[INTELLIGENT PARTY MUSIC] When Yeah Great Fine embarked on its first Northwestern tour, the band worried it would be hard for people outside Portland to understand its blend of up-tempo, fun dance music and odd, jazzy time signatures. It only took one special night in La Grande to change opinions.
"When we got there we thought, 'Damn, we're going to play math rock to a bunch of cowboys and they're going to hate us,'" guitarist/vocalist Jake Hershman says. "But then everyone started dancing, and buying us shots. Small cities are totally our thing!"
Yeah Great Fine started two years ago when Hershman's other band, the Newspapers, imploded after realizing that moving from Cleveland to Portland didn't fix all its problems. All YGF's band members—Hershman, drummer Dave Hires, keyboardist Brain Hoberg, guitarist Andrew Klabzuba and bassist Kevin Fitzpatrick—had played in other bands in town before, including Jared Mees & the Grown Children and the Wires. But none of them ever felt like they were a central part of the project, so Yeah Great Fine was founded with two principles: to collaborate as much as possible and to play every show like it's a small house show.
"We can rock out to five people, I don't care, and it's still fun—we will go nuts for those five people," Fitzpatrick says. "We like to bring that house-party vibe to every show but have something that's a little more intelligent."
The result is a sound that's difficult to pin down: At times, Yeah Great Fine brings to mind European electropop; the instrumental art house of Tortoise; or the jagged, frantic beats of Hella, often all in the same song. Most of the material on its self-titled debut (recorded by Typhoon/Brainstorm producer Paul Laxer) was started by Hires and then fleshed out by the rest of the band, and you can hear the focus on rhythms and non-traditional song structures. "Patterns" opens with a tricky, bouncing beat and copious amounts of cowbell before shifting into a singalong aided by warm keys, sunny background harmonies and spiraling video game guitars, and a few tracks (the cleverly named "Manifest Destiny's Child" and "Don't Wake Up") hit with the precision of a fine-tuned math-rock outfit.
Despite that designation, Yeah Great Fine is hesitant to peg itself with any label. Sitting around the band's house in outer Southeast, all five members are quick to share their favorite stories from the road. While some are juvenile and some are serious, they all touch on one thing: Yeah Great Fine doesn't care what you think.
"When we were in Las Vegas we played a pool party, and it was 100 degrees outside," Fitzpatrick says, "and of course we were the only band wearing swimsuits. How's that for being cool?"
SEE IT: Yeah Great Fine plays Wednesday, Nov. 17, at Holocene with Blue Horns and Onuinu. 8:30 pm. $5. 21+.