Yves Klein Blue - Art Rock, But Not As You Know It
Author: Carlisle Rogers
Monday, 7 April 2008
Take the things you liked best about the Strokes’ debut, combine them with the production prowess behind Franz Ferdinand, throw in some Aussie self-deprecation and the kind of live show that leaves lead singer Michael Tomlinson sweatier than a one-armed paper hanger, and you get Yves Klein Blue. Their debut EP, Yves Klein Blue Draw Attention to Themselves, is out this month.
When I first saw these guys, I thought, too pretty – they can’t rock. They are all 20 or less, with the kind of raw grinning ambition that comes with that territory. But while ‘garage’ bands trip over their Chucks to declaim themselves, these guys rock up in velvet jackets, knock out a few songs (Remember them- Remember when garage bands knew about melody-) about I don’t even remember what…but watching them kick out the jams there on a dingy stage we were like, yeah, soon it’ll be huge stages, huge crowds full of girls.
This is a band with a voice of their own, which isn’t the kind of thing to take too lightly these days. Sure, it’s easy to reference bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand at first, but let’s look at that again. One is forced to do that simply because of the way the guitars are hitting the amps, or the inflection in Michael’s voice that somehow comes out a little tangy like Alex Kapranos’, but for an Australian band out of Brisbane, they don’t just sound a little like those bands, they have captured the same visceral highs of the former, and if the five or so songs on their EP are anything to go by, they have superseded the latter when it comes to songwriting. There isn’t a bad moment on the recording – so the only real test now left to them, which they will probably surmount without too much difficulty later this year, is to come up with another half a dozen perfect crunchy pop songs.
With their first EP hitting the street this month on Brisbane label Dew Process, the foursome have finally found their studio feet. Michael says the EP, recorded in Brisbane, features a couple of tracks mixed by Wayne Connelly (Sleepy Jackson). “We achieved what we wanted, which is a hi-fi sound with high energy recording and passion,” he says. “We wanted a powerful recording and tried to make it sound like the perfect show.”
Michael says that while the Strokes played a big part in his own musical education, he grew the most as a musician when he left them behind. “The Strokes is one of my favourite bands of all time, although I don’t listen to The Strokes much anymore, but I used to listen to First Impressions [of Earth] because that is just a fantastic album. It was all that I listened to in high school – well not all, but a lot. But the most important thing that I ever did so far as a singer/songwriter was that I stopped getting stuck on The Strokes and stopped mimicking. That is how people learn, by copying, but after a certain point, we formed the band and I left it behind.”
Formed in high school initially, it’s the age-old story. Michael and guitarist Charles have played together since grade 10 and eventually picked up the rest of the band in university. “Charles is so fucking good on guitar, way better than me. He’s a genius,” Michael says. “I can play something and he will be reading a magazine while I play and then be able to play it perfectly later. When we met in high school we asked each other ‘Hey what bands do you like-’ ‘Led Zeppelin.’ ‘Me too!’ ‘Let’s jam together.’ And then I realised fuck, this guy is pretty good. Proof that early investments are a good call.”
Signing with Dew Process was auspicious; they are one of the few indie labels in this country with the gristle to take a small-time band like Yves and help transform them into the kind of beast they will be in a year’s time. “We were playing a gig in Ric’s Bar in Brisbane and one of the people from Dew Process was in the crowd and that’s how we first made contact,” Michael says. “When we first started we made some shit recordings on Charles’s computer and sent them out to everyone because we were naïve. We had approached them, but it wasn’t a proper stab.
“Signing with Dew Process has been incredible and I guess bands are taught to be suspicious of record labels, but we didn’t need to be suspicious. They are genuinely into us and what we want creatively and they want. They don’t override us and they do what the band wants. It’s such a cool situation to be in.”
A friend of mine tried to write off these guys by saying, “Yes, their sound is very now, isn’t it-” But that’s the kind of attitude that’s going to be the death of music. A catchy song is a catchy song, and damned if you can’t listen to lead single Polka about ten times in a row without getting sick of it. Take away the posturing, take away the guest producers and featured rap vocalists and fashion photoshoots (yes, the Kills, I’m talking to you) and what you end up with is the music and a live show that delivers that music better than anyone else right now. Maybe everyone else is just too old – maybe when these guys are 30 they will be morose and stolid onstage. Fair enough – but from the voice in the few songs they have dropped already, something tells me we won’t mind, because they are going to be writing some bloody good songs then, too.
WHO: Yves Klein Blue
WHAT: Draw Attention to Themselves through Dew Process/Universal / Play Spectrum
WHEN: Out now / Friday 11 April