Yellabird is the musical collaboration of lead singer/guitarist Martin Stubbs and drummer Felipe Gaviria. Citing influences ranging from Queens of the Stone Age to Black Sabbath, the duo combines stoner rock riffs, big harmonies and driving drums for a sound rooted in the present, yet reminiscent of the past.
The pair self-recorded and released their debut EP Mountainosaurus in August of 2012 and quickly took to the stage to hone their live sound. In just a few short months, the band performed a slew of gigs at Boston mainstays.
The success of Mountainosaurus brought a growing following, and the inception of their follow-up EP, Little Brother, which was recorded over a number of months at Q Division studios. The EP showcases guest drummer Ben Hughes (Sand Reckoner), and allows Little Brother to stay true to the foundations laid on Mountainosaurus, while expanding the group’s sound with an even greater sonic footprint.
With the EP completed, and the duo ready to perform in the New England and NYC markets throughout the fall of 2013 and into 2014, Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Stubbs to discuss Little Brother. This is what he said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent EP?
“Johnny Law”, “Darlin, Sugar” and “This Old War” were all written by Felipe and I in the fall of 2012. We completed and honed the songs live. “Breather” and “Little Brother” were written in January and February of 2013 with Ben Hughes of Sand Reckoner, who was filling in on drums at the time. ?
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Hands down, “Little Brother” was the most difficult. I had a very specific concept in mind using vocal layering and harmonies to build towards a big finish. I wrote all the harmonies as we recorded, so we wound up spending a good chunk of time just getting the takes recorded. After that, we spent a lot of time mixing and layering everything so the right accents were present at the right moments in the song. We spent the most time getting it right, but it’s my favorite part of the EP. ? ?
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Breather”. The track wasn’t originally written for acoustic guitar. We wrote it as a middle-eastern influenced rock song, which included a much bigger chorus with loud distorted guitars. I forget exactly what gave me the idea to convert it into an acoustic song, but I think I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake at the time, so that’s the likely culprit hah.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
There was no “producer” per say, but Chris Johnson of Summoner did all of the engineering work and a good chunk of the mixing, so he definitely had a big impact on the overall sound. I’d say the drum and guitar tones are where you can hear his influence most.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Ben Hughes of Sand Reckoner was filling in for Felipe on drums. Other than that, no.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new EP that ties the record together?
I had a rough lyrical concept in mind based on dystopian societies – 1984, etc. The lyrics for “This Old War”, “Johnny Law”, and “Little Brother” all center around this theme. “This Old War” is about a nation wrapped up in war, and that war becoming the one thing that defines them. “Johnny Law” is a fall from grace story, and depicts a woman, once a preacher’s daughter, resorting to prostitution to survive in hard times. “Little Brother” is about the government, fueled by the rise of religion and paranoia, exerting total control over the nation. This also played into the cover art for the EP, which features members of a masked authority with communist propaganda art styling.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
With the exception of “Breather”, all of the songs have been performed live at least once. “Darlin, Sugar” seems to elect the strongest reaction, probably because we released a live performance video of it prior to the EP being recorded, so I think people are more familiar with it.
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