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[POP] Yoyodyne is vanilla ice cream in a Chubby Hubby world. As other indie/underground acts in Portland battle to out-weird each other, to create the most avant-garde sounds and lyrics, Yoyodyne appeals with a sense of familiarity, and acts as comfort food for anybody who spent their formative days in the (relatively) blissful '90s. As heard on its self-titled debut EP, the trio of Johnny Keener, Jason Greene and Emily Vidal creates happy, bouncy, fluff pop that sounds derived from the Rentals, Weezer and the Cardigans. Completely devoid of obscurity, the three Portlanders may as well be singing about their music on the EP's last track, "In My Mind," with the lyrics, "Is it weird? Strange? Oh no, its perfectly normal." That might sound boring, but, rest assured, it's not.
Short and sweet, Yoyodyne's five-song EP is 15 and a half minutes of sheer happiness. Bassist Vidal and guitarist Keener take turns on vocals as Greene holds a steady, up-tempo beat on the drums. The EP's first song, "Cakewalk" has a retro sound, a poppy, three-chord rhythm combined with a chorus of "ba-ba-ba"s reminiscent of one of those '60s bands with matching blue suits performing on the Johnny Carson show. "I Want It," the second track, is Arcade Fire on Prozac, Vidal and Keener's voices dubbed so they sound like a full choir emitting overly ecstatic energy à la Polyphonic Spree. Each song is unique, yet equally lovable. As the rest of your ultra-cool indie rock collection starts to make your brain feel like it's gonna explode from contemplating ideas like the universe being shaped exactly like the earth, or realizing that everyone you know someday will die, Yoyodyne will be there to hand you a tranquilizer.

- Willamette Week

[PSEUDO-SERIOUS ROCK] “It’s been a long road,” says Johnny Keener, guitarist for local pop trio Yoyodyne. Hiding in his own Sidecar Studios with bassist Emily Vidal and drummer Jason Greene, Keener spent the past six months working on the band’s first full-length, Advice.

Yoyodyne’s studio stint made the five-year-old band a virtual specter, leaving a hole for locals who crave its catchy yet thoughtful and multi-layered rock. In a scene where so many groups sound like carbon copies, Yoyodyne is hard to pin down.

The group’s complexity can be traced to its trio of exceptional songwriters, who bring individual styles and influences to the table. Each member is a storyteller, but while West Virginia native Keener’s quirky narratives are bizarre stories of 35-foot tall men and furniture salesmen, Eugene-born Vidal is concerned with the conflict between humans and technology with a David Byrne-ish pseudo-seriousness. Her songs are executed with a deadpan candor and interspersed with split-time rhythms and gleeful abandon that seems to say que sera to the inevitable doomsday. Vidal, who Mississippi-raised Greene claims might be a cyborg, also proudly confesses that the band’s name references an evil corporation from sci-fi camp classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

The collaboration “really changes the flavor,” Vidal says over pints and a Steely Dan soundtrack at NoPo bar Vendetta. “A song can be a song, but the flavor of it can be so different.” And on Advice,the disparate flavors are enough to rattle the senses. The album jumps from the intergalactic infection of “Planet # 1” to the spaghetti-western horns (laid out over standard 4-4 rock) of “Raphael.” Influences range from current events and broken hearts, from travels abroad to voyages through inter-dimensional realms of bubblegum pop and melodic hallucinations.

The band’s lyrical world is populated with oddballs and strange scenarios, but when it’s all set to music, everything seems comfortably dangerous—an atomic bomb wrapped in cupcake paper, sprinkled with xylophone and distortion. Sure, the world’s gonna burn, but Yoyodyne’s smart rock and sweet, call-and-response lullabies (reminiscent of the songs from the neo-classic indie musicalOnce) offer a pretty uplifting soundtrack.

Now that it has Advice in the can, expect to hear more from the band on local stages, and perhaps even screens. Vidal, who works in staff production for MetroEast Community Media, took to the basement of the Blue Monk and filmed a karaoke melee as a low-budget video for her other band, the Crosswalks, and hopes to roll camera on Yoyodyne next. The group says it has about a half-album’s worth of new material on deck, which promises to be as varied as Advice.

“I want [listening to us] to be like you went to a potluck and tried lots of different things,” Greene says. “But it all went well together and you didn’t throw up.”

