Written By Laura Curry
The music of Fortune Yeller evokes a sense of nostalgia in listeners and reminds them of all the pop punk bands that they listened to as teens—with more mature lyrics. You’ll be able to hear elements of pop, punk, indie and garage rock in their songs, which work perfectly with their angsty lyrics and memorable female/male vocal dynamics. The Pop Break had the chance to interview Fortune Yeller before their show tonight at Wonder Bar to talk about their history, sound, inspirations and their hard-hitting singles “Burn” and “White Flag.”
Who are Fortune Yeller (Names of the band members & the instruments you play): Fortune Yeller is Jon Muzik on bass and vocals, Carrot Volz on guitar and vocals, Garret De Block on guitar and Zoom-Zoom on drums.
When did you form as a band? Jon: Carrot and I had started playing music together at the start of 2015. We would crank up our amps and play to an audience of wooden ducks in her parent’s basement. Our full band didn’t form until the end of that year. I remember our first show was at an ugly sweater Christmas Party.
What town are you based out of? Carrot: I reside in good ol’ Asbury Park and the boys are from North Jersey.
Where are some of your favorite places to perform, and why: The Super Bowl Halftime! Gaga’s such a peach. HA, but really our favorite places thus far have got to be the AK-47 House, and local spots like Brighton Bar in Long Branch and the Asbury Park Brewery. There was also this barn we played in upstate NY that was decked out in dozens of string lights—it was purrrrdy.
What is the meaning behind your band name? How does your name reflect the personality of the band? Carrot: We got the idea from our friend Matt who had joked that if he had a pop punk band he’d call it “Fortune Yeller.” It was the right amount of ridiculous, so we stole it…Love you Matt. It’s really come to fit us. It’s campy but has that mystical aspect and then there’s the YELLER, which adds to when we sneak up on you and get all intense-sounding. Who doesn’t love puns?
Jon: It has this element of toughness to it while still being lighthearted and fun.
Between indie, pop, punk and garage rock, your sound has a lot of genres working together. What sounds stand out to listeners in your music? What do you think are the most integral components of a Fortune Yeller song: We all come from such different music backgrounds and that’s what really shaped Fortune Yeller’s sound. We didn’t want to delve too much into the pop punk aspect. We intend for our songs to get all nostalgic on our listeners – like the songs we loved growing up – then shake them up a bit. It’s like “hey, we’re mature too.” We believe it’s the female/male vocal dynamic playing off one another that really makes us stand out. It’s not like it’s anything new, but it’s how we go about it that really defines our sound.
This one is for Carrot—your vocals are so distinct and they match perfectly with the sound of your music. How would you describe your singing style? Are there any artists/singers that you draw inspiration from in terms of vocals? Who are they and what do you like about them? Carrot: Thank you! I’m not really sure how to describe my singing style, I don’t believe I have the standard bubbly pop voice but it seems to have a clean grittiness to it, if that makes sense? I actually draw a lot of inspiration from older folk, country and 60’s music. Some of my favorites include Patsy Cline, Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane), and Mariska Veres (Shocking Blue), and contemporaries including Brody Dalle (The Distillers), Lights, and who doesn’t love Hayley Williams (Paramore)? I’m kind of all over the place. They are all very different, but share an intense honesty in their sound, which is something I always hope to convey.
What fuels your passion to create and perform music? Carrot: I am actually quite terrified all the time and constantly second-guessing my writing and ability but there’s just no other release quite like it. I’ve always loved singing, but finding the strength to perform in front of others and share a story and connect with strangers on some level is pretty amazing. That totally fuels my passion, that and the support we’ve gotten from our friends, fans, and the whole music scene. It’s been what I’ve wanted to do since I was 4 years old, I hope “little me” would be stoked!
Jon: I’m a complete goofball who grew up idolizing your typical punk bands. They would rock out and just be themselves, which was often ridiculous, but I think that’s what made it so appealing to me. You could be accepted for being goofy and bizarre while you make music. It was like this ultimate form of freedom. As I got older and learned how to play guitar, I really fell in love with writing music. It gave me a place to convey different thoughts and emotions that I might be too scared to do in person, as if my words are more acceptable with music behind them.
You have two singles out, “Burn” and “White Flag,” which both came out in 2016. While “Burn” is more of a garage rock tune with distorted guitars and angsty lyrics, “White Flag” has a clear punk sound right from the start, and it’s bit angrier. Also, Carrot and Jon’s vocals blend really well together in “White Flag.” How would you describe these songs in relation to one another? What do these songs mean to you? Carrot: I think they show that we can explore a wide range of sound and still be very much ourselves. I like changing the pace of things—it makes it interesting.
“Burn” is a close one for me. I wrote it about this feeling of slowly losing control of everything around you, the partner withdrawing from a relationship and perhaps themselves. When either someone stops trying or you lose them somehow and the only way to get a grip on anything is to just dismantle everything, and start over. A house is a great metaphor for something people have built together and it holds all kinds of memories. It’s also supposed to be a person’s safe space. “Burn” is about the dissolving of that safe space and realizing it’s better to just set fire to what’s now become baggage.
“White Flag” is about the frustration of a one-sided relationship and then sort of surrendering to it.
What themes are explored in “Burn” and “White Flag?” Are these themes recurrent in your music? Carrot: I think the common theme in both “Burn” and “White Flag” are frustration and loss, but each in their own way. “White Flag” is kind of weighing the situation and going back and forth where “Burn” is just like “fuck it!” It’s funny how that contrasts too with “White Flag” being the more aggressive song.
How would you describe the energy that you feel on stage while performing? How does this transfer over to the audience? What do you want show-goers to take away from your performance? Jon: We try to keep the energy high throughout the show, which is often why we start our set with a song like “White Flag.” The way Garret and Zoom-Zoom start the song really helps get the crowd going, which then in turn, gets us going.
Carrot: We want to make them feel a sense of nostalgia, like we have something the bands they grew up listening to had, but with a fresher take and with more mature themes.
What’s the best part about being in Fortune Yeller? Are there any favorite memories that stick out to you? Carrot: Reuniting with my long lost brother, Jon Muzik.
Jon: Being the tallest band ever! This one time we had an epic snowball fight and Carrot was totally kicking my ass but then she started doing this whack-a-mole thing behind her car and she came up at the wrong time! I literally thought I killed her but she’s alive and well, so it’s a happy story. Another more recent memory was at a show we played at Asbury Park Brewery. During our song “Blankets,” Garret decided to slide through my giraffe legs while doing a guitar solo. It was the coolest way to end a set!
If someone has never heard your music before, what song would you recommend that they listen to in order to understand what Fortune Yeller is all about? Why did you pick that song? Carrot: Probably “Burn” because I feel like it covers a lot of ground in terms of genres, where it’s a good start to show what we’re about, before we throw the intensity of “White Flag” at someone.
What’s next for Fortune Yeller? Have you been working on new music lately? Jon: We have an EP coming out that we’re really excited about. Garret actually recorded the whole thing over at Strange Weather in Brooklyn. We haven’t picked a release date yet, but you should see it this summer along with a music video or two.
FORTUNE YELLER PLAYS TONIGHT AT WONDER BAR AT 7 P.M. WITH GEEZ LOUISE AND WETBRAIN.