Indietracks interview #9: The Yearning

Yearning

Interview by Shaun Tomkiss.

Founded by songwriter/producer Joe Moore and signed to the legendary Elefant Records, the band’s songs ache of a bygone innocence and simplicity, as influenced by Phil Spector’s girl groups, Brian Wilson’s ‘Pet Sounds’ and Irving Berlin’s classic songwriting. Their debut EP, ‘Jukebox Romance’, was recorded in a cupboard under the stairs at Joe’s home in Farringdon, UK, with vocalists Justyna Halas and Maddie Dobie, and their first full-length album, ‘Dreamboats & Lemonade’, will be released this summer!

Firstly, for those new to your music, can you tell us how The Yearning formed?
We’re not really a band as such: A few years ago, I (Joe) started writing and arranging music, in a cupboard under my stairs, inspired by Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, and I needed a singer. After auditioning many people, Maddie’s voice was the perfect fit (she was a singing pupil of mine at the time) so we recorded ‘Baby Be Mine’. She was 14 at the time. Friends and family have contributed to all the songs, helping out with the instruments I can’t play – guitars, strings, brass, flute, harmonica, etc. Elefant Records signed me up and we’ve made a couple of mini-albums over the last couple of years. Last year we did a few gigs (a stripped-down sound), but we’re all too busy to do anything except make music and do videos.

So playing at Indietracks will be special, as it’s the only gig you will see us at! We’re planning a one-off rehearsal on July 25th! On Sunday 27th, you’ll see me on organ/piano, Maddie on vocals, and Mark and Al on guitars (they’re really good). Should be fun, especially as we’ve never played live together before!

To me, your music sounds like the magic of Spector/The Shirelles and The Supreme’s but with a classically British twist. Would you agree with that description?
Sort of! Sound-wise, I’d agree it all started with Spector and the wall-of-sound approach, and yes, because of the backing vocal stylings on many of the songs, there is definitely the ‘girl-group’ sound with the harmonies (Shirelles, yes; Supremes were more motown, I think…). Song-wise though, I would say the chords, music and arrangements are more heavily inspired by Brian Wilson or Burt Bacharach. Maddie’s voice is close to an English Francoise Hardy, I think. In fact, the new album, ‘Dreamboats & Lemonade’ is definitely a broader sound influenced by the above, as well as singers like Skeeter Davis, Sandy Posey, Claudine Longet and France Gall. Camera Obscura and The Magnetic Fields are more contemporary examples of bands I admire.

Are you looking forward to Indietracks? Are you festival fans?
Yes. Not really! No, I like watching bands at festivals, and when my family is older, I’m looking forward to taking them to festivals; but neither of us (Maddie nor I) have been to many festivals, I don’t think. It’ll be fun at Indietracks!

Will you be shaking a leg to the wonderful Ready Steady Girls DJs?
I imagine so.

Be honest, how long will you spend worrying about your outfit?
I don’t know about Maddie. Outfit? Now you’ve got me worried…

Your vocalists are very young aren’t they? Are they really into The Paris Sisters or do they go home and play the Blazin’ Squad or something?
Maddie was 14 when she recorded her first song with me. She’s 17 now. She’s been amazing about it all. We get on well. Bizarrely, she doesn’t listen to that much music, I don’t think (I’m the obsessive), so she’ll listen to anything, she’s quite open-minded. Elefant sent her a load of stuff, and I think she likes some of it, but the main thing is she likes my songs (usually!!!).

What’s the best thing about making music?
Good question. Hearing Maddie sing my songs, the way I hear it in my head, but better.

Finally, you have new album coming out soon. Can you tell us a little about that?
As mentioned before, it’s called ‘Dreamboats & Lemonade’, and it’s out from June 30th, available on mp3, CD and vinyl (of course!). It’s our first full-length LP (we’ve previously released 2 mini-albums) so we’re really excited. We’ll be playing tracks from it at Indietracks, and the first single, ‘If I Can’t Have You’, is out now. The aim when making it was to make beautiful songs that all sounded like singles. It took over a year to make, but everyone here and at Elefant is really happy with it – we hope you enjoy it too!