Photo by Adam Penney
Ye-Yeti embodies the spirit of our New Music Issue.
First, the newness: They are brand new to the scene; 2/3rds of the members are still attending high school. In the few shows that people have been able to see, they’ve brought fresh energy to the local stage. They don’t take themselves too seriously.
Second, the music: They take the music seriously. Bowties and all, they are ready to do business with your eardrums. These kids can sing. They can play. They can dance.
And they’re taking the St. John’s music community by storm.
Elling Lien learns their story.
Christopher Howse: Vocals, Synthesizer
Daniel Howse: Bass, Vocals
Kaitlyn Brace: Drums, Vocals
The first question I want to ask is… where did you come from?! Because in the public’s perception, it seems like you guys dropped fully formed from the sky.
KB: That’s exactly what happened! (laugh) Well, we always played at school, but our first real show was the Holy Heart Battle of the Bands. We auditioned, and we got in. And then we ended up winning the Holy Heart Battle of the Bands! It was our first show actually playing to people that weren’t living on our street.
You’re all underage, am I right?
DH: We all are. I just turned eighteen in August.
KB: (to Chris) Are you sixteen yet?
CH: Uh… I’m fifteen still.
KB: He’s fifteen, I’m seventeen, he’s (Daniel) eighteen.
CH: I turn sixteen at the end of this month.
(staring at Chris) You’re kidding? Fifteen?
KB: I’m really glad people aren’t sketched out about us playing bar shows. That’s awesome because I mean people in bars probably don’t want fifteen year olds walking around.
I can’t even think now. It blows my mind that you’re actually fifteen. On stage you’re a superstar!
DH: One of our friends was at the show at The Ship and apparently some girls behind her were like, “Man, if he wasn’t fifteen…”
The band is really energetic on stage. It’s really a show to watch… It’s kind of incredible. You’re jumping around, dancing around more than most other local acts I’ve seen. There’s no fear.
DH: I’m definitely not afraid at all when I’m playing.
CH: Just whatever comes up, happens.
KB: I just can’t stop laughing when I’m playing with them.
DH: I’m a Leo so I’ve got the heart of a lion, especially on video. (laugh) No, I am a Leo but… I think for me it comes from watching videos and seeing other performers do it. They’re having so much fun. And they’re dancing, but the music is still sounding great. It’s the whole package. It’s all just for fun. I don’t take it too seriously and I like that about it. I’m young and I like to have fun. Whatever!
CH: When we’re playing live, the goal is to pretty much have as much fun as you can without taking away from the music too much.
DH: We don’t want to be a shit rock band—having more fun than the audience…
KB: The thing I like about it is even if you’re not so into the music, it’s still a real show. A lot of people who come see us may think the music is pretty okay, but these guys, they’re awesome. “This guy is fifteen and he’s taking his clothes off? What’s he doing?!” It’s just hilarious to watch.
You all seem to have a lot of chemistry together. How did that come about?
KB: Definitely the brother thing—Chris and Dan are brothers—I talk about that a lot with people. Dan was telling me he wasn’t sure in the beginning if he wanted to start a band with Chris, because you know you don’t really want to be in a band with your sibling, right?
CH: Well, I got that feeling too.
DH: When I wanted to start a band he was probably around thirteen.
KB: I don’t think it would be half as good with anybody else because there’s brothers, and then there’s these guys.
DH: It’s so true.
KB: These two are best friends, even though they might not hang out all the time. Even when they’re not on stage they’re really close.
Do you have any siblings, Kaitlyn?
KB: I do. I have a [sister, and a] brother who’s Daniel’s age.
DH: That’s how I know Kaitlyn. I was good friends with her brother.
KB: So we’ve known each other for a really long time. I’ve known Chris since he was three (laugh) and Daniel since he was five. We’ve kind of grown up together.
DH: The first time I saw Kaitlyn she was wearing a Sailor Moon costume!
