Hampshire rockers Yearbook have a couple of EPs under their belt and the future is looking bright for an album release sometime in the future. With a fresh and exciting alternative rock sound, the boys seem to be on the way up. After seeing the band live supporting Lower Than Atlantis we discovered that frontman/guitarist Andrew was vegan - so got in touch to find out what qualities he thinks are important to have in a band, why he was inspired to make the leap from vegetarian to vegan, which fictional character he would compare himself to and his changing perceptions of Russell Brand.
By Emily Clarkson
Emily Clarkson : Yearbook have an EP entitled ‘Old Bones'. What's the story behind the name 'Old Bones'?
Andy Halloway: Oddly, I actually thought of the artwork first and then the name. I thought that the image of the bones laid out would be visually striking and the name sort of followed from that. After that we wrote the song 'Old Bones' and it all seemed to tie in nicely thematically.
EC: In ‘Old Bones' there's a quote/spoken word at the start saying ‘the things I fear the most are the things that keep me trying'. What do you fear? And what do you keep trying to do or achieve? AH: The quote at the start of the record is related directly to my experience of being a musician really. I really want to succeed, I am not really sure how that success looks yet in all honesty, and the fact that I feel I have not yet succeeded is what keeps me doing it. I am sure whenever I get to the place that I think of as success right now the goalposts will have moved and I will still remain unsatisfied but I suppose that is just how it is.
EC: You have a song on ‘Old Bones' called 'Time Management'. Are there any pet hates you have, such as bad time management? AH: I am just as bad as the next person for my time management, I don't think I have been early to anything in years. I can't think of any specific pet hates that really get me. There are always little things about different people that might be a bit annoying, but someone else might do the same thing and it doesn't bother me. Tom (our guitarist) has the worst time management on earth and is even later for stuff than I am so luckily I don't get too much stick from the rest of the band for being late because he is always going to arrive after me anyway.
EC: What qualities are important to have in a band? AH: I think that commitment is the most important quality to have as a band member - besides actual musical talent, but that is a bit of a given really. It's often not easy to have to put aside stuff you really want to do to do bands stuff that isn't instantly gratifying (like rehearse and stuff) but if you are committed to it, then it's just how it has to be. Being able to be the butt of the joke within a group helps in our band as well, as its always someone's turn to be at the raw end of some playful jests.
EC: You have a song called 'Aslan'. If you had to compare yourselves to a fictional character, who would it be and why? AH: I would probably compare myself to Adrian Mole from the Sue Townsend books. He is a bit of a self obsessed loser, but isn't a bad guy at heart. Or Mark Corrigan from Peep Show. Everyone who knows me says that I am just like him because I can be pretty weird and obsessive about little things, and a bit uptight as well. At the same time, I am a musician, so maybe I am a little bit of Mark and Jeremy from Peep Show. Basically, I am Peep Show.
EC: In your song 'We Are Strangers', you sing 'I tried my best to be all the things you wanted me to be'. How much pressure is there to be a certain way – either in the music industry or in life in general? Who are you impressed by for being exactly who they are and not catering to what others may want? AH: Personally, I don't find that much pressure to be a certain way, but then I am pretty headstrong and do what I want anyway. I suppose if I was a bit weaker willed I might give in to social pressures more, maybe have my hair in a little man bun or something. When you don't feel like you experience any pressure to be a certain way its sort of hard to imagine what it would be like to feel that sort of pressure. I don't know if people consciously decide to follow trends or if they just don't think about it at all. Within the industry there is certainly a sort of desire for people to change what they do for various reasons. Sometimes it can come from an internal desire to be successful, or from pressure from those more involved in the business side of the industry who maybe just have a different perspective on the artistic importance of bucking the trend. I don't necessarily think that the whole industry is money driven, and I don't think that people get into it to make money only, but at some point as with everything you've got to pay the bills. I don't begrudge people doing what they need to pay the bills, but maybe if that was balanced with something real and honest that would make it more bearable.
