in two days. For The Same Noise, we did it in one day. For this record, we took our time.

We tried different things. There's piano on "Cold" and "You Don’t Believe Me." We re-recorded "Couch Surfin' USA." We layered guitars. We added harmonies. Just things we had never done before. But any experimentation was done in the spirit of fun.

Sundown at The Carousel

Are there going to be challenges to translating these songs to what will be your final live performances?

Take "Passport Photograph," the first song on the record, as an example. We sort of slowly jammed our way into "Passport Photograph." I had read David Byrne's How Music Works where he talks about the process Talking Heads used to record Remain in Light. It's a process of subtracting and adding loops to get to the final product. For our song, I recorded everybody's parts and set up loops in Garage Band, and recorded vocals to that.

So, playing that live has been… …a challenge. I'm not sure we'll play it at the show, which is what I was talking about when I talked about not being able to give stuff the love and attention it deserves.

Our set will probably be one where we follow Avery Mandeville's advice to "play the hits."

So that final, greatest hits show will be at Asbury Park Music Foundation on June 17th. Who's on that bill?

We have NGHTCRWLRS, Avery and The Man Devils, we just added Jeff Lane of dollys, and we've also got Julian Fulton and the Zombie Gospel. Afterwards, we're all going to head over to the Overlook for the Weird Summer Birthday Bash where Avery will be playing again.

We love Avery and we really, really wanted her. NGHTCRWLRS are the Sniffling Indie Kids guys, who we also love and had to have. And, when we got the opportunity to add Jeff, we jumped on it. I'm really excited to see his solo show. With Julian, it's the reverse: He played our last release show as a solo acoustic act, and now he's got a full band. It will be cool to hear those songs as they were meant to be heard.

Couch Surfin' at The Saint

Any final thoughts as you guys prepare to wrap up YJY?

You asked about goals earlier. I said, "Oh we just fell into it," and that is 100% true. But, before we started this band, I read the Wikipedia page for Oasis where they said, "We want to try to write hit records." And I said, "Wait. You're allowed to want to do that?"

We always wanted to make catchy songs without abandoning the things that got us into music in the first place. Ricky, especially, has a connection to stuff like noise rock, metal, and grindcore; and he showed me so many interesting things. There's always been an interest in punk and other things. But there are moments in "Loathe," for example, that were inspired by Demi Lovato. Other moments were inspired by Rob Thomas. A good song is a good song, and we'll steal from anywhere.

If YJY were going to "happen" for us, I wanted it to be on our terms. I want to be like, "I am happy with my life," and I would love it if my life included music in the way that I want, but I'll be happy with what I can get. I'm proud of everything we've ever done, and I would do it all again exactly the same way.

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