Yola Fatoush are Ruth Angel Edwards and Kit Mason: a duo doing new and startling things with the music they make, and are names to watch for 2012. Fusing together experimental music with a pop sensibility, but putting their own unique spin on things, the London based-band have already made waves with their self-titled debut EP, released earlier this year. the girls are chat over e-mail with Ruth, to find out a bit more.
How would you describe Yola Fatoush’s music to people who hadn’t heard it before?
How did you and Kit meet?
Around the end of 2010, we started hanging out, doing music, and pretty much everything else together. We make all of the music together and then when we play live, we each choose which of the individual parts we’re going to play. We don’t have our ‘own’ set parts, Kit could easily play something I originally came up with, or vice versa. We decided pretty early on that we would both sing, and that we’d have no set lead or backing vocals – we’d both do both. Every aspect of the band is a collaboration – the artwork too.
Where does the name of the band originate from?
Yola Fatoush is the school counselor in the first series of Heartbreak High, an Australian teen drama we got really into when we first started the band. The original program was definitely quite low budget, and most of the acting is pretty appalling, but it seems like the people making it were massively ambitious with what they wanted it to be and what they thought it could do – in every episode ‘issues’ are discussed, stereotypes are challenged, conflict is resolved. It tries to tackle way more themes than it successfully can with the resources available. I think actually our music is a bit like that! We’re trying to do loads of things at once that most of the time we don’t really know how to do. But in the end those failings can sort of become a different new thing. Although I don’t know, maybe I’m just trying to make sense of the name when actually it didn’t really mean anything when we decided on it! It’s just a name. We wanted something that gave no indication of what the music was like, so we settled on Yola Fatoush because it didn’t seem to have any immediate associations that people would pick up on.
Do you have a particular method for writing songs?
Most of the time we just sit in a room at our computers, individually working with headphones on. We keep swapping the songs, adding things and consulting each other on the changes we’ve made and ideas we’ve had until they’re finished. It’s a bit like an office!
You can hear a very diverse range of influences in your music – what’s your favourite album of all time, and what impact do you think it’s had on Yola Fatoush’s sound?
I think I’m more a song person than an album person so I’m not sure what my favorite album is. ‘Erasure – Pop! The first 20 hits’ is good, although it’s not actually an album it’s a best of. It was my favorite tape as a kid and I’ve revisited it a lot since.
As a female musician, do you think it’s still difficult for women to be taken seriously in the music business?
That’s a difficult one for me to answer because ‘the music business’ isn’t something I know that much about or have ever really engaged with much. I think it probably depends on what kinds of circles you operate in. I’m really lucky to have been around a really wonderful DIY music scene for a while, where there are loads of women in bands and I don’t think someone’s gender effects how seriously people take them at all.
In terms of big labels etc. I’m sure they’re more likely to go with acts who conform to ideas of gender which they think are familiar to and understood by a wider audience. It’s actually stupid on a number of levels – it seems to me like the general public (whatever that even really means!) has demonstrated on numerous occasions that they can be a lot more open minded than these people think.
In terms of my own general day to day experiences with doing music, there have been a few annoying occasions where sound guys and promoters have done things like always asking a male member of the band how you want stuff to sound, or making assumptions about what my role is in the band. If small things like this keep happening you can start to wonder how much input these people actually think you have in terms of the technical and creative side of the music. It’s frustrating as well because these kinds of things are quite subtle and you’re not sure whether it’s in your head or not. However I think there are actually a lot of women around doing really amazing electronic stuff at the moment so perhaps attitudes like this are on the way out. I’d like to think so.
What are you currently listening to?
Laurel Halo’s recent album is really interesting. She’s got her vocals almost uncomfortably loud and clean sounding, and the lyrics are really strange and conflicted. I think it’s quite a brave record.
What’s been the biggest highlight of Yola Fatoush’s career so far?
Probably the launch party we had for our EP in June. We had it at a small gallery space called Sauna that some friends run in an old shop. That was really fun!
Finally, what are the band’s plans for 2012?
We had our EP out at the start of the summer, and we also just released a tape with an LA based label called Deathbomb Arc. It’s a set of 9 songs we wrote and recorded in Berlin when we were there for a couple of months last summer. Some of them are a bit Erasure-y! We’re hopefully going to be doing some kind of UK tour in the Autumn. And we’re finishing up a load of new stuff.
The band’s self-titled debut EP is available now.