Interview With Yeah Great Fine
Manic Mathematicians: Yeah Great Fine Challenge Audiences To Dance
This past Sunday, I headed over to the house of Jake Hershman, singer and guitarist for local buzz act Yeah Great Fine, to meet with a few of the members and talk about the band’s past and where they’re hea 2000 ded. I found Hershman sitting on the porch of a faded house in SE Portland. The front porch is littered with old couches and chairs, one of which Hershman is lounging on. He’s a cheerful guy with a light beard, wearing a flannel and a baseball cap. We sit down and talk a bit while two of the other members, keyboardist Brian Hoberg and drummer Dave Hires, are off doing a quick errand.
The following is portions of my conversation with the band, which ranged from the band’s intricate songwriting to one member’s claims that he’s found the finest strip club in Portland.
bePortland: So Tell me a bit about the band’s history, and how you all met.
Jake: Well, the band’s sort of from all over. I’m from Cleveland, Dave’s from Dairy, CT, Brian is from Modesto CA, Andrew is from Oklahoma City, and the new guy, our new bassist, is from some small town in MT.
What brought me out here was the same thing that brings all the midwestern kids. I had a friend who that I grew up with that went to college here. We had played in a ska/punk band together in high school. He told me there was a great scene out here, and he convinced the entire old high school band to come out. Of course we broke up after like a year or so. But it was great, because we got into the house party scene right away.
I met Brian through my friend’s roommate’s boyfriend, or something like that. We were all friends before we started playing music together. Dave lived in our basement, he was the guy in the basement, and it ended up being that he’s this insanely good drummer.
About this time, Dave and Brian show up, and they jump right into the conversation. Dave has a big smile and a thick beard; he’s got a softer voice than the other two. Brian sports a barbershop quartet moustache, and he’s got a deep voice that resonates the porch when he speaks.
So what first inspired you guys to play music?
J - I think maybe Michael Jackson for me. He was the first person I saw where I was like, “Man, music is awesome.” Maybe that’s why I sing in a higher register.
Brian - The Beatles were big for me. But I was also into Ozzy’s shitty late period.
J – We have a running joke with Brian about how he always finds out about a band during their shitty phase. He’ll say, “Hey did you guys hear this album Reload by some band called Metallica? Or this album called Americana by a band named The Offspring?”
(Much laughter ensues)
B – Yeah, well, I had a strong classical background. My father is in a Dad Rock cover band called Frank and Dave. They wanted to call it Craven, but that’s a little intense for dads playing Neil Young. I went to Oberlin Conservatory of music where I did music and composition. And then Dave and I studied at Lewis and Clark for Music as well.
So let’s talk about your songwriting process a bit, since the songs are so intricately arranged.
J - Dave writes basically all the music. He programs it all on Reason. At first it sounds like this crazy math rock, robotic thing. Then we take it and try to make it human, and I’ll throw some vocals on it. It really pushes us to do more complex stuff. Our mission statement behind the band is to challenge listeners but not turn them off, still making it fun and pushing the lines of what’s danceable.
Dave – A lot of what we try to do is force these polymeter rhythms and melodies. There’s a lot of interplay in between the guitars, going in and out of each other’s parts. Then I try to make it all into a pop song, so it’s not just this ponderous, jam band thing. People’s attention spans are shot, so you have to hook them quick.
J – Everyone in the band was a drummer at some point, that’s probably why we can’t play normal rhythms and such. We always want something more exciting. I saw this interview with Dave Brubeck way back when, and he said, “The kids in the U.S. are all dancing in 4/4. In Eastern Europe and Africa, people have been dancing to 9/8 and 7/8 for thousands of years; the people are ready to dance to something different! Just because the big record labels think people are stupid and only want to listen to the same stuff, doesn’t mean they don’t want something different. Just give it to them, and make it fun, don’t make it boring.
D – The songs are all written very uniquely, so it all has to played together, each part is essential.
J – Yeah, if I were to play the song on my own it would sound so stupid.
What if someone doesn’t show up to practice or a show?
J - It sounds like shit. In some ways it slows us down, because if one member can’t make it, we can’t play.
What about your influences?
J – Battles, as well as Maps and Atlases. I like a lot of that stuff, but we try to make it more poppy. I like a lot of mindless bullshit too. I like dancing.
