Yeti Ghetto: “I had this kind of mantra while I was working… I wanted to get out of my own way.”

Brisbane indie-rock band Yeti Ghetto create introspective songs transforming experiences of the mundane into something deeper while keeping their tongue firmly in cheek. Their debut album – Jinx – was conceived while living in a share house in North-West London. Songwriter and frontman Scott Luderman called by the Gimmie office with vegan donuts to sit down and chat about their record.

In your last band you were the guitarist, now you’re doing solo stuff; how did that transition come about?

YETI GHETTO: It’s been a huge change in my life. When I used to be in the band, it would be me and four dudes I went to high school with, anything we ever did was partly written by everybody, sometimes sung by everybody… we went on a break and I was really bored. My sister bought me a microphone and something for my little laptop that I could record stuff with – my sister knows nothing about recording, she bought it on a Goupon site! I was about to go stay with my girlfriend (she’s my wife now) in Germany. I thought I could do some demos for the band with it. When I got there, I plugged my acoustic guitar in and started to record a few ideas, I thought maybe I could sing over it. I’ve written lyrics before but I had never done a whole song by myself before. I’ve had ideas and taken them to other people and we’d end up collaborating. I pieced things together, I’d had some Moleskin notebooks for years where I’d just write stuff down, ideas, I went through those – they’re very chaotic and not liner at all – I’d put lines together and ten sing it into y little mic. It was so nerve racking.

What made it so nerve racking?

YG: I felt like it was a really genuine line straight from me, with the band it goes through all of the people and your identity is with all of those people, there’s a safety in numbers. This felt different though, direct from me, no fancy recording equipment, just something as close to me as I could make. It felt really liberating, really exciting and really personal. I was in Germany sending these songs back to my friends in Australia and in a way I saw it as a postcard. I could send pictures and stuff but I’d send songs like, hey, I recorded this today. It was a way of keeping touch.

Was the stuff you found yourself singing about, the stuff that was going on day to day?

YG: What I actually found was – I’ve thought about this a lot – when I went there I couldn’t speak any German, my girlfriend and her housemates could speak fluent German, her family is German and don’t speak English, I’d often be in these scenarios where I didn’t know what was going on, I couldn’t really chime in. A lot of people would be put off by that but for me, I talk heaps regularly, so I shut off and was like, I’m going to be alone with my own thoughts for a while… I felt it distilled my ideas better. I’d put the things that I was thinking about into my music because I couldn’t express them to people around me verbally.

From Germany you moved London, right?

YG: Yes, that’s where I met up with the rest of my band and we recorded there. I feel like everyone was just pulling in different directions. Or drummer didn’t come with us, he stayed in Australia, he’d always been a big part of the band. We had to find a new drummer in a city where we don’t know anyone, that’s hard. We had a few different drummers in that time, but I feel like we really lost that feeling of being a real cohesive unit.

Having that solid foundation?

YG: Yes. We also lived in the same house together, and life got in the way of things a little. I’d just continue to keep doing my own recordings. We did make another record as that band, but I feel like it was really disjointed because everyone was on their own trip. It’s still a cool picture of that time though, a wave of nostalgia. My transition really happened just out of keeping wanting to make new music. Singing my own stuff was a really big thing for me, ‘cause it’s like, that’s my voice, that’s me! Someone could say my guitar playing is whatever but when it’s your voice it’s like… it’s such a direct line to me. It felt super raw! It was exciting though.

I love when things are raw. I love when singers might not sound so confident to some, that vulnerability gives me goosebumps.

 YG: You can feel more of an emotion connection and there is a warmth and honesty there.

Yes. Your solo project is called Yeti Ghetto, which is an MF Doom reference.

YG: Yeah, I thought about what it name it for a long time. I was listening to Doom a lot. I find a lot of hip hop inspiring as I don’t’ make hip hop music. I find it more fluid than typical rock music, it changes and evolves really quickly. Mostly rock music is a similar thing reinvented whereas hip hop can go in new directions and you go, what even is this anymore, I need to understand it. He’s always someone I really liked.

From the name I wouldn’t get that you’re a singer-songwriter.

YG: That’s what I was going for. I also didn’t want something super serious. Lots of bands have such serious names.

