The CBC called them “one of the 10 Canadian bands destined to break in 2010.” Chart called them “the best of the 2010 Canadian Music Week festival.” Now, Yukon Blonde is gracing stages all over Canada on a cross-country tour, and if the Vancouver band’s infectious pop-rock melodies haven’t caught up to you yet, they’re bound to soon enough.
Although the band started out in 2005 as a quintet called Alphababy, it wasn’t until they changed their name to Yukon Blonde and downsized to a trio in 2008 that they began to garner recognition in the Canadian music scene.
“How we got the new name is actually the worst story ever,” jokes Jeff Innes, vocalist and guitarist. “Our old bass player used to work at a coffee shop, and one time he found a grey hair on the counter and told his boss, who said, ‘I’m not grey, I’m Yukon Blonde.'”
Last year, the trio—Innes, Brendan Scott (guitar, vocals), and Graham Jones (drums, vocal)—released their self-titled LP, an enjoyable array of songs with unforgettable hooks, harmonies, catchy guitar riffs, and a 60s rock flair. The album even earned the band a coveted place on the prestigious Polaris Music Prize long list.
But it’s Yukon Blonde’s reptuation for rousing live shows that has helped bring them into public consciousness. Performing in different venues enables the band’s music to continually evolve and take on new meaning.
“I used to hate being on tour—being gone for months at a time and moving to a new place every night,” Innes says. “But now, we all love it. We prefer it. Every town’s different, and brings its own personality to the show.”
Their current tour began with a string of venues from Vancouver to Winnipeg opening for Montreal’s Plants and Animals. This week, the band will be headlining the East Coast leg of the tour, which includes a stop in Montreal, along with Toronto band the Paint Movement.
“Being on tour is kind of like going to a new school,” Innes says. “You get put into a room with people you’ve never seen in your life, and you have to make new friends. But last night we partied until five in the morning with Plants and Animals, which was pretty unforgettable.”
Unlike recording in a studio, live performances also come with the advantage of being able to interact with and get instantaneous feedback from the fans.
“I have found that the meaning of the music changes as we go to different places,” Innes says. “I feel like I forgot what the original meanings of songs were, because people share what their interpretations are, and even when people start to sing a certain lyric, we often start to sing that lyric instead.”
Aside from the obvious reasons to enjoy being on tour—the all-night partying, the diehard fans, and the opportunity for sightseeing—Yukon Blonde feels that they can grow musically by listening to and performing alongside other musicians. Just listening to Plants and Animals on tour, Innes says, has given Yukon Blonde new musical inspiration. Critics have tossed the band into a multitude of genres, including folk rock, indie rock, pop, and retro, and many have compared them to artists ranging from T-Rex to David Bowie to Fleetwood Mac to the Shins. But Innes is embracing one label in particular.
“We keep getting called ‘jangle rock,'” he says, “which is sort of fitting because jangle pop was an 80s revival—that was like the Byrds and R.E.M., so I guess that kind of works for us.”
So what’s next for the band? Mostly, Yukon Blonde just hopes to keep making and playing music for as long as they possibly can.
“I think the main thing that keeps us together is the music,” Innes says. “Just playing songs in the van, or figuring out songs together helps a lot. Partying every night doesn’t help—it just makes you crazier. The most important thing is to keep playing songs, keep writing songs, and just be totally good to each other.”
Yukon Blonde plays with the Paint Movement at Il Motore on Thursday, March 3.