KB: I was four. (Laugh)
DH: She was four years old and it was for her brother’s Halloween party. And I remember thinking she was really attractive, even at five. I was like, ‘that girl’s hair is so blonde, she’s so beautiful!’ And then she was dressed as Sailor Moon, and I have loved Sailor Moon ever since kindergarten.
So we’ve known each other a long time. Chris and I have lived with each other our whole lives, so there’s no real crap with us so we can just do it. I can say “No, that sucked,” or “Don’t do that.”
KB: It would be a lot harder telling your best friend that you don’t like the song they wrote. Yeah, we all grew up together. We lived two streets apart.
CH: It makes it easy to jam.
DH: Since none of us drive, that definitely makes it pretty easy.
KB: These guys take their million dollar synth, jump a fence, cut through someone’s back yard, and are at my house in around 30 seconds.
How did you decide on the name Ye-Yeti?
KB: I was listening to an Islands song one time, or it might have been The Unicorns—same thing—and there’s one part that sounds like they’re saying “Ye-Yeti”.
DH: Are you sure it’s not in “Abominable Snow” when they say they’ve spotted a Yeti?
KB: I was listening to that song and then I thought maybe that’s where it came from. I actually had no idea. They just randomly came over to my house and said how about “Ye-Yeti”?
DH: (laugh) Okay, this is really what happened: I didn’t have much expectation for the band, so I just thought of a name for our first show. What I did is I just took a sheet of paper and just kind of wrote down all these funny names like there was like Octopie, and pie was the pie symbol, and Okay Poké, like “Pokémon.” And Ye-Yeti was one of them.
KB: It’s funny because when we play no one really thinks about the name. They don’t think it’s weird at all.
DH: Jody Richardson from the Pathological Lovers—he grilled us on our name.
He didn’t like the name?
DH: No, he wanted nothing of it!
KB: He was like ‘You guys have got to think about the name.’ And we were like ‘Absolutely not!’ We take criticism, but…
DH: I don’t know. I’m not too fussy on it now. But if something came to me now that I liked better, I’d be kind of disappointed. It’s kind of too late now.
Are there any local bands that have inspired you guys—or is it mainly from outside?
DH: A lot of it’s from out of the province, but I’d say for me, definitely The Kremlin. Just their wackiness and their energy. The kind of the commitment that comes with costumes and stuff. I thought it was kind of funny but kind of awesome at the same time. I like bands that are funny. The weird balance between sincerity and wackiness. I just really like that.
KB: Roundelay and Trailer Camp—those are definitely two of my favourite local bands. Those are two of the alternative bands that appeal to kids our age because they still have that punky vibe to them but they still have this odd energy.
How did you guys first get into music?
DH: Me and Chris were in piano lessons when we were really little. I was in them until grade eight or so. I stopped because I started getting into bass guitar in grade seven. Chris kept going with piano and he’s really good now. I sort of started focussing on bass guitar. I still have what piano taught me, theory-wise. But with bass, in grade seven, I started listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and it was huge influence on me. I really got into funk and signed up for the jazz band.
The first three albums of the Chili Peppers—from the 80s—where they were living wild and playing wild on stage… It was just so cool to me. I think that’s where I get a lot of my energy from on stage too, is watching old videos of them dancing like crazy and wearing ridiculous crap.
And there must be a little AC/DC in there. You do an Angus Young kind of kick-dance.
DH: (laugh) I started doing that after Grease. We were all in the musical production last year. Chris was Danny Zuko and Kaitlyn was Betty Rizzo, and I was Kenickie. (laugh)
KB: We were pretty much the main cast—Ye-Yeti on stage.
CH: It was pretty sweet.
DH: I started copying Jeff Conaway’s moves from the movie. Now when I try to dance live that’s all I can do.
CH: I find myself standing and tapping my foot the same way I used to in the musical.
KB: Seeing Chris walk, it’s completely changed from before Grease and after Grease. It’s hilarious.
DH: It’s funny… A lot of that energy we had on stage has transferred to our live performance as Ye-Yeti.
