Justin Yap Band

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Justin Yap Band

Blues, funk and soul reign supreme on the Justin Yap Band’s newest album, Let Love. In the years since the band’s 2013 debut, Long Way From Home, the lineup has gone through numerous changes. Yap remains on lead guitar, while keyboardist Ollie Wolfe, bass player Ben Wicks and vocalist Nardia Brancatisano complete the current incarnation. Solidifying this lineup has allowed Yap to progress beyond the project’s previous release.

“With Nardia and Ollie, we’ve been playing together for just over two years now, but Ben joined the band about four or five months ago,” he says. “I wanted to take this thing up a notch and in a slightly different direction, and that’s when he came in and we’ve been working pretty hard together.”

They’re all skilled instrumentalists, so it didn’t take long to establish a propitious group synergy, which is enhanced by de facto drummer Cameron Smith.

“He’s not officially a member of the band, but Cam’s been playing pretty much every gig we’ve done since we recorded the album with him,” Yap says. “Between everyone there’s definitely something there that I haven’t experienced for quite a while. Just in terms of having fun, whether it’s on or off stage, hanging out and jamming – everyone seems to be on the same page.”

The name of the band is indicative of Yap’s ringleading role. However, all of the band members made an integral contribution to the songs on Let Love.

“That was a big difference between this one and the first one,” Yap says. “It was a pretty involved process for everyone. A big part of what we did with this was spend a lot of time in rehearsal and pre-production. Most of the songs I brought to the band and then even the first time showing them, the guys would throw in suggestions. About half the songs I’ve co-written lyrics with Nardia. Over the six months leading up to us going into the studio, a lot of the songs have undergone some pretty big changes just through input from everyone. Everyone’s put in whatever they can to make it as good as it can be.”

Long Way From Home gained a reasonable level of attention upon release, debuting at number three on the Australian Blues Charts. Going into Let Love, Yap reflected on the strengths of Long Way From Home, as well as the things that needed improving.

“It’s obviously a pretty different band, but leading up to the first album we’d only done maybe five gigs,” he says. “That was also my first time spending that much time in the studio doing an entire album. So what worked and what didn’t work from Long Way From Home definitely came into play with this one, just in terms of preparation, deciding which studio to use and how we did everything.”

Let Love follows the first album in its conflation of blues, funk and soul, with elements of various associated genres. But while many songs invoke blues chord sequences and scales, Let Love isn’t a down and out, miserable sounding affair. The positive messages conveyed by the title track provided a blueprint for the album’s optimistic character.

“That was the first song that got written. Pretty quickly we all decided it would be great to base the sound of the album [around that song], and in terms of themes/lyrics, to try and revolve around what that song was about. A big part of it is definitely trying to be a lot more positive. For me it was a reaction to all the negative stuff you see on the news everyday. And just on a personal level, it feels like everyone’s got some sort of anxiety or depression-related issue. We wrote Let Love and a few of the other songs around trying to counter all that.”

Written by Augustus Welby

When & Where: Pistol Pete’s, Geelong – June 25 & Echuca-Moama Winter Blues Festival – July 28-31