EC: On Jan 23 you tweeted about a certain band saying their songs were ‘so dull. Tired lyrics, as deep thematically as a puddle and drab arrangements'. What themes would you like more bands to sing about? What have been your deepest themes in a song that mean the most and have you had any feedback from fans to anything you've written about? AH: I don't really mind what bands sing about, just so long as they mean it and it has some sort of artistic value. Mostly people think that all of our songs are about relationships or girls or something. I think that is certainly true for a lot of 'Old Bones' but maybe not the new stuff. With the new material I have tried not to make it so personal because I found that it put a lot of strain on some of my relationships in my personal life. These new songs try to take in bigger and more expansive themes. Some of them are not really about anything in particular, but are more trying to capture a mood in a song.
EC: 'On Jan 1 you tweeted 'My New Years resolution is to release an album. Should be fairly easy to achieve I reckon.' How far are you on an album? When do you think you'll release it? AH: At the start of the year we had written and demoed the whole album, since then I will admit that not a whole lot has happened so I am not so sure that the album will be out by the end of the year. It's a much longer process than anyone realises (even me) so that has stalled us quite a bit. So yeah, in all honesty, I don't have a clue when we will release it. Sooner rather than later I hope.
EC: On Nov 21 you tweeted 'We just finished demoing our most out there song so far. It is super good'. Can you tell us about that song? Why is it your 'most out there song so far'? AH: It's one of the later songs on the album, and it is almost all electronic samples. As with a lot of our songs it doesn't have a 'chorus' as such. It still sounds like Yearbook, but it is just something that at the start of the album writing sessions I wouldn't have imagined doing, but now its on the album it doesn't sound all that out of place, which is good.
EC: What made you become vegetarian/vegan? How long have you been vegetarian/vegan? How did others, such as family, react to that?
AH: I have been vegetarian for five or so years. I had thought about it for a long time, and decided that it was more ethical to be a vegetarian than not. I waited until I went to university though so that I was buying my own food. I knew that I would stick to it if I just didn't buy food I couldn't eat. I also didn't want to burden my mum too much with having to cook separate meals for me every night. Whilst I was studying - this time at a totally different university and a totally different course - I got really into reading and writing about ethics. I realised that my stance on why I became a vegetarian was hypocritical if I did not follow it through and become a vegan. I mulled it over for about a year or two before I took the plunge though. I tried it once and had some awful vegan cheese that put me off trying it for a while because cheese and dairy made up a large part of my vegetarian diet. I ended up totally giving up cheese a few months before becoming totally vegan to try and lose some weight and I would recommend doing it that way to anyone who thinks cheese will be their biggest hurdle.
(SBV - We think there are so many different vegan cheeses around now that it's good to try a variety - our faves are Vegusto, Violife and Veganic - although USA has the amazing Daiya. Trying a bad cheese CAN put you off, but there are so many different ones now, with new brands coming out all the time. Facebook vegan product groups help alert you to new vegan items and are worth joining - you discover new vegan products all the time that you didn't know existed).
EC: What is one issue to do with animal rights that is particularly close to your heart? AH: I don't think there is any one issue that I can highlight that wouldn't draw away from the larger issue. I thought that people's hypocrisy over the horse meat scandal was very telling though. Also, the way that people seem to think it's terrible that in some countries they eat dogs but don't then see that that is no different to eating any other animal blows my mind.
EC: In ‘Art Student' you sing ‘let me show you how it feels to be like this'. Why do you think some people have no feelings when it comes to animals and animal cruelty and what do you think is the best way to show them how to feel more?
AH: I really don't know actually. This is something I often think about, both regarding veganism and various other ethical quandaries. How do you convince someone who has all the facts that they should care about them? No one that eats meat nowadays can claim that they don't know how their food is made or that the animals are treated badly. How you make them connect those facts to actual suffering of conscious beings is the difficult part. If I had an answer to that then everyone I know would be vegan already I suppose. I think that the myth that 'Free Range' and 'Organic' food production is nice and fluffy and equates to a much better quality treatment of the animals has done a lot of damage to the cause as it gives people an easy mental escape.
EC: In 'Time Management', you sing 'Do you really feel like we're moving forwards.' What do you think could help with the advancement of animal rights?
