“Art pop”—that frustratingly ambiguous label that music critics slap on any catchy, abstract sound that can’t be categorized or easily referenced—is the exact label with which YellowFever gets branded all the time. And it’s hard to blame those doing the branding. The band’s latest EP, Bermuda Triangle, is brimming with a confounding blend of music, from the straight-faced synth-pop of “Coleman” to the playful, off-kilter jazz of “Horse” and the loose, tinny Velvet Underground-inspired garage rock of “If I Never Find My Way.”
But take one listen to vocalist Jennifer Moore’s droning, Nico-like vocals, and you’ll be able to say at least one definitive thing about YellowFever’s sound—it’s hip. In fact, it’s the exact stuff that Wes Anderson soundtracks are made of. So it will be interesting to see what the band has up their sleeves when they provide the backing sounds to Pudding an End on Summer: A Benefit for Pakistan Relief, Club DeVille’s pudding wrestling extravaganza, on Sept. 18.
In preparation for the show, multi-instrumentalist Adam Jones took a few minutes to talk about the band’s life as of late, including day jobs, cats and brushes with the law.
I read that Jennifer works at a restaurant for her day job. Is that right?
Jones: Yeah, kind of. She’s kind of unemployed right now. She kind of substitutes at Ruby’s Barbeque at Guadalupe and 29th Street. Which is funny because she’s vegetarian. But I guess they do have vegetarian options there.
Right, and I think they’re kind of local food, or grass-fed beef or something.
Jones: Yeah, I think it is. I think it’s natural, no-hormone beef and stuff. It’s really good.
Do you have a job outside of the band?
Jones: I do, yeah. Unfortunately. I do specialty painting, like doing murals in rich people’s house, or doing weird finishes, like making walls with old plaster and stuff like that.
That sounds pretty cool.
Jones: It’s alright. It’s really flexible, which is really good for touring and stuff.
But it’s something that’s kind of a drag? You said, “Unfortunately.”
Jones: Yeah. I mean I’d prefer not to work, of course.
Jones: Doing music is so much work anyway. And I have a son who’s 9. And that’s a lot of work. So, yeah. It’d be nice to not have a job.
Speaking of the music, you guys are finishing up a full-length this month, right?
Jones: That’s true. It should be done this month. But we don’t really know who’s releasing it yet. We have several options, but we’re still trying to figure out which one is the best for us.
You guys have done some self-releasing in the past, right?
Jones: We’ve done that, yeah. And released on some smaller labels. The Vivian Girls released a thing for us. They have a label that they started. They released an LP, a compilation of everything we’ve done.
How is this album shaping up in comparison to your past releases? Is it a similar sound?
Jones: Seems completely different to me. It seems less conventional. I feel like the song structure is a little more abstract, but it’s still really poppy in that all of Jennifer’s vocals are extremely catchy. So it has some similar elements, but it seems like a pretty different direction to me. But I think that’s because of it just being me and Jennifer now. We have to write as a two-piece and make things work as a live situation, too. And that kind of makes the writing process different.
You guys had a third member who is now in New York, right?
Jones: Yeah, we’ve had several third members.
So do you typically bring on a third member for live shows?
Jones: No, we just do two people. Jennifer does organ and guitar and a bass guitar octave pedal thing that she uses, and she’s looped, and then we both sing, and I play drums and a bass synthesizer at the same time, and I do loops of that occasionally. So we try to make it as big as possible with two people.
I read that you guys make a lot of food on tour. Is that a hard thing to do?
Jones: It can be very difficult, but every time we do it, it’s very rewarding. Whenever we eat somewhere, it’s like, “Jesus, we spend so much money, and I feel like crap.” Every time we cook on the Coleman stove, we make, like tofu and rice. And we have these Indian dinner things that you put in water. You know, they’re in a packet and you just boil them. Anytime we do stuff like that, we feel great. And it’s so much cheaper. Especially when you’re doing a really big tour, you must save like hundreds of dollars.
