The Y Axes
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The Y Axes

San Francisco, CA | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

San Francisco, CA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Alternative Pop

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One of the most difficult things for bands to nail down is a voice that complements the music. There are countless bands that have great singers and great songs, but the two just don’t match, and it ends up relegating them to the realm of “nice but forgettable.” One of the best things about San Francisco’s The Y Axes is how they’ve managed to perfect the formula. Singer Alexi Rose Belchere has just the right voice to complement the group’s angular indie-pop, fusing sunny sweet harmonies and pure tone with dark lyrics.

The Joy Formidable is the most obvious point of comparison, but where that band goes for arena-rock exuberance, The Y Axes sound like a band for listening to alone in your room, lights low, staring out the window and hoping it’s all going to be okay. The new album Umbra (due out November 26, but available for pre-order now) is full of these addictive anthems, and new single “Monsters,” streaming exclusively at The A.V. Club, might be the best of the lot. Soaring guitars and multiple harmonies anchor a song whose uplifting vibe belies the subject of becoming alienated from yourself. Belchere explains the song’s meaning thusly:

‘Monsters’ is about losing your sense of self over time. Everything from your ability to move and speak to how you are able to process fear and love has slowly atrophied. In this state, you can either slip out of existence or take the opportunity to rewrite the rules of who you are. In the song, I imagine a group of people holed up in a hideout, trying to avoid an insidious ‘monster.’ I imagine that during this hibernation, the group evolves into a pack, and over time the monsters they fear start to look and sound no different from them. - AV Club


Last year, we got to chat with Kevin Devine, and in our conversation, he created a distinction between pop-punk and the music he was trying to make on his last record, punk-pop. It's one of those "I know it when I hear it" sort of things, and on their track "Patch Me Up," San Francisco alt-pop outfit The Y Axes strike a perfect balance between spacey pop and an unexpected, angular punk intensity.

We've got the exclusive premiere of "Patch Me Up," and it's one of those tracks that defies easy characterization. Alexi Belchere's voice has an ethereal, soft quality that contrasts with the propulsive, chord-driven guitars. Instrumentally, the track wouldn't be out of a place on a Thermals record (and the Y Axes have a gig opening for the Thermals coming up soon) but the vocals are post-pop Bjork-esque beauty. If you're looking for an instantly catchy track that you have to wrap your brain around, the Y Axes have you covered.

And here's a quote from frontwoman Alexi Belchere about the track: "In true The Y Axes style, 'Patch Me Up' is a bittersweet anthem for the anxious disguised as upbeat pop rock. The lyrics describe negative thoughts as if they are seeds sprouting and growing, with roots that can not only blind you from the positive things, but can carve permanent scars in the consciousness. A song about people supporting each other even as their own lives fall apart, the chorus lyrics 'You bring me back again when I'm lost in my head. When it gets bad again, you patch me up when I'm broken,' are a joyful battle cry against the internal struggles that can capture the mind." - Baeble Music


Almost a decade ago, at San Francisco State University, Alexi Belchere and Devin Nelson met in a Japanese class, became friends and discovered their birthdays were a day apart. Several years later, in 2011, they inaugurated their new band, the Y Axes, with a “Birthday Space Prom,” to celebrate. They’ve been writing and releasing their unique brand of indie pop rock with its blend of sci-fi and other futuristic elements ever since.

The band’s music is written primarily as a collaboration between Belchere and Nelson, while Jack Sundquist supplies the bass and visuals and Nick Schneider plays drums. Nelson, as guitarist, focuses primarily on building the chord structure and riffs of the songs. “One of my own motivations for writing music in this band has been trying to balance simplicity and complexity,” he explained. “I really like pop music, and I also really like crazy progressive metal. I want to bridge that gap. I want people who like pop music to appreciate more complex things and people who like more complex things to appreciate fun, pop hooks.”

Meanwhile, Belchere focuses more on the lyrical direction of the band, building on Nelson’s riffs to find the matching words, which for the Y Axes tend toward sci-fi and pop culture-oriented themes. “I can only put things in certain tangible terms that I can actually understand,” Belchere explained. “And that usually comes out in time travel and space and Game of Thrones.”

Nelson summed up that sentiment of authentic expression succinctly: “I think we’re just fucking nerds.”

That passion for knowledge is expressed in the band members’ school records. Nelson earned a degree in chemistry and completed two summer fellowships at NASA. Belchere, meanwhile, majored in English, and Sundquist studied music composition.

The band members also work full-time jobs in San Francisco, making their commitment to music production and performance all the more impressive. Nelson is a high school science teacher, while Belchere works for tech companies in San Francisco, and Sundquist waits tables during the day to keep his evenings free.

