By Edward Burnett
YONAKA are a Brighton based rock band with hints of both pop and punk which collectively gives an all-round intense feel to their music. The band consists of lead singer Theresa Jarvis, guitarist George Edwards, bassist (and keyboards) Alex Crosby and Robert Mason on the drums. It has been over a year since Yonaka’s debut album, ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ was released. With it having been one of my highlight picks from last year’s releases and the fact I never got around to writing about it during its release, I thought it good timing to reflect upon it and finally give it the ‘Amplified Analysis’ treatment.
The main topic for me which has to be discussed when reviewing the band’s debut album is undoubtedly the deep and meaningful attitude which runs throughout each song alongside the unique energy which every line seemingly gives off. This is an attitude of ‘all or nothing’ which features in all the songs culminating in the album being a genuine reflection of the devotion and love towards a person or even an idea or goal. For example, in the title track ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, Jarvis sings that “it doesn’t matter where you are up in this world, I will always pick up the phone”. She goes on to add that “I’ll be there when you fall, if you need me at all, I’ll be there to fix you”. These lyrics are the perfect example to demonstrate how the songs reflect this feeling of all out devotion to someone. Jarvis gives off a symbol of reliance which is so raw and genuine that it’s dependability could never be questioned. No matter the problem or the barriers, these strong feelings of love and determination break through any challenge when pure. The message here can be read as punk-fuelled with strong ideas of rebellion towards the socially deemed and softer norm for the representation of romance. YONAKA’s message breaks this façade and replaces it with heartfelt ideas of unbreaking allegiance instead.
Of course, it is one thing to have the ability to write such deep-rooted feelings into lyrics but it is another task altogether to convey such an attitude to your listeners in a believable manner. Yet although a steep task, Jarvis manages to do this perfectly with her powerful voice and incredible vocal range. She gives her all to every line sung via her impressive control of her voice’s amplitude levels, making it so believable that this person is risking everything to throw such incomparable amounts of care and reliance out there. Jarvis’ voice packs so much power that it sounds like pure rage coming out regarding the topics she fires out into the songs. Yet this rage is well juxtaposed against the selflessly devoted care that is being offered in each song, emulating a genuine representation of what it is like to be truly devoted to someone or something. Such themes are shown again in ‘Fired Up’ in which Jarvis sings “I’ll take the blame, I’ll take a bullet”, going on to make a Bonnie and Clyde reference. This mention in particular sits well with the overall mood of the album as the infamous U.S. criminals and the romanisation which is often carried alongside them also consists of the same attitude of “us against the world”.
Having discussed YONAKA’s success with the meanings which they manage to convey, the attention now has to be shifted to the sound produced itself. The album overall is a rock themed collection partly due to the presence of heavy drumming in all the tracks such as the constant background beat which allows the mood to be set throughout “Wake Up” by drummer Mason. This helps to preserve the rock vibe which makes up the key part of this album’s DNA. However, there is so much more to the debut album than just its core principle of rock. Guitarist Edwards and bassist Crosby expertly manage to create lighter pop tones in numerous songs which give a form of breather in amongst the rest of the intense and heady tunes. Big hits ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Lose Our Heads’ both feature these lighter guitar tones which compliment Jarvis’ excellent vocal range, all allowing for a refreshing pop coating over the ever present rock nucleus of the album.
In summary, YONAKA’s ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is the ultimate musical triumph. It positively fuses numerous genres together to emphatic effect with pop tones and punk ideas being added to a strong backing and base of pure rock music. Yet arguably even more impressively, the band manage to convey a strong theme throughout the entire album which reflects personal ambition, obsession and ultimate devotion to a cause which helps highlight the darker side of which love and care can resonate. This combination leaves YONAKA’s first offering as a fresh take on an old genre in both the sound in rock but also the meaning with its interesting interpretation of true love, resulting in a powerful and feeling-driven first album. All in all, a very talented fourpiece with so much more to give and as Jarvis herself sings in ‘Punch Bag’, “don’t underestimate me, it’ll be bad”. With such a delightfully unique debut, underestimating YONAKA is far from a possibility.
Want to give Yonaka a go yourself? Below are links to all their socials as well as their YouTube channel where you can view their music: