For a band that only just put out their debut EP late last year, Yonaka aren't lacking in self-belief. In interviews the band frequently talk up their desire to go stellar, to dance among the stadia and the stars, their names lit up across both. And why not? The Brighton four-piece has already staked out acclaim around the UK, armed with an array of dazzling vocal hooks and power-pop riffs. “We’re pretty fucking confident,” lead singer Theresa Jarvis tells Clash, deflecting any ideas that there might be pressure to broaden their appeal. “We’re improving the more we write together, so it’s just going to get better and better.”
Having started back in 2015, you sense Yonaka (meaning ‘dead of night’ in Japanese) might be coming up at just the right time. Before Wolf Alice, it’s hard to remember a UK band making rock music that was genuinely adored on both critical and commercial terms. We’re still battling certain sexist tropes today though, not least the abominable ‘female-fronted’ prefix.
“It’s so cringe, isn’t it?” Theresa agrees, audibly animated. “Like, what the fuck are you on about? I don’t understand why everyone’s got to talk about ‘female-fronted’ bands. If you’re good, no one should care if you’re a boy or a girl. If you’re shit, it doesn’t make a difference. Obviously there’s a lack of women in the industry, and that needs to change. I feel like sometimes those terms turn people off before they even hear the music. We just want ‘fucking amazing Yonaka’!”
Indeed, the fucking amazing Yonaka are the result of a kaleidoscopic meeting of styles. “I grew up on Motown, Whitney Houston, Prince, stuff like that. The boys grew up on AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. So there’s a clash of those genres.” One of which, apparently, is grime. We suggest that the world might be ready for a ‘Yonaka feat. Stormzy’ track. “Oh my God! We’d love to do that.” You heard it here first, folks.
The next steps of world domination are already well underway: Europe (“We literally cannot wait to spread the seed around Europe,” Theresa says, hopefully metaphorically), America, then the rest of the planet. If the band are ambitious, though, it’s borne from overcoming self-doubt rather than cockiness. “I was very impressionable when I was younger. But now I’m like, ‘No. That’s what I want and I’m going to keep it like that. I’m not going to let anyone else change my mind.’”
WHAT: Super-melodic rock; old-school riffs meets new-school beats
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Bubblegum’, ‘Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya’, ‘Run’
FACT: Theresa auditioned for The X Factor when she was 15 but didn’t get through. It was probably for the best.
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Words: Matthew Neale
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
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