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Yarn Owl [Interview]


I’ve known Yarn Owl‘s Ted Powers (drums) and Timothy Meinig (bass) since, well, probably 2005. Javier Suarez (vocals and guitar) I met in the years after my 2006 departure. In fact, the only band member I have yet to met is Tyler Armour. So yes, I’ve been following Yarn Owl, virtually, since the beginning. With their first full-length now available, and a planned west-coast visit this coming weekend (see them at Columbia City Theater in Seattle on March 26 and again at Sunset Tavern on the 31st), I sat down with long-time favorite Yarn Owl. The man: Javier. The setting: Facebook messages. Here we go…

Fense: Montana & Caballo is your new record and while it has some similarity to your previous work, it’s also distinctly refreshing and new. How would you define your sound?

Javier: Gosh… I would define our sound as… guitar pop with jangly folk tendencies? I had to think about that for like 10 minutes though.

Fense: The album was self-released, right? Do you have interest in joining a label in the future or would you prefer to put out your music yourself?

Javier: It was self released – except for the cassette, we’re doing that with Leftist Nautical Antiques. Label support is awesome if you are lucky/good enough to get it – we’ve always aspired to get as much help as possible when it comes to getting music into people’s ears, so yeah we would be interested given that it’s a decent, fair deal for us if the opportunity arose.

Fense: Any possibility of vinyl in the near future?

Javier: We toyed with the idea on this album but it just didn’t make sense on paper. We think of ourselves more as a cassette band anyway!

Fense: Now that the band is done with school, what’s in store for the future? And will you be remaining in Pullman or do you plan to relocate to the big city?

Javier: We’re just focusing right now on the next handful of shows we have coming up and a possible KEXP in studio performance. Tim and I have definite plans of moving to Seattle in the next few months but Tyler and Ted are still figuring that out. Tyler is currently in Australia for the spring making wine. I just joined the band Craft Spells on guitar and we’ll be touring the states in April with Beach Fossills, so that is really exciting.

Fense: That’s great! I’ll definitely check out Craft Spells. How did you devise the name Yarn Owl? Is there any significance behind the moniker?

Javier: This is a link to what we refer to as ‘yarn art’… like paintings stitched on to canvas. I had a collection of pieces I had found through out thrift stores a few years ago when the band was starting – a whole wall of yarn art (which was later given to Goodwill by my roomate’s mom – still really upset about that). My favorite piece was the owl – Yarn Owl.

Fense: Who are your biggest musical influences?

Javier: For me the Beatles have always been a huge presence, growing up with a super-fan dad, I am also somewhat of a super fan – having gone to Paul McCartney’s music school for a year in Liverpool when I was 19. As a band, we tend to point to The Helio Sequence, post-rock, pop and whatever is playing on our college station, KZUU.

Fense: How have you seen the music landscape change via social media and mobile phones over the past few years? What do you see being the next big thing?

Javier: Good question. I think when we started about 3 years ago we were kind of leaving the Myspace era, where that was the place people flocked to to find music and I think now its absolutely more blog-centric with places like Pitchfork kind of being kind of like a central hub in a way. I am kind of scroogy when it comes to new technology so I shy away from things like twitter and cell phones with internet on them. But I do think that music culture has shifted to that place where personal, instant connection with bands is what keeps people interested and engaged, whereas I feel like music magazines used to be that place… as for the future of all this, probably just faster, higher technical quality, more content in general, more connected…. all in all one would think they’re good things but I think the value that society places on music as art is diminishing more and more somehow – something to do with disposability – I think we’re just kind of voracious consumers of the stuff and the future looks like it’s facilitating that collective habit. The good thing is that there is always a subcultural reaction to that sort of thing (like vinyl becoming a bigger deal).

Fense: And the slight resurgence (at least in the underground) of the cassette tape, I’m sure. So I left Pullman at the tail end of summer 2006 and from what I’ve heard, the music scene has changed significantly. Tell me a little about the catalyst for this change.

Javier: Oh totally has A LOT to do with Larson Hicks. He started putting on shows in maybe like 2007 or so with bands that were ‘relevant’ through Stereopathic Music, his promotion venture. Since then I’ve seen more initiative from people putting on house shows and venues like the Bell Tower in Pullman bringing bands in on their own (STRFCKR in June?). I think the fact that there are two college towns 7 miles apart is actually starting to kind of show and I am totally pleased with that. The two college stations, KUOI and KZUU have also been a big support with their promotions. I think its a very infectious kind of thing that just kind of snowballed, shows started happening, so bands started forming and playing, so more shows happened, then a venue actually opened, etc. etc. Kind of cool.

Fense: Oh man, that makes me want to go back to Pullman! You mentioned KZUU. Being a former DJ at the station myself, I have to ask – are any of you still involved with KZUU? If so, when and where can we tune in to your show(s)?

Javier: Tim and I stopped doing our shows in December when we finished school – we all had shows at one point but yeah… sadly, no more. Tim can be heard announcing the weather breaks on North West Public Radio across Washington though!

Fense: That’s about it. I just have to say that I really enjoy Montana Y Caballo, and have quite enjoyed the material you have released in the past year or two. I wish you guys the best and truly hope to catch you at a show in the very near future. Play Bellingham, and I’ll be there!

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