Denver-based band The Yawpers is ready to release its fourth full-length album, Human Questions (Bloodshot Records), a more concise record than their last effort, 2017’s concept album Boy In A Well. Before they head out on tour, which includes a record-release party in their home city, I spoke to lead singer and songwriter Nate Cook about working with a new bandmate, his nascent film career, and how this record differs from the band’s previous work.
Americana Highways: The new album has a looser feel than Boy In A Well, more immediate. How did that come about?
Nate Cook: I think we wanted to write a more accessible record, in some ways. Boy in a Well, obviously, was kind of a left-field decision. We wanted to make something that was easy for audiences to relate to musically and lyrically. It was definitely a conscious decision to try and move back into just kind of being rock and roll.
AH: It was primarily tracked live, playing together in one room. Was that a choice made before or after writing the songs?
NC: Definitely before. We knew we were going to be recording at Electrical Audio [in Chicago]. Their live rooms are renowned. So it was always in the back of the mind that we’d be recording it, all of the band together.
AH: Did that end up changing how you envisioned the songs, how you wrote them?
NC: No, I don’t think it really affected or informed the writing process of the songs. But I guess, in some ways, it required that we be well-rehearsed enough to be able to do it. So, as far as the nuts and bolts of getting the songs prepared, we knew we were going to be under more pressure to achieve them all at once. So, in that sense, it did, but not really in the actual writing process.
AH: How did your new drummer, Alex Koshak, affect the recording process?
NC: We had about about six weeks from the time we brought him on to when we had to record it. We had to write and rehearse an entire album over the course of six weeks with somebody who we hadn’t worked with before. In that sense it definitely put us under the gun and made everything feel like it had a real sense of urgency. As to how that affected the writing process, I’m not really so sure, outside of the fact that it just had to be done quickly and required a lot of long days.
AH: You said that, “Writing the songs was writing [your] way out of depression and trauma.” How is that different from writing about it?
NC: A lot of the album is mantras that I often repeat to myself when things go bad or self-applied aphorisms that I use when I’m trying to talk myself out of a bad situation. I was trying to write an album that made me feel better rather than describing how bad I felt. That was a challenge for me, because it’s not really the kind of person or writer I am. I think it was an interesting challenge, and it remains to be seen whether I did well at it.
AH: Do you feel like it’s helping you personally?
NC: Uhm…no. But it’s definitely worth a shot! (Laughs).
AH: After four albums, how have you found the music business in general has changed?
NC: We didn’t really get to be a part of the music business until we got signed [after the band’s self-released debut album, Capon Crusade], at least not in any sort of actionable and musical way. So, as far as the music industry at large, I wouldn’t want to pontificate, because I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. We’ve always just kind of done our work and toured as hard as we could, and that’s about the extent of my relationship with the music industry.
AH: Selling music, selling albums is less of a moneymaker. Do you enjoy more fan interaction that’s become part of the business now?
NC: As far as record sales, I think the party was already over before we got involved. As far as fan involvement, the internet and the information age have democratized access to artists in a way that it wasn’t before. It was already kind of like that by the time we got in. But, yeah, you’re kind of expected to operate across a bunch of different platforms and to interact with fans in a more meaningful and immediate way.
AH: I was watching Yorktown [a short-film in which Cook plays Milo, the leader of a fictional Denver band]. Do you have any movie roles in the near future?
NC: No. God, no! (Laughs) A friend of mine, [director] Kevin Hu, was kind enough to look past my flaws as an actor and put me in that, and that will probably be my last role…
AH: I actually really enjoyed it! It was fun, and it was probably not too far from real life, I’m guessing.
NC: Obviously, it was highly exaggerated, but, yeah, there’s some similarities, for sure.
AH: Anything else you’d like to say about the album, or the tour, or the show in Denver?
NC: I just hope people come out, and I hope they enjoy the record!
You can purchase that record here: https://theyawpers.bandcamp.com/
Find tour dates here: http://www.theyawpers.com/tour
To purchase tickets for their April 26 album release party at Denver’s Oriental Theater: https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/334625?_ga=2.215350548.225451284.1555547343-743114601.1555547343