The prog legends will release their 22nd album this October, their first in seven years. As guitarist Steve Howe reveals, with this new record the band want to “uplift”.
Prog legends Yes return with a brand new studio album. Plus there’s the latest news from Marillion, Jethro Tull, Enslaved, Ross Jennings, The Watch, Tillison Reingold Tiranti, Dec Burke, Clive Mitten, Katatonia and more…
After a seven-year gap that saw no shortage of tours from the band before the pandemic took over, Yes return with their 22nd studio album, The Quest, on October 1 via InsideOut/Sony Music. It’s the first they’ve made since the passing of founding bassist Chris Squire in 2015, and features prominent instrumental contributions from his replacement Billy Sherwood, as well as further songwriting input from Jon Davison, who joined the band in 2012 and made his recording debut with them on 2014’s Heaven & Earth.
Overseeing the musical direction – and for the first time, the production – is Steve Howe, who feels that while The Quest doesn’t have an overarching lyrical concept to it, there’s a mood to the record that’s determinedly positive.
“There was a tonality that we were looking for,” he says. “I was looking for a good steer away from overt depressing references to current events – we want to uplift.”
That sentiment was already taking shape when the band began writing and recording material for the album back in 2019, and the spectre of Covid-19 has only solidified the prevailing emotions of the album.
“There’s a lot of pre-Covid life in it,” Howe says.“And that gives the album a chance to not be so affected by it in terms of outlook. We have got one song that Jon and Geoff wrote that really is very much is about recent events, but that’s nicely disguised, so people will no doubt try to work out which one that is! Ironically, the final song of the three bonus tracks is called Damaged World – which sounds very much like it’s about what’s been happening, but in fact it was written before.”
Howe says there was also a conviction within the band that they shouldn’t seek to reproduce former glories but continue to evolve the musical possibilities.
“It’s an opportunity to rewrite what Yes do, and not feel restricted. What we’re interested in presenting here is another twist to the Yes story.”
To that end, the songwriting process continued to be a collaborative one, with Geoff Downes, Alan White and Billy Sherwood all bringing new material to be worked on, alongside a continuing significant contribution from the relatively new frontman.
“Jon’s written a couple of songs. He’s written a couple with Geoff as well, one song he wrote with Billy, one song he wrote with me, and then there are around four other songs that I wrote. We wanted to find a balance between accommodating each other’s creativity and agreeing what was right for the album.”
Stepping into the daunting shoes of Chris Squire, Billy Sherwood has come into his own in the studio, Howe reckons. “Both Billy and Alan really rose to the occasion as a rhythm section. Billy did a terrific job in very rarely just playing the bass, you know? He was pumping it and he was moving about and he was inventive, and that was
“There’s a lot of pre-Covid life in the album.”
much needed – all those familiar Yes traits of intricate and loud and melodic bass.
“Chris brought the predominance of the bass forward from all the great players he liked before that, but he was very much his own man. Likewise, Chris was Billy’s mentor and they did projects together, but already he has really found his own sound on this album.”
And while there are no multi-segmented suites on the album, Howe feels this is a natural occurrence, not a conscious decision.
“We’re not shy of considering longer, larger pieces. But this album wasn’t centred around any 20-minute tracks or suchlike, not because we want to avoid that style, more because it wasn’t a natural process for us at this stage. The longer songs are around six to eight minutes. That’s still a healthy length for us to develop a song, the structure and the harmonic roles that, Geoff and I play instrumentally or that Jon, Billy and I do vocally. We also jump into some pretty substantial instrumental sections. I’m looking forward to people hearing it.”
The Quest is available to pre-order now.