B – I relate to drums a lot. But we pull aspects of music from different groups, like the Beach Boys for example, those sweet vocals. Don Caballero we pull some of the crazy drumming from, as well as the intersecting guitar lines. Ratatat we take some from ideas from. Hoobastank. Damnit, I said I wasn’t going to mention them.
J - Q not U. A lot of that post rock stuff. All that Chicago stuff was great too, like American football.
D – I caught all that stuff way after it happened.
J – Me too, it was like during or after I was in college. When it was happening I was mostly into like Mustard Plug and stuff like that. Every time we tour we get inspired, mostly from crazy experiences.
B – Like Longhaired Dave in Olympia?
J – He was a prostitute in Portland, supposedly. Brian bought him a grape soda. See, when you’re in a band, and you smoke weed, people are like, “Hey, let’s hang out.”
B – Well, when you smoke weed anyways, people always want to hang out with you, mostly to smoke your weed. But we played some Frisbee with some Christians in a park once, and uh, lots of other stuff. All these things help inspire… Dave.
D – Yep, I was there for all that.
How are some of the newer songs you’ve written different from older material?
D – They’re tighter songs over all, more vocals. I think a lot of the newer material is strong. Ha, that’s the most stereotypical answer ever. “How’s your new album? It’s better.”
I’ve never heard anyone say, it’s worse.
J – Yeah, it’s like, “We had our whole lives to write our first album. Now we had like a year for the follow up, so deal with it!”
What have been some of your favorite shows?
J –My favorite show was Ranchfest. It was at this ranch in the middle of Idaho. It’s kind of an invite-only show; you have to know people to even hear about it. Our friend’s dad owns a ranch. They invited 300-400 people and threw this huge festival for two days. There were around 25 bands. We also met this band Slow Trucks there. One of the guys, David, owns a small label called 20 Sided Records, which we love because we’re dorks. He’s putting out a 7-inch for us that we’ll be selling later this year when we go on tour, which we’ve been recording with Paul Laxer, who people know from his work with Typhoon.
B - Las Vegas was also awesome. It’s not the greatest place, but you can have fun there. We played a pool party with free Heinekens.
J - They gave us a room, money for the tables, and an open bar. They basically allowed us to be total jackasses.
B - That open bar ruined us.
J – We opened for the Walkman that night and we were looking forward to seeing them, which never happened. Brian threw up after awhile, but then we got a second wing, and went wandering through casinos out of our mind.
B – We ate at the Peppermill Diner at like 2am. It was so weird, all the black lights, and you get an omelet that’s like as big as a brick Anyways: Vegas, you gotta go!
Where do you guys like to eat in town?
J – Pok Pok, that’s where Brian works. A bit out of my price range, though. I’m a frequent burrito guy. Los Gorditas is great. I like to spend $4.50 and have two meals for the day. I eat half at 11am, and the other half at 6pm.
D – You ever been to Binh Minh bakery? They have $2.50 sandwiches.
J - And they got a sassy 10 year-old on the register, and she upsells you every time! She’s better at it than most adults.
B – Then after that, you can go like two doors down to 52nd and Foster and hit up Devil’s Point, one of the best strip clubs in town.
D – That’s where you like to eat?
B - They have great lunch buffet! And now they have happy hour from 11-7, I just found that out. That’s my favorite time to go to the strip club.
When it’s still light? So you can see all the shame?
B – Yep, when it’s light out.
How are the girls?
J – Good, they’re all tatted up.
B – I just saw in a magazine that one of the dancers, Cricket, got an award for the best pole dancer in Portland.
D – Which one is that?
B - She’s the one with the deer antlers on her chest.
J – Wow, you’re really into this conversation, Brian.
B – Well, she’s the best. She’s one of those strippers where you’re watching, and you forget it’s about looking at naked women. She brings a totally different aspect into it. She’s amazingly talented.
J – Alright then.
B – I’m in love.
B - Also, she got the dear antlers tattoo because I guess she raised a baby deer.
J – Are you serious with this right now? What, are you writing her biography?
B – I was sitting next to someone there, who’s very talkative to the strippers, and he told me about it. Hmm… that was quite a good tangent. I guess that pretty much sums up our band then. Thanks for coming!
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