The Yawpers craft tunes that are engrossed in creative context. Some might recall edges of the mid-1900s Delta blues, but only if those lived-in riffs were played by the MC5, broadcast through booming stadium speakers and drenched with pounds of fuzzy distortion and full-throttled punk rock energy. They conduct parallel frequencies with the ferocious and raw proletarian roots of Uncle Tupelo, the burning-hot thrashings and cavernous sonic space of Hot Snakes, and mix in derisive scrutiny that brings to mind Ween or the Minutemen (and might we add that Cook is the spitting image of D. Boon).
The Yawpers’ third album Boy in a Well is a sensational tragedy set in World War I France about a mother abandoning her unwanted newborn child. But, like the band itself, there’s so much more roiling beneath the surface.
Recorded in Chicago by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, Pokey LaFarge, The Cactus Blossoms, The Flat Five)** at Reliable Recordings and produced (with instrumental contributions) by Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Bash & Pop), Boy in a Well stretches The Yawpers’ sound and ambition in challenging, impassioned, and dynamic directions. To follow up their 2015 Bloodshot debut American Man* — which Rolling Stone* described as mixing “high-brow smarts with down-home stomp” — the trio left the comfort zone of their Denver hometown in September 2016 to record in a city they’d only briefly visited before.
The story-vision was initially conjured by lead singer Nate Cook, after a reckless combination of alcohol, half a bottle of Dramamine, and an early morning flight. The delusional result is an album of complete immersion and instinct, with personal background (the story removes shrapnel embedded from Cook’s failed marriage) meeting psychological fascinations (German realpolitik, Freud, Oedipus, and the lasting social and cultural fallout of WWI… you know, the usual rock ’n’ roll stuff). Structured, composed songwriting from the band’s freakishly tight backbone — guitar prodigy Jesse Parmet and bulldozing drummer Noah Shomberg — blend with the impulsiveness of their wild-eyed, punk-reincarnation-of-Elvis frontman.
Boy in a Well sounds like Alan Lomax using his field recorder to capture Mance Lipscomb ripping a laced joint (or something much more potent) with The Cramps and strapping their instruments on to let that shit fly. But while the band dials into the finest, frenetic trucker-speed induced scuzz blues, there is patience and dark soul within and between songs much like the blank space between paragraphs and chapters. Each track is a division of the plot — paired visually with an accompanying comic book, illustrated by J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers — that seamlessly blends into the next.
Also released in 2017 was a 7″ single featuring “Mon Dieu” from Boy in a Well and a new recording of a Yawpers live show calling card, their manic cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” The band has previously released two full length-albums (their Bloodshot debut American Man and the 2012 self-released album Capon Crusade), a self-released EP (Savage Blue), and a bootleg covers record (Good Songs/Shitty Versions). The band’s music has been praised by publications like Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The AV Club, Consequence of Sound, Nerdist, and American Songwriter, and has taken the stage with Lucero, Tommy Stinson’s Bash & Pop, DeVotchka, Supersuckers, The Blasters, and more. In 2015, they were the house band at TEDx Kansas City and soundtracked an episode of Bill Weir’s The Wonder List on CNN — the episode was about the Colorado River.
The Yawpers formed in 2011 when Parmet and Cook played together at the only speakeasy in Boulder, CO. They added a drummer to the mix and a new trio was born. The band’s name is a nod to Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”