With millions of new fans, thanks to Youtube, Yung Heazy’s Jordan Heaney is the most famous local artist you’ve never heard of.
2Jordan Heaney might be the
most famous local indie rocker you’ve never heard of. The 23-yearold musician, who releases music under the name Yung Heazy, may have a fairly low profile at home, but online he’s something of a viral sensation—a status he owes almost entirely to Alona Chemerys.
“Who the hell is Alona Chemerys?” is a perfectly reasonable reaction to that last statement, and the short answer is that she’s a Youtube tastemaker who regularly posts videos that consist of nothing more than a still image soundtracked by a song she likes. Chemerys’s channel has around 208,000 subscribers, which is not a huge number by Youtube standards, but her musical selections evidently resonate with those who happen upon them. Her most popular video—which features “My Jinji” by Taiwan-based popsters Sunset Rollercoaster—has over 5.6 million views.
Last July, Chemerys uploaded a video that included a Yung Heazy song called “Cuz You’re My Girl”; that video has accrued almost three million views to date.
“She’s a girl from the Ukraine,” Heaney says during an interview with the Straight at West Broadway’s Storm Crow Alehouse on a recent Friday afternoon. “I have no idea how she found the song. I just put it up on Soundcloud, and it had, like, 100 plays or something. She somehow found the song through the depths of the Internet and decided to put it on her channel. And it just happened organically. People started sharing and listening to it. I didn’t even know it was up there for, like, a good two weeks. No one contacted me about it. It’s a weird story. I didn’t have any control over it.”
Indeed, the song—a mini masterpiece of bedroom indie pop that conjures visions of Mac Demarco jamming to the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down”—has taken on a life of its own. Fans have uploaded their own cover versions to Youtube, someone put the lyrics on Genius.com (with annotations), and if you’re itching to learn it yourself, you can find the chords to “Cuz You’re My Girl” on Ultimate-guitar.com. Not bad for something that started life as a Valentine’s Day gift for Heaney’s girlfriend.
In other words, the song has become a hit without the benefit of airplay or even a release on a physical format.
The latter will be rectified on June 1, when Yung Heazy releases its first album, Whenever You’re Around I Hate Everything Less. It’s essentially a one-man project, as Heaney explains. “Yung Heazy is me, Jordan—i record everything, I produce it, I wrote all the songs.”
On-stage, Heaney is joined by guitarist Cole Frizell, bassist Ken Clarke, Marriott. and In drummer the studio— Christopher or, more precisely, in his parents’ North Vancouver basement—he prefers to go it alone. “I like kind of being the dictator of everything with the music,” Heaney notes. “Being the only person to record and produce and do all those things, I find it’s a lot quicker for me. I like collaborating, and I like working with other people. I just find that with this process, I can output the most music in the quickest amount of time.”
Heaney is refreshingly forthcoming about his influences, which include not only the aforementioned Beatles and Demarco, but also Arctic Monkeys and Father John Misty, and especially the artist known to his parents as Ariel Marcus Rosenberg.
“For a lot of these songs I was trying to write from the mindset of Ariel Pink,” Heaney says. “I just see him as getting as many hooks as he possibly can into one song. I love that, and I love how he can do weird musical timing and stuff like that, and it still gets away with authentic catchiness.”
Heaney is no slouch in the catchiness department himself, spiking numbers like “Comfort Mix” and “Baby Don Chu Worry” with hooks as potent as his playing is loose and slippery. These qualities should serve him well when Yung Heazy sets off on a tour that, from the middle of this month to the end of next, will take him and his band all over Canada and the U.S., hitting cities that include Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Austin. Oh, and also Revelstoke, Guelph, and a few other places that might not seem like live-music hot spots.
“I think it’s sweet,” says Heaney. “I’d love to play for people in Revelstoke and Guelph and smaller places, or maybe venues that don’t usually get bands. I have no idea. I’ve never actually been to either of those places. But I’m just down to tour, man. I’m down to play as many shows as possible for whoever wants to come out.” > JOHN LUCAS Yung Heazy plays 333 on Saturday (May 12).
