Interview: Kayhan Vaziri of Yautja
Lyrically and musically, Yautja’s The Lurch is a 45-minute reminder of the chaotic state of the world.
The Lurch is a ferocious record with the feel of a live recording. “A Killing Joke” kicks things off with a burst of drumming while the guitar and bass sear through like a wildfire. The tracks that follow each bring their own flavor of brutality to the record. “The Spectacle,” one of the songs that really lurches, is seasoned with dolorous chords reminiscent of Inter Arma; tracks like “Tethered” have the slightest tang of DC hardcore.
While this record is relentless, it’s not unapproachable. In fact, repeated listens reveal an LP that is ultimately quite a cathartic listen because of, not in spite of, the fact that it doesn’t flinch in the face of society’s ugliness. Meaty basslines like the one that kicks off “Wired Depths” are impossible not to headbang to. Everything about this record is immediate, down to the lyrics, which plumb the depths of our fatal attraction to technology, political repression, and toxic masculinity. Take a look at these sweaty lines bellowed from the center of “Undesirables”:
Earn my stripes
Cradle the balls
Swung my weight
Denim’s weaker when wet
She needed it
It’s all just brown noise from here
Yautja has never hewed to metal orthodoxy, and The Lurch is no exception. From the beautiful, lurid cover to the chonky guitar tone, this record is very much its own thing. It’s tighter and meatier than Dead Soil and Songs of Descent, but still loose, organic, and noisy. These three dudes are versatile, covering everything from punk to sludge to black metal in other projects, and The Lurch seems to represent an ore smelted from all their collective influences. It’s also a record that is pissed at the state of the world and unafraid to show it.
I talked with bassist and vocalist Kayhan Vaziri via email about The Lurch, its gestation, and what’s coming down the pike for Yautja. The following interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
TB: Thanks for taking some time to answer my questions! The Lurch is your first full-length in 7 years, and it’s a ripper. Tell me a little about the record’s origins. How did it come together?
KV: Thanks! The record came together pretty naturally but not necessarily very easily. It took several years in between touring, time spent with other musical projects and just the unpredictable nature of real life outside of a touring band. Some of these songs were riffs or parts 6 or 7 years ago and some were written in the past couple of years. We made a conscious effort in 2018 to slow down on touring to finish up the writing process for The Lurch and finally had a full-length’s worth of material at the end of 2019.
The lyrics on The Lurch feel very socially aware and very punk in that respect. Are there any particular influences you draw on when putting words to the music, or are you basically just commenting on the hellscape of modern America?
I don’t think we necessarily draw on any influences when writing lyrics[…] A lot of it is based on what we witness on a day-to-day basis in our smaller communities and globally, personal struggles and some social commentary. The fantastical hellscape of modern America definitely plays a role.
Speaking of hellscape, it sounds like you sat on this one for a little while because of COVID. How did the pandemic affect you all and the timeline of this record? Were there any benefits to waiting it out?
The timeline between finishing tracking the record and its actual release was pretty long, almost a year and a half. We didn’t intentionally wait anything out, but COVID definitely slowed the process of everything. We were still talking with labels/figuring out how we were going to release the record until the Relapse thing came about last summer, and on top of that the process of artwork, mixing, mastering, etc. all took longer because of the pandemic.
There’s been some buzz about The Lurch, and one thing that’s come up in conversations I’ve had is the sound, which I’d describe as “thicc.” Friends have noted the guitar tone and the album’s live feel. What went into the production/recording of The Lurch?
Over the years, I’ve had people tell me that they like our recorded output, but that it doesn’t necessarily do the band justice compared to how we sound live. And while I love the recordings on the last few things we’ve put out, I think working with Scott Evans at Electrical Audio was crucial to capturing us in our best light. We did a fairly basic setup in the big live room in Studio B at EA and kind of just did our thing after a bit of experimentation with getting sounds. Shibby has always been a tone master, so I can’t speak too much about his specific setup, but I know him and Scott [sic] spent some time dialing it in and getting it sounding right.
How would you say the band has evolved since Songs of Descent and Dead Soil?
Musically, I don’t think we’ve changed that much since Descent or Dead Soil; we still have the same Yautja “sound,” just sharpened the blade a bit. The songs generally seem to be a little bit longer on The Lurch and at times a little more “metal” but no drastic changes stylistically. I’d like to think we might be a bit better at playing our instruments and doing the whole “business” side of being a band, but that might be a little too subjective, haha.
All three of you get vocal credits on The Lurch. How do you divvy that up on this record?
There’s never really a road map or plan when it comes to divvying up vocal duties on new songs for us. If someone has lyrics written that seem to fit or hears a cool vocal pattern, then we’ll go from there. We all take turns writing lyrics and doing the vocals [ourselves,] but there’s no real conscious effort in that responsibility.
Your releases have featured some really beautiful, unorthodox cover art, like Caroline Harrison’s drawing for Dead Soil and the striking Brandon Geurts cover on The Lurch. What’s your process for choosing or commissioning album art? What do you look for?
We’ve been really lucky to befriend some incredible artists over the years of touring with this band even before they’ve created anything for us. Our process is super simple: choose someone whose art we enjoy and aligns somewhat stylistically with the band, give them the music and lyrics, and then let them go to town with a little input here and there from us. Brandon has done a couple shirt designs for us and the artwork for our split with Fórn, so we knew what to expect with him, but he really blew us away with what he cranked out for The Lurch.
You all have done some exciting collaborations over the years, including the recent split with Chepang. Are there any other acts you plan to/would like to collaborate with now that the pandemic is easing?
We had been talking with Chepang for years about putting out a split together, so we were super stoked that it finally came to fruition earlier this year. I think it’s important to look outside of the American/English-speaking realm for legit bands/music because there’s so much of it out there. We are always open to collaborating with our peers/friends/bands we’ve toured with, but there’s nothing currently in the works.
And speaking of the pandemic easing, any live shows coming up or other ways you’ll be supporting The Lurch this year?
We’ve got a show with Withered in Atlanta on August 6th (which will be our first show back since the pandemic started) and then Mutants of the Monster Festival in Little Rock, Arkansas later that month. We’re in the process of setting up some tours for later in the fall and earlier next year as well. Hopefully there will be a belated release show for The Lurch before the end of this year.
Anything else coming up for the band or the other projects you guys are involved with?
Watch for some more festival and tour announcements soon for Yautja, and we are also slowly working on new material. Tyler plays with Thou who (of course) are always working/scheming up new stuff, and Shibby has releases that are new from his bands Thirdface and Sallow which are completely different stylistically but equally amazing bands. Hope to see y’all on the road soon!
The Lurch came out via Relapse on Bandcamp on May 21.