The bands and drummers you need to have on your radar this month
Brighton rock with many genres running through it
Yonaka make post-rock that’s somewhere between Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Savages, given punch and power by the tribal drumming of Rob Mason, whose playing on key tracks like ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Drongo’ back the alternately breathy and powerful vocals of singer Theresa Jarvis and atmospheric, riffing interplay of George Edwards’ guitar and Alex Crosby on bass. There’s soul, pop and even grime elements in evidence on ‘Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya’, making Yonaka an intriguing and promising band to watch out for.
What was your introduction to drumming?
“I was introduced to drumming through my father at nine or 10 years old. He is a guitarist and would always be playing in his room and round the house – he had banjos and mandolins knocking around as well, so I just naturally watched him playing. That said, I was never really interested in learning the guitar; I was always tapping away and remember trying to keep the rhythm on things I was listening to. We went to a big music shop and he let me loose on a demo kit andI fell in love with it straight away. I was a massively hyperactive child so me and the drums were a pretty good fit!”
Who are your drumming heroes?
“I remember the first drummer I really took note of was John Bonham. My dad had a hugeCD collection ranging from old British folk right through to classic rock and disco. While I loved listening to old Zappa stuff and AC /DC, it was when he showed me Led Zeppelin and I saw photos of his kit thatI really realised that drum kit tuning, sizes and material really affected the sound. My old man would always go on about how recognisable and important tone is for guitarists but whenI heard Bonham’s drumming, it made me realise drummers can have their own tone too. When I first heard ‘Kashmir’, it blew my mind how simple but constructed it was. After that I started listening to Nirvana, I remember watching a video of Dave Grohl playing live and being blown away by how much energy and power was behind his playing and how tasteful yet simplistic his parts were.”
Which Yonaka song perfectly captures your sound and style?
“I love ‘Ignorance’ because it was one of our early songs and has a bit of everything we’re about as a band in it. We all love different styles of music and have varying influences and this track covers electronic elements, a big chorus and a fat rif! It’s a good point in our set to rock out and it always goes down well live.”
What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?
“I’ve been lucky enough to record in some beautiful studios like RAK and Metropolis with drum rooms that are beyond beautiful. Playing a sold-out room at Koko probably takes it, though [Yonaka supported Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes there] – it’s such an incredible looking venue and I’d gone to so many gigs/nights there growing up in London that it felt like a personal achievement to be performing on that stage. Recording live for Radio 1 at Maida Vale studios is something I will never forget either.”
What’s the best drumming advice you have been given?
“Be patient with ideas and when developing grooves. I would always be so impatient when reading or trying to play grooves when I was younger – my teacher was constantly telling me to break stuff down and focus on it phrase by phrase and really concentrate on playing each limb and hand with control. It would stress me out so much butI realise now how important that bit of advice was.”
What gear are you using?
“A Mapex Saturn kit I got about three or four years ago. I only use a 22"x18" kick and 14"x14" floor in Yonaka. They released a limited run of them with birch and walnut shells and I got the last one in the shop beofre they introduced the new line of Saturn kits. It was an ex-display so I got it pretty cheap but it sounds incredible miked up. I also use a PearlMasters custom maple snare and Roland triggers as well as a Roland SPD-SX that I use to run tracks, blend my electronics and sample with the acoustic kit. I’ve just got my mitts on some beautiful new Meinl cymbals too!”
How do you approach playing live with Yonaka?
“My approach with playing live is based around the consistency of my performance and delivery of my parts, locking in with Alex [bassist] and holding back where necessary.”
Do you work off the guitar or bass in creating parts and grooves?
“I don’t have a particular instrument I listen to when creating parts. Some ideas come from hearing George’s [Edwards, guitar] parts, a lot of times we lock in on stabs and certain little hooks in a track. Me and Alex naturally lock in with kick paterns and sometimes Theresa’s lyrical placement and rhythmical phrasings are awesome to play off as well!”
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t live without?
“My in-ears. They were the most uncomfortable things to get used to because I had only used standard noisecancelling ear plugs and stage monitors previously. It took a month or two to get used to having everything in HD and directly in my ears. The lack of actual noise and the feeling of not having a wedge behind/at the side of you was an adjustment but now I’d never go back.”
What’s the key to a great live performance?
“It sounds cliched but it’s important to just enjoy yourself and what you’re playing. Interaction on stage is a big one for me as well. I feed off the energy of everyone on stage with me and in the audience.”
What was the first kit you ever owned?
“A Pearl Rhythm Traveller. All the drums were super small sizes and cut down really thin with no reso heads on. I think the idea was that it didn’t make as much noise as a standard kit and it had interchangeable mesh heads you could put on instead of the tatty little batter heads. The shells were about 4" deep, apart from the snare which didn’t sound too bad but the whole thing was this weird nail polish red colour. A few years later, I got a Pearl Export for my birthday and I think the neighbours and my parents deeply regretted it!”
Rob Mason (right) with Yonaka