The Cape Town based instrumental band Yndian Mynah blurs the lines between cinematic and instrumental music. From live stage to experimental floor shows, the attempt is for each show being a completely new experience for both band and listener. We reached out to James and asked him a few questions about the band and their debut double LP release ‘Velvet Youth’.
(live) Pierre Rommelaere
(group shot) Brett Laing
Rick De La Ray
How did the four members get together and what lead to the band’s formation?
Seven years ago James was living in Tamboerskloof with our previous drummer John van Zyl. John played the drums for Manny Walters with Matthew, and it was around this time that Matthew was looking for a place to stay in Cape Town because he was about to start a course at City Varsity. Jonny, James, and John were already friends and had played music together before but mainly enjoyed spending evenings together, having dinner and listening to new music. John had a room available for Matthew, and he became our new best friend because of his similar taste in music and the incredible ability he had to improvise on the guitar over our punk fueled riffs when we sat down and had jam sessions.
It didn’t take long for us to realise that we had something special together as a band. We had the flow and chemistry of our friendship, plus the ability to write together sounded better than anything we’ve done before.
A month or two later we decided to play a show together to raise some money for a charity and called ourselves ‘Get New’. It was the first of many shows that we had for done for various charities as a band. We practised and played as much as we could.
After three years of playing music together, we all had to start sacrificing some of our music time together for work commitments, and we ended up playing fewer and fewer shows. It was a little disheartening for us because we all wanted to keep on playing.
It was the first Endless Daze Festival that we all attended together as friends that inspired us to dig deep to make time for music again. We drunkenly promised one another that this festival would have us on the following years line up. Yndian Mynah was back together and ready to level up because we found ourselves working towards a goal.
With this momentum of rehearsing and playing shows again, we grew our previous songs and wrote some new material. We started doing some recordings of our own and were delighted to hear that the guys from Endless Daze would like to have one of our songs for a compilation album that they were going to release and record through Red Bull Studios. This was when Kenan joined us as a percussionist alongside John and as an extra guitarist.
John had some travel and work plans, and could unfortunately not put the time we needed to go forward together as a band which was sad for us, but we understood because we knew his first love was cooking and life doesn’t let you do everything at times.
Thankfully we had Kenan who was a part of our band already and was more than happy to take control of the drums for us. The energy Kenan brought us was pure magic, and we were all on the same page about turning Yndian Mynah into the best band it could be.
The first release was a live recording “Live at the Mercury”. What was behind the decision to make the first release a live album?
It was only by chance that we used the recording from that show as our first album as we mainly just wanted to hear for ourselves what we sounded like live.
We could never quite get the recording thing right, and we struggled a lot to capture the sound that we imagined when recording in studios. Listening to ourselves live was a massive wake up call to what we should sound like, and we were so thrilled with the quality that the guys at Mercury captured for us.
We could finally listen to something of ourselves that didn’t make us cringe because something wasn’t loud enough or that the tempo wasn’t what it should be.
Their live shows focus on a visual and instrumental journey that relies on alternating time structures, sweeping crescendos and quiet contemplative interludes that drive their brand of ambient post-rock forward.
Some of the members are in other bands – how did you all find the time record this first album?
I think time constraints are there for everyone in our band, be it another band, or work, and it is only because of pure excitement for our music that we sacrifice a fair amount of time to spend with one another in the studio. We are fortunate enough to have a studio space of our own to record these songs.
‘Mount Wave’ is Matthews office studio primarily and as a band, we use it in the evenings and weekends to write and record our songs. Having a place to leave heavy equipment has helped a bunch when it comes to squeezing a session in.
What lays behind the thought process of releasing a double album from the start? Most bands would only attempt this at a later stage?
I guess we forgot that records have only twenty minutes per side and our songs are long, so we didn’t have much choice but to use two LP’s instead of one with our album. If we could’ve squeezed it onto one record, we would’ve done that.
What has been the highlight for the band so far?
I think we will all agree that travelling to Madrid and watching ‘Mogwai’ together as a band has been a massive highlight for us because it was merely a pipe dream at first and then it happened.
As we stood side by side with tears in our eyes watching the very band that inspired us all so much we realised that we are in this thing together and we can achieve anything that we put our hearts and minds too.
What plans do you have as far as touring goes?
We are about to start our local tour playing shows in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Joburg, Pretoria, and Durban. It is inspiring for us as we have our records and a bunch of new T-shirts to sell at our shows and we get to play with some incredible bands like Retro Dizzy and The Klubs. We will carry on fishing for opportunities everywhere else in the world as well because we feel that we are ready to play alongside the bands that we watched last year July and we want to take our music everywhere.
YNDIAN MYNAH has toured across South Africa, playing the local festival circuit and has shared the stage with international acts such as ‘A Place to Bury Strangers (US), Dead Meadow (US), Holy Wave (US) WITCH (ZM), Boogarins (BRA), Yak (UK) and Night Beats (US)’
Their debut album “Velvet Youth’, released in December 2019, is now available on all streaming platforms worldwide.