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13 Jun 2019

Head Down and Work: The YIP YOPS, Now a Duo, Continue to Reach for the Stars

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The YIP YOPS. The YIP YOPS.

It’s been a long and winding road for the YIP YOPS, a band many touted as the Next Big Thing to come out of the Coachella Valley.

It all started when the members of the band were still in high school, and the band won a spot to play at the 2014 Tachevah Block Party in Palm Springs. The band then signed a contract with a management group that later fell apart; recorded an album with famed local producer Ronnie King that the band members went on to disavow; and crossed playing Coachella off their bucket lists in 2017.

However, as the summer of 2019 arrives, the community has not heard much from the YIP YOPS as of late, with no new releases and few local shows.

However, never fear: The YIP YOPS are alive and well … albeit at half their former size: The band recently announced both keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield and bassist Jacob Gutierrez had left the band, after completing a Monday night residency at The Echo in Los Angeles. The two remaining members, frontman Ison Van Winkle and drummer Ross Murakami, recently sat down with the Independent in Indian Wells, where Van Winkle filled us in on what was going on.

“We’re writing, recording and trying to develop ourselves more and more,” Van Winkle said. “We obviously had some great milestones over the past couple of years that we hit and we’re proud of, but the goal is still the same: Play bigger shows, and run with bigger artists. I feel like we have a certain head-down-and-work mentality.”

Murakami added that the band has been working hard to expand its name beyond the Coachella Valley.

“The writing has always been constant,” Murakami said. “… I don’t know how it’s possible with all the things going on, whether it’s touring or music videos and all these other things we need to work on. The ideas are still being fleshed out and written, and new music is always there, and it’s building up behind us. The main thing we’ve been doing specifically for the past couple of years or so has been creating a buzz in other markets. That’s been the focus point. We have pretty big goals in mind, and they are not going to be achieved by sticking around in one market. Expansion is always on our minds.”

Mari Brossfield and Jacob Gutierrez played their last show with the YIP YOPS at The Satellite in Los Angeles back in December.

“Basically, the next day, we started this next phase where we started reworking everything,” Murakami said. “Every song that we play live is now reworked and revamped to fit a duo. We decided that playing as a duo was the best way to move forward. We’re both really excited about it.”

Van Winkle said the material will probably not sound very different.

“We’re still playing the same songs in the same structure with the same lyrics,” Van Winkle said. “I think that the songs, because I’ve written all the ones we play—they all come from the same place. In that respect, I wouldn’t say it’s changed as much as it’s evolved.”

Brossfield and Gutierrez left the band to focus on their college educations; Murakami said he and Van Winkle supported them in making that decision.

“We’re still great friends,” Murakami said. “It has nothing to do with anything other than where your hearts are at. Our hearts are in the music, and it just has to be that way. But I think anytime someone makes a decision to move toward something that will make them happier in what they are doing, they should absolutely do it. That’s what that was.

“Since then, I feel like the band has really shifted to where it hasn’t ever felt as good as it feels now.”

Despite all the highs and lows, Van Winkle said there’s nothing they would have done differently.

“It’s so easy to look back on it and think, ‘Oh, we could have done that,’ or some shit like that,” Van Winkle said. “I always think if it got us to this point, I don’t see the need to change much. Going through all these experiences is what got us to this point. Going through the good times and the not-so-good times is what shaped us. If we didn’t have those experiences, we wouldn’t see it the same way as we do now.”

When I first met the YIP YOPS back in 2014 at Ison Van Winkle’s house, he showed me material that he had recorded on his computer. His father, Tony, told me Ison could sit there all night long working on material.

“That hasn’t changed,” Murakami said with a laugh. “He’s still doing that.”

Van Winkle explained: “To me, it’s like a first love. You’re almost obsessed with it, and you’re so attached to it. I can’t imagine not doing it.”

When you look at the social media accounts for the band, it appears that Van Winkle is aspiring to become some sort of fashion icon; his wardrobe looks like a mixture of the clothes from any recent Gucci runway show and a ’70s thrift-store rocker. It’s a long way from the early days when the entire band would wear hazmat suits and sunglasses onstage.

“I like to wear certain things, and if I like a certain thing, I’ll wear it,” Van Winkle explained. “It’s not a master plan or anything; it just happens. Some days are better than others, and we try to keep Instagram (posts) to the better days of fashion and try to hide the bad decisions.”

What can we expect from the YIP YOPS near future?

“We’re hoping that we can get a show or two locally this year,” Van Winkle said. “We miss playing here, and the struggle has been finding the right venue to play at. Other than that, we’re going to continue to play shows in Los Angeles and Orange County, and we have a few festivals lined up in October and November. We’re taking advantage of those opportunities to do more touring and hook up with local bands.

“Musically, as we speak, we’re continuing to write and record. We’re ready to release, but we want to be smart about it and have enough (material) … so that we can build momentum. We have to think like that, because we’re doing it all ourselves. It’s literally just us, and that goes for recording, and I’ve been spending most of the past six months developing my skills to where we don’t have to go to a studio to record and can take the bedroom-pop approach. We can record as many songs as we can and do whatever we want—and make it sound just as good as in a studio. There’s so much freedom.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/yipyops.

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