Boston’s indie-rock group Yohannes (also known as “Yo Homies,” “Yo Hanes,” “Yo Hans,” and “No, f**** off) makes music that stems from the intersection of the logical and the creative. Their new LP Shep, named after the nickname they gave to the apartment they used to practice in, comes out March 13th and is an exploration of the creative process.
“Sunday” is one of the leading singles from the album and is exemplary of the mood Yohannes is trying to capture on Shep. “It’s about the ‘Sunday scaries,’ waking up and realizing tomorrow is Monday,” bassist Eli Brown says. He talked about the feeling of spending all of Sunday doing nothing and the guilt that comes after. “It’s like, coming to the realization that other people do it and it’s not a big deal, but also feeling bad about it, because you’re not doing anything.”
Shep is Yohannes’s vehicle for creating a narrative about learning to accept that things can be vague and complex. This mismatch of emotions permeates the album in the introspective songs; evident not only on “Sunday,” but in other tracks like “Mourning Dove.” “Sadness sits next to happiness,” vocalist Keenan Hye sings. “Well, that’s just fine.” The song also pairs more languid lyrics with sunny instrumentation, but does so in a way where they balance each other out, ensuring the music doesn’t veer too overly peppy nor too pessimistic.
“Writing music forces you to be okay with things that are open-ended and not defined,” drummer Zach Bachiri says.
The members of Yohannes met as freshmen at Northeastern University, where they were all majors in technical fields: business, engineering, computer science. But music is where their creative sides flourish. Spending half the interview giggling amongst each other, they aren’t afraid to let their personalities show. When asked to describe their sound beyond genre labels, they replied: “Sunday music.” Listening to the song, one discovers what they mean — a bouncing bass line underscores an upbeat guitar riff, all to counterpoint rather downbeat lyrics. It’s that contrast Yohannes is looking to explore in the album.
“[Shep] is our space to collaborate,” vocalist Keenan Hye says. “It’s not perfect, and it’s kind of messy, but it works.”
The album offered a platform to attempt a new creative process for Yohannes, their second release since changing their name from Royale — the name Yohannes comes from the maintenance man who worked in their old apartment building. For their previous self-titled album, the band wrote their respective parts individually in a “song skeleton” before bringing them together. They wanted to try something different on Shep.
“This time we wanted to make this album everyone’s voice,” Hye says. During the recording of the album, all of the band members were living under one roof, which lent itself to the collaborative spirit. The four would gather in the living room to put their heads together.
“There are a lot of little vignettes attached to the end of songs,” Bachiri says. “It’s pretty representative of the process of making this record.” This is evident as the album goes on: “Someone Else” discusses an internal conflict with who you want to be and who you are; “One and Two” tells the story of two brothers, polar opposites, with one going on to graduate college, find a job, and get married, while the other suffered as “his heart grew heavy with loneliness.” The narrator vows that “I’ll never move back home or waste my life.” Shep seems to prove that successful.
The new process helped the band learn more about one another, from their quirks to their pet peeves. Guitarist Alex Vipond says one of the most important takeaways from such close collaboration is how they learned to listen a little longer and knowing when they’re not supposed to play. “Before, we were all playing, all the time. . . . In this album, we did a lot more picking and choosing,” Vipond says. There are times when one of them might be standing on stage doing nothing, but if it’s what sounds best for the song, it’s worth it.
They’ve also learned not to force anything in their music; there have been times in the past when they’ve tried to write a song according to a certain expectation for how it should sound, but it ends up being more frustrating to put it together. “Simple solutions are often better,” says Hye.
Shep comes out March 13th, but you can get an exclusive listen below. Catch Yohannes live at the Lawn on Glen on the 11th for their album release show.