YONAKA Don’t Want You To Live An Ordinary Life

BRICKS speaks to front woman Theresa Jarvis about new single 'Ordinary', theatrical inspirations and harnessing your own power.

PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO DIRECTOR Jade Jackman
STYLING Joel Palmer

Hot on the heels of single ‘Seize The Power’, the Brighton-based quartet – comprised of Theresa Jarvis, George Edwards, Alex Crosby and Robert Mason – are defining their refreshed sound with latest single release, ‘Ordinary’. Out today, the self-produced track showcases Theresa’s soft yet soaring vocals and explores the anxiety-inducing notion of sleeping on your dreams and the importance of seizing life’s adventures.

The singles mark the group’s first new material since 2019’s Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow. Their debut laid the foundation for YONAKA‘s DNA – candidly capturing Theresa’s mental health experiences, distilling powerful messages on growth and self-exploration into bold, defiant rock tracks. With live gigs finally on the horizon, YONAKA are scheduled to play Catfish and the Bottlemen’s UK Swansea show in Singleton Park on September 4th, along with Sonic Wave and 110 Above festivals this summer.

Following the shoot, we chatted to frontwoman Theresa about the song’s inspiration, working with a new creative team and her guilty-pleasure love of Meatloaf.

You’ve always been very candid about your mental health firstly before we started, I just wanted to ask how you are doing? How are you finding lockdown 3? 

This one’s probably been the kindest to me. I felt like the one that hit me the hardest was the second lockdown. I think the first one was kind of like ‘OK what’s going on’, like, everything was different and I kind of appreciated the first one because I felt like I could just step back and see like what was going and like ‘is this all right, is this song right, and are the people we work with right?’ It’s quite nice to be slowed down because I think when you’re moving so fast you make decisions really quickly and they may not have been the best ones, but then I became like a writing machine – I couldn’t stop writing. We were writing six days a week, but by the end of the year it was just were still going but everything had started to sound shit and it was hurting my brain.

This lockdown I’m feeling okay because I’m so excited that we’ve finally been releasing music and have some exciting plans coming up, so I’m doing good right now.

What music has been getting you through the lockdown and has any of this inspired any of your upcoming releases? 

I kind of shoot myself in the foot with this because I listen to the same stuff over and over again, I listen to Kanye West all the time. A new person I’ve been listening to who I’m in love with his Rico Nasty – I only discovered her a few months ago but I was walking down the street and I had this strut on and singing along, I was just loving it. I’m always listening to Jeff Buckley, Tyler The Creator and lots of Lady Gaga, I just love her.

Did anything embarrassing show up in your Spotify Wrapped last year?

Yeah, I’m obsessed with Meatloaf. I grew up with Meatloaf – they’re one of my mum’s favourite artists. She’s got some really cool ones like Prince, but I could probably sing every lyric to every Meatloaf song because we used to blast it in the car, I just love how theatrical it is. I’m also constantly listening to Queen at the moment, every day on my run I listen to it. I love really theatrical music, it makes me so happy.

I thought about myself as this power that I can use to feel better about myself and drive myself to where I want to be. I think everyone needs to hear that sometimes because it’s easy to feel shit and get stuck in it.

Theresa Jarvis

You recently dropped your first single having not released music in like a year and a half. The world has changed so much in that time, but how have you changed since then? 

Especially with this new music I feel like I’ve kind of turned my thinking around. The first album is very much based on mental health because I was absolutely consumed by it – I didn’t know how to handle it or how to react to it and I couldn’t talk about anything else apart from my anxiety and how I was feeling shit all the time. 

This time around, I had so much time and I think sometimes you can get stuck in these little holes where you’re comparing yourself to other people and you make yourself feel really shit because your eyes aren’t on yourself anymore, they’re on other people. There’s no way you can progress in yourself this way, and one day I just thought to myself ‘fucking hell, what are we doing?’ I went into the studio and Alex played some things and I started singing these lyrics and thinking about myself as this power that is something that I should be jealous of. I should be jealous of myself because I’m something special. Everyone should think of themselves individually rather than comparing themselves to someone else. I thought about myself as this power that I can use to feel better about myself and drive myself to where I want to be. I think everyone needs to hear that sometimes because it’s easy to feel shit and get stuck in it.

Harness BROKE BOUTIQUE, chain VITALY, Latex LUPAE, coat VERHEYEN LONDON
Bra HOUSE OF NAMASTE, hat BENNY ANDALLO

When it comes to writing and recording music throughout last year, how did that work for you guys?

