Yeah You

Yeah You is the unlikely father/daughter duo of Elvin Brandhi and MYKL JAXN. They transgress borders of UK grime, improv strategies and pure pop. Last year they released an album on the Slip label, and recently a highly recommended tape on Luke Younger’s Alter label. What was at first listen a freak act from the Newcastle underground, is now ready to conquer the world! As pre-amble for their concert at the second edition of Vooruit’s Uncanny Festival, Ben Knight — one of the vanguards in the Manchester experimentalist scene (see a.o. Katz Mulk) — had a lenghty conversation.
03 May 2018 | AG 12
Ben Knight

First question, which is also an advertorial for ‘WILD POP’... a term that seems to distil YY’s approach to music-making, but at the same time it’s more than that – coming into life as a Vimeo page; in blog posts and now a symposium in Newcastle. Can you tell the good listeners of The Avant-Guardian what it’s all about?

Elvin Brandhi

We always insisted on pop. Maybe it’s a traffic jam performance thing, we become an alternative to hits blasting from every radio. Admit it. Pop is inescapable, Pop wins. You will always end up with Justin Bieber stuck in your head. Rather than pretending we can shut it out we embrace and mutate its fundamental elements. We aim to be off for the masses, we have Pop intent. Even if it fails let it be failed Pop, rejected Pop, rather than apologetically experimental. I avoid the ‘this might not be your kind of music’ attitude. It’s Yeah You, you know? This is you, maybe not for you but through you, at you. There’s something essential in the demand-bind affect-infect of pop. Pop enters the system. It gets under your skin, voluntarily or involuntarily influencing perception. We wanted to adopt this, attempt to conduct an intrusive infectious music. Repetitive, high intensity, to disorganise persona’s and initiate collective squirm. Wild Pop is the waste product of chart hits through warped subjective digestion, mutation and regurgitation. Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne run through the psychic effect pedal of a inconsolably bemused invalid. When the consumer misuses content designed for consumption to produce something new you get in-consumable products. Not consumerism but regurgitationism. 

MYKL JAXN

The insanely frustrating thing about how pop is taught in university music departments is that it is usually mapped onto the old classical pedagogy of ‘you need to learn how to do this properly’ while even the most mainstream pop is governed by technical anarchy – anything goes, by definition. I started using the idea of Wild Pop at Newcastle as a vehicle for carving a space to encompass the whole spectrum from chart pop to the most austere undergrounds of recording/gigging culture… Instead of a regular conference, for the symposium we invited people to make video essays with a Wild Pop brief, extending the aesthetic potential of saying something on a subject to a room full of people… Critical praxis?

BK

Second question: I was sad to miss the Pat Thomas collaboration you did at Counterflows, a festival which always lands YY splat bang in the middle of some amazing performances (I saw the Sensational collab a few years ago...). How did these collabs come about? And who do you collaborate with more frequently? And how does playing in different configurations, and in unconventional settings, stretch or transform your music?

EB

Both of us always play with lots of different people. I like the challenge of playing with someone for the first time live, because you’re already weaving out toward an audience of new faces then reacting to a whole new inventory of exertion. It’s a big conversation, makes you very awake! Performing as a way of meeting someone is so refreshing. Cuts all the small talk. You’re forced into finding footholds in each-others spectrum. The idea of strangers dissolves, you cannot know someone but when you play you feel them.

MJ

We’ve always played with whoever whenever possible. We both have a few regular collabs going which grew out of that openness. It’s almost a ritual, a way to convene without the connotation of words and subject matter, and it’s always reflexively dialogic and critical, even when someone’s not really listening… I love awkwardness in certain encounters the minute you ditch acceptables…

BK

A third question: who are Elvin Brandhi & MYKL JAXN? Are you the same people you’ve always been since inhabiting them?

EB

Elvin Brandhi is a psychic effect pedal, an instrumentalist subjective distortion bypassing the filters of identification. It triggers spasms, inverts synapses and attacks affective precepts of inbuilt public reserve. Cognitive beat repeat, thought glitch effect… let invade human. (Let surplus invade the construct.) And… Evil Gandhi? Eleven brandies? Eleven caskets branded? I think the thing is we never really thought about either name. Having another name is important though for me. My music is more me than I ever will be.

MJ

Yeah, MYKL JAXN was never thought up. MYKL JAXN is an embarrassing joke, it’s terrible... unworthy protest. But gladly blundered, neither picky nor wry-eyed.

BK

I’m really interested in the vocal/lyrical approach and I wanted to ask how your performances come about – they are stream-of-conscious, but as you’ve been doing it longer, do certain themes re-occur that you stick at, or do you try and push to different grounds? Also, how do the different ordinary environments (roadsides; car parks etc...) get channelled into your singing?

EB

I dunno man… I just shout my mind out and watch it bounce off different objects. More steam of obnoxiousness. Sick the mind out on stage. Sick up the audience, the stage, the sound-engineer out through the mind. You’re not just affected by your environment, you are product of it, I try to invert this process by turning this mediation back on itself. Autoimmune. But yeah, we tend to say ‘stream of consciousness,’ ‘improvisation’ as if these were exceptional, but free styling in the rap world is so much more common, expected even. If rappers say they freestyle no one will be impressed, only the content of what they manage to deliver counts. One of the most liberating things to watch for me is free-stylers. Seeing someone who has really managed to get the self in sync with their particular context. Make personality a tool of communication. To jump their shadow and let their mind fall out in new shapes. It is far from effortless for me, I couldn’t even call it a skill, It happens very ungracefully, which defines the whole frantic stage presence, I’m trying to embody and dispossess simultaneously, which just doesn’t work! I perform dysfunction.

BK

What’s next? Will Elvin and MYKL always be with you/us or will they transmutate into something else?

MJ

The wild productivity thing ad infinitum no doubt… But there’s no transmuting, really, just parallels; I’m also several other artists.

EB

Iconoclast. It’s growing out of itself. Working out what it is trying to be. I would like to have a rocking chair.

BK

Oh, and Niels had the cheek to ask me to ask you a question, that you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to: what has changed since you last played at KRAAK Fest?

MJ

Every opportunity to play, in public or just to record, is taken and dispatched with as little identification with the outcome as possible – but because everything we do is documented, each next moment becomes part of an irrepressible quest for absolute negation… I mean that there’s no point at which anything settles, so as performers we’re unrecognizable to the duo that played at KRAAK, but it’s hard to say how exactly…

EB

We are another whole other thing each time we meet, it’s like, ah, yes us again. It’s like all the things that have happened in our time apart get brought to the table and we dissect the content, hear how each one’s inventory has shifted. Kraak was particularly intense because it was one of the first times we met and played since I moved away from home. We’re into that flow now though, that hectic in-between is our home. Playing music really is how we reconnect and hear where each is at. When I come back from travelling and we play a gig the same night, it’s the best way of catching up. We never won’t be always changing.