We are Yunioshi. A band story.
A long and winding introduction to the life of Yunioshi so far. Find out who we are and why we do what we do. This story takes us up to Jan 2011.
Yunioshi began on a tube train in London. I was reading Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote and the obsessive character, Mr.Yunioshi’s name leapt off the page. His name and character traits summed up perfectly my mood and the kind of things I happened to be writing about.
Me and James were tinkering with mixing electro synth sounds, guitars and New Orleans soul samples with our influences of Beck and Cornelius in the backs of our minds. All the while it was important to us that the songs carried a beautiful structure like those found in Serge Gainsbourg’s arrangements. Melodies were equally important and Beach Boys harmonies mixed with our strange love for pop formed the eclectic ingredients for our sound.
At the same time back in Nottingham I had met Anna who has a voice like the best ice-cream you’ve ever tasted. Me and Anna were playing acoustic nights, performing strange covers of pop tunes that people had fallen out of love with like Kim Wilde’s Kids in America, using tiny drum machines and melodicas. Following one gig, a thick set, slightly angry looking bald man covered in tattoos told us, “Never stop what you’re doing.” Not wanting to upset him we agreed. So, it was fear of death that created the band. Anna was very happy to join me and Jim and it was right there and then in Nottingham that we three became Yunioshi.
We very quickly got down to writing EP1, rehearsing in both Nottingham and south London while setting up gigs and sending CDs off to anyone who showed a passing interest. We were shortly asked to play our first gig at the inaugural Hockley Hustle festival (now a Nottingham institution) in October 2006. Soon afterwards we had one of our tracks picked up and selected for use on a TV ad campaign for the Kia Carens car. Great news for a band who had just started. But the track selected, Mymo, used a drum sample that we needed to recreate for legal reasons. We had met drummer Rob Maddison from Spaceships Are Cool at The Hockley Hustle festival and asked him to recreate the patterns, which he did expertly. Rob would join us on stage from time to time to drum this track live and in late 2007 he became a permanent fixture as we built the live sets around mixing his live drums with dusty old soul and funk samples and electro pop. We had become a four piece and started to receive airplay on BBC6 Music and Local radio stations. Swelling crowds attended our shows and all received homemade cakes from The Yunioshi Catering Corp who travel with us!
BBC Introducing then got in touch with us and asked us to record a session at the word famous Maida Vale studios for the Huw Stephens show. This was a massive honour and very few bands get this opportunity. About the same time however, our drummer was taken seriously ill. In January 2008 he suffered a T8 level spinal injury from a tumour in his spine. His injury left him paralysed from the waist down and with a slender chance of survival.
He made it through two major operations but remained paralysed. This was a very low point for the band but created the family bond that we now have. Following a year of spinal rehab and with near constant conversations about how he could reinvent drumming from his wheelchair he was released from Sheffield’s specialist spinal hospital and played his return Yunioshi gig at the end of 2008. It was a momentous occasion for all of us – something we thought we would never see again.
The downtime had given us a chance to write our second EP and parts of the third EP. Anna, James and I recorded at Maida Vale in May 2008 and following Rob’s return, we were selected to play at Summer Sundae music festival in 2009 alongside the likes of Bon Iver, Bombay Bicycle Club, Mystery Jets and The Zutons. To mark the return of Rob to the drums and his remarkable reinvention of how to play them we gave him the title Hakushi – The beat!
We continued to write and perform to make up for the lost year, rebuilding our fan base and letting people know that we were back. We put together our third EP, taking a more electro direction and in may 2010 we launched How To Survive A Robot Uprising to a huge crowd at the brand new Nottingham Contemporary art gallery. The night involved craft competitions with mega prizes plus the usual homemade cakes.
Tracks from this EP were again picked up for use on TV commercials and within TV shows. Thunderbird was used by Comedy Central to advertise the new season of South Park while also being used for sports montages on Sky Sports. We were then selected to play at Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik – a festival with an international reputation for breaking new artists – alongside the likes of Everything Everything, FM Belfast, Bombay Bicycle Club and Factory Floor. Huge crowds greeted us at every show with everyone leaping around and sweating with us and our big beats. We returned to the UK to headline the Hockley Hustle festival and to news that we were selected to play at the Canadian Music Festival in Toronto in March 2011.
Which brings us to today. Today we are preparing to take our ‘caketronica’ to Toronto and are in the midst of writing our fourth EP. 2011 looks like a good year for us already.