By Ziggy Merritt
On January 25th, ThatMag starts off the year with our annual music series. Previewing their upcoming show at the Tusk, I had a chance to hear from brother and sister Julio and Melissa Ossa and Max Barruzza of headliners Yeah Son! who join Added Color and Harlowe Jones for a night of some of the best talent the city has to offer.
“We started off as just us—brother, sister and our friend on guitar,” wrote Melissa on Yeah Son!’s founding. “My brother had the idea to start a band together but wasn’t sure how to go about it at first.”
“I posted an ad on Craigslist, which is how we met our bassist Max and first drummer Rob,” wrote Julio in response. “The chemistry, not only on a musical level but a personal level, was obvious right away. We began as a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band, and within the next 2 months, we began writing our own music and got our original project off the ground.”
That original project has evolved into a blend of rock, funk, reggae, and hip-hop, which has propelled the band for nearly a decade. Naturally, risk accompanies any attempt to blend so many influences together in one pot. So far those risks seem to be paying off.
“I think tackling a few different genres may sometimes alienate certain crowds but it always depends on the show (or who’s listening to our records),” writes Julio describing how their sound has evolved over the years. “You can never satisfy everyone but, overall, we’ve gotten a generally good reception about the way we fuse different styles and add our own touch. You never know what new risks we might take or new styles we may experiment with down the line. I think it’s important for any artist to always try new areas outside their comfort zone and there is still room for Yeah Son! to do that as well.
“After a few years and a few changes in our lineup, we have started to hone in on the right sound for us,” continues Max. “Sometimes changing a few band members helps bring an outside perspective.”
One of those lineup changes comes in the form of Matt Janicki, the band’s new guitarist. “I’m proud to say we’ve recently been lucky enough to recruit one of the most talented guitarists we’ve ever worked with,” writes Julio. “Matt joined Yeah Son! about 6 months ago and we’re excited to already be back in the studio cutting two new tracks with him. He comes from a more metal background and yet still has adapted to our style really well. I feel ever since he added his touch, we’ve really stepped up a few notches and evolved even further as a band.”
Lineup changes considered, there’s much to be said about their knack or blending together all of these influences into something both cohesive and propulsive. Much of that comes down to practice and as with, Janicki’s background, relying on the strengths and influences that individual members are able to bring to the continually evolving sound.
“That comes from knowing our influences and the pioneers of funk/reggae-rock and alternative-rock so well,” continues Julio. “Most of us grew up on that music, as well as classic rock and even metal. So it’s just a matter of learning the hybrid genres and playing it so often that usually, no matter the combination, it usually comes naturally to us.”
“Sometimes we just play whatever feels good,” adds Max. “It doesn’t always have to fit a specific genre. Whatever moves your soul and feels fresh.”
2017 ended up being a year of change and new surprises in the direction of Yeah Son! Perhaps the most prominent of these surprises came in the release of a new EP, Talk in Technicolor. With a polished production and an assured confidence in what works and what doesn’t, this latest release is packed with promise. Of the five tracks available, “Have You Ever Noticed?” ends up being one of the standouts. “The lyrics are all about looking at the bigger picture and to open your mind, that there is a lot of beauty in this world and it is so alive,” writes Julio on the track’s direction. Adding context to the title and perhaps what inspired the overall direction of the album itself is the sample audio clip used in the beginning of this track.
“The audio clip was taken from an old interview with a young housewife from the 1950’s while she was on LSD,” explained Julio. “She was being interviewed by a doctor who was studying the drug’s effects on her and had her describe what she was seeing and experiencing. You can also hear some bits of it in ‘Around The Fire’, which inspired the album title Talk In Technicolor. I thought the way she verbalized her experience was fascinating and used some clips in our music.”
Shortly they’ll have a chance to showcase how their sound translates to a live space at The Tusk. “When it comes to live shows, I’ve found that one of my biggest challenges is being able to sing on point while performing with lots of energy, such as dancing or jumping,” writes Melissa on the subject. “You gotta be able to catch your breath and time it right to make it work. In the studio, you have time to think it through and go back and fix something you didn’t like. You can’t do that in the moment, so it’s a totally different dynamic.
“Our live shows don’t typically change too dramatically from the studio versions,” continues Julio. “We try to translate our recorded music as best we can live, though we do cut some corners when necessary. I may occasionally fill in some rhythm section on keyboards to compensate for any extra layers of guitar on certain songs. Also, the studio versions are full and lush when it comes to all the vocal tracks we do but, fortunately, most of our members can sing backup too. Max sings on almost every song and our drummer Ty will also jump in with backing vocals on certain songs.”
Further, in 2018 we can expect two new tracks “Wild Child” and “Unfortunate” both of which, Julio promises will release “soon.” “I’m hoping that later in the year we can record a few more tracks and we can release a new EP with Matt on guitar,” continues Melissa. “2018 is full of opportunities! Yeah son!”