AH: If people could be convinced to eat LESS meat that would be a start at least. Some people I know can't conceive of a meal without some sort of meat in it, which is both unsustainable and ludicrous. I think with all issues of an ethical nature it's better to push people into doing more, but not making it an all or nothing sort of deal. It's great if people want to become vegan, but if instead they want to become vegetarian then that is better than nothing, and even if they only want to have a lower meat intake that is better than doing literally nothing.
EC: When you're on the road and on tour, what are your favourite meals? Do you ever pack any vegan things like snack bars? AH: Peanut Butter sandwiches are a must have. As is lotus spread (caramelised biscuit spread, the most delicious thing on earth). Aside from that I eat a lot of quick packet rice when I am touring as the venues or places we stay normally have a microwave so I can get that cooked in a couple of minutes. Touring is mostly about just getting enough food to last the day at our level! We very rarely get given a rider, or one that is enough to actually feed everyone, so I tend to buy loads of packet rice at the start of the tour and keep them in the van!
EC: Do you ever get your bandmates to eat vegan meals or go to any vegan diners with you? Do they like anything vegan? AH: If we are all eating together everyone will eat vegan because its easier. Normally it's fajitas or burritos as they are dead easy to make vegan, and if anyone is really bothered they can put meat in once I have taken mine (no one ever does though, mostly through laziness). There is this one vegan all you can eat buffet in Norwich that we always eat at if we can when we play. It's really cool but doesn't have any chairs, so if you eat in you have to all stand around eating off of plastic plates. It's odd, but cool. There is a great vegan cafe in Manchester as well that does an awesome breakfast wrap that has peanut butter in it but I can't remember the name of it.
EC: On Dec 5 you tweeted 'Can people please stop calling Russell Brand an 'activist'? The only thing he has activated recently is some hair curlers.' Have you done any activism yourself? Have you been on any protests?
AH: Actually, my opinion of Russell Brand has almost totally changed. I still think that he can be a bit of a faux intellectual, and his use of verbose language annoys me but as someone who is passionate about what they believe in I can't fault him. His Trews youtube videos are a bit self serving sometimes but I think that is just hard grained into his nature as an extrovert performer. He has just this week endorsed Ed Milliband and encouraged people to vote for him, which although probably a bit late given his previous 'don't vote' stance is at least proof that he is someone who is actually thinking about these things and coming to his own conclusions. The only difference is that he will be held to account for changing his mind because he is a public figure. I feel for him in that sense, because doing a total 180 on your publicly announced opinions is hard (much like I am now, to a lesser extent!) and will have taken some real guts. I doubt there are many other people who actually care enough about anything to swallow their pride and do something like that. I still disagree with him on a lot of stuff, but I think that overall he is a force for good in the world, which is more than can be said for a lot of people. It will be interesting to see how involved in politics he is in 6 months time, once the buzz of the election has died down. With regard to my own activism and protest attendance, I will admit that aside from the minor one we held at my school against the Iraq war I have not done any or been to any. Some might see this as hypocritical on my part, and to a certain degree I agree that it is, but I think that immediate actions in your own life are the best way to create real change. I know that it was not intended to sound like it, but I also feel that questions like “Have you done any activism yourself? Have you been on any protests?” can sometimes sound very judgemental, and can actually have the opposite effect on people and make them less likely to engage in working for change as it makes them feel like they can't do anything unless they commit to protesting or becoming an activist. Truth is that lots of people making smaller and less visible changes to the way they live is often the best way to enact major change in society.
EC: Since the band name is Yearbook, have you read any animal rights/vegan related books that have inspired you or that you'd recommend to others? AH: I have read and written university essays on animal rights and vegetarianism/veganism - most notably Peter Singer - but I came to being a vegan through my own thought process so have never felt the need to seek out books or articles to justify my decision. I would recommend that people who are interested in it read up not just on animal rights, but instead on ethics in general and then think about the animal rights issue once they have decided where they sit ethically in general. I think that once you start reading into ethics, it's pretty hard to ignore the ethical dilemma of where your food comes from.