Alex and I live together, and Rob lives just down the road so he pretty much moved in with us. George lives in London so we lost George for about half the year and were working with him over email. Our studio is in my living room and we record and self-produce everything anyway, so we were still able to do what we normally would apart from touring. We started writing ‘Seize the Power’ in December 2019 and thankfully were able to go into the studio last summer to record the drums which I think really helps the song come alive.

I’ve had a chance to listen to ‘Ordinary’ which is another really powerful anthem – can you tell me more about this song’s inspiration? 

The song is about, I feel like sometimes you get stuck in these places where you don’t feel like you deserve things and you get really comfortable just watching life go by and not actually being part of it and participating in it. Then before you know it you’re old and you’re like ‘what the fuck have I done with my life?’ 

I feel like we as people tend to run back to bad habits and to bad people who don’t deserve us and I hate it. I don’t know why we do this but I guess we love being in pain and not serving ourselves. In a way it’s a sad song about not being an observer in your own life, you’ve only been given this one chance to do everything. Make mistakes because that’s how you learn and realise you’ve done something wrong. I’d hate for life to be taken away from you having spent your time sat on the sofa watching TV all day or something. I feel like I see it all the time with myself or with people I love, and I just thought about how I don’t want an ordinary life because at the end of my life I want to feel live I’ve done everything I could have.

Sometimes you can get stuck in these places where you don’t feel like you deserve things and you get really comfortable just watching life go by and not actually being part of it and participating in it. Then before you know it you’re old and you’re like ‘what the fuck have I done with my life?’ 

Theresa Jarvis

How have you found ways to be more self-serving and look after yourself this year? 

I found if I do few things then I have like this little checklist in my head and if I don’t do it then I’ll all have a panic attack or I’ll get really low. I’ve been meditating every day, I have to work out every day, I do all these like little different things and I write them like some things that make me feel good. I try not to drink too much but that doesn’t always happen, I’m trying to eat better and I’ve recently been reading these self-help books that are kind of amazing. I love one called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I’ve also been trying to talk about how I feel more because if it’s stuck in my head then it’ll fester. But mostly, I write about all of this stuff in my lyrics because then there’s a way of getting it out of my head. Oh, and I try not to go on social media too much. And the beach, I love Brighton beach and being outside.

Can you tell me more about creating th visuals for these new releases and how they represent your sound? 

I’m in love with Jade Jackman, I feel really lucky and excited because it feels like we’ve found a fifth band member. We’d written ‘Seize The Power’ and I wrote out a treatment of what I wanted it to look like and what I had in my head, we send it out to some directors and Jade came back and her ideas were so perfect for us. At first, I was thought I should be in a bath with black liquid coming out but she was the one who suggested I smash through a glass box. She just makes every little idea you’ve had in your head a million times better. We’ve had such an incredible team for ‘Seize The Power’, it’s really nice because she’s just as excited as I am on set and it’s like proper girl power energy.

Then, of course, you add Joel Palmer to the mix who is just another level of cool, so we did a huge shoot last Friday and he always brings like the coolest items and it just makes you, even if it was something you could never imaging wearing. We shot some images recently where I’m wearing this huge dress and it took about 20 minutes to put it on but it was so worth it. I’m honestly just so happy with this team and I can’t wait to keep creating loads more amazing stuff. 

I’ve also been trying to talk about how I feel more because if it’s stuck in my head then it’ll fester. But mostly, I write about all of this stuff in my lyrics because then there’s a way of getting it out of my head.

Theresa Jarvis

So, who kind of visually inspires your style or inspired this kind of idea for you? 

I think for this, obviously there’s been a lot of horrible accusations that have come out, but when I was first making mood boards Marilyn Manson was on it a lot, as was David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Gaga and lots of post-punk stuff. It’s was a mixture of everything we love.

I think, like you say, it’s wonderful to find someone like Jade to work with who is able to take everything you feel inspired by and can instil that into a singular vision for you.

Yeah, she’s amazing and it’s just such a beautiful like connection and energy – we’re just like little girls running around like she’s chasing me with the camera [laughs].  One more thing which is really cool is like when she hears the music, she knows what it is exactly and then she’ll be like this and I’m like this is exactly what is. She always knows what that is, so she gets the vision just as much, she can actually understand it just as much as we do, so it’s really, it’s just super easy and nice. 

While choosing a favourite of your new works might be tricky, is there one that you’re the proudest of? 

My favourite thing that we worked on so far is ‘Seize The Power’ one million percent. I’m really excited to share the rest of the music as well because there’s some really special stuff in there. And, of course, I’m excited for everyone to hear ‘Ordinary’ today, but from what’s out right now ‘Seize The Power’ is my proudest work so far. 

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