Yeah, remember when there were lots of scream bands around and they’d have names that were sentences and it included words like ashes, wings, burning… or whatever?

YG: Yes [laughs]. I’m not really a serious person either. All the stuff I sing about is true and honest and maybe serious but I’m just not that serious stare-down-the-camera type! I’m pretty silly really. I wanted something that was silly and that’s ambiguous. I also feel like I’m not lock into a particular style of music with that name, I could do something else and still use it. Its flexible.

I’m stoked that you’re putting it out into the world finally, I’ve been listening to some of those songs for years.

YG: I’m glad you like it.

I think I even know all the words because I’ve listened to them, since Jhonny was playing them while doing art and they made it on to mixes in our car.

YG: That’s awesome! That’s so cool.

I love the song “Star Stuff”, that line: I’m made of star stuff, but I still got bills to pay.

YG: That was the first song I did. It’s funny ‘cause that song has a bit of an inside joke to it. I have a friend that is really bad with women, we were out one night and he saw this girl that he wanted to go speak to – he’s the kind of guy that has the approach of if I talk to enough women one will finally like me, and I think when people have that approach they’re often have an unnatural interaction, it’s cringe-y to watch – he said that he had watched this documentary about space, and it said we were all made of star stuff and I’m going to go ask her if she knows this. I was like, oh man! It was all a bit creepy. I wrote it in my notepad and then it ended up in the song. The other part of that is, in London I did feel like I was working a lot! I had all these great ideas and just wanted to make music but I had to work. Rent was getting so jacked up!

So living in London inspired the music? I feel like the music even has a British indie vibe to it.

YG: Yeah, that’s what I love first. My whole family except for me and my sister is from London. I grew up with Britpop. I loved Blur and Oasis because my parents loved it. Oasis was the first concert that I went to when I was nine. My parents were big music fans and said they’d take me. I got the ticket for Christmas and the show wasn’t until October and I thought it was so far away. My parents were really disappointed but I thought it was a great concert. They came out and played two songs and someone in the audience gave Liam [Gallagher] the finger and then he started punching them. Security dragged him off stage and the rest of the band walked off, and then Noel played a few songs acoustic to keep the show going. Liam walked back on and they did one more song and he was like, “Fuck you Brisbane!” Then houselights then came on. It probably went for half an hour. My parents were like, “We’re so sorry.” I was like, that’s awesome!

That was so Oasis!

YG: Yeah. Before that I remember the show was maybe not going to happen because he head-butted some photographer in Melbourne. That music as a kid was what I was into, my parents were into The Clash and Ian Dury.

Rad parents!

YG: Yeah. I grew up with heaps of music from their era. My grandparents loved stuff like The Beatles. I grew up listening to heaps of British music, and I do feel like it has an influence of my style.

You can tell, but I don’t feel like you’re overtly trying to do that… maybe it just naturally filters through.

YG: Even going to England felt comfortable for me, it’s a bit of a home away from home. I have heaps of family there. I think it’s had a huge influence. I was talking to a friend the other day, you know the American Songbook that has Johnny Cash and stuff like that… I think there’s probably a really good British Songbook but I just don’t know what would be in it, it doesn’t get acknowledged in that way…

I think it’d be all The Kinks, right?

YG: [Laughs], yeah.

The first song on your album “London Rats” has a really cool electro kind of part and then the rest of the song comes in and its’ that Brit-indie feel, you don’t expect it from that intro.

YG: Yeah, that was fun. It started out when one day I filmed my Tube journey from work. It was a bit sketchy, I finished worked, I held the camera in front of me, walked down the stairs, got on the train and filmed the whole journey until I got off.  I wanted to create a soundtrack for that journey, I sped up bits and started playing guitar over it. There’s Tube announcements in there. When you look at the subway, the Tube, you often see rats running and scurrying off. I felt it was a bigger metaphor for what everyone in the city was doing also. That song was a fun project, an interlude.

The interlude reminds me of hip hop records. You sometimes have a minute interlude of something that’s’ a bit weird and some people might call it filler but it’s a concept in itself, it doesn’t have to be three minutes to be a worthwhile concept.

