Since the late-80s, the unimpeachably cool Seattle-based record label Sub Pop has kept its proverbial finger on the pulse of independent music. After signing Pacific Northwest post-punkers Nirvana, as well as seminal alt-rockers Soundgarden and Mudhoney, the label essentially ushered in the grunge era. Then, in the early 2000s the label played an outsized role in kicking off the Neo-folk revival, signing earnest singer-songwriter acts like Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, and The Head and the Heart. To this day, the label’s slate of artists—which encompasses a variety of musicians and personalities from irreproachable indie-darlings like Sleater Kinney to (often) insufferable assholes like Father John Misty—represents possibly the most sophisticated, diverse, and integral lineup in music.
So it’s of little surprise that Sub Pop scooped up Yuno, whose glittery, effortlessly chill pop single “No Going Back,” has earned heavy rotation on indie-inclined Spotify playlists. It was surprising, however, to learn that royalty checks written to this new addition to Sub Pop’s stellar roster are sent to a postal address in Jacksonville, Florida (he may in fact have direct deposit, but you get the point–he’s from here).
Yes, Yuno hails from Northeast Florida. And Sub Pop nabbed him, right from under our proverbial noses! Yet, after reading Sub Pop’s press release announcing the signing, we feel a little less guilty about our being in the dark about Yuno (plus a lot more impressed with the tentacles of Sub Pop’s subterranean network for discovering artists).
[Yuno] never really went to shows because rarely anyone worth seeing would come through [Jacksonville]. The first gig he attended was headlined by a rapper called MC Lars. That’s what made him consider starting a solo project – seeing one dude onstage, recreating all the music alone with a laptop. To this day, he’s only been to four shows. “I’m used to just watching them on YouTube,” he says. “ I never think about a live show when writing songs. I just make whatever.”
We figured tracking down such a self-professed homebody would be a tough task. But after reaching out to local musician John Shannon [Wise River, Lannds], we made contact, and to our surprise, Yuno not only responded in a timely manner, he graciously agreed to answer some of our questions, dishing about his new label, his connection to skateboard culture, and the video for “No Going Back,” which he filmed in part, in the parking lot of Regency Square Mall.
“No Going Back” seems like a poignant first single/video for you. Can you talk about the genesis of the music, lyrics, and video for that track? (Is that Regency mall in the video?)
I was just messing around with synth sounds and came up with those bouncy chords. I’ve been really into a lot of early 90s New York hip hop lately, so I threw some boom bap drums on it. The bass melody just fit right into all of the little pockets of the song. The vocals play with that same melody, sometimes leading and sometimes following.
It’s just a song about not going back to things that cause you more harm than good. Sometimes you have to convince yourself to move on to something new after a while.
The video was just something quick I made in Jacksonville and New York City. I filmed a lot of shots at Regency Square Mall here in Jacksonville. So much of it is abandoned now and I’ve always liked the look of these empty structures. I grew up going there, though, so it’s sad to see it not so busy these days. The East Village in NYC is one of my favorite places to be so it felt like a good fit for the video to show not only where I am, but where I’m going.
Can you talk about your background in music? Any formal training? Did you play in any bands growing up? Any music projects in Jax prior to your current one?
I have absolutely no formal training. I can’t read music at all and don’t know what most of the chords I play are. I tried to take guitar lessons for a couple of weeks, but ended up quitting and just teaching myself through learning guitar tabs. I had a lot of friends that played guitar too so being able to show them what I learned was really motivational in getting better at playing. I always tried to start bands with my friends but they never worked. That’s why I started making music by myself.
You grew up skateboarding and I think people our age (I’m 32) are just starting to realize the diverse cultural influences that were part of skating in the past coupe of decades. Can you talk about how skateboarding might have influenced the music you liked or wanted to make?
Skateboarding had a huge influence on me musically. It introduced a lot of music to me I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Specifically skate videos and Tony Hawk video games. Stuff like Del the Funky Homosapien, Johnny Cash, and Black Flag is stuff I may have never heard. All of that diversity helped make the music I create become so diverse.
From what I read, it sounds like you were a bit of a homebody while living in Jax–you said you didn’t go to many shows. Can you talk about the music scene here and what, if any, influence it’s had on you?
I’m still here and I’m still a homebody. I only really leave home to get groceries or go to band practice. The band practice is pretty recent. I’m not very active in the Jacksonville music scene. Musically I feel like everyone is just doing there own thing here, which is cool. All of the local musicians I know are people I’ve met through sharing my music online. My physical form is in Jacksonville, but I feel like I mostly live on the internet.
Pretty big deal to get signed by Sub Pop. Congrats, by the way! What was that process like? Were you surprised when they reached out? What’s that label mean to you?
It was definitely a cool surprise. Ish of Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets reached out and told me he liked my music. We kept in touch over a year or two, and he told me he wanted to share it with everyone else at Sub Pop. Apparently they liked it, flew me out to Seattle and asked if I wanted to work with them. A lot of Sub Pop bands have influenced the way I make music so working with them is definitely a dream come true. Hopefully I can do the same for someone else now.
What plans have you made for recording/releasing new material? Are you going to work with a producer? Do you have a location picked out?
I’m probably going to stick to making songs in my bedroom. I might work with other people to polish them up though. I like having the input of others sometimes, but I feel like I work best when I’m crafting things in solitude. I definitely want to try new things while not messing too much with my current formula.
When can we expect your first Sub Pop full-length to drop?
Who knows, we’ll just have to see!
Fair enough. Most importantly, then, when can we see you perform in North Florida?
I’m not sure, hopefully sometime soon!
Read the full press release announcing Yuno’s signing, here.