While everyone in the band admitted it can be frustrating trying to balance work and music, Nelson pointed out the silver lining: “I think being stressed out and really busy is kind of a catalyst for wanting to make art,” he explained. “If you’re really burnt out by your job, you naturally want some sort of cathartic outlet.”

What the band has crafted in response is a poppy, layered sound that mixes upbeat chord progressions with darker lyrics. “I think my lyrics are sad but with an optimistic spin,” Belchere said. “It’s like, things are shitty but they’re gonna get better. I think “Patch Me Up” in a way can be anthemic for people who are going through issues and struggles,” she explained of the band’s newest single.

The band has had its fair share of issues as well, cycling through several members before settling on the current lineup and spending a lot of time trying to get music recorded during the process. As they push more into touring and supporting their music, the pressures of balancing work become stronger as well. “I spend practically all my time not spent working on my job working on the band, and it’s exhausting,” Nelson said.

The band now faces somewhat of a turning point. The group has spent more time on music in the last year than ever before, and increasingly, the decision looms whether to continue with full time jobs while being limited in free time or to take the plunge and jump into music more fully. All expressed doubts about whether music alone can pay the bills but also showed excitement at the thought of having more time and energy to try to build momentum as a group.

It has its work cut out for it, but the group has the advantage of being extremely likeable. Far from the “cool-guy” attempted vibe, the band is genuinely just some goofy nerds, out of college and making music — as willing to discuss the pros and cons of privatized space travel as San Francisco’s music scene. As they move forward and try to build and interact with a fanbase, that quality is their greatest strength. - Daily Californian


The thing about expectations is that they usually (always?) disappoint. In their new single, "Great Escape," San Francisco band The Y Axes explores this theme, most notably in the context of being too young to know what you want or what you're getting yourself into. Buttressed by leadsinger Alexi Rose Belchere's pointed, crystalline voice, the guitar-heavy indie-rock song, which was written by Belchere, is based off of her own experiences as a young person with great expectations.

"I didn't have any drugs or alcohol until college, and by then, it was too late," she said. "Movies and TV had given me this impossible expectation of what youth partying was. And there I'd be at a a party — drunk or stoned or both — thinking about whether I'd gotten to that point of carefreeness. And it never really came."

Belchere and guitarist, vocalist, and synthesist Devin Nelson formed The Y Axes as a sideproject to their other bands in 2010 with the goal of helping each other finish their unused songs. But after two months of writing together, they realized they'd created an entirely new album, which would later become their debut, Discopacalypse. They played their first show as a quintet in 2011 at Belchere's and Nelson's space-themed birthday party dubbed "Space Prom," which is now a regularly occurring large-scale event that happens every July.

Over the next five years, the band's roster changed continually — with Belchere and Nelson remaining as static fixtures — and their lineup now consists of Jack Sundquist on bass and Nick Schneider on drums. The band are currently working on finishing their third album, tentatively called Umbra. The 11-track record is slated to be released this fall and will showcase The Y Axes' penchant for contrasting melodies and sounds, be it hard rock or upbeat pop, heavy chords or delicate progressions.

Catch The Y Axes tonight when they open for The Thermals at The Chapel. More info here. - SF Weekly


Having already released soaring, cosmic alt-rock bangers “Patch Me Up” and “Great Escape,” California-based Indie/pop/rock The Y Axes are returning soon with new album “Umbra.” An uplifting sound, surprising rhythms and skilled, tight drumming are the hallmark of this fun band from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where did the name of the new album originate?

An Umbra is the point of total obscuration in a shadow or eclipse, which while dark, can only be produced by a bright light,” shares band member Devin Nelson.

And the inspiration?

“…making fun pop songs that are secretly full of complexity and technical stuff,” adds Nelson.

Recorded in Oakland California at Hellam Sound, the new release delivers 11 fun pop-rock tracks bearing the vibe of upbeat vocalist Alexi Rose Belchere.

PRP particularly loves the lead guitar work on their effervescent “Hold Dawn” and have added it to our playlist. Lend an ear to this inviting track.

Songs were written and recorded by lead singer Belchere, Devin Nelson (guitar, vocals, synths), Jack Sundquist (bass, synths) and skillful drummer Nick Schneider.

Band members shared their favorite tracks with us via a recent email interview:

Nelson: “Umbra! I love writing epic closers. It was fun to take something that I originally intended as a rock opera and turn it into a cool evolving progressive pop song. I’m especially proud of the cinematic quality of the outro.”

Belchere: “Great Escape is my favorite at the moment, I really like the dynamic of the song and how it gets heavier and heavier as it goes.”

Sundquist: “Patch me up is my favorite song, whenever we play it live the crowd explodes!”