CH: Yeah, definitely. I was givin’er in Grease, that’s for sure.
When did you get into theatre?
DH: I always did it in elementary and junior high. I was in drama clubs and stuff.
KB: Well for me this was my thing. I don’t really know how it came up. I was in theatre this year and I wanted to start getting involved in more artsy stuff, because it’s really what I’m interested in. That was my first thing. It’s probably why I’m not as confident. Dan does anything he wants on stage. And Chris too really.
CH: I wasn’t so much into the acting and all that until Grease. But we started our bands and had a few performances and I just did whatever I could think of. Then in Grease I learned some stuff. Learned some moves.
DH: It’s weird, I didn’t really realise Grease had that much of an effect.
KB: Yeah, but it really did.
DH: Talking about it now, I guess it did.
The origin of Ye-Yeti?
DH: Grease! 50s influence. (laugh)
That can go on your Wikipedia page!
(to Chris and Kaitlyn) How about your other musical influences?
KB: My uncle was a huge influence. He’s a really awesome guitar player and he bought me my first guitar when I was in grade six. What actually happened was we were up in the country at our cabin and he was playing guitar and he tried to teach me a song and I learned it really fast. So he was like alright, I’m getting you a guitar. So he just bought me a guitar. Bought me this Fender acoustic and I started learning how to play it. And I really like playing but it wasn’t something I was hugely interested in. I played in jazz band throughout junior high, but I was actually playing flute.
How did the flute happen?
KB: Well, you’re a girl in grade five, what are you going to play? Flute, right? That’s how it happens. Then grade nine came and I really hated flute. Guitar is good, but there’s gotta be something else. So I picked up drums.
How did you pick it up? You bought a kit?
KB: I think it might be through my uncle’s son Paul. The first time I was ever flabbergasted by anyone playing music is when I was eight years old in Bay Roberts. It was Wayne and Chris his girlfriend playing bass and he was singing and then my cousin Paul who was probably thirteen at the time playing drums. They were playing “Wipe Out”, and it was so awesome. Yep, it all goes back to Paul playing “Wipe Out” on the drums. It was so cool. I don’t know how it came up again. It was probably being in jazz band and thinking I wanted to be back there.
DH: We were in the same junior high and I remember just one day “Oh, Kaitlyn plays the drums now.” And she was really awesome immediately.
KB: Yeah and that’s what happened. I just sat behind a kit one day and I just started to play. That was too easy. That could actually become something.
DH: She’s a total natural. She can just hear it and play it.
KB: I can’t read music. I’ve been playing flute for six years now and I don’t know how to read music. I hear it and I play it that’s just how it goes. I look at the music and I don’t have a clue what it says. But I hear it and I just do it. That’s what it is with drums. I’ve just gotten a really good ear for things. So hearing Dan say holy crap that lift there sounded really good we should do it in a song somewhere.
DH: I don’t know, your ability to manage rhythms is insane. I find it hard to play bass and sing at the same time.
CH: I have to play straight quarters to be able to sing at the same time. It’s pretty crazy.
CH: I guess for me, like Daniel said, we started out in piano lessons. I was in classical piano lessons forever and then I eventually got bored of that. My dad is really into jazz trombone and jazz piano stuff and I sort of got into that too and I started taking more jazz studies. That’s what I’ve been doing lately is jazz piano studies. That kind of music is a lot better for writing things that classical would be. Classical is like “Here it is, play it exactly like it is.” I find jazz music is really helping me write things because you make up things as you go. It just comes more naturally. I guess that’s my influence.
DH: Da-Yeti. (Laugh)
Is there a good music program at PWC?
KB: I love the music program.
DH: I thought it was pretty good.
Every school is different.
DH: We were in all of it pretty much. Concert, choir, jazz band, concert band. For me it was mainly jazz band because I could play bass in that and it was just really fun. And Kaitlyn was playing drums. Actually last year we were the rhythm section of the jazz band. Chris was playing jazz piano, I was playing bass, and Kaitlyn was playing mostly drum stuff.
