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Since forming a few years back, San Francisco-based group The Y Axes have deftly crafted a unique quality to their particular brand of rock. Heavy riffs are met with a keen pop sense that has elevated the band’s recent crop of singles to rock radio ready status.
Groundsounds caught up with The Y Axes around the release of their latest single, “Patch Me Up.” Stream it below and, if you’ll happen to be in the bay Area, be sure to catch The Y Axes when they open for The Thermals and Summer Cannibals on May 17th at The Chapel.
Hi, The Y Axes! Congrats on “Patch Me Up.” Could you tell our readers a little bit about how you The Y Axes came to be?
The Y Axes as it exists today started as a Facebook messaging conversation between Devin and me some time in late 2010. We both had unfinished song ideas that we wanted to get recorded. I’d been in a few bands and seemed to be carrying this laundry sack of song ideas that just couldn’t exist in those projects. I remember really wanting to create Cut Copy-sounding songs- fun but also intense and spacey pop. After Devin and I’d put together some demos at my friend Brian Davy’s house, we realised that we had really good songwriting chemistry, and that we should get real with this project.
We started with a dream team: on bass, my friend Mike Arace who used to buy large iced coffees redeyes from me when I worked at Peet’s Coffee; on drums, Devin’s friend Darryl Kay who used to play with him in an SF-based J-Rock band; and on keys, Kevin Ferguson, who Devin had found on Craigslist with a promise of making “Disco Punk”- we’d started the contrived cross-genres pretty early on.
For various reasons, usually culminating in the question of “why am I here?” the band went through a number of lineup changes. Never any hard feelings, as we still hang out with most of them as much as schedules will allow. We were fortunate to eventually meet Nick (drums, joined 2014) and Jack (bass, joined 2015) who are not only amazingly talented and creative, but are also great dudes to hang out with. – Alexi Belchere
You guys have this cool, almost cosmic quality to your alt-rock stylings. How did you arrive at your sound?
Though I am not sure what cosmic refers to when it comes to musical style, we have always have a purposeful space aesthetic. I am a science teacher and am very influenced by Carl Sagan, particularly his book “Pale Blue Dot”, where he ponders the size of the universe and our place in it, managing to reconcile our somewhat diminutive and futile existence as human beings. I love the idea of being proud of our universal station and marching forward towards progress despite it. With that in mind I like creating things with an epic, driving, and anthemic quality to them. I like mixing and juxtaposing nebulous ethereal sounds with sharp defined guitar to give the listener room to explore the sonic spectrum while having a dense anchor to drive the rhythm forward. I also mix in hints of progressive rock by way of technical guitar and rhythmic syncopation which I think lend themselves very well to the cosmic theme. From there that gives Alexi a lot of room to affect the sound with her sci-fi tinted storytelling. – Devin Nelson
Patch Me Up is about healing, and who or what helps in that process. Throughout the song, there are hints that the past has been painful, and the future will one day tear us apart. The narrator is stuck between these two pulling forces, and relies on someone- whether themselves or someone else to keep them grounded in the present. – Alexi Belchere
You seem to have really hit a stride of late with your recent batch of singles. Are you building towards a bigger release?
We’ve just wrapped up recording for a full-length album. We’re not sure of the release date yet, but we’re really excited to play out new material live. We’ve been a little impatient and leaked a few of the new songs in our live shows already, but we’re trying to show restraint. – Alexi Belchere
It seems to me like The Y Axes draw some inspiration from Sci-Fi? Any truth to that and care to elaborate if so?
I write all the lyrics, and while I can’t claim to be a Sci-Fi nerd- that’s a pretty tall order with all the media that exists these days- I do draw a lot of inspiration from science and fiction. There have been direct nods to various sciences, (our last album titled “Sunglasses & Solar Flares,” one of our earlier songs, titled “Half-Life”) and on the other hand references to literature and film, (“Artax,” from our previous album, an upcoming song with a title directly pulled from a Doctor Who episode).
It’s important to note that all of the members of The Y Axes are book nerds. I think as a group we could score very well on a trivia night. Devin (guitar) is also a chemistry teacher, so there is definitely a chance for science to permeate into the songwriting.
When writing lyrics, I usually start with a few concrete details and try to find their common thread. In order to explain the thread, which is usually an emotional one, analogous references start to surface. Bascially, I’ll use whatever real or fictional expression I can to elaborate on what I’m intending to express. A song like Patch Me Up is about trying to hold yourself together when you feel like you’re falling apart. What better way to explain that than with exploding stars and post-apocalyptic streets? – Alexi Belchere
Any tour plans for later in 2016?
We’re hoping to put to put together a small tour for the late summer. Be on the lookout for us all over the West Coast! – Alexi Belchere
What bands are coming up in San Francisco that you could turn us onto?
Down and Outlaws, Dangermaker, Abbot Kinney, Lords of Sealand, Future Shapes, Survival Guide, Talk of Shamans, Friends Without Benefits, and like a million others. San Francisco music is pretty awesome right now. – Devin Nelson