Taking their name from the song title 'Yalla Yalla' by Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros The Yalla Yallas are a four piece punk band from Leeds.
Being too drunk to take up their offer of a pass to see The Alarm in London last November (Damn!) I dragged my sorry hungover arse down to Camden the following day to meet singer/songwriter/performer/guitarist Rob Galloway and bass player Dempsey. Having been ejected quite early from the home of Ray Gange of 'Rude Boy' fame they planned on a little sight seeing after a chat with moi and my new Dictaphone before venturing back to Leeds.
LORRAINE: So lads, tell us how the Yalla Yallas came into being?
ROB: I'd been playing solo for a few years doing this electro punk dance type
thing and Dempsey used to come along.
DEMPSEY: We'd known each other for years!
ROB: Yeah, we've known each other for years, even before we started the band.
DEMPSEY: When I was at college we met through another friend. Rob used to
turn up at college more than I did and he didn't even actually go to the college.
ROB: I used to skive my lessons at my 6th form and go to similar lessons
at his college. People thought I was a pupil there and I weren't. We got together
last year. I'd heard Dempsey play even before he could even really play an
instrument. He was doing 101 intros on guitar. You'd hear him playing a Led Zepplin intro or a Bon Jovi intro or something like that but the couldn't actually play a full song. I was like 'Right, you're gonna be my bass player. I'll teach ya ... I know you can do it!'. We share a similar taste in music except he likes Village People and I like Girls Aloud and Sugarbabes. We're Punk Rockers as well.
DEMPSEY: We put an add on a
ROB: He don't need drumsticks, he uses his fingers (Laughs). Big lad is Matt!
DEMPSEY: We met Matt as he's in another
DEMPSEY: Oh any kind of music that you like ... Every night of the week
there will be a band that you can go and see, RnB, rap, punk, rock n roll, anything.
ROB: There's some really good punk bands like The Terminals, Pushbike
Army, The Hydrapaths, International Trust, The Plight. They're all covering
different types of punk, International Trust have the pop punk covered, The Terminals are more like The Ramones meet Buzzcocks and The Hydrapaths are more like The Pogues.
DEMPSEY: We're all in the same vein but a little bit different style, so
if we all play together, as we have a few times, people don't get bored cos they're not hearing the same raucous punk.
ROB: We touch on rockabilly, we touch on hardcore punk, we touch on,The
Clash, like, your traditional 70's punk, a little bit like the Sex Pistols.
LORRAINE: You have a massive list of influences, who would you cite the most?
DEMPSEY: People listen to us and they can pin down about 20 bands per
song, but they can never get it down to one band because the influences are obviously there and we embrace them. We don't say 'Oh, we sound totally unique!'.
ROB: It's all been done before, everything we do has been done.
DEMPSEY: But it sounds totally different because it's little bits of
every single one of them bands.
ROB: Like ... you can hear Iggy Pop in our songs. I even make a point
live, I'll sing a little bit of the lyrics to a similar sort of tune. I'll sing a little
bit of 'Now I wanna be your dog'. I'll sing that over some bars and embrace it.
DEMPSEY: So people know he's dropped that in, he knows he sounds like that.
ROB: You can't hide from it!
ROB: Ah no, I used to do a solo show and it used to be part of a death
scene and I'd play dead and it were all a bit of arty punk dance electro. I'd play dead against this video backdrop then go "I'm not really dead". I realised
that's what people enjoyed the most, the performance side of my show, so now live, the socks and shoes are off, the shirt's off, I'm jumping in crowd and going mad on-stage. I perform. I know I'm not a good singer or guitarist but I believe I'm a good songwriter and performer.
DEMPSEY: It's nice to see, because we play quite a raucous form of music
you don't expect to see girls up dancing to it or pogoing, but we get girls in front
of us dancing away cos there's so many different styles in there. It's funny
when you see a band come on and there'll just be a few guys stood there and by time Rob's on he's getting them all involved and they get a chance to sing and not one person leaves unhappy as they've been involved with it.
ROB: Like the last gig, I got to the last chorus and I just give microphone to
this girl in crowd and I pogoed while she sang it. I were like 'this is quality' and
the fact that the song "Girls are Meaner than Boys" is a bit of a girl power anthem. I'd like to say there's a Spice Girls influence in that song, they were
the most punk band of the 90's.
Photo: Rob at Leeds Festival 2008
ROB: I write 'em all. I'll generally write everything at home then I'll record the bass line, simple 4/4 drum beat, guitar chords, lyrics, maybe some vocals, the take them to the band and they'll all have an input.