YG: That’s what I thought. It’s an avenue that I explored, I thought about making something electronic and started messing with that stuff. I didn’t have much equipment, I didn’t have a drummer and I would borrow an amp of my mate… using what I had and trying to work out what I could do with it, I went down a rabbit hole.

It can be a big rabbit hole, amazing things can come from being resourceful.

YG: I would spend way too long sound chasing. There’d be so many sounds that were pre-set and you could alter them with effects and you’d think, maybe that next one will be even better! You end up tweaking things constantly.

You’re releasing “Real Feels”.

YG: That’s the last song I did. With all the songs… I had this kind of mantra while I was working on them—I wanted to get out of my own way. A lot of my music reached a point where it was really convoluted, I was trying to overly complicate everything. I thought with this one, just let whatever ideas come out come out, record it, roll with.

Instead of thinking about what people would think, thinking, what would I think?

YG: Yeah. I was just, that’s what this is, move on. I think part of that was because, I knew that in six months’ time I would be moving out of the house I was in to potentially come back here…

You wanted to get that done it that space?

YG: Yes, otherwise it would end up half finished. I thought I’d let it just come and not second guess it. A lot of the lyrics are like that too.

Is that why it’s “Real Feels”?

YG: Yeah, this it, what’s coming out.

There’s really something to just being honest and allowing yourself to feel that and to get things out. When people don’t censor themselves and let their truth out, cool stuff can be made. Not caring about what others might think helps too. You get to have your own voice.

YG: Being in a band and everyone being so different things could get hard, like, what are we? How do we want to present us? I spent years thinking about that stuff, it was nice to be like, I don’t fucking care anymore. It felt great. I surprised myself sometimes.

You were growing and evolving and discovering things about yourself in the process?

YG: Definitely! I felt so rewarded from it.

You now know yourself more?

YG: That’s’ exactly what it was. Even some of the lyrics, once I sung them and played them back; I didn’t know what I was singing about but hearing them back, now I know. They were holy fuck moments!

After the record was finished and I moved back here, life happened and I had to get a job and start again. Things were on hold a little. Now feels really good though with everything coming out, I can give it the time I want to. The process was really special with me and I wanted to share it. It was just sitting on a hard drive for so long, it’s kind of like it’s haunting me. I couldn’t listen to it because when I did I felt like such a shit person for not putting it out yet, I thought I was wasting time. Up until the day songs start coming out I feel anxious. Only recently I’ve been able to listen to t and reflect on it a bit more. It’s the most rewarding process I’ve had creatively. I’m so excited about it!

Tell me about the album and single art.

YG: I’d seen Jhonny’s art a popping up online through different people and I thought I was fantastic. I don’t know how he even has the thoughts to do that stuff—it’s so amazing. The moment I saw his art it resonated with me.

Art by Jhonny Russell.

Now that project is getting out there in the world, you have a band now?

YG: Yeah. The band has one of my best friends in it that I grew up with, Michael, he’s playing bass; Dan is playing drums. Working with this easy.

How has it been taking the songs from a solo thing into a band set-up?

YG: It’s crazy! I sent the record to them and I explained I wasn’t the best at the instruments I recorded and that if they thought of a cooler part I’d be happy to reinterpret them. Mickey created some cooler bass lines, Dan added a different flavour. It’s a bit more realised now in the way the music works, it has more space. Recording it myself and playing everything I was playing in the same spaces, I didn’t seen the different potential in some areas. It’s similar but different.

The album is called, Jinx?

YG: Yeah. Have you ever seen the documentary The Jinx?

No.

YG: It’s a really random title. I got obsessed with that six-part HBO series. It’s about a crazy New York banker that murders people, it’s a true story. This one gripped me right up until the final seconds of the last episode. It’s not a dedicated to this guy, it’s more I just think it’s a funny word. It ended up in my notebook and it just popped out at me when I was thinking of titles.

Anything to add?

YG: Only that as a process it was really rewarding, so fun to do.

As you did this record so long ago, do you have anything else in the works?

YG: Yes, I’m actually nearly finished the next one! I just have to do vocals. Space is a big thing, I’m in a new space… when we moved into this new place I asked, where’s the space? [laughs].

For more Yeti Ghetto find them here: Yeti Ghetto Facebook and insta @yetighetto