Yip-Yip, Hurray!

Working outside pop music conventions, Yip-Yip finds its artistic voice.

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"If you could cut out all of my 'ums' and 'likes,' that would be great."

Twenty-three-year-old Brian Esser is having a little trouble crystallizing his thoughts regarding Yip-Yip, the experimental recording project/performance art concept/two-man electro-band comprised of himself and partner Jason Temple.

Speaking by phone from his Winter Park home, Esser chalks his oblique explanations up to nervousness — after all, stage fright was one of the reasons he and Temple incorporated costumes into the Yip-Yip universe from its 2001 get-go — and that's surely part of it. But most of it should be obvious to anyone who's experienced the duo's surprisingly engaging amalgam of sampled sounds, home-crafted beats, warm keyboard blips, fractured time signatures and ADD-afflicted arrangements:

Yip-Yip is fucking tough to put into words.

For anybody.

"We're just, I don't know, trying to do something interesting," says Esser. "Especially now that we have more people listening and paying attention to us. We're trying to take the opportunity to do something neat."

Esser and Temple were never the usual band guys who spent years playing in various groups that never got out of the garage or past the local bars, the ones that let anyone play. Both had very limited musical experience before Yip-Yip came into being, and from the outset, the project was approached from a perspective far different from the traditional jamming-with-friends mindset. In the beginning, the two young men had little more than some digital synthesizers and a yen to make some noise — and present some creative visual accompaniment — that wasn't being produced by anyone else.

"[We were] just trying to find something new, a new area of music to get into that hasn't been done much," Esser says. We didn't think about it that hard. We didn't set out to do what we did, we just had limitations, and we worked within those limitations, and it ended up being better for us than maybe having more friends to do a band or something like that. I don't see it having worked as well [in the usual format] as it's ended up."

Over the course of five years, Yip-Yip has evolved from a couple of guys learning how to wring satisfying sonics out of various digital instruments, computers, toys and analog keyboards into a uniquely captivating national recording and touring act. The project's second release, In the Reptile House, is a confidently skewed succession of rhythm, broken melody and noise. It's the kind of aural innovation that diehard pop fans and pedestrian radio listeners are likely to dismiss as pointless electronic noodling.

To more open ears, however, Reptile House reveals a fresh and seriously dedicated approach to songwriting and arranging, something more than frenetic blips and bleeps, music that's as capable of building a mood or provoking an emotional response as any other style.

Despite its guitar-less keys-and-samplers nature and superficial resemblance to the weirder, more cutting edge of the electronic, guy-with-a-laptop scene, Yip-Yip's chaotic vibe has secured it a place among the heavier experimental bands of the indie-rock underground; the pair has shared the stage with such jarringly provocative acts as The Locust, Lightning Bolt and current tourmates An Albatross. The notion of playing with those often guitar-based and hardcore-spawned groups initially gave Esser pause, but he's happy to have found mutual respect (and a fanbase) among so many acts that influenced Yip-Yip, philosophically if not exactly musically.

"We're still completely surprised by how we're taken by bands we've liked, and still like," he says. "It's really cool to be respected, especially in a kind of music you were really into while you were in high school and college. To have them not only be nice to you, but to respect you as a musician is the coolest thing in the world; it doesn't get better than that. We've played with almost all of our favorite current bands, or met 'em, and it's awesome.

"It's cool to be put into that scene, too. I'm glad that we're accepted in that scene, rather than kind of having to be lumped in with the electronic, IDM [intelligent dance music], computer music or whatever. [Underground noise-rock] is more what we're into ... there's nowhere else we'd rather be. Some of those bands that are really groundbreaking, they're doing something really knew, found new places to go in music, and that's what we're trying to do."

A key factor tying Yip-Yip to what, for better or worse, is often termed "the noisecore scene" is a knack for finding musical influences outside the realm of music itself. Most bands emulate their heroes, or the latest trends, or discover elements of the styles they've listened to their entire lives leaching into their respective styles; Esser and Temple, in their quest for originality, find inspiration in everything that they enjoy. In fact, Yip-Yip's material is often compared to the zany, cheesy, moody soundtracks of '80s arcade games and early Atari home-console versions, and many fans have suggested that the group compose videogame soundtracks.

"Since we're not really looking at it like we're trying to do that, I wouldn't want to lead people to think that, but I'm sure there's stuff like that in our heads, and it comes out, and we don't ever realize it," says Esser. "Videogames, old TV shows or movies — I'm sure a lot of that's in there, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, stuff like that. That's pretty cool, we used to love that and still do, where it's not necessarily a band influence, but it's certainly along the lines of our style, what we like and are trying to do."

The result is undoubtedly, as Esser puts it, interesting and neat. But it's also more inherently musical than most of its ilk, albeit in a way that's extremely difficult to pin down.

"Yip-Yip is like a huge trial-and-error thing," says Esser. "There's been years and years of it. But we're finally to a point where I think we're happy with what we're doing. We're finally to a point where we're looking at what we have, and what we already do, and saying, 'Let's work with this.' It's not as much about experimenting as it has been.

"That doesn't make any sense, I'm sure," he adds with a laugh. "You can edit out anything you want."

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