DEMPSEY: It's quite nice as he always comes to us with his ideas recorded,so we can hear and we can say "Right, well I don't think this works, we can try doing this way" and we can try it out. Sometimes you can take something that sounds simple and turn it anthemic and people love it. It's really getting a lot of respect.
ROB: 'Retaliation' is like that. Like I say, I ain't got a beautiful voice and ain't got great guitar skills, if I play a little rough demo on me own like 'Retaliation', three chords and I sing along and people don't like it fair enough. But with band and Wills' guitar playing and Dempsey's bass lines, it really livens it up, and backing vocals, and the whole deliverance of it now is just immense.
DEMPSEY: Highlight for me were last night!
ROB: Last night, yeah!
DEMPSEY: We had a single that we've just recorded this weekend played to 2000 people at
ROB: There's that and just playing the gigs and people singing along and
getting more and more involved every time we play now and we can't wait to do the next gig and the whole thing's a good thing at the moment. I don't say I want
respect from people, but the fact that people will come up to us and they'll want to have a drink and a chat. I like that. We're not rude to people. That's a thing,
we've made a lot of friends out of it, that for me's the highlight ya know. To go in a bar and just have a good chat with people who might have seen me play.
ROB: Currently we're sorting out some dates in
trying to get down here to
DEMPSEY: We're talking about gigs in Middlesbrough and
frustrating when I see really good bands playing to five people who
deserve to be out there and heard.
ROB: I find it hard work because for us to get a gig in
DEMPSEY: You don't want to come out of your town to bring 20 people from
your own town. They could just see you at home, it's pointless.
ROB: I love our crowd back home but I wanna play to Liverpool people, I
wanna play to
DEMPSEY: The things is, if we play a gig and five people turn up, then at
end of gig they'll go tell all their mates and when we play that town again
they'll bring their friends. If we get their details we can email when we are gonna come out again. We've got friends in
you to guarantee so many people coming to this gig". I were like "yeah yeah,
we'll do it"and when gig comes I think we had five people who paid in to see us. Rest of our mates got in free cos they snuck in back door and things like that, but by end of gig we had the place rockin. People were coming in asking "who are you guys?", "when you playing again?". I said to the promoter "you wanna book us again?" He said "you only had five people", but I were like , "Look at them people, they're all sweating and going mad, if you book us now we can tell them we're playing in four weeks or something". Some promoters of venues only care about the money, it's like rentacrowd. That's not why I'm in it. I wanna play to new people and find new friends.
DEMPSEY: People have told us now that what we should do is, rather than go
for the big cities, go for the areas around the big cities because they have a
thriving music scene but they don't have any bands coming to play to them, so they will go out and see anyone and fill a place just because there's a band playing rather than going "Oh, I've got so much choice". That's what it's like in
ROB: I've got a day job that pays my wage. Other people have got day jobs,
I don't want them spending their wage on coming to see us. I want to do gigs to
get people in and enjoy the music and let 'em have a good night and if we can save 'em a fiver getting in then we'll do that.
'StandUp'. Are you sticking with the DIY ethic?
ROB: We're doing it ourselves. I want to have complete control over everything we do. I don't mind working with a label or the right people who'll allow us to do the music we want to make, but there's no way I'm gonna tailor make my music for anyone! Retaliation is about now really and what's going on. I went to see The King Blues a couple of times in the summer. I think they're the band that matter at the moment. There's a lyric in one of their songs which says "Going to war to prevent a war is one of the most stupid things I've ever heard". That rang in my head for weeks and weeks and I came up with this lyric:
"Wars still rage in this day and age,
Sometimes I wake up and I'm so ashamed,
To be white and British,
I'm not proud today".
... And it's like we talk about kids with knives and their gangs and what are the government gonna do about it, How can they gain back control? It's just people fighting people. We're all born and we're all gonna die.So what if some-one does something to you...I'm not saying take a beating or anything, but trying to get revenge on them people is only going to escalate stuff and retaliation don't make it alright!
DEMPSEY: It's not like we're an orderly, political band, Rob just writes about the things that he sees going on, it's not that he really wants to point this out to people, He's just writing about what's going on, saying this is what's happening and it shows in his songs. Rob writes about what he's feeling at the time and it makes him a really good songwriter. It's not like Arctic Monkeys style what's happening around, 'I went down the street today and it were raining', it's stuff that's important to him and it comes across as really powerful, like 'Retaliation'.