Schneider: “Umbra” is the best song on the album…it best captures our varying musical personalities. We are four unique musicians with four unique musical backgrounds and upbringings, causing a strange pop friction…“Umbra” is the apotheosis of that creative tension – atmospheric and ephemeral at the beginning, soaring and anthemic in the middle, heavy and ominous by the end, with a solid groove throughout. In this song, I hear the distinct and inimitable voices of each of us.”

While not from the new album, we just couldn’t resist mentioning superb track “Light” from their “Sunglasses & Solar Flares” release.

Here ’tis, we think you’ll love it! - Portland Radio Project


INTERVIEW WITH THE SAN FRANCISCO BAND THE Y AXES REGARDING NEW ALBUM

1.I thought that the first song and single off your new album” METEORITE” is a delightful pop banger with rich female lead vocals of Alexi with cool synths and drums. What would you like to tell me about this song ?

“Meteorite has this almost incoherent joyfulness to it that as a lyricist I was sort of mischievously proud of. If you run through the second half of the chorus”

“Days turn into nights- too short for all our lives”

“You just can’t miss- but I can’t take it in”

“It expresses the idea that life is short and so full that it’s almost overwhelming but does so in a very stream of consciousness fashion. Hearing it, I think you can get the tone, but it doesn’t even rhyme well. I feel like as a writer I have the storytelling pretty under control, but scaling back the wordiness and making a new rhyme pattern is what I find exciting right now.”

2. Tell me what is important to you and the band about this fantastic, new upcoming album UMBRA? Any particular places you would like to see your music played or maybe a few dream gig locations ?

“With “Umbra” more so than any of our previous releases, I feel like we didn’t sacrifice anything- time, effort, impulse into making the album, and the result is really a fully realized vision of what we wanted. Because of this, I think people will respond to it, sensing it’s an honest and passionate album. I’d like to tour with it basically anywhere that there’s a crowd of people who will sing along.”

3. I thought that the song “MONSTERS” had more harmonies but the title of the song made me curious of the meaning behind the song . Whom are the monsters in this song or is it a metaphor?
“The Monsters can be anything you fear- it can be a tangible thing, anxiety, fear of the unknown. Your fears can always play in the back of your mind “just at the edge” like the song says. It’s important to listen to that fear to see what it needs, because usually if your instincts are heightened there is really something you need to pay attention to. In some cases, you need to embrace that fear, find out what this consuming darkness is and get rid of it.”

4 The harder beat of “ALOINE” made me fall in love with the song right away. I was wondering about the spelling of this song title as it made me think of France for some reason. Am I right?

“I’m not sure of the etymology of the word is, but the title is the name of a character in a fictional song called “The Lay of Sir Savien Traliard” that appears in The Kingkiller Chronicle books by Patrick Rothfuss. The song is supposedly extremely difficult to play, and when the protagonist plays it, he is joined by chance by a person from his past to sing the female verse of the character Aloine. Sorry, that’s kind of a long explanation, but the lyrics of “Aloine” allude to people thinking about their past and the roles they play in life to survive, wishing the good things could remain the same.”

5. What local bands or artists around San Francisco do you enjoy and think need more notice ? Any particular artists or bands from San Francisco or anywhere that you would like to collaborate with or tour with perhaps ?

“There is a lot of amazing talent in the bay area right now! Right now, I’d recommend the Silhouette Era and Be Calm Honcho. We just a played shows with both bands, so they’re fresh in my mind. Ask me again next week and I’ll say Vela Eyes, Sunrunners, so many others! If we’re talking bands anywhere that need more notice and I’d like to play with, Say Hi, Hunter Hunted, and Magic Man come to mind.”

6. A soulful song “HOLD DAWN” has these vocals and instrumentals that did make me think of a new day with the vocals rather holding the listener from start to finish. Is it about starting over or fresh the next day?
“Similar to Meteorite, Hold Dawn is about appreciating the moment you’re in, whether good or bad. It’s easy to get disconnected and numb sometimes, especially when things aren’t going how you’ve planned. The chorus…..

Hold dawn back, the night goes

on into the sky no-

one gets it right, so

hold on, hold on, hold on”

“Is less about starting over fresh and more about stopping time and evaluating what’s happening, really feeling it.”

7. I also heard an interesting titled song “PASSCODE PROTECTED” and wondered if it was a message about how we need to spend less time on technology and more in real events around us ? How do you feel about all this fast surge in technology and how do you or the band unplug sometimes? Favorite or unusual hobbies ?

“Passcode Protected utilizes a technological interface as an analogy for real human communication issues. In the lines

Passcode Protected but caught in my head

so I shout every word I found

but you shut me out”…..