SEE IT: Yoyodyne plays Kelly’s Olympian Saturday, April 25, 2009 with the Future Historians and DJ Yarglefrep, 10 pm, $5, 21+.
AP Kryza - Willamette Week

Everyone knows one: a spoiled whiner, a normal, relatively privileged kid who thinks the world is out to get him or, as Yoyodyne so snappily puts it on “Cakewalk”: “a complainer with nothing to complain about.” In a quick, catchy two minutes, Yoyodyne bassist/vocalist Emily Vidal packs moments of attitude, hope (”You could be anything”) and cute humor (”Money and frosting give me away”) into this track. When the male backing vocals kick in (”You could be something/ You could be nothing”), the song resembles what it might sound like if the Thermals were emulating Superchunk’s clunky, lo-fi bop-rock or the clever, winking girly pop of That Dog sometime in the mid-‘90s. There’s something, too, about Vidal that makes me think she might be the female version of Calvin Johnson. Can’t you just imagine Johnson’s lazy baritone belting out her words: “I’m sufferin’ now/ Let me count the way-ay-ays”?

By Amy McCullough - Willamette Week

[indie-pop] I once called Emily Vidal, the no-nonsense bassist who makes up one-third of both the Crosswalks and Yoyodyne, the "female Calvin Johnson." And though Vidal chuckled at the thought of her mellow alto channeling Johnson's deep baritone, her voice—and the way she uses it to deliver wry tales of spoiled complainers or grown-up delinquents—has the same kind of lovably smartass, good-old-'90s-pop vibe as Johnson's. The comparison's more about attitude than tone: Vidal adds something delightfully campy to both the straight-ahead indie-rock of the Crosswalks and the slightly goofier, Americana-tinged tunes of Yoyodyne. It's the same sort of smirking wit that made Johnson's Halo Benders so much fun or that legitimized Stephen Malkmus' snottiness back in the day.

And it turns out Vidal is, quite tellingly, a fan of similarly jangly indie-rock (Built to Spill, Pavement), half-serious/occasionally-deadpan vocalists (Elvis Costello, Liz Phair) and melody-fueled bass players (Sting, Kim Deal). Originally from outside Eugene, the 33-year-old brunette says she's played bass on and off since she was 15. And, though her time at the University of Oregon offered her plenty of opportunities to play in others' bands, Vidal is not only the bass player for the Crosswalks and Yoyodyne, but also a voice and a contributing songwriter.

A video producer for MetroEast Community Media (public-access TV) by day, Vidal met songwriter/guitarist Johnny Keener (who also runs Sidecar Studio, where Yoyodyne recorded its self-titled debut) through a friend of a friend, and—once they convinced Jason Greene to join on drums-—Yoyodyne was born. The band's sort of Pixies-lite aesthetic offers a perfect backdrop for Vidal's winking lyrics on songs like "Matches & Gas"—in which she outlines how to burn down your old school. And when she shifts into her upper-register to contrast the pulsing bass line of "Ghost Town," the effect makes me downright nostalgic for the Superchunck of my college radio days.

Though the Crosswalks—originally guitarist Brendan McCracken and drummer Dave Shur—recorded a fine pop EP, This Was Now, before acquiring Vidal through a Craigslist ad, the trio has now recorded a full-length to be released in the spring, and Vidal's vocals and melody-driven bass lines are indespensible to new tracks like the alternately noisy and sunny "Voices."

Vidal says she's always though of herself as a songwriter first, adding, "I like to play with melodies." And, thankfully, both the bands Vidal plays in offer the kind of quirky, punchy melodies that originally made the Northwest the shit when it came to indie-pop. And, rather than feeling over or old, those lackadaisical vocals and jangly melodies are, these days, a more-than-welcome trip down memory lane.


The Crosswalks and Yoyodyne play with Dan Jones and the Squids Thursday, Dec. 7, at the White Eagle. 8:30 pm. $4. 21+. - Willamette Week





Advice is the sophomore release from the Portland, Oregon based pop-rock trio Yoyodyne. The band has played live in the Northwest since 2006 and boasts a self-titled release; their newest album demonstrates a sound that has matured greatly over the last 3 years. The addition of horns, electric and toy piano and cello meld seamlessly into the already solid guitar riffs, smooth bass lines and eclectic drums. Although the music has the same pop sensibility that captured hearts and ears with their first release, many of the lyrics on Advice are darker, sharply subtle and more solemn, reflecting on failing relationships and damaged self-confidence (“When You’re Stupid”, “Sidekick”). Gleaming pop gems like “The Tallest Man in the World”, “Over and Over”, and “Estrogen Pants” make you want to kick up your heels and dance the night away. “Bad Idea” is bluesy, while “Raphael” features horns reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Emily Vidal’s sincere alto vocals conjure distant memories of Rebecca Gates (Spinanes), while her warm bass lines wrap themselves around you tightly. Johnny Keener’s voice ranges from soft crooning to solid rock strength and his guitar has a voice all her own. Jason Greene’s drumming can charge you up, tease you playfully, and even evoke quiet evenings by the water. Guest artists include Ted Laderas (Oo-ray, Miniwave), Brendan McCracken (The Crosswalks) and Adam Hill. Yoyodyne will definitely strike chords with fans of Yo La Tengo and Small Factory. Advice offers listeners a sunlit, brightly colored soundtrack for any background.