Interview: Yatra

It’s just been the progression of the band as we’ve played and toured so much in the past three years and gotten more technical and played with lots of heavier and faster bands, and that’s also more where we all come from in our musical roots for Yatra.

Yatra are a doom metal band from Maryland and the  have just released their new album All Is Lost, which is a straight to the point slab of heaviness. Gavin Brown had a chat with Yatra vocalist/guitarist Dana Helmuth to discuss All Is Lost as well as their prodigious recording output so far, memories of memorable gigs and all things doom.

E&D: Your new album All Is Lost is out now. How did the creation and recording of the album go?  

Dana: Everything went really smooth on all sides. The songs all came out really naturally and the studio session were very good and creative as well.

E&D: Do you feel that the album’s title is prophetic considering the state of the world at the moment? 

Dana: That song I actually wrote right before all of this COVID-19 stuff, and we had performed it one time live at Shadow Frost Metal Festival, which was I think the last show we played before we were supposed to leave for tour on March 13. It was a great show and we got to open for Vastum that we like very much. So that song was kind of the blueprint for what I was writing after our Europe tour last year. We were seeing big changes going on in Europe both politically and socially while we were on tour over there, and also the attitude towards Americans and our government as well.

E&D: Who did the stunning artwork for and is that what you envisioned for the album’s cover?

Dana: Yes, we love the cover for this one, and have been big fans of Paolo Girardi’s paintings for many years, but couldn’t get the timing right with getting anything for the timelines for previous albums. We are also very happy with the artwork for the cover of our last album Blood Of The Night from Thomas Hooper and also the first album Death Ritual from Akki Pitkanen. All the artwork really fits the individual albums and that is really important to us. That’s the icon you see, as a listener, in your head for the album after you listen to it and remember it by, you might not remember the title but if somebody asks ‘which album’ you can describe the image and colors and that’s important to us.

E&D: Do you think that All Is Lost is your heaviest album yet and is that what you wanted with this album? 

Dana: It’s just been the progression of the band as we’ve played and toured so much in the past three years and gotten more technical and played with lots of heavier and faster bands, and that’s also more where we all come from in our musical roots for Yatra. We never set out to for instance ‘let’s start a “insert boring genre label here” band. It’s the media and the reviewers and critics that do all that stuff and we’ve always kind of not really fit in completely in any of the titles we’ve been given or described as.

E&D: In addition to the heaviness, there seem to be a few psychedelic influences on the record especially on songs like ‘One For The Mountain’, did you always want to incorporate this type of vibe and sounds into your music? 

Dana: ‘One For The Mountain’ to us, isn’t ‘psychedelic ‘ at all….it’s way more just ZZ Top or Skynyrd/Allman Brothers slide guitar delta blues vibe with nasty vocals on the chorus part. Which is pretty heavy stuff. That’s another label we were kind of surprised with on this album. I think our last album definitely had psych songs like ‘Three Moons’ or ‘After The Ravens’, in a clear definition of that term, but we were pretty surprised anyone labeled this new album or any of its content as psychedelic. We like that kind of stuff too but think of many other bands we know for that title if that makes sense. Like Dead Meadow or Temple Fang or Windhand I would say psychedelic for, even Yob or Mm very much so, but I don’t think we fit in with that. We could definitely play with or tour with those bands gladly, but the differences would be a refreshing positivity in lineup, but not same ‘genre.’

E&D: What has the feedback from this album been like so far? 

Dana: I think it’s all been good so far. Hard to know really because normally when we are in the road, which is most of the time, like 200 shows last year, we talk to people and work our own merch booth and hang out so we really get honest feedback from people outside our friends or diehard fans. It’s amazing to talk to someone who just saw you for the first time and is asking something like, ‘I can only afford to buy one album and I loved the third song, which album is that from?’ So it’s been really different with no touring and hard to really tell.

E&D: This is your third album in less than two years. Did you always want your releases to be so prolific? 

Dana: I just write a lot and always stay very creative and we are all really into the band and have a strong work ethic. We also really wanted to break the schedule of having a January release which is a bad time to release an album, so we told ourselves we had to do the next album asap to be able to release in oct and break that cycle we were on.

E&D: You released the album Blood Of The Night at the start of this year. Did you always plan to release two albums this year? Bands like Sabbath used to do it but you don’t get many bands doing releasing two albums a year anymore! 

