Brighton-Based Group YoNaKa Levels Up to the Next Chapter

Photography by TOM MEDWELL

I meet future-facing heavy rock quartet Yonaka as they march across a huge leafy park in North London, looking more like the villains from Superman II than the area’s usual fleece-wearing, coffee-drinking regulars. Heads turn. Dogs are put back on leashes. Prams are turned around and pushed in the other direction. 

Made up of lead singer Theresa Jarvis, George Edwards (guitar), Alex Crosby (bass and keyboards), and Robert Mason (drums), the band are actually from Brighton, a seaside town on the south coast of England. And they’re not scary at all. They’ve made the trip to the capital especially to do the MARVIN photoshoot amid the majesty of nature. Then they’re on to LA for several months of live shows, (not least with the mighty Evanescence), writing, recording and a bit of rock n roll debauchery at their management company’s huge new full-service house and studios in the Hollywood Hills. “We are very excited for this,” effuses Jarvis. “We dipped our toes in LA and New York in 2019 it was amazing but way too short. We only got like two days in each place. So we’re recording the next album and touring the states for this second half of the year. This is our first time doing both these things out there and we can’t wait to explore and check out all the cool places.” Management have purchased them a new house so massive they needed a drone to film the grounds. “It looks like something off of MTV Cribs,” laughs Jarvis. 

I have invited all my friends out so not sure how much work we will get done! I know this movie goes a bit west but ‘Boogie Nights’ gets me mega excited for LA. It will just be us staying at the house for two and a half months while we write and record the album. There is a pool though. I think the window in the studio looks out on it so I will be floating away on an inflatable pink flamingo drinking margaritas whilst the drums are being tracked.

Pre-pandemic, the band were doing all the right things, they had Kerrang! Award nominations, toured with the likes of Bring Me the Horizon, signed to Fueled by Ramen and had released a debut album, Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow. So it’s curious that now the world is back to live shows and touring, the band chose to release Seize The Power, a collection of songs forming a mixtape rather than a second album. “We chose to do a mixtape because we weren’t quite ready to put out another album yet,” explains Jarvis. “We spent the whole of lockdown writing a load of material and it actually felt really good to go hard on writing for such a long period of time…so we had a load of songs to pick from. The eight songs felt like a really nice body of work: not too big, not too small.” I wonder if the nerves are still the same when releasing a mixtape over an album. There’s certainly less pressure for it to perform. “To be honest we were more excited to release the mixtape than the album.” Jarvis says. “It felt like it had been such a long time since we put music out and of course we had been sitting on these songs for a while now and were itching for everyone to hear them. It was definitely a big jump in sound. It was what we are now and what we had grown into, delving deeper into production and becoming better at our art.” The mixtape was also an opportunity to experiment with new ideas, directions, techniques and sounds that might not necessarily have been right for an album release. That’s got to be healthy for a band to do: stretch what’s possible. 

There’s this one song that we wrote for the mixtape and it came really quickly, one of those that was finished in like an hour. But it didn’t make the mixtape. In fact it wasn’t even on our minds to go on the mixtape but it’s a beautiful song and one that us and our team kept coming back too and we will be putting onto our next album. In terms of sound, I would say we’ve moved on to the next chapter again. We’re just always playing around with new sounds and structures that feel good and trying not get stuck in one certain sound or genre.