Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interview: Yves Klein Blue for Tom Magazine

Interview and Review.
For Tom Magazine.

You can’t tell from listening to it, but Yves Klein Blue front man Michael Tomlinson completed their debut record, Ragged and Ecstatic, from the toilet of a pokey flat in downtown Los Angeles. Tomlinson, who hid in the toilet with an acoustic guitar at 2am so he wouldn’t wake anyone else, says he is "often surprised by the material I can come up with while sitting on the toilet."

The band followed producer Kevin Augunas, and found themselves isolated in a 2-room flat, ten minutes from Fairfax Studios, where they spent three months recording. "We would have gone anywhere that Kevin was, we were really attracted to what he’d done with other groups, like Cold War Kids," Tomlinson says of their time in LA. "There was nothing for us to do there but focus on the songs, there were no distractions. Because of that, it turned into something much more than I ever thought it would."

The Brisbane-based indie rockers went into recording with confidence, with material they’d been sitting on for months. But Tomlinson says by the time the record was finished, they’d stripped it down to its bare skeleton, and completely rebuilt it. Ragged and Ecstatic, which features the well-loved, ‘Polka’, and their new single, ‘Getting Wise’, is a collection of everything Yves Klein Blue have been working on, and have experienced, within the past year.

"I’m really proud of the recording, and we can’t wait to see what people think of it," Tomlinson says. "We have a lot of hopes for this record, but we feel that it’s out of our hands now, you know, we’ve done as much as we can, and now we just wait and see if people like it."

The title is taken from Jack Kerouac’s counter-culture classic, ‘On the Road’, and Tomlinson says the desire to experience life in all its aspects that is so inherent in Kerouac’s work is exactly what their music is about. The self-confessed bookworm read ‘On the Road’ while living his own on the road experience, touring through Victoria, and then London.

"Anyone who has read that book and really loved it, it would be because they felt they had same feelings inside them," he says. "It wasn’t an influence in a lyrical sense, but we’re a collective of our experiences, and I felt it definitely affected me."

When asked what does inspire his often sharp and witty lyrics, Tomlinson is rather liberal. "Honestly, anything. I think that everything is pretty inspiring." Yves Klein Blue’s profile on MySpace lists a lengthy and peculiar string of muses as their inspiration, from Lego, to fantastic sex, to Mi Goreng noodles. Tomlinson explains, "It’s nothing in particular; it’s just life".

"The music and the lyrics are two different things, but I mean, I saw a news report once, and that became a song," he says. "I saw a friend vomit on his girlfriend’s shoes because he took too many pills, and that became ‘Polka’."

Drawing inspiration from all aspects of daily life does have its drawbacks, though. Tomlinson says the hardest part of putting together Ragged and Ecstatic was deciding what to leave out.

"To write is easy, but editing is more painful than death," he says, without a hint of jest. "You have to free yourself to the extent that you can create something, but then you have to take that hat off, and discipline yourself.""You know, you have to cull your darlings, and from that you might create something completely different. That culling was more what this recording experience was about - dialectic between less and more."

Yves Klein Blue came to the attention of audiences in 2007, after winning an MTV Kick-start competition. Two short years and an EP appropriately entitled ‘Yves Klein Blue Draw Attention to Themselves’ later, and they’re set to release their debut album. Tomlinson, however, rejects the idea that their journey from playing house parties to international venues has been sudden or unexpected.

"To people who aren’t us - to people who aren’t directly involved in the process, it must all seem very sudden, or quick, but it doesn’t seem that way at all to us," he says. "We have not stopped since we started out, we have not in any way relented - I feel like it’s time for us to put out the record, and tour for it. It just feels like a perfectly natural progression."

Nor will they take a well-deserved break after the release of Ragged and Ecstatic. Fresh from overseas tours, YKB will be touring Australia promoting their record, and will be making a return to Splendour in the Grass in July. Tomlinson, who is already on the piano laying down the scaffolds of some new material, says they have no plans to stop there, either.

"Maybe we’ll head overseas, or we could tour Aus again this year, depending on the reaction to our record," he says. "We don’t see an end in sight for a long time; that’s what we see as the best case scenario anyway, if we’re allowed to keep going."

Tomlinson is excited to be on the Splendour bill for the second year in a row, where they’ll be playing alongside some of the hottest international acts around. "To be included on that bill is amazing, because we would go to Splendour if we weren’t playing". Splendour-goers should be on the lookout for YKB throughout the festival, as Tomlinson assures, "You know we’ll be out in the crowd, for sure!"

Ragged Ecstatic is out on Friday through Dew Process. Yves Klein Blue play The Brisbane Powerhouse on June 26th.

By Anna Angel

Ragged and Ecstatic (Dew Process)

This gem of a debut album from Brisbane indie rockers Yves Klein Blue is varied, infectious, and earnest. Ragged and Ecstatic is inspired by all of life’s aspects, both trivial and momentous, becoming a musical melting pot of human experience and emotion. The lyrics are often clever and somehow down to earth, and the music is upbeat, fun, and tinged with ‘90’s cheese synth. The record is peppered with slower rock ballads that manage to remain intense, and furiously appealing.

Standout tracks include singles, ‘Polka’, and ‘Getting Wise’. ‘Polka’ is, despite being inspired by front man Michael Tomlinson seeing a friend vomit on his girlfriend’s shoes after taking too many pills, a fun crowd-pleaser. ‘Getting Wise’ is a strong track, sure to get you singing along to the lyrics stuck in your head, as Tomlinson sings, "you’ll soon find it’s no fun to have fun all the time!" ‘About the Future’ is a sweet, languid, folk/punk infused track with heart and wit. The song is a musing on finding your way, and making sense of the world and those around you, "What this generation needs is a war/ but it’s hard to choose a side when you don’t know which is right/ because all my friends are frustrated, boring or bored".

Ragged and Ecstatic is not without social commentary: ‘Reprise’ is a punk/rock-inspired statement on racial intolerance and inequality within society and Celebrity Death is a chilling ballad, a statement on the nature of celebrity and the media. "They only wanted to see if your eyes shine like in the films of yours/ because they only want to believe that they mean well themselves."
(Anna Angel)

1 comment:

  1. My god Anna!
    You're so good at this! =D
    I'm really excited for you
    and excited to start seeing your name in
    newspapers and stuff hehe and i can be like.
    "I totally know her. We're bff's lol"

    p.s. my favourite line was the one about Lego, sex and noodles. Classic!