Yoyodyne: Making great songs until the robots destroy us.
[PSEUDO-SERIOUS ROCK] "It's been a long road," says Johnny Keener, guitarist for local pop trio Yoyodyne. Hiding in his own Sidecar Studios with bassist Emily Vidal and drummer Jason Greene, Keener spent the past six months working on the band's first full-length, Advice.
Yoyodyne's studio stint made the five-year-old band a virtual specter, leaving a hole for locals who crave its catchy yet thoughtful and multi-layered rock. In a scene where so many groups sound like carbon copies, Yoyodyne is hard to pin down.
The group's complexity can be traced to its trio of exceptional songwriters, who bring individual styles and influences to the table. Each member is a storyteller, but while West Virginia native Keener's quirky narratives are bizarre stories of 35-foot tall men and furniture salesmen, Eugene-born Vidal is concerned with the conflict between humans and technology with a David Byrne-ish pseudo-seriousness. Her songs are executed with a deadpan candor and interspersed with split-time rhythms and gleeful abandon that seems to say que sera to the inevitable doomsday. Vidal, who Mississippi-raised Greene claims might be a cyborg, also proudly confesses that the band's name references an evil corporation from sci-fi camp classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
The collaboration "really changes the flavor," Vidal says over pints and a Steely Dan soundtrack at NoPo bar Vendetta. "A song can be a song, but the flavor of it can be so different." And on Advice, the disparate flavors are enough to rattle the senses. The album jumps from the intergalactic infection of "Planet # 1" to the spaghetti-western horns (laid out over standard 4-4 rock) of "Raphael." Influences range from current events and broken hearts, from travels abroad to voyages through inter-dimensional realms of bubblegum pop and melodic hallucinations.
The band's lyrical world is populated with oddballs and strange scenarios, but when it's all set to music, everything seems comfortably dangerous—an atomic bomb wrapped in cupcake paper, sprinkled with xylophone and distortion. Sure, the world's gonna burn, but Yoyodyne's smart rock and sweet, call-and-response lullabies (reminiscent of the songs from the neo-classic indie musical Once) offer a pretty uplifting soundtrack.
Now that it has Advice in the can, expect to hear more from the band on local stages, and perhaps even screens. Vidal, who works in staff production for MetroEast Community Media, took to the basement of the Blue Monk and filmed a karaoke melee as a low-budget video for her other band, the Crosswalks, and hopes to roll camera on Yoyodyne next. The group says it has about a half-album's worth of new material on deck, which promises to be as varied as Advice.
"I want [listening to us] to be like you went to a potluck and tried lots of different things," Greene says. "But it all went well together and you didn't throw up."
SEE IT: Yoyodyne plays Kelly's Olympian Saturday, April 25, with the Future Historians and DJ Yarglefrep, 10 pm, $5, 21+.