by Holland Taylor
“Sonically, the goal is the energy of The Doors, the sound design of New Order, but the live performance of a group like The Garden or Death Grips.” The YIP YOPS are an alternative rock band, locally grown in the heart of the Coachella Valley who want to make “happy music for sad people.” I got to sit down with two of the members, Ross Murakami and Ison Van Winkle and talk with them about everything from their impact on the art scene in the Coachella Valley to their future plans and goals for the band. Their drive and passion for the music they are making keeps them moving forward, but it is also clear that they will never forget where they came from. Their growth in such a small town has widely impacted their community, the art scene here, and other aspiring artists in the Coachella Valley.
In the words of Van Winkle himself, “There is a story that needs to be told,” and they want to be the ones to tell it. Both Ross and Ison claim that they use music as a way to connect with others, and it is, as Ison put it, their “way of having a conversation with somebody.” Ison says that he would rather connect with someone through a song and his lyrics than any other means of communication, because to him, it is more meaningful. As Ross explains it, “music is longer lasting than a conversation… And no matter what it will always be there.” Ison, who writes most of the songs, explains that he doesn’t consider his own interpretation of his songs, “the end all be all.” The Yip Yops appreciate the versatility of their music and their audiences interpretations of it.
The music video for their single, SHE was just released. The song is centered around the “idea of a girl and how appealing that idea can be.” Ison explains the song as an ode to how, “the idea of someone can almost mask who that person actually is.” It is easy to almost idolize someone that you are attracted to, being more in love with the idea of someone rather than loving that person for their true selves. The concept of the video for SHE was directed based on the “feeling of a short film,” with the live aspect of their shows as well. “Something that was story driven,” was the heart of the idea. Ison came up with the idea of using a character that the YIP YOPS had previously come up with, called Dog Man, who starred in the video.
As far as their live shows go, Ross explains that they “always feed off of the energy of the crowd.” Their Residency at the Echo in July and their set at Coachella are some of their greatest accomplishments so far, along with their chance to tour with the talented Lauren Ruth Ward, which was a “great first and legitimate tour,” which gave them the opportunity to play in a lot of places they’ve never been, and as Ison put it, “for a surprising amount of people that we weren’t necessarily expecting.” Although they have branched out beyond the Valley, their roots in the desert have enabled them to be able to grow in ways they never realized possible. Staying in the desert for their first few years as a band gave them a chance to, in the words of Ross, “grow and kind of figure out what YIP YOPS is.” He explained that connecting with the music scene in the Coachella Valley first was very important to them and is ultimately what helped them the most when moving on to the Los Angeles music scene. The shift was gradual but it isn’t final. The YIP YOPS will never forget the desert, as it was an essential part of their growth.
When asked about their future plans and goals for the band, Ross responded by saying, “We’d love to be the first band to play on the moon,” and that it is, “the only reason we are even doing any of this.” Before that though, they plan on continuing to tour and “some new stuff, wink, wink.” They even said that perhaps the beloved Dog Man could star in a featured film directed by Steven Spielberg? The YIP YOPS have many goals for the band and their relentless ambition seems to only add to their image and character as a whole. Ultimately, the band would love to play Madison Square Garden by 2020, which most definitely could be a reality for this up and coming desert band considering their drive and steadfast mentality regarding their art.
photography by Kelly Segré