Written By Laura Curry
Since their interview with The Pop Break last year, Yawn Mower has been busy recording and releasing music, crafting their surf rock vibe and perfecting a high-energy live performance. Tonight, Yawn Mower is back at Wonder Bar for the return of Happy Mondays — ready to give listeners a break from their daily routines with a heavy, fuzzed-out set. Check out our new in-depth feature with Yawn Mower (Mike Chick and Biff Swenson) to find out why they named their most recent EP What’s All This New Piss? and read about their powerful stage presence and favorite memories as a band.
How would you describe your music in just a couple of words: Fuzzed, drenched, surfy, doomy rock ‘n’ roll.
Since your interview with The Pop-Break last March, you’ve clearly been busy recording and releasing music. Your EP “Get to the Boat” came out in May last year, and “What’s All This New Piss?” came out a month ago in March. Do you think your music has evolved from last year until now? How so? What’s different, what’s stayed the same: I feel as if two-pieces have some wiggle room to explore different sounds, techniques, and styles because there’s only one melodic instrument dictating those things. We have heavier songs, poppy songs, surfy songs—while they differ in genre or influence, they all still tend to sound exactly like what you’d expect from Yawn Mower. Have we grown? Eh. I like to think of it as taking numerous steps sideways in all different directions.
What is your new EP, “What’s All This New Piss?” about? Are there any themes explored on the EP—everyday life experiences, the media, preachers? Do the songs on the EP reflect these themes? How so: We like to walk the line of playing the music we want to hear live, while also saying the things we feel to be important, all with a heaping helping of satire. It’s subversive, ironic, dystopian, angsty, and overall funny. At the core of it, these are things that we feel need to be poked and prodded. The media sucks, organized religion is a scam, and the everyday punch in/punch out lifestyle is a drag. We’re here to ease the burden of the mundane day-to-day.
How did you decide on the name for your new EP: The elevator in Mike’s apartment building was out of order, so we had to walk down five flights of stairs to take his dog (Helicopter Jones) for a walk one night. On the way down, Jones kept stopping to sniff certain steps. We decided he was catching scents from other dogs that were forced to take the stairs that night as well. As we were riffing on what must be going on in Jones’ head, we thought he’s probably thinking to himself “What’s all this new piss?” and from there we started thinking about how else that term can be applied. Be it new bands, new trends, or even a new president. The term was coined and we latched onto it that night for good!
What was the recording process like for the new EP? How does it differ from the process of Get to the Boat? What have you learned about recording music over the course of releasing these EP’s: GTTB was our first proper release, so I feel like we spent more time on that one. We stepped away from sessions to let the ideas simmer. With WATNP, we had been playing the songs live for so long by that point that we knew exactly where they’d each end up.
Paul Ritchie (from GODS, who recorded GTTB) has a very creative ear. He taught us to experiment with a ton of amp/pedal combos to achieve the wall of sound we were looking for. Pat Noon (Eight Sixteen, who recorded Brick+Mortar) taught us to work more efficiently. He made us move fast, but with total confidence. We made bold choices and stuck with them. Even by the time we went to record our Christmas EP at the OC vocational school, we had already learned the proper techniques to achieve Mike’s guitar tones. We have a grasp on how to make Yawn Mower sound like Yawn Mower, and that’s an invaluable skill that both Paul and Pat helped us to discover.
In our interview last year, you explained that you were still learning what works when it comes to interacting with the crowd. What have you figured out since then regarding crowd response: We found out quickly that a high-energy rock show with minimal banter is what works best for us. We give every show as much of our physical beings as possible. It’s always a work out. We tend to talk over top of one another so that the crowd can’t really decipher what we’re saying. We’re selling merch, thanks to the other bands on the bill—shout-out to the venue, etc.
Every band says the same things at every show, but no one is actually interested in hearing any of those things. If you’re at the show, chances are you already know who else is playing. If you’re at the bar, you obviously know the name of the joint. If you’re there to see a band play, obviously you’re going to buy their merch. It all goes without saying, so we like to glide over the spiel in the most annoying way possible—inaudibly.
What is it about your music that gives listeners that “Whoa, WTF was that” response at shows after you leave the stage: I think it’s our high energy mixed with our genuine enjoyment of what we’re doing. Mike and I have been playing a ton of shows. Some shows are awesome, some are just decent, some are downright awful. Regardless of however cool the venue was, how friendly the bands were, or how much we get paid, we are still just as excited about this project on the way home from the gigs as we were on the way to them. This is seriously the most fun we have week-to-week for the most part. We get to take out all of our frustrations and aggressions on stage. We get to leave our physical bodies and just black-out for a half hour. We put everything we have into this project. I think the audience can see and appreciate that.
Can you describe the aesthetics/look of Yawn Mower: Our albums are visually laid out the exact same way. We’re standing in the same positions in front of a well-thought out collection of knick-knacks. The back cover features only the center item from the front cover along with minimal information. The actual discs themselves are extreme close-up shots of the same item featured the back cover. Each album is like a time capsule for us. We can put ourselves right back into that setting because of the relevance of each item and location.
Do you both have stage personas: We latched onto the idea of the band existing on two planes. There are obviously two everyday normal guys behind the production of making these songs, but then there are two not-so-average personas that bring these songs to life. When we hit the stage we aren’t the same Mike & Biff that you’d see walking the boardwalk during a sunny afternoon. We become Yawn Mower.
What are some of your favorite memories from being a part of Yawn Mower: I’d say our first weekend tour we ever did with our friends in Dentist. It was great to take this project out-of-state for a few days. It was an even more fruitful trip because we got to spend it in a van with some of our best buds. We slept inside of a college radio station one night, we watched Julia Child on mute at a bar during a hail storm, we played arcade games while drinking craft beers, and overall just generally lived in excess for 3 days.
Aside from that, the most exciting part about this band is how constantly productive we are. We’ve put out two covers songs, two EPs, and a Christmas album all inside of two years. We have two remixes coming out this summer with some of our favorite local rappers on them. We have another two covers that’ll be released this summer as well. Plus, we are already booking dates to go record EP 3. Mike and I have found musical equals in one another, and the productivity is the greatest part of this project for the two of us.