Dana: Blood Of The Night, we had been touring with all that material for like three tours and all of Europe so when that album came out I was eager to start writing new material because even though it was a new album, we had been performing all of it but two songs for a year I think.

E&D: How has Blood Of The Night been received? 

Dana: Well, Blood Of The Night was released a month before COVID-19 shutdown and stopped touring, so we weren’t able to talk to people about it directly like I mentioned above. Honestly, we don’t really know. We lost communication with lots of the people behind the production and distro of that album and really have no idea how it has done, much to our disappointment. Seemed like when COVID hit everyone just went in their shells and freaked out and we wrote and recorded another album haha. Maybe we are a little possessed.

E&D: You released your debut album Death Ritual only last year. How was the experience of bringing your first record out? 

Dana: Death Ritual was a great introduction and led us down some amazing paths and highways. That album has our original drummer and great friend Mike Tull on it, so a very different feel. He couldn’t tour so we were fortunate to be able to change drummers seamlessly to Sean.

E&D: Have you got any tentative plans for any touring if and when that is all possible again? 

Dana: We are just waiting in limbo to hear. We had some really amazing tours coming up that we hadn’t even announced yet so we have no idea what will be next.

E&D: On a happier note. How did your tour in Europe go last year and what were some of the highlights? 

Dana: It was an amazing experience. Very different from how we tour in the USA. It was incredible to play DesertFest in Belgium and Hostsabbat in Oslo and also Into the Void in Netherlands and Setalite fest in Berlin. Also, a ton of great club shows like Paris and Munich and Copenhagen just to name a few. we played like 25 shows in 27 days, I think.

E&D: What has been the best and most memorable show that Yatra have ever played? 

Dana: Absolutely DesertFest Belgium. We were supposed to play DesertFest NYC last month but that was cancelled so hopefully we get to do more of those in future.

E&D: How did Yatra start as a band? 

Dana: The cloud dragons came down from the mountains and lit the torch for us to keep burning. For real.

E&D: Who are the biggest influences on the sound of Yatra? 

Dana: Just all of our collective experiences and musical memories over our lifetimes. We just let it happen really. we definitely try not to sound like anybody else and mostly listen to stuff not really like bands that we have been grouped with. For instance, we get put on some doom bills or tours and we are way too metal, and also we get put with some bands and we are way too doom. We kind of like that.

E&D: Who are some of your own personal influences as a musician? 

Dana: I love so many players dearly it’s hard to even start. I started playing when I was 8 so I’ve piled up some extensive mental lick files. If I list any I’ll regret not listing others later so I’ll just say a lot of it is pretty easy to figure out if you listen .

E&D: What are your favourite doom albums of all time and what is it about them that makes us so special?

Dana: I didn’t really know the term doom until maybe two decades after I had already been listening to a lot of the bands later called ‘Doom’. Like for instance, I played in this awesome band in Baltimore, Scouts Honor and we opened for St Vitus in ’93 or ’94 and nobody was calling it doom at the time. I think we played with Jawbox the next week and Big Chief the following, and that’s unheard of these days because all those bands now have very drastic labeling that wasn’t there at that time, and promoters wouldn’t put them together now. Same with Eyehategod and Sleep at that time. So I have a hard time with labeling heavy music these days especially with all this hipsterization of terms like doom, stoner, sludge. It’s confusing.

E&D: What newer bands would you recommend for us to check out? 

Dana: We are fortunate enough to play with so many bands on tour that it’s great to constantly see and hear new bands. Both new as a band and new to us just because we never heard of them. with Bandcamp and Spotify and things like that it’s an endless cauldron of new stuff to dive into!

E&D: What have been some of the most memorable moments in your time with Yatra so far?

Dana: Well, I got attacked by a pitbull coyote mix in San Diego last year on tour and got me pretty good, that was pretty memorable. Broke my ring finger of my fretting hand second night of Europe tour so that was fun to play 25 shows with haha… DesertFest was an incredible performance for us and our biggest crowd we ever played for. Monolith on the Mesa festival in Taos New Mexico was amazing; lots of desert experiences in the Southwest and Joshua Tree. The drive from Western Washington State across Idaho and into Montana and then Glacier National Park and then the Badlands was probably a life highlight. Waking up in the van in a field surround by buffalo in Montana was incredible. Driving through the alps in Europe. We’ve had some amazing times as a band and are very fortunate and grateful. Thanks for the interest in our band and taking the time to write and ask us these questions. We are thankful for you.

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