A conversation with the members of Edinburgh-based band Yellow Helen

Words by Sophia Archontis.
Photography // Yellow Helen by Ellen Beskow.

December 2018 was when Yellow Helen first got together, but they had all been friends from before.

Fin Logie: We got together in the room that Joseph is currently in actually [in Dunbar, Scotland; near Edinburgh]. 

[Joseph proceeds to give chaotic zoom tour of his room]

Fin: Joseph, I remember when you had the Dreamboy E.P. out and you had Joe helping you play live on guitar. And I remember you asking if I wanted to play bass for you and I was like yeah sure, but I thought it was just going to be like Joseph Flower, I didn’t realize it would be a band. And then we ended up coming to Dunbar and playing one of Lewis’s tunes, when I thought we were going to be playing yours, and I was like oh wait– 

Joe Cornfield: I remember the same confusion. I was like oh were just here to play some of Joseph’s tunes and we’re still here playing tunes like, what, two years down? Well I suppose it’s been a while since we’ve played tunes [laughs]

Joseph Flower: that’s how you get ‘em man you tell them like oh yeah it’s just this one-off thing, come down, hang out, and you snap ‘em up!

Lewis Macpherson: I like this idea that it was a Joseph Flower thing and I then I was like ha! here’s all my shit!

So I, for some reason, was under the impression that you guys had been together for way longer – that’s what it feels like, at least. When I see you perform, or listen to the stuff you make, it just feels really cohesive. So it’s interesting that it hasn’t really been that long that you guys have been together.

Joseph: This whole band thing feels like it’s been going on for a lot longer than it actually has – me and Lewis have been writing together for about 8 years – and this very much feels like a sort of culmination of that rather than a separate thing. 

When they first got together, it was originally to play on around 5 or 6 songs that Lewis and Joseph had ready. Four of those were supposed to be acoustic, but they got “the boys” together to jam out the last two. The only song that survived that initial recording was ‘Frills and Lace’, which outlasted three re-recordings and an ever-evolving track list, to finally feature on their debut E.P., Honeymoon Suite. Most of the E.P. was recorded in Joseph’s mom’s house, so he would like to formally credit it on the back of the E.P.

Honeymoon Suite was released on October 31st, Halloween, on account of ‘Spooky’ being one of the tunes featured on the track list.

Lewis: I’d say that about three fourths of the E.P. is pretty spooky “in spirit”. 

Max Weaver: It’s about loss and isolation and stuff. All the songs thematically are tied together in that sort of spookiness – the Honeymoon Suite has an underlying seediness and melancholy to it. 

Lewis: [in terms of writing processes] I think because me and you [Joseph] do a lot of writing together, and we like different things, and I think our musical instincts are maybe different, it’s quite fun. We get to bring things to the other person, and they’re like let’s do this and you’re like oh I wouldn’t have considered that.

When Max and Joseph lived together over the previous year, Lewis would come over, and that’s when ‘Honeymoon Suite’ was written, all in a room. That was the only song that was written together, rather than written separately and then brought together subsequently.   

Joseph: with ‘Frills and Lace’ and ‘Spooky’, the actual writing of those was done quite separately, whereas ‘I Know’ and ‘Honeymoon Suite’ were written collaboratively, I guess. I don’t know about ‘Spooky’ necessarily, but ‘Frills and Lace’ I go oh yeah that’s a Lewis tune. There’s like way too many chords and like colors and metaphors [laughs]. But I feel like you’re always pushing for musical and lyrical interest, and I’m always pushing for like…I wanna have like dancey tunes.

Max: With ‘I Know” Joseph wrote the verses and Lewis wrote