If Yak aren’t a band already on your radar, then come the close of 2016 we’d be terribly surprised if you weren’t well familiar. Arriving with much hype, they are - refreshingly - a brash, thrash, noisy three-piece from London via Wolverhampton. We spoke to their ringleader Oli Burslem about the best and worst places to buy music.
Deluxe: So you’re travelling pretty much throughout the remainder of 2016… How are you finding it?
Oli Burslem: Good… no great! It’s just a dream really isn’t it. Going around all over the place and having a little nosey around. I think I have lost anything that was of any worth along the way so far… laptops and all sorts of shit… I couldn’t find a toothbrush this morning.
D: I guess toothbrushes and socks are the kind of replaceable commodity at least?
OB: (laughing) Yeah, not a real problem is it...
D: How about SXSW? How was that for you guys?
OB: Yep, first time and first time in Texas too. It was absolutely incredible, we had a really good time and the gigs went well too, big nights and long days in the blistering heat.
D: It tends to go either one of two ways in Austin TX, glad to hear you had a good time.
OB: Sure, it didn’t all smell of roses, but we had a really good time.
D: I read a good bit where you talked about supporting Palma Violets and you pulled no punches in declaring you were going to steal all of their fans.
OB: (laughing) Well, like I said, when we started this whole thing… I was like, “look, I am a nobody and who gives a fuck what I think or cares”... so it was all a bit of a joke to be honest, but if I am honest that interview was conducted when I was incredibly drunk. After I said it we did the tour and spent time with the band and they were lovely guys.
D: How about working with Steve Mackey (of Pulp)?
OB: Really good! Steve does this thing called “call this number”, it’s this online site where he streams a live gig or performance from a garage and Douglas Hart from Mary Chain films it. We were offered to do it, and they were such good people we were delighted to do it and went down there and recorded for about two hours, really enjoyed their company and got on really well and when we watched and listened to it back, we really got off on how great it sounded. Steve said he was keen to work with us more and that we should use this as the blueprint for trying to
D: Have you been at all surprised about the last few months and where you find yourself now?
OB: I think because we didn’t necessarily fit in with a scene or a label or whatever, we were kind of on our own - with some help obviously - I guess it is a bit of a surprise really. I think I try to not spend too much attention on it.
D: I don't want to make like you’re not been working hard… it’s just nice that good things are happening for the good guys for a change.
OB: Austin was an eye opener for that, the whole reason that I am in a band is certainly not to have a career. There are too many of those career-driven types out there. I’ve done other jobs, money-related jobs, where it’s buy and sell, buy stuff and sell it for more so I do understand it, but the bands just doesn't feel like that to us… we probably shouldn’t be feeling like that I guess?
D: Well it’s difficult, I am very much about making music as art, but in running a shop we are the definition of selling that art… the music commerce industry.
OB: That is more cut and paste though, that is buying and selling isn’t it.
D: You have shop experience right? What was your shop?
OB: I don’t have a shop… Officially I never had one if you get me… (laughing) My friend had a squat and there… I tell you what, what I can talk about is having a market stall. I had loads of jobs and managed to save up for a van, a shit van, bought it off a gangster-looking dude. He literally rolled it off the forecourt as it didn’t start after I bought it. When it worked I started going to auctions as I’ve always liked furniture and curiosities so I started buying and selling stuff basically. I was a glorified man in a van basically.
D: Did you buy many record collections? Do you have a good idea of what various things are worth?
OB: To a certain extent. Most records you are getting at auctions are Saturday Night Fever… that sort of stuff. Occasionally you get some interesting stuff though, I don’t know if you’re into the whole improv scene, Evan Parker vibe, well he and some others started what I believe is one of the first independent or artist-run labels called Incus Records. They did loads of recordings and I had the privilege of seeing some of those. I actually met Evan and saw him play, it was pretty special. He was talking about recording and how Jimi Hendrix was recording noisy music next door. But no, I don’t really have much of an idea about the value of records to be honest.
D: When you’re shopping for yourself, where do you regularly frequent?
