In 2007, five young lads from Canterbury, UK put together their first LP – Enjoy Eternal Bliss. It was, and still is, an extraordinary explosive medley, constructed from swelling guitars and a wining violin; close, but far enough removed, from ‘classic’ post-rock.
By the time popular desire for a follow-up had reached peak level however, fans were experiencing anything other than what the debut album’s name suggests. Band members relocated to different cities, embarking on their individual commitments; festival appearances were rare, while the number of gigs dried up; Facebook updates would relay the same old assurances, which became more numerous and less weighty.
Only now, much like the yndi music we’re used to, was there a climax to all this. With the release of the new album Under Summer (full stream here) and UK tour almost underway, we spoke to yndi’s James Vella, whose responsibilities include, not ignoring his main vocal and instrumental ones, song-naming (as a short story writer, it’s all part of the DNA), as well as various extracurriculars with his solo project A Lily, short story publications, and day job at FatCat Records. Perhaps, given all that, it’s not so surprising this record’s been eight years in the making.
So it’s been a while since you released your last record, Enjoy Eternal Bliss. Do you have any fears about how the new album will be received?
Personally, I feel a strange indecision between happy confidence and apprehension. It’s been a very long time. We feel we’ve developed a lot as songwriters, perhaps changing musical elements that may have been appealing as they were before, but finding new ones that work in different ways. The other side of the coin is just as important – ultimately all we can really write is the music we want to write, and so in that respect reception is its own master and not something we can second-guess or even worry about. Of course we’d be devastated with bad reviews, but finishing the new record after eight-ish years of songwriting is in a sense its own reward.
Would you say the inclusion of lyrics in your new material is a bold move, or more of a natural choice?
It was definitely a natural choice. Not even a conscious choice, honestly. We just began writing songs with vocal lines. Maybe we wanted to ‘say’ more on this record than the last, or maybe the sentiment was more easily expressed with lyrics and real words, but it was not a calculated decision to expand. Just what naturally occurred after previously writing a purely instrumental album.
You have loyal (and, dare I say, patient) fans. Have they influenced anything to do with Under Summer?
I think the number of requests we received by email and social network to finish the new LP helped keep us moving. There were certainly times when I was worried we would never complete it – running out of money, band members moving cities away from each other, and such. The notes and encouragement we received really made a difference in spurring us to try and try and overcome the hurdles. Plus the incredibly generous and positive reaction to the pre-release material has been a genuine light.
Up to release, you assured fans that a second album is imminent, but there seemed to be some distinction between your definition of the word and that of your fans. Was there any frustration in keeping them waiting, or were you rather more focused on writing new music in spite of the pressures it created?
I don’t think our personal circumstances would have ever allowed us to complete the record any quicker. Sometimes it felt very close and with a spasm of confidence we let folks know that this was the case. Then other times it felt unreachably far and this was quite readily mirrored by social network interactions, like that meme of the skeleton sitting on the park bench saying ‘I’ll just wait here for the new yndi halda album.’ Then again, being in a band to please other people won’t bring anyone any happiness.
Music is more digitised now than it was when you released Enjoy Eternal Bliss. What are your thoughts on releasing a new album in today’s industry?
It’s quite frightening, honestly. Sometimes I feel keeping up with new bands and new records is like swimming against an impossible tsunami of music. There are so many millions of artists and endless ways to encounter their music. I don’t believe it’s easier. Sure SoundCloud, Spotify, BandCamp, etcetera bring new music to people who want to hear it, but it also highlights how infinite it all is. And none of the new streaming platforms have allowed any insight into how painful, time consuming, and expensive record writing and producing remains. If anything, it has reduced this perspective because there is less time to hear about it. I have most respect for artists like Vashti Bunyan – she shuns the current system altogether – and others like Mount Eerie, who adapt it all to their own needs without ‘playing the game.’
To anyone going to one of your upcoming gigs, are there any surprises in store? Will we see a mixture of new and old material, opportunities to buy merch, etcetera?
To all of those questions, yes!
If it’s not too early to say, what musical-related plans are there for yndi in the future?
We have lots of plans. Lots more touring beyond the dates we’ve announced already. We’ve started writing new material and may do something like an EP later in the year. Daniel from the band is currently working on something very special. Likewise, Olly and I have solo projects that we play around with outside our yndi time. But, in short, we do not want to wait eight years to do all of this again.