Alphababy really isn’t a respectable name for a rock band, especially if you’re a good one. Just ask Yukon Blonde, the Vancouver four-piece who played 300 shows as Alphababy from their formation in 2005 until late 2008.
“We used to get, ‘Are you guys a kink band?'” laughs guitarist/singer Brandon Scott. “It was kind of unfortunate, but an eye-opener.”
This realization no doubt helped encourage the band to adopt the more appropriate moniker of Yukon Blonde, but there were other hints along the way that their former name just wasn’t that cool. Take, for instance, the promoter in Toronto who disliked the name so much he changed the marquee to read “Alphaboy.” Or that former tour-mate Jon-Rae Fletcher continuously preached the benefits of a new name when Alphababy was performing as his backing band. Whatever the tipping point, the band recognized the need for a change.
However, above all and regardless of the “cool” factor, going by Yukon Blonde gave the band a clean slate to take them in a new direction.
“We rented this new jam space and we really wanted to write a record and just lock it down and not play shows for a year and do a new sound,” says Scott. “We were still going to go with Alphababy but then we were like, ‘Screw this, lets start fresh,’ and wrote new songs. It’s been a nice refreshing moment.”
Since then, the name Yukon Blonde has fared much better.
“We’ve had no bad response yet. We get ‘Yukon Gold’ every now and again, but I’m cool with that,” says Scott.
The band hasn’t done too badly either, winning praise from the National Post and making CBC’s list of “10 Canadian bands destined to break in 2010.”
Despite their newfound attention, the band has remained level-headed.
“It’s kind of ridiculous sometimes,” says Scott. “You’re like ‘Oh my goodness, this is outrageous,’ but I think so far our shows have been really successful and people have really got into it so we’ve been excited to see that happen,” says Scott.
Critics and fans alike have been drawn to the irresistible, harmony-drenched, sixties-inspired rock found on the group’s self-titled debut. Comparisons to The Band, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Fleetwood Mac abound, but Scott says the retro vibe wasn’t an entirely conscious decision.
“We wanted kind of a newer sound and we get the retro-rock thing now, but it came naturally from how we play. The way [singer/guitarist Jeff Innes] usually demos his songs, they’re usually full of electronic drums and all this kind of stuff and then we add our touches and it gives it a sixties flavour I suppose.”
“We’re huge retro-rock fans for sure. We like our classic rock and we like a lot of modern day stuff as well, so [the music has been] getting that kind of mix. I don’t know where [the Fleetwood Mac comparison is] coming from, but I like that band and I can’t complain.”
Aesthetically speaking, it probably didn’t hurt that the band recorded the entire album to tape mostly “live off the floor,” a long-time ambition that gives the songs a “classic” (i.e. warm) sound, something frequently lost in today’s digital recording process.
“We’ve always wanted to try that,” says Scott. “We’ve always been used to doing it track by track by track where this time we could really feel each other out and get it done in one take.”
Even though they’ve already won the hearts of people across the country and received critical acclaim, the band still finds their hometown the most difficult scene to break into.
“[Vancouver] has its pretentious moments, but we’ve been really fortunate and had really good shows there,” says Scott. “Trying to get a response from an audience is always tricky, but there it seems very tricky in comparison to other cities in Canada. It’s a good city. They know what they like and if you can win over Vancouver then you’ve got something going for you.”
Vancouver be damned, Yukon Blonde have nowhere to go but up. For now, they’re just enjoying the ride.
“Travelling, seeing new people, having fun every night is why I like doing this,” says Scott. “It’s nice being able to sell vinyl records every night. It’s pretty cool.”
Yukon Blonde play Il Motore on Friday, March 5.