I’ve done other jobs, money-related jobs, where it’s buy and sell, buy stuff and sell it for more so I do understand it, but the bands just doesn't feel like that to us… we probably shouldn’t be feeling like that I guess?
OB: Well Rough Trade is very close so there. I got Sun Ra The Nubians of Plutonia most recently.
D: Looking ahead to your own record, the artwork is killer. That is Nick Waplington right?
OB: Yes, and we saw Nick yesterday funnily enough. He’s firstly a good friend and has helped me out as a friend over the years, even housing me. When we started doing the recording he very kindly said we could use his painting. I think he is more renowned for his photography maybe first off - his book “Living Room” is amazing - but his artwork is really taking off.
D: Did you give him a brief for it?
OB: Well he is always painting and we were just around his studio and saw the image he was working on… we were like “can we use this?!”
D: Where would you like to see that finished LP racked for the first time?
OB: You know, mum goes down Asda and starts buying all these CDs… like “what you doing Mum?” “Oh, my daughter will like that, you know, bit of Robbie”... maybe we should be under a banner that says PREMIUM ROCK in all Asda shops. Seriously, I don’t know, anywhere anyone wants to sell it I suppose.
D: Well that is plenty of people, I’ll have a load…
OB: You’re a star.. Who knows what’ll happen. The most exciting thing about this year is we just don’t know what is going to happen. We’re going to play a lot of gigs, but everything else is up in the air. If it all finishes tomorrow than I am a happy man because it’s all been great and we have it everything. I did start thinking about what else I could do… I woke up quite early and I was thinking about “what else could I do?” I was wondering about being a nurse. I can deal with the blood and the mess.
D: We slightly touched on it earlier, but do you have a sense of location as a band?
OB: Never myself, I’m just always wandering around and always have done. I was born in Wolverhampton and raised in the Midlands in a farmyard basically, but I left when I was seventeen. I think when we started the band the context was slightly different. I think we didn’t want to get stuck just playing in Hackney, if we got the opportunity we just wanted to get out and play literally everywhere. I think we wanted to have the same idea of getting out and going to gigs as when we were fourteen and fifteen.
D: So a lot to do with how live music feels then?
OB: Very much, also thinking back to where we are from, there are literally none of them that have ended up in this situation that we’ve ended up in, so we do feel very much like the carpet could get pulled from under us at any moment. There is this attitude that some “creative” (and there is an awful word) in bands and stuff feel that they are owed a living and that they should be listened to… I mean who cares what we think? We’re just fucking scum.
D: So going back to where you’re from, what was your first record shop experience?
OB: There was a record shop in Wolverhampton run by my brother’s friend Glenn, he was the bassist in my brother’s band actually. They were part of that scene with Nikki Sudden... I think he actually played bass in the Jacobites. So I used to go in on Saturdays and I’d be like “what is the best… Bob Dylan album?” And he was very kind and let me listen to all sorts. There was also a good market in Wolverhampton that is still there, the smell of raw meat and vinyl next door.
I used to skip school on Mondays and run out. I had a funky uncle who used to drive me up to HMV and I’d rush back, always getting them confiscated. “Do you reckon on lunch break you could run me up to the record shop?” So I’d hop the fence and rush to come back.
D: Do you remember the first purchase?
OB: Yeah, a cassette. It was me and my sister and it was a flip up between Oasis or Shaggy “Boombastic”... I went for Boombastic . I think as a story it seems kind of cool, but it wasn’t at the time I assure you. I was obsessed with Elvis, from really young, like five, six? I had the quiff and was completely obsessed. I had leathers weirdly? I remember singing Elvis with a Walkman on.
D: Last one, so why are shops important to you?
OB: Well, I guess I just find them amazing places but I have to admit to trying to avoid them at all costs. I don’t have a lot of money and I know that I can easily waste a lot of money in there. I’d hope to have money one day and I can’t wait to go into shops, especially independent ones and spend thousands of pounds.
D: Well this gets distributed in indie shops, so they’ll see you coming man…
Yak's debut album Alas Salvation is in the Drift shop and load and loads of other good shop snow.
Read more from the Drift Blog blog.