The Koop Tent Stage, 5:45-6:30 p.m.
Over the past two years, Yukon Blonde has earned no shortage of acclaim for its hook-heavy brand of pop rock. But despite their love of vintage rock ‘n’ roll, the members aren’t the kind of guys who cling to the past.
Frontman Jeff Innes, guitarist Brandon Scott and drummer Graham Jones first joined forces in 2005 in their hometown of Kelowna, BC. Performing under the name Alphababy, they released two EPs and toured extensively while perfecting a slow-burning variety of synth-heavy rock. But when the project soured, the three friends abandoned all of their hard work and reinvented themselves as Yukon Blonde in 2008.
Starting from scratch with a new name, they ditched their moody style in favour of a more raw, guitar-driven sound. Catchier and infinitely more fun to play live, Yukon Blonde’s new songs quickly earned the band a devoted following when it relocated to Vancouver, BC. It was in this city that Yukon Blonde cut its debut EP, Everything in Everyway, in 2009. Recorded live-to-tape with producer Shawn Cole (You Say Party! We Say Die!, Hannah Georgas), these sessions also spawned the band’s 2010 self-titled full-length.
With its amped-up rock songs and sun-dappled vocal harmonies, the LP received rave reviews. CHARTattack called it “the soundtrack to your summer,” while Exclaim! declared, “The nuances that Yukon Blonde employ are utterly refreshing, and more compelling with each listen.” The record earned a nomination for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, and the outfit embarked upon a gruelling live schedule that kept them on the road for nine months of the year and included shows in the U.S., Europe and at home.
Now, Yukon Blonde is poised to reinvent itself once again. Despite the success of the group’s previous material, the musicians were initially uninspired when they set about writing like-minded new songs. Instead, the members were drawn to the fast, punk-tinged tracks that Innes has been penning in his spare time. Danceable and unrepentantly poppy, these new tracks evoked late-’70s/early-’80s post-punk and drew inspiration from artists like the Buzzcocks, Ramones and Talking Heads.
After an intensive three-week writing retreat to a cottage in BC’s Comox Valley that saw the band pulling twelve-hour days, the band hunkered down at Burnaby, BC’s Hive Creative Labs studio with Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, Ladyhawk). Eschewing the analog tape of their past work in favour of a crisp digital approach with synthesizer flourishes, the band agonized over tones and meticulously crafted 15 new songs.
Four of these tunes sounded out of place, and bore a distinct similarity to the debut. Yukon Blonde opted to release these four cuts separately as the 2011 EP Fire//Water. With the fan base’s appetite sufficiently whetted, the group held back the remaining tracks for the full-length.
Entitled Tiger Talk, this sophomore album represents the next adventurous step in Yukon Blonde’s career. Its ten tracks are short and punchy, as the band trimmed the fat and packed hooks and brisk tempos into streamlined arrangements. “Radio” assaults the speakers with a brash stomp worthy of early Elvis Costello, while “Oregon Shores” blends its bouncy rhythm and sunny vocal harmonies with an epic, face-melting guitar solo. Elsewhere, a robotic drum pattern anchors “Breathing Tigers,” and “My Girl” taps into powerpop greatness with its “whoa-oh” refrain.
The album still bears some of the hallmarks of what made Yukon Blonde so beloved to begin with: the jangling riffs, the warm harmonies, and Innes’ inquisitive lyrical questioning of the world around him. This time, however, the songs are jacked up on sugar-spiked pop and coursing with adrenaline. When Tiger Talk arrives in March on Dine Alone Records, expect these tunes to become your anthems of spring/summer 2012.
Artistically uncompromising as ever, Yukon Blonde have already proved that they are willing to go wherever their restless artistic muse takes them. The band will be touring around the world in 2012, so expect to see them in a venue near you.