Photo: Brian Ziff

YONAKA

Showcasing their exciting new phase, YONAKA have been busy in the past few months. From teasing new material whilst on tour with Palaye Royale to releasing a steady slew of singles such as “PANIC,” “Welcome To My House,” and “Give Me My Halo,” the rock band based out of Brighton have been gearing up to release their sonically-charged EP, which finds them dipping into wonderfully crafted pop-riddled hooks and gritty, rock guitars. When we speak, it’s release week for their new EP Welcome To My House; all three members are huddled around a desk, squeezing together to fit equally in the screen for our call. “I think just over a year ago,” guitarist George Werbrouck-Edwards exclaims, referring to how far back this project goes. “Maybe even two years ago you know,” vocalist Theresa Jarvis cuts in. “I think ‘I Want More’ was the first song we had and it was actually a random addition to the EP because originally, it wasn’t going to be on there,” she continues. “It had already come out for the NHL (National Hockey League) and we decided to put it on there because we had started playing it live and it felt really good.”

Detailing how “each song represents a memory or emotion” inside of her, Jarvis shares how this series of tracks welcomes listeners into her life by going through the experiences that have consumed her. “For me, I was feeling a little bit lost,” she opens up. “I didn’t know what was going on. There were different things that sparked different songs but I was asking myself who am I and all of this stuff and it [the songs] naturally spilled out of me.”

This door is opened wide on “PANIC,” a track that’s heavy in its lyricism addressing mental breakdowns and that feeling of not being in control.  “I think it’s really important to be open about mental health,” Jarvis notes, preparing herself to be as open as possible. “I’m a massive advocate for all of that,” she beams. “For me, getting better was about becoming aware that other people were feeling the same or similar ways,” she tells us. “The thing is, when you have a panic attack, it sounds crazy when you explain your feelings or sensations out loud so I always felt a bit silly; it wasn’t until I read about other people feeling the exact same that I thought f*ck that and began feeling comforted in the idea that I wasn’t alone.”

Lyrically, “PANIC” sees Jarvis reflect on the push and pull of internal conflict, exploring all struggles they can create. “I wanted to express the idea of having a panic attack and how it can feel like your body is taken over by this other entity,” she explains. “This is going to sound a bit hippie-like but I was just lying on the floor, sort of meditating, and I got these little ideas and visions in my head,” she continues. “After that, I went into the living room and was sitting with the bass, playing around with a few ideas with the guys, and all I had was the words don’t panic flashing in my mind. The rest of the story just sort of happened.”

The end result is an all-encompassing track where meaty guitar lines echo through solid piano chords as Jarvis’ painfully yet beautiful vocals instantly captivate listeners. “The chorus feels quite fun and authentic because you’re supposed to feel like that,” says Jarvis. “I wanted to make sure it felt light and made people laugh,” she adds. “I didn’t, and don’t, want to be sad because it’s not sad, it’s just unfortunate. You know, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just something you learn to deal with and keep going,” she admits. “I love the fact I can share my story and, hopefully, it resonates with someone else for them to feel a little less alone.” 

It’s a message that can be heard throughout YONAKA’s music as alone is something listeners will never feel with Jarvis’ comforting words in one’s ears. It’s also paved the way for earning such a devoted fanbase. “The fans are the reason we’ve managed to have this job to be honest,” Jarvis begins as she shows us the bands fanbase name permanently inked across her forearm. “We’d still be working nine to five’s or whatever without them,” she exclaims. “It’s massively important seeing how caring they are and it translates into our shows too. We could be halfway through a song and someone will have a sign asking us to draw them a tattoo,” she laughs, her eyes diverting off to the side almost as if she’s thinking of the tattoos she’s drawn for others. “There’s a bit of pressure to that because I can’t draw to save my life,” she jokes. “I actually wasn’t allowed a pen in primary school that’s how bad my writing was,” she adds, generating laughter within us all. “They turn out super cute though!” Werbrouck-Edwards chimes in before Jarvis admits that she tries nonetheless.

The band have no fear telling it like it is either. Closing out the new EP is “Hands Off My Money,” a daring, chaotic tune that fizzes with punky energy and charters back to the noise of their first few releases. “I actually wrote all of the lyrics before we made the song,” Jarvis begins. “I wrote them super quickly too because I was really pissed off after having a phone call with someone,” she states, keeping it as real as ever before we delve into the meaning behind specific lyrics. “I feel like in any industry, especially the music industry, you pay people to look after you and to put you in the right hands of other people which doesn’t always go well and you don’t always get what you want from it,” she details. “And even though you’re putting your trust in someone else to do that, and paying them, you still need to fend for yourself in a way,” she adds. “I also feel like it stems from my childhood,” she opens up. “I find it really hard to take anything from men because I grew up without a dad. I was always like you can’t talk to me like that because I’ve never had that so why would I start taking it now?” she questions. “I just find it really hard to put my trust there which I think plays into the lyrics of this song.

As we expand on the topic of male authority figures, the alt-rock trio explains how they’ll always remain united no matter what. “I think sometimes, if you’re in a room full of men, which is a lot of time, it’s sometimes harder to get your voice heard,” Jarvis notes. “But with the guys, and being a band, we always do stuff together. I don’t think I’ve got to fight a constant battle against other people because we just band together,” she adds. “It’s the band against everyone,” she finishes, letting Werbrouck-Edwards take over. “We’re quite assertive too and will always come together on important things,” he says. “There’s never been any sort of condescending or anything like that because it just wouldn’t fly with us.”

YONAKA’s continued success comes as electric guitars are finding their way back to the charts and the band shows no signs of slowing down. “We’re really on a roll now,” Jarvis exclaims. “We’ve already got more music we want to get out,” she beams. “I want us to have a couple of headline tours under our belt in the next five years and to have made ground in America too,” Werbrouck-Edwards takes over. “It would be nice to make a good fan base out there and to be playing the same size shows that we do here,” he wraps up, giving Jarvis time to inform us of the band’s upcoming plans. “We’ve got a tour, well a possible tour, an American tour, which will be in October and November,” she blurts out. “And for everything else, we shall see.”