I know you’ve probably been asked about this a lot, but I was going to talk to you about the whole airport/jail incident. I guess Jennifer got arrested because she accidentally left a butter knife in her bag?
Jones: It actually goes back to where we started. In her job at Ruby’s, they were getting rid of a bunch of older knives, like cooking knives for cutting meat and stuff.
So pretty heavy-duty knives?
Jones: Yeah, like a working kitchen knife. So she was bringing it to use for cooking and she left it in her bag. We were in Houston and it was the beginning of our tour, and we had this show in New York for this big, free festival at this pier in Lower Manhattan. So from Houston we were planning on flying to New York and then flying back to Houston and picking up our van and continuing on tour. It was raining like crazy, so she just grabbed a backpack. She didn’t even think about it. We left straight from our show in Houston for the airport, and it was like four in the morning and our flight was at 6 a.m. So we went through security and they stopped her and were like, “You can’t… What is this?” And she was like, “Oh, I accidentally…” and they were like, “We’re going to have to arrest you.”
Yeah, that’s crazy. Did they not believe it was a mix-up, or how did it escalate to that level?
Jones: I think that they didn’t really care that it was a mix-up or not. I think they were probably bored and wanted some big event to happen, maybe. They made it seem like regardless of it being an accident or not, they would have to arrest her because it was in the airport, you know? So she spent the night in jail, which she has a million stories about. She’s made it into this joke kind of a thing. She has all these little things about taking off your shoes, or taking off your shoelaces. I don’t know. It’s funny. Or, it is now. I’d never had to bail anyone out of jail. I had to figure out how to do that. Figure out how to get the money. So we missed like five days of our tour and had to drive from Houston to New Jersey in like a day. It was hell, pretty much.
So was that everyone’s first jail experience?
Jones: Well, Jennifer went to jail for some protest thing several years ago. But I’ve never been. She’s never been overnight. Pretty intense and terrible. Seems like a big waste of time for everyone. It was hard after that to be excited about touring. We were like, “I just want to be back home and sleep for three weeks.”
I read that a clothing company called Yellow Fever is asking you to change your name for a second time.
Jones: They contacted us two years ago.
|YellowFever cat comic (click to enlarge)|
Yeah, and you guys took the space out of your name right?
Jones: Yeah, and I guess they thought that was okay. But recently they decided it’s not okay. It’s this guy who has a clothing company that’s called Yellow Fever. He also has a band called Yellow Fever that plays like, every three years or something, at fashion events. We played in New York recently and opened up for this band at the Bowery Ballroom, and they were saying people were confused because they thought his band was playing at the Bowery Ballroom, which seems completely ridiculous. They’re barely a band. They barely play.
Are you brainstorming new names?
Jones: We might have to spell it different. Maybe we could be The Yellow Fever. Or The Yellow Fevers. Or The Yellower Fever. But he seems to have a lot of money, and we don’t. So we’re probably going to have to deal with whatever he says.
I saw your cat comic on your MySpace, and I also noticed that your first tweet was “Meow meow.” Are you really big cat people?
Jones: It just kind of happened. We do have several cats. I don’t really even like cats so much. They’re just kind of around. It’s almost like a joke. It’s just an easy joke, and we like easy jokes. It’s kind of a theme that we just kind of jokingly latched onto. Even before we were in a band together, we would just be meowing songs, like humming, but meowing.
Did you have “meow” karaoke nights?
Jones: Yeah, exactly. Jennifer doesn’t even own a cat. She’s kind of watching her landlord’s cat. I have these cats that just kind of hang out outside of my house. We aren’t like, huge. That’s a big responsibility. Kittens are cute, I guess. It’s kind of a joke.
Made in Austin is regular Red River Noise feature that showcases some of Austin’s best up-and-coming independent bands. Check back often to see what undiscovered talent we’ll interview next.