Interview: Yeo on his forthcoming EP and the allure of pop music


by Eric Smale | photos by Eric Cairns

Melbourne-based musician, Yeo, makes big, bright, electro-pop with an ambient touch. Last year’s hazy single, “Girl”, and his new song, the infectious “Kobe”, have helped generate more than a little Internet buzz around his synth-y anthems. Quip recently caught up with him during his CMW showcase to talk about his musical background and his forthcoming EP.

Eric Smale: What made you first start playing music? Have you been doing it for a long time?

Yeo: Yeah, I’ve been doing it for about nine, ten years now, which is a really big number in my head (laughs). But I started because – I was kind of just mucking around with it, and I was always naturally good at music, but didn’t know what to do with it. I finally put together some stuff that was completely mine, and then it got played on national radio in Australia, and that kind of gave me the confidence to keep going, you know what I mean?

ES: Was there a specific artist or album growing up that made you initially want to start doing your own stuff?

Y: Obviously, as you grow up listening to music, you think you like things or you genuinely like things, and they kind of mold your sensibilities. But after a while, when you reach a particular stage, there’s one guy or a band who comes by and knocks you off your feet. That guy was Pharrell. And this was old Pharrell – I mean, I like the stuff he’s doing now, but the stuff he was doing back in N.E.R.D., that was my jam, that was what I liked, and I tried to copy him a lot. Then he copied me. I released a song called ‘Girl’ and then he put – (laughs) no, I’m not going to claim that.

ES: Your music draws from many different genres and sounds, but it still fits into a pop format. What is it about pop music that you find so compelling?

Y: I like how accessible pop forms are to the general public. You can still be very intelligent, deep and meaningful within pop. And that’s what I try to do, basically. There’s some stuff that I like that is not accessible, like noisecore, bands like Atari Teenage Riot, stuff that you wouldn’t show to your kids or whatever, because it’s quite obscene. They wouldn’t get it. And I listen to all that because I like it and I’m a musician. But I think music is not only for musicians, it’s for everyone to share, and that’s why I like pop music.

ES: Do you consider yourself more of a songwriter or producer? Or are those categories too blurry to separate now?

Y: They’re the same these days. Everyone’s doing it too, everybody’s producing their own stuff, recording it in their bedrooms or in their garages and then putting it out, just by themselves. And that’s how I work too. I just kind of do it as I go, song by song, I don’t try to put an album together, it’s just one at a time, until I’m happy with it, say I’m finished, then keep moving.

ES: Can you tell us anything about your forthcoming EP?

Y: Yes! I can. There’s four tracks on it and two of them are already out. It’s all along the same lines of this cinematic, ’80s, dance anthem kinda thing that’s going on, really atmospheric. It should be dropping later this year, hopefully not too late. And I can’t wait to put it out. There’s a limited edition vinyl release of it as well, really limited, that we’ve handmade ourselves and done all together, but it’ll also be available digitally, so keep your ears and eyes out for that.

ES: What one song, written by someone else, do you wish you could call your own?

Y: There’s this song by a Californian guy called Blake Mills, it’s called “It’ll All Work Out”. It’s an alt-folk tune, it’s not electronic dance, but I have a – I’m wearing a Gillian Welch shirt now, because I’m a big country and folk fan, and I wish I wrote that song. It’s all about [the idea that] everything’s going to be fine. There’s so much bullshit going on right now, but everything’s gonna be okay. And he talks through all of the stuff in his life that’s troubling him, but he convinces himself that everything’s going to be okay, and I think that’s so special. I wish I had the ability to put that kind of insight into a song.

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