Generosity helped Romeros recover from traumatic fire
2As life traumas go, it’s right up there as one of the scariest: waking up in the middle of the night to a fire that’s taken hold. Today, the husband-and-wife Americana duo of Pharis and Jason Romero are able to look back at the time their lives of gratitude. changed Out with of a something strange sense horrible came good things, including a renewed faith in humankind and the feeling that life’s short, so you might as well take some chances. That thinking would eventually have an impact on Sweet Old Religion, the fourth—and quite arguably best—album the two have released under the banner of Pharis and Jason Romero. But first, the fire. The nightmare started in 2016 in a workshop on their property in Horsefly, B.C. Having welcomed a second child, the couple started a major renovation on their house, moving into an adjacent cabin during the construction. Also on the property was Jason’s workshop, which happened to be headquarters for his booming business as a maker of high-end banjos. “We started the reno in May in earnest, ripping the house apart but keeping the kitchen and bathroom, for obvious reasons,” Jason says, on the line with his wife and musical partner from Horsefly. “One night in June, after we got back from a party, I woke up at about 3 a.m. and saw a glow that I shouldn’t have seen.” Along with their two small kids, Pharis and Jason were in a cabin they’d house giving and built them workshop, on a place skids the to between stay structure dur- the ing the reno. Jason bolted from bed while Pharis grabbed the kids, who were two months old and twoand- a-half. “The fire was in the corner of the shop—i’m pretty sure it was started by a compressor that shorted out and had run itself red-hot,” Jason says. “There was enough ambient dust in the room that it caught fire. It was a very old building and it went up really quick. We tried to put it out with a garden hose, but then the fire got so big that it burned our power lines, which killed our pump. There was a live wire in the driveway, which caused all sorts of chaos. It burned down very efficiently.”
The collateral damage included five banjos that Jason had finished and was about to ship to customers, as well as a collection of prewar Martin and Gibson guitars. Also lost were countless personal items, which the Romeros had stored in the workshop for the renovation. But the couple eventually gained a different perspective on that night.
“In this day and age it’s insane how quickly news spreads,” Pharis says. “We got up the next day and went to our friend’s house to use the Internet and contact the insurance company for whatever insurance we had. I put up one post, that our shop burned down, on our personal page. That day, I talked to four different CBC Radio stations, and people just started sending help. Small towns are amazing when they rally around their people. We live in this expanded version of a small town when it comes to the music community and the banjobuilding community, and the luthier community in general.
“I would never, ever wish for anyone to go through a summer like we went through, because I think it took a few years off both of our lives due to the stress,” she continues. “But I also wish for everyone to experience the kind of community support that we got. It fills your heart with a belief in the core goodness of humanity. It inspired Jason and I so much—to be able to get back on our feet, and then to be able to give again ourselves.”
In a weird way, then, the fire, as well as to help friends them coming rebuild together their home afterward and lives, inspired Sweet Old Religion. The palpable sense of easygoing joy that’s been unmistakable on past records is there once again, but this time out the two seem extra locked-in when singing together. Something magical happens when they join forces vocally, whether it’s on the rollicking banjopowered “Salt and Powder” or the still-waters acoustic reverie “You Are a Shining Light”.
“Personally, I think both of us feel this is our best record yet, for a bunch of reasons,” Pharis says. “We just rehearsed everything like crazy. We sang together so much leading up to this record—not a lot of live performing, because of the kids and how life was structured, but more singing together every day for two hours for months. All the vocals on the record are live, and most of the playing is. There’s not a lot of overdubbing on purpose.”
What makes for a noticeable departure from past releases is the injection of some grit into the duo’s work. That gives an extra shade of darkness to the haunting “Age Old Dream” and a weathered charm to the harmoniesfrom-heaven “Come on Love”.
“I love a little scuff, but trying to figure out whether I want a little scuff, or having a note sounding right in tune, has always created a little bit of a conflict for me,” Pharis says. “But I think I might be finally leaning towards a little scuff. Jason, because he doesn’t have all these years of musical training hammered into him, has scuff all over his stuff, and that’s what makes him so freaking great.”
Ultimately, Pharis agrees, what you hear is two people who couldn’t be more on the same page. That she and Jason pretty much do everything together—make music, raise children, pile into the tour van, run a home business—suggests a bond as unbreakable as that of Johnny and June Carter Cash. That, evidently, is how you not only survive a fire, but come out on the other side stronger than ever.
“We’re full-on 24/7 between kids and being on the road and living and loving and owning a business together,” Pharis says. “Everything we do is in this little world. And we still really like each other, which is a good sign.” > MIKE USINGER Pharis and Jason Romero play St. James Hall next Thursday and Friday (May 17 and 18).
Orange Kyte makes music for brain-melting fun times
2When warriors the of neopsychedelic Desert Daze Cara- road van II roll into Vancouver, Stevie Moonboots will feel right at home— and not only because he lives here. Last year, the affable Irishman admits, he and his band the Orange Kyte made their Desert Daze debut at the touring festival’s Joshua Tree home base, and it was a memorable occasion in more ways than one. “We were, like, the first band on the for Straight the whole on his weekend,” cellphone he while tells strolling through Fairview Slopes. “We played on one of the cool outdoor stages on the way in, so we were like the first port of call.” Being first on the bill also let the singer-guitarist check out other acts— including Spiritualized, Iggy Pop, and the of just pre-performance Make-up—without a dream come true,” anxiety. the Moonboots pressure “It was recalls. But it’s the complimentary beverages that really stick in his mind. “The backstage hospitality was absolutely incredible,” he explains, laughing. “At the side stage they had what I thought was a kind of pop, but it was actually a THC drink. Fuck, I just drank it down in one go, and then I dealt with the consequences! I had no idea—it was the one single healthy thing I tried to do all weekend, and even that was tainted. But at least I tried!”
