The first song I heard from you was Quiet Achiever. Late on last year. Which I really liked. I read somewhere that you’d said it was a slight joke on what people were digging right now.
Yeah, yeah. Slight joke. That’s exactly what I would say yeah.
It’s still really good of course and cut through for a lot of people.
It is a slight joke. But at the same time when we play it we really enjoy it. It’s a bit of a dance song that number. And we really like pumping it hard. It’s good fun.
Unfortunately I’m yet to see your show, how do you perform in the live space? I take it there’s other members.
Yep that’s right. There’s myself and a drummer. We’re a two-piece, and Andy who’s my drummer, he’s got drum pads and a drum kit. I play bass and I play keys as well. I switch between the two. Laptop handles a lot of the backing track duties. But we try and cover as much as we can.
I’d been imagining you as having a sampler backing and just dancing around and singing. So that’s interesting.
That’s pretty much what it is. But with instruments as well.
When did the Yeo project start?
Okay, so wind the block back to 2006. I uploaded my first track to Triple J Unearthed and Zan Rowe kindly gave it a spin. We were all dancing around our cars and radios when that happened. I was 19 at the time, so if that gives any indication of my age now.
I only started writing in my second year of uni. I never really took it seriously before it got spun on the radio. Radio has been a big motivator for me. It’s good to feel like people are listening and other people care. So it made me care.
How has your style evolved from your earlier works into what now is a fairly well focused, well crafted pop/dance style?
I think it’s gone in a little bit of a spiral. What I started with was this kind of r&b, funky sort of thing. But I’ve done all sorts of things. I even explored reggae. Rock n’ roll. Rock pop. And then I did country and folk, and then one day I missed heavy beats and big bass and wanted to come back to it.
So I put out that EP with Girl on it a little while ago. Even that was a very four-song release, stylistically. And then I felt like I’d hit a really good vein of style. I’ll try and hover around it for a little bit longer before my attention gets distracted.
Talking about your new record Ganbaru, did you produce everything on there? Are you collaborating with some people as well?
Yeah I wrote and produced everything on there. There are a couple of people who are on the record. There’s this mate’s act called Hoodlem. A friend of mine sings backing vocals on one. And then the sax player from a band called Animaux has done a great solo on the last track.
I really dug Quiet Achiever, played it a good few times on my radio show, and then was really stoked when Icarus came through. All the synths are really well balanced and very sweet. It doesn’t go too far and has restraint. What was your inspiration for Icarus? Obviously a love song.
Well it’s kind of a little bit based on my love life. Because I have a thing for girls who tend to be alone, or like to be alone, who are very independent and strong. Sometimes I strive so hard for it that I shoot myself in the foot and it doesn’t end up working out. Love becomes unrequited. Because you know, they don’t need a dude around or a lover at the time. They’re happy being alone. For some reason that makes me more attracted to them.
If you were to summarise the song, it can actually be applied to more than just love. You can apply it to your life as well. Sacrificing everything you have to achieve a particular goal. I guess that ties into the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Icarus flying too close to the Sun because he wanted to go higher and higher, and it melts his wings.
When you first hear from an artist, Quiet Achiever being a hint at what you were up to and what was coming on Ganbaru: when the record delivers greater than the initial single, that’s always good. I really like the halting stop-start style of the beats on Icarus. What was the production process like?
Interestingly I wrote that song on bass and I don’t usually do that often. Bass is a little too skeletal for me sometimes when it comes to forming chords, harmony and melody. But for some reason I chose to use it. That’s probably why you were talking about how it’s controlled and a little bit sparse compared to other things I do.
I wrote it from start to finish on bass with the melodies in my head. But then after having a little bit of an idea for a verse/chorus, I jumped on the computer and had fun programming the beat that’s behind it now. The first thing that came is the weird tom that you hear in the intro. It’s totally out of tune with the rest of the song but that’s the point.
Icarus and Quiet Achiever open the record, but later I feel you get into some Prince territory. Could tie into the disco/dance thing that’s going on in Melbourne generally. Am I right in detecting some Prince and ‘80s disco vibes?
Absolutely man. Prince is a big influence aesthetically. In terms of production, it is a bit of a bygone era. A lot of blogs and writers have bracketed me in ’80s and ‘90s. That kind of period of production, but also like Prince’s songwriting is really great and he’s all about vibe. That kind of energy that he brings is really, really cool and mysterious. All of those things wrapped up in a small little dude.
It’s a really big inspiration for me. And it’s no lie. I just really love black music. It’s so good. Some of the rhythms and the grooves that you can find when you’re digging through records. It’s unique as hell. It’s great.
Never a truer statement than “Prince is all about vibe.” What Melbourne and Australian artists are you digging at the moment and feel will be doing good things this year?
Oh this guy, Jack Grace, oh my gosh. So he works with BUOY a lot. I only know one song by him, which is Hills, but I did catch his set at a Melbourne venue a few months ago and it blew me away. He’s so underground in terms of his sound and his presence. Talking to him he was such a nice guy as well.
You should hear Spirit Faces. Jack Grace under his former name Zebra Zap has a guest vocal on there, and BUOY also features on the record. Definitely cool and involving the people in that little micro-scene.
Yeah cool, cool. It’s a good scene man. They’re making some good shit. It’s really good. There’s also some sick r ‘n’ b coming from Australia. There’s this girl: her name is Maribelle. She just did this track with Penthouse Penthouse. It’s got all the trademarks of say TLC and Beyonce and stuff, but it’s like so good. She’s just a great writer. Her voice kills. Someone was telling me she’s a sick producer. So she’s set on releasing an EP soon. I’m hanging out for it. All her collabs have been real sick.
What are you looking ahead to this year? Potential for new releases?
I’ve got all this music that I wrote in Iceland that I want to develop into a record maybe for next year. At the same time there’s collabs coming through. There’s a slick new joint I’m working on with this producer called Benson. I’m real excited about that because the last two tracks that he put out were super fire.
What were you doing over in Iceland? When was that?
That was last year from I think July to the end of August. I just really needed a break cause I hadn’t had a proper holiday in three years. I took some gear over to write stuff with. Spent two months there in the beautiful surrounds just admiring nature. Writing at a very slow but comfortable pace. I got maybe four or five tracks down that I was really happy with but obviously need a lot more development. I can’t wait to get really into that.
Super interested to hear what you end up doing next time. Particularly as you’ve adopted many styles already.
No doubt it’s going to change again for the next record. Hopefully I keep people interested. I can tell you now I’m getting a lot into r n’ b and being a bit more cleanly produced. So that’s kind of where I’m leading with it at the moment. But it is all up in the air, man. These songs are all really just skeletons at the moment. Slowly thinking about going to Iceland again once my life calms down a little bit.