When trying to describe the music of Yeek, so many words come to mind. Yeek is a genre wizard, labelling himself as pop and R&B, but across all his projects it is clear to the ear that he doesn’t like to be genre-restricted – diving into all sorts of genres under the sun; hip-hop, punk rock, indie rock, experimental and electronic music, each genre is just another colour in Yeek’s extensive palette.
“Valencia is more involved with singing and vocals. I think that singing is just another instrument I know how to play”
The L.A-based musician is a homespun master, with the most D.I.Y approach to his music. Across all his projects, he took charge of production, recording, mixing and mastering on his own. This allowed him to craft a sound that steered away from the rest of the scene, slamming his own soundwaves into the mix, and his new album Valencia allows Yeek to continue to do so. While pushing the R&B undertones to the forefront, he explores his vocals more extensively, bringing more range and sophistication to his sound.
We caught up with Yeek to chat about the release of his latest album, Valencia.
Do you have a specific memory that pushed you towards pursuing music?
I started playing instruments when I was a kid, but if we are talking about the style of music I’m making now it would be downloading FL Studio… which is a beat-production program that at the time was free, you just downloaded it off the internet. Also, Soulja Boy made ‘Crank That Soulja Boy’, and he produced it all himself which inspired me to do the same. So I made my own beat when I was 14 or 15, and from there that’s what got me into production and mixing and recording myself – taking music to the next level beyond just playing live instruments in the garage.
You can definitely tell from listening to your music that there are so many different influences – you’ve lived in Naples, New York and Los Angeles, how have these cities influenced your sound?
A lot of the R&B and hip-hop influences maybe come from the North-East, like New York and New Jersey. Also some of the hard core punk out of New York – that was a big thing in New York. I got into that from my eldest brother. In Florida, there is a big rock and hard core punk scene in Florida that is really active, plus I discovered more Southern hip-hop and rap music. I know it’s such a switch from rap and rock and hard core, but that was just my upbringing, I was always into all genres, I couldn’t stick to just one. I’d listened to music coming out of California for a while as well, I had a bunch of friends that I grew up with in Naples who were originally from California, and they put me onto everything West coast, and when I moved to California I was able to understand it even more by just being here.
What is your writing process like?
The writing comes randomly… sometimes it comes before the music, sometimes it comes after the music. Mostly after the music, it really depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics, with an imaginary beat in my head. I’ll compose a whole song in my head and do my best to translate it into real life. A lot of the best stuff for me comes out of my imagination when I’m making an entire song in my head, sometimes my imagination will go that far.
Sonically, how is this album different from your last few projects?
I think it’s more involved with singing and vocals. I think that singing is just another instrument I know how to play. I think I worked on that specific instrument this time and pushed myself more to sing and be more vocally involved. I think my music has always had the R&B undertones to it, but I pushed that a little more into this new project while still keeping the alternative sonics and elements that my music is mostly known for. It’s always going to be a mix of sounds.
Did you find any new inspirations while making Valencia, anything that played a big part in making this album?
Just what I mentioned earlier about singing more – I think with my other projects I held myself back vocally. With production I’ve always been very experimental, and that’s something that’ll never stop for me, but I’ve always been shy with singing. When live shows were a thing, I can set the expectation low, make a good song with good melodies, and by the time I sing live I can explore my vocals more, and save that for the live shows. But for this record, I was thinking that I should treat the recordings like I treat the live shows and go all out, and have more of a reason to explore in the comfort of the recording booth. So that’s something I definitely discovered during the process.
The way you say that your voice is an instrument reminds me of when Tyler released IGOR, and he released all the names of the featured artists, and everyone was expecting feature verses, but then he only used their voices as backing samples to blend them into the music, and using them as an instrument rather than having them on the song.
For sure, I remember that being said. That’s definitely is one of many things that inspire me creatively, and that inspires my way of thinking.
What are some of the themes that are spread across the album?
At the time I was in a relationship, so a lot of it is based around challenges you face with that – being in a long distance relationship, one that involves a lot of trust. As well as the challenges that comes with experiencing new things in my music career, and then wanting that with a relationship. It’s trying to find my balance between touring and involving the people I love with my career, and how sometimes that can be a problem. It can be any relationship, romantic relationships to plutonic relationships with friends, just my relationships with all kinds of people merging with the relationship I have with my career. That would be the main theme of it. Also, the idea that home can be anywhere. That was inspired by being on tour. For me, home hasn’t always felt like one block, one street – I’ve always moved lot and in my life, I’m always moving. Wherever I go I find a way to make those places feel like home.
Do you have any mantras you live by?
I think those mantras change all the time. One mantra I have right now that I’m living by is that anything can happen at any time, and although there might be a lot of things to feel down about, there are a lot of things to feel excited and grateful about. As cliché as it sounds, I think that’s one thing that’s been sticking with me.
Check out Yeek's new album 'Valencia' on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer, shot over FaceTime.