“the idea is that you can’t communicate, can’t find that connection, so instead you resort to shouting, which inevitably leads to one or the other party dismissing the conversation. This is like getting locked out of your computer after three tries at your password. The point is that there isn’t really a one-word solution to understanding, as sappy as that sounds.”

“I definitely got deep into social media for a while there. I was a bit late to the iPhone party, so I was using it like I had catching up to do, and it was pretty gross. Then, when I visited Outside Lands for the first time, there was a demo booth for Camp Grounded- a “digital detox” that allowed no pictures and no phones at all. Just the few hours I spent in the mini-camp changed my perspective, and since then I use technology as more of a tool for engaging with people than a substitute for human contact.”

8. The message in the song “PATCH ME UP” made me think about how we can all help each other out sometime ? What is the song about to you?

“It’s definitely about helping each other out. The song is about healing and is sort of a sister song to “Chemicals” from our previous release Sunglasses & Solar Flares. Chemicals was about breaking free from your past and “Patch Me Up” is sort of a ‘what now?’ response to that. An overarching theme I’ve noticed for Umbra is discovering how to live after you’ve spent so much time fighting to survive. When it’s no longer life and death, what kind of person are you? Patch Me Up is not just about holding someone else up, but also about holding yourself up and being your own strength.”

9. I was wondering if “THE GREAT ESCAPE” talks getting away from something or someone or avoiding making too many important decisions too young ? Or was The Great Escape an actual event that took place in one of your lives?
“For me, the Great Escape is this idea of being “wild and free” and youthful, and how this idealized time is a bit of a myth that drives people to put themselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations. The chorus is sort of a satire when juxtaposed to the verses and bridge of the song. The chorus is very “we’re young and free and who cares let’s get messed up” while the rest of the song is about people getting blackout drunk, passing out, and doing so many drugs that they’ve lost their minds.”

10. I heard more of a world message in the song “THE STORY” the lyrics …. “Do what is right and let history right itself .“ What is important to you in this song and the world in general?

“The fun thing about that line is that it can be “let history write/right itself.” Back to the idea that Umbra is about learning to live in after fighting to survive for so long, “The Story” is about taking stock of the time we live in. The recession caused to many institutions to crumble and it left holes in society that can either be filled by more of the same greed and corruption, or something new for the improvement of humanity. That’s a bit vague, and I’m not really qualified to talk about politics, but we have a unique opportunity to write the rules of the world we’re living in and not perpetuate the mistakes of the past.”

11. The last song I heard a bit more of a romance creeping in with the title track UMBRA with all the ups and downs . What can you tell me about this song ?

“There is definitely an uncurrent of romance on Umbra as a whole. I guess I’m getting more comfortable talking more plainly about personal things like that, with fewer filters washing them out. “Umbra” the song is really about living with depression. I’m fortunate enough not to be as susceptible to depression as many people close to me, and the song is really about trying to bear some of that overwhelming sadness for the people you love. But you can’t really share that weight, can’t pull it out of them, any more than you can pull the darkness from a black hole. All you can do is love and be there for them. The song threads back and forth from living with that sadness to trying to be as supportive as you can.”

You should all get to know this very talented quartet THE Y AXES from San Francisco with the large music repertoire including pre-ordering the new release UMBRA out on November 26th on any of the many media platforms including ITunes, Bandcamp or up on the band’s website now. The band THE Y AXES are also doing numerous live shows around San Francisco and some limited early CDS are available at these shows around town.It was a complete pleasure to feature such a talented, thoughtful and upbeat indie soul pop band The Y Axes from San Francisco . I loved hearing all about the new upcoming album from my interview too with the insightful THE Y AXES! - Music Nut


Discography

Umbra (November 2016)

Sunglasses & Solar Flares (December 2013)

Moon Rock (March, 2013)

Discopocalypse (May, 2012)


Photos

Bio

The Y Axes are a San Francisco-based indie outfit who play a unique blend of dreamy, synth-glossed pop and rhythmically muscular rock. Having initially formed as a recording project by vocalist Alexi Rose Belchere and guitarist Devin Nelson, the duo decided to take on the project full time after premiering a set of songs at their space and prom-themed joint birthday party in July 2011. Their lineup completed by bassist Jack Sundquist and drummer Nick Schneider, The Y Axes collaborate to create energetic and hard-hitting pop with ethereal vocal melodies that can stick in your mind for weeks and intricate instrumentations. Having recorded their latest album Umbra at with Aaron Hellam (Finish Ticket, Rin Tin Tiger, Black Map, etc.) at Hellam Sound, The Y Axes are set to release the full-length on November 26.

Band Members