KB: It’s funny, on one song the whole band cut out and there was a solo from the bass, and I was still playing drums and then Chris had a piano solo so it was just us playing. The music programs are really good there.
CH: I think PWC is a lot freer than a lot of other music programs. It may not be the prestigious music program of the city or anything. But I think it’s a lot more open to things you want to try.
KB: I think it’s more fun that way, really.
How did you end up playing the courtyard show I see on your Facebook page? That was at PWC, right?
KB: Right. It’s been kind of a tradition. Roundelay used to play there.
DH: Yeah Roundelay used to go to PWC.
KB: And they were the courtyard band back in the day.
DH: And they have a welcome week BBQ in the courtyard every year in September, so they try and get a band to play. When I was arts rep on student council in grade eleven I had to find a band to play. and I said I’d really like to be that band. So we formed our band over that year, then we played our first show at the end of that year. And then the following school year we opened in the courtyard, and it was awesome.
In the middle of the day?
DH: It was the in the middle of the day. We had to set up the drums but they were BBQing at the same time and it was terrible. There was this cloud of grease smoke floating over and it was forming this foam on the symbols. It was coating the drums.
KB: It was fun, but it was not the best location.
DH: It was a new drum kit so we didn’t want to ruin it the first time it was played.
KB: We tried to make this barrier out of mats at one point.
CH: But it just blew over.
DH: It was fun.
KB: It was kind of terrifying though.
DH: It was lunch, so everyone was there.
But you had people singing along with you wearing Ye-Yeti t-shirts in the audience.
DH: That was our fan base, the Yeti Knights! (Laugh)
You have a street team!
DH: They write our bios, they always come to our shows.
KB: They’ve got their shirts and they know all the words. They dance along.
CH: They come to our shows.
DH: They’re really supportive. Worst case scenario—no one shows up and they’re still there. So all in all it’s just us having a lot of fun with our friends.
Did you expect to attract this sort of attention?
KB: Absolutely not. Like I said, I didn’t even think we were even going to get into Holy Heart on stage.
DH: To be honest, I thought we would turn a few heads. I thought it would catch on because it’s a new type of thing. There’s a few drum, bass, synth or Moog, whatever set ups, like Death from Above 1979, that kind of thing. So I really got into those kinds of bands and I guess I thought if there was a band like that here people would really get into it. I think people might be a little bit tired of conventional set ups. I thought that was cool and people would like it. And people always like girl drummers, so we had to find a girl drummer. …Just kidding!
KB: Yeah, I’m just there for show.
DH: Look how successful the White Stripes are and they have a girl drummer! So we just knew we had to find a token girl drummer.
CH: I really like the style we play and I want to write more in that vein but still experiment and do new things too. But I thought people would like it as a change.
KB: I was scared at first, to be honest. Because its kind of one of those things people are either going to love it or hate it.
KB: People are going to look at it and go “These guys are clearly trying to do something new, just looking at them on stage.” Or you’re going to think these guys are fools. But we haven’t gotten much negative feedback.
DH: Not yet. We’re waiting for the jerks.
KB: I never really know in my head how a crowd is going to be. Oh, there are going to be haters.
CH: There might be people who are going to be haters towards our music but I doubt they’ll be haters towards our live performance, because it’s just so energetic.
DH: I don’t know how you can not have fun, unless you’re in a really shitty mood or something.
You’re inviting people to have fun.
KB: We invite them to play our instruments as well.
DH: Yeah! We like it when people get on stage.
CH: If I had my way it would be us, and everybody just crowded around us playing or something.
DH: A huge circle of people packed in.
KB: I actually saw a picture of a Back in Black show on their Myspace and it was them and then it was in an open room in someone’s basement with a sea of people around them. It looked so awesome. The band Lightning Bolt—a two piece bass and drums—they always have the kit on the floor level and everyone is just tight in around them in a big, sweaty mess. It just seems really fun.