That this is almost the first thing that comes up in our conversation gives credence to Moonboots’ claim that he’s “just a goofy son of a bitch”, and that there’s no point in scanning his lyrics for mystic significance. “I just like things to sound visceral,” he says. “I like it to sound like it comes from the belly. If I sit down and actually pay real attention to the lyrics and put in loads of effort, I feel like every word becomes contrived and calculated, and it just stops sounding like me, as a person. I mean, the scatterbrained, abstract nature of the lyrics is exactly what I am, right? I’m a scatterbrained, abstract kind of dude, and I’m not going to sit down and present lyrics that make me out to be Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave.”
However self-effacing Moonboots might be, the Orange Kyte is serious about its music. The band makes a big, warm, and enveloping noise, best heard on its highly entertaining new release, The Orange Kyte Says Yes!. And while its sound references elements of the past—keyboardist Mat Durie often channels Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets organ tones, while the decision to add saxophonist Matty Reed to the lineup was directly inspired by Moonboots’ fondness for the Stooges’ secret weapon, Steve Mackay—it’s never annoyingly retro.
There is, however, no doubt that the quintet’s swirling, electronically enhanced tones would go well with a bottle of psychedelic soda.
“Phase makes things sound gooey and melty and kind of like the way your brain feels when you’ve maybe taken something and you’re having a good time,” Moonboots says. “Those kind of sounds echo those feelings of being chemically altered and not really thinking too much about your real life and the stresses and strains of whatever you do outside of having a good time.”
And having a good time, he continues, is one thing that Desert Daze’s various acts—which include Ariel Pink, DIIV, Dead Ghosts, and Frankiie—all have in common. “The whole aim of it is to go see some bands and enjoy yourself,” Moonboots concludes. “When you’re going on tour, you’re basically bringing the party, or you’re bringing the good times to the audience—and that’s the way I want it to be.” > ALEXANDER VARTY Orange Kyte plays the Commodore Ballroom as part of Desert Daze Caravan II on Saturday (May 12).
Michigan Rattlers’ hearts belong to Middle America
2Los Angeles is where Michigan
Rattlers singer-guitarist Graham Young finds himself based these days, but home will always be Middle America. That much is obvious from the punchy Americana he specializes in with bandmate and childhood friend Adam Reed. If song titles like “Illinois Sky” don’t give you an idea of where he sometimes dreams of being during his more melancholy moments, then consider the driving love letter that is “Brutus Road”. Over country-punk guitars that suggest a deep appreciation for Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne, Young wrings every bit of emotion out of lines like “And the stars ain’t like I remember them/out Brutus Road in northwest Michigan.”
“It’s definitely a bittersweet relationship with Los Angeles,” the singer says, reached at home in the City of Angels. “I think all of us in the band definitely miss living up north in Petoskey [Michigan]. It’s a case of missing family, and missing friends. Still, I completely dig Los Angeles. You can always find something to
do, and you can’t beat the weather.”
The singer was the first to move to California, with Reed following him after wrapping up his schooling.
“I lived in Chicago for a while and loved it a lot—i was there for three years,” Young says. “After playing in a band there, it kind of ran its course and I was looking for something new. Los Angeles seemed like an option despite being far away from home. It somehow seemed more accessible than New York City.”
It would be hard to imagine Michigan Rattlers setting up in NYC, mostly because the group seems to have deep roots in Californian soil, despite Young and Reed being transplants. Michigan Rattlers sound as comfortable turning Leonard Cohen’s “On the Level” into an overproof roadhouse rambler as they do injecting heartland rock with an extra layer of Americana twang on “Strain of Cancer”. Whether intentionally or not, 2016’s eponymous Michigan Rattlers EP came across as part of a lineage stretching from the legendary Flying Burrito Brothers to the underappreciated Long Ryders.
What stands out is the attention to little things, whether the band (which includes multi-instrumentalist Christian Wilder) is celebrating Michigan’s Brutus Road, or namechecking the Mustang Lounge in the stardusted “Sweet Diane”. Sure enough, those places exist, proof that while Young might be on some level loving L.A., that doesn’t stop him from thinking about his real home.
“I guess what I set out to do was write songs for myself,” says the singer, who’s just finished a full-length with his bandmates. “That meant writing about things that were personal to me. It’s kind of strange, but when you do something that’s super personal, it can also be super relatable for a lot of people. Even if only about one percent of the people who’ve heard ‘Sweet Diane’ have been to the Mustang Lounge, they’ve got their own Mustang Lounge that they can plug in.” > MIKE USINGER
Michigan Rattlers play the WISE Lounge on Thursday (May 10).