Written by Susanna De Martino
Growing up it often seemed like everyone was in a band, sometimes as if participation was a form of social currency. But not every high school band has the unique advantage of growing up in New York City, like the four members of Yabadum did. I grew up watching my suburban counterparts play shows in friends’ basements; before most of its members were 18, Yabadum had booked Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn twice, as well as the studio at Webster Hall.
Arguably, though they may have fewer venue options, small town bands also have less competition for the attention of the public. This means that Yabadum’s music—synthy, jazzy indie rock with a hint of swing, even—needs to be more than somewhat unique in order to set them apart.
And it is: their latest show at Baby’s All Right, despite being the first of two openers, drew a swelling crowd-- a dancing one, at that. The band’s relative youth belies how tightly and cohesively they play. And their latest EP, Careful Kid, was mastered by Joe Lambert, who previously collaborated with Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, and Deerhunter.
“Winter” is among of the album’s best, a love song that starts off gentle and climbs frenetically into a long, freewheeling guitar solo. Horvath’s vocals swing wildly from a croon to a yell to a falsetto; throughout this chaos the song manages to feel deliberate, a nod to its precise composition. A careful ear will note the band’s driving concept: play music like you’re messing around, but never just be messing around.
I had a chance to sit down with Yabadum—vocalist/ bass player Laszlo Horvath, guitarist Chris Rivera, keyboardist Charlie Schine, and drummer Robby Jenkins-- to talk about Yabadum’s past and future.
Rare Candy: How do you guys define your sound?
Laszlo Horvath: Charlie was saying how a lot of his friends listen to Yabadum-- especially the piano playing and composition—and say it sounds almost like circus music.
Robby Jenkins: We tried to push the genre “circus-jazz” for a while…I think we’re kind of a corny band, especially with the way we use synth. But it’s something we embrace for sure.
RC: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Charlie Schine: For me it’s Ariel Pink, and Black Moth Super Rainbow—you know, that kind of silly synth music.
RJ: My drumming is probably primarily influenced by hip-hop stuff; J Dilla and MF doom’s beats.
CR: St. Vincent, and then this year a lot local Shea stadium and Silent Barn bands, like Small Wonder.
LH: Lyric-wise, I’d say Jeff Magnum, and James Murphy. And LCD Soundsystem, which was what got me interested in the kind of music we make.
RC: You were all born and raised in New York—do you think that’s present in your music?
LH: It’s not necessarily present in our lyrics, but I think sometimes the lyrics and music have a certain ambition and aggressiveness to them that could be derived from growing up in NYC.
RJ: Even the fact that we’re a high school band that gets to play good venues is pretty unique and weird.
RC: Can you recommend any smaller NYC acts to look out for right now?
CS: Well Robbie has another band called the Kinsey Scale, which just released an album.
LH: There’s some really weird stuff coming out of Staten Island right now. There’s a record label called “Sweqqjam Records,” pioneered by a band called Strangeland--now they’re doing more normal stuff, but at first it was just peoples’ ridiculous metal albums composed entirely from midi software. It’s this big satire on early 2000s music.
RC: Do you guys have any favorite songs off Careful Kid?
CS: I think my favorite song is “All The Funds.” It’s the last song, and really long and kind of an epic. I was feeling very Stevie Wonder inspired at the beginning of it, playing around with clav sounds.
RC: What was the recording process like?
LH: We recorded that Careful Kid at Room 17, which is a studio in Bushwick.
CS: it’s pretty different from recording in our basement [which is what we’re doing for our next project]. There’s a lot more freedom when you’re not in the studio, and that’s something we definitely want more of.
RC: What can we expect from your next project? Any major differences from the last?
LH: Our new stuff is sounding more progressive and maybe a little darker than Careful Kid. The music has less of a spring to it, you know. I think it focuses more on the drone aspect of things. We’re writing stuff now that has a lot more of a pulse underneath it.
CS: That’s not to say there won’t still be silly, upbeat stuff. But it’s more deliberate.
LH: I’ve been taking the lyrics and songwriting more seriously. It’s the struggle between wanting to mature and be serious, but also retain some kind of youthful oblivion in the music. We want to make music like we don’t know what we’re doing, but at the same time know exactly what we’re doing.
RC: What happens when a high school band graduates?
CS: If things pan out the right way, we’ll take a gap year and just spend a year making music.
Listen to and download Yabadum’s music at their Bandcamp.