Story and photos by Michael Kuhn.
Yarbs’ brash, abrasive 14-song cassette perfectly encapsulates the true essence of the Charlotte punk unit. The tape’s twelve minutes, originally released digitally back in February, is the style of punk music that gives you a friendly punch to the jaw, and contains all of the fast-paced, noisy energy that you would hear and definitely feel from their live show. This discord resembles a lot of the personal lives of the members as they juggle full-time jobs, school, spouses, kids, and all of the taxing angsts of being in a punk band. I recently sat down for a drink and a chat to get better aquatinted with the guys and to see what Yarbs is really all about.
If ya’ll could introduce yourselves and say what you do in Yarbs?
I’m Jonathan Wade, I play bass and sing in Yarbs.
I’m John Stewart, I play guitar in Yarbs.
I’m Cameron Farquhar and I play the drums.
I’m John Strassner, I play… I don’t know lead guitar, I don’t really know what I’m doing half the time.
How’s life, how’s the band, what’s new?
Wade: As a band, things are going well, tapes just came out. We are really proud of that. It’s our first physical release.
Cameron: We are always continuing the writing process. Already recorded a whole other 5 song release.
Stew: Should be a 7-inch late summer or early fall.
How long have ya’ll been playing together? Any previous bands?
Wade: We’ve known each other going on ten years.
Strassner: We had a previous band called Such Made Hope.
Wade: Cameron went off to college and had a cycle of drummers after that.
Stew: I met Jonathan in a straight-edge hardcore band we played in high school. We coincidently both found out that each other weren’t straight edge when we snuck out to drink and smoke (laughs).
Cameron: I graduated, just barely. I came back to Charlotte, and we all started hanging out again. And John had a drum set so we started getting back together. We started in a totally different position in the very beginning.
Wade: Yeah, totally different band.
Strassner: We were definitely playing punk but it was a little more poppy.
Cameron: We are finally starting to really hone in on what we want.
How did you know what style ya’ll wanted to write in and how was the transition to playing in that style?
Stew: We had a ton of songs, but there were one or two that I wrote that kind of honed in on specific elements so we decided to drop the rest and go in that direction. We have always been huge punk dorks so it made sense to go in the direction we did and make it fast paced. We were just doing whatever we wanted before but really decided to focus on those specific elements.
Strassner: We used to have really long songs, and we noticed the songs dragged out and people lost interest. We just wanted the songs to be like 45 seconds and straight to the point.
Stew: Now when I see a band with long songs I get bored. For as fast as we play it’s definitely like working out.
Cameron: Yeah, it’s a lot like training for a sport, we are all drenched in sweat by the end of a set.
Wade: Yeah, if you miss a practice you can totally tell.
How was the recording process for this cassette release?
Stew: Recording with Jeremy (Snyder) was great. I think we sync really well with a lot of the weird stuff we listen to and he got where we were trying to go with it. It might be fast punk but it’s definitely got a weird side to it, with the feedback and the experimental element that he really helped to bring out in the studio. And the mix of everything is great and layered very well.
Cameron: He really helped develop the noise element of it to what it was.
Wade: And it’s noisy but really coherent.
Stew: We did about 14 tracks in four hours, some we tracked live at Sioux Sioux Studios. And then Strassner sat down and soloed over the whole thing in one take (laughs).
How do ya’ll feel when people say your set was loud? Is that the goal?
Wade: Totally a compliment! We worked pretty hard to get nicer equipment.
Stew: We had a lot of out-dated solid state amps, so we finally have real rigs.
Cameron: You can’t be fast and quiet, you gotta be fast and loud.
Wade: Gear is a big part of it but we like to think of it as “calculated chaos.”
Stew: Yeah, we try to play as fast and as loud as possible
Where did the telephone mic come from? It has become a cornerstone of your sound and live set.
Wade: Our friend Donald Harris made it for us when he played drums for us in the Such Mad Hope days.
Stew: He always had it and one day just gave it to us.
Wade: It’s something we liked the sound of and we recorded with it too. I liked the effect, you gotta be right up on it. Once I had to perform without it and I felt like a stand up comedian.
Where does the name Yarbs come from?
Wade: Its an old English word that means “herbs” but there is a modern definition that translates to, “someone who kills maliciously everyday.” We felt that both were appropriate. I thought it was a good word and not to bring up Such Mad Hope again, but we just thought that was such a weird name that no one could remember. We wanted a name that was quick and easy to remember even while intoxicated.
Cameron: You’ve gotta say it three times for someone to remember. “Yarbs. What?! Yarbs! What?!! Yarbs!!! Oh, Yarbs!”
Stassner: “You mean with a B!” (laughs)
What have ya’ll been listening to recently?
Wade: We were all pretty floored when we saw Destruction Unit.
Stew: Ive been on a lot of stuff recently. Gauze, Institute, I dabble with lighter things, uhhh Brian Jonestown Massacre, some shoegaze stuff.
Cameron: Today while I was mowing the lawn I listened to Rites of Spring, I listen to a lot of Fear, Misfits, Violent Reaction, but more like older school original punk rock Hüsker Dü, Bad Brains.
Strassner: Definitely Destruction Unit.
Wade: Institute definitely.
Cameron: Protomartyr definitely something we all like.
Wade: All kinds of stuff, I still listen to The Rolling Stones a lot and The Clash. I love Stepdads and Schemata.
Strassner: We listen to a lot of local bands and bands we play with just because they are so good.
What are your thoughts on where the Charlotte/ North Carolina music scene is currently at and where it’s going?
Wade: I thinks it’s a great scene. A lot of really talented bands.
Stew: It gets shot down a lot.
Wade: But at times I feel like bands get a little too clique and not about creating a community and promote everyone.
Stew: Definitely good bands and a lot of bands playing.
Wade: Charlotte does get skipped over by bands and tours, but when shows do get booked here, they’re awesome.
Stew: It’s getting there.
Cameron: It’s going in the right direction.
Stew: There have been a lot more venues and less house show, except for The Odd Room. But The Milestone is our favorite and the boys there have always been great to us. Snug has always taken care of us. And The Roux was cool for a while, RIP.
What are your future plans?
Wade: The 8th is our tape release at Neighborhood Theatre. Then a 7 inch and maybe some new music on the way.
Cameron: Euro tour.
Wade: Yeah, maybe a regional tour late summer.
Cameron: Maybe play some birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries too (laughs).
Cool, thanks guys.