ROB: I see it as a love song even. It's very sort of negative and political and news and social commentary and that, but in my head I see it as a love for fellow human beings and it upsets me when I see people fall out. I like to get it out in a song rather than to show anger or anything to another person.
That's not my style. I'd just rather cry at night! (laughs). It's a nice upbeat anthem of a song too. It's a good sing-along. It's got a good message!
Stand Up' I wrote a few years ago, well before The Yalla Yallas, but it didn't
fit in with the electro art thing I had going on. I saw this fella walking down the street and he looked like David Blunkett, an absolute ringer for him, except no guide dog and he could see. He was just a face walked past us and I thought..What if that was David Blunkett?, What if he could really see and he got a guide dog and the blind thing were an act and a bit of a government thing
to get a sympathy vote. If that were true would it surprise you? It wouldn't
surprise me! It's a song about my cynicism with what we get told. Its not an anti government song as I believe some-one should be in charge, it's just an asking questions song.
ROB: 25. It's just a song about....it's just to ask some questions, what's really going on. Everything we get told or read, it's not true. We don't want to be seen as a political band cos we're not. I aint got that political education or background or knowledge to know. I don't even really know which side I like. I wouldn't say I was a Labour supporter or a Conservative, or have any political leaning. All I believe in is what's right and what's right for me and my friends and people around me and if I'm wrong in what I'm talking about, then I'm wrong. What I believe is right is that everyone should be good to each other and all get along and have a good time. I know it ain't gonna happen but I just want to try and give that positive message across to everyone, spread that vibe, let's have a good time. Let's not hold any anger or enemies as it just weighs heavy on the soul. But it's not all doom and gloom, I try to add a little bit of a cheeky undertone. There's a song called 'Credit Card Crunch', there's a lyric in there, one of my favourite I've ever written, about when I were going through depression:
A kiss from a friend,
I love ya,
I hate ya,
Theres no time to pretend,
That everything is ok,
Everything is alright,
I wish you was with me now,
In the dead of night
Where two lovers will cuddle,
Two rivals will stare,
Your mother will love you,
But your daddy dont care".
That's a pretty heartfelt message and a downer lyric but in the following verse I'm screaming a line saying "I'll suck you off for a tenner" (laughs).
Photo: The Yalla Yallas live at the Packhorse 26/07/08
doing with all that emotion?
ROB: I don't know. I think I'd have to have some outlet for my frustration. I used to like playing football but weren't good enough.
DEMPSEY: You'd probably be going to gigs and getting your frustration out
that way, running about.
ROB: Things bother me and I'm really moody and volatile and I know that.
ROB: No, I'm a Taurean.
DEMPSEY: We say he's got Axl Rose syndrome, front man syndrome, where he
just goes off on one for no reason and five minutes later he's fine again.
ROB: I'd like to think I'm not rude to anyone cos generally I'm a nice person, but sometimes things just....even through all the positive I still can't hide
certain human instincts.
DEMPSEY: It'd be nice to be at that level where you could come to all the big
cities and play to a lot of people. I don't think we have aspirations to be huge.
ROB: I don't think we will. For me I want to keep it personal. I wanna be
accessible to people cos that's what I've liked about my favourite bands, you can go up and talk to them or they'll just be sat in a bar and be perfectly ordinary and talk about normal stuff. That's what I like about it and that's why I say I make new friends from it. I think I personally would find it difficult should
things get massive. I think I would struggle to deal with that and struggle to deal
with the stuff that comes with it, but I'd be quite happy for that, I'd be proud of
that and I would try my best. Maybe I'd change and cope with it. I want us to do
well. I want us to have a cult following.
DEMPSEY: I think we'd like to be big enough so we get tickets to festivals, so we can go and play good festivals, ones like Rebellion, just to be able to play with our heroes. Rob's played with a lot of bands that he's loved for years and it's an honour to play with them. It'd be nice to play with bands that you love and say I've played on the same stage...like I've played with Village People (laughs)...
ROB: and The Grumbleweeds! That's the thing, we just want to have a good
time and people are welcome to come and join in!
Photo: The Yalla Yallas Live at Cardigan Arms 10/05/08
Well we carried on drinking for five hours sharing many a tale, the boys
missing their coach back to
Retaliation is now available on download from amazon
"ROCK N ROLL"
Band Website: www.theyallayallas.com
All photos: The Yalla Yallas