Yoni Gordon is a tireless musician who inspires people to come alive with the gospel of rock and roll. Seeing him play live is akin to a Tent Revival wherein the part of Jesus is being played by Chuck Berry and Yoni is speaking to the congregation in tongues through his electric guitar. Far from being just an inspired performer, he is a skilled songwriter who approaches his craft with workmanlike dedication and the melodic know-how to make his statements stick.
So call up that friend who just got dumped or you’re buddy who’s heart stays in sync with the seasons and tell them you’ve got just the thing to cheer them up – tickets to see Yoni Gordon and The Goods this friday night at The Middle East Upstairs.
Q&A w/ Yoni Gordon
Q: You’ve been in the studio recording your new album, how are the sessions coming along?
A: I am happier with this album, which is going to be called Turning Chaos Into a Career, than with any other album I’ve ever been involved with. Usually the process for making an album is: I write and write and write, and we play and play and play until we know the songs well, and then we record everything live, put reverb on it and call it a day. For this one, we actually took our time to get interesting sounds and didn’t feel the need to nail everything in one take. The goal was to make something that wasn’t trying to hit you over the head quite as hard as the last one was. I wanted it to be a record that you could listen to and maybe relax a little bit while doing so(only a little bit though). I also didn’t want super tight arrangements on the album, because I wanted that to happen over the course of playing the songs live in front of an audience. That way, you get two different experiences depending on whether you are seeing us live or listening the album
The songs were written all in the same chunk of time, right after a trip to the Middle East(the region, not the bar) and a solo tour across most of the country. Both of those experiences were pretty fresh in my mind while writing these songs.
Q: On your website, yonigordon.com, you have pictures from a concert you played for students of Baldwin Public School. How does one go about booking a gig at an elementary school?
A: When I lived in Cambridge I worked for the afterschool program at the Baldwin. Those pictures were from their vacation week. Basically what happens is, during Spring break, those kids with parents have to work, are stuck with us from 8am to 6pm, which is a really long day! Especially for six year oldssp; So we tried to plan really special things for them, like trips to museum or musical guests.
That show was super fun! We got all the kids to sing along to Up the Punks. I was actually surprised at how much everyone enjoyed it. You know that kids aren’t going to bullshit you, and if you suck they will let you know. I think we did pretty ok. bsp;
Q: What is the most flattering/sickening musician/band comparisons you has received from fans, friends, family, press etc…?
A: As far as people comparing music, I tend to think that the comparisons that they make have more to do with the music that THEY listen to rather than who your band may or may not sound like. When we first started out all I heard was how much we sounded like Elvis Costello and Buddy Holly(?!). Then for a while it was Bob Dylan. Now it is usually Ted Leo. Go figure.
The only one that has ever really chapped my hide was when Ted Leo himself said that I kind of sing like Weird Al Yankovic(this supposedly took place, I wasn’t there for it. My friend told me about it). I don’t sound like Weird Al, do I?
In a couple of reviews of the last record, Springsteen came up and that made me pretty happy. But again, that has more to do with you I actually like and listen to rather than what the music sounds like.
Q: You are known to be a tireless performer who embraces the power of live music with a giant bear hug. At what point in your life did you realize you were going to play music? What was the most inspiring live show you saw growing up?
A: Thanks for those kind words. I’ve been on stage in form or another for twenty odd years now(I started at 8 or so), and have pretty much always known that I would be performer of some sort. I liked it up on stage and felt comfortable in front of an audience, and not having that hurdle allowed me to just hone in on the skill of being engaging in front of a bunch of people.
I didn’t like music until late, about 16 or so. With no real reason or musical ability, I just became involved in that world. There was music shop by my house and the deal was that they would give you an electric guitar and amp for “free” and then you pay it off with lessons. So that is what I did. I paid it off and then I was done. About a year into playing guitar, I started writing songs that I liked(after writing a bunch that were just kind of embarrassing).
From the get go, like before I could even play a chord and all I could do was just make noise, it was pretty clear that I would be involved with music from then on.
Like I said, I didn’t even really listen to music ’till I was 16, and then there was not a whole lot going on in my town. I didn’t start going to shows till college. I mean I went to big, big concerts as a kid, but that is not really the same thing. When I was 21 I saw The Terribles and The Goonies play at the Mass Art auditorium, and that really changed some things for me. When the Goonies played, you couldn’t tell where the audience ended and the band began. They were set up on the floor and you would just occasionally see Kevin Driscoll(the singer) pop up in the crowd. There were tons of people there and I have never felt so good to just be a cog in the wheel, you know what I mean?
Q: If you could play a show in Boston with 3 other local bands who would they be and at what Boston venue would you play?
A: You know, I played a show at TJ Scallywaggles Vegan House of Pizza last year, and it was perfect! Tiny place, super hot, but one of the best shows I;ve ever played! That was with Merganser, Diamond Mines and myself. So I would do that again. And throw Jonathan Richman in there. Is he still local?
Watch Yoni Gordon and The Goods “Up the Punks”
Middle East Upstairs 1/16, doors at 8:30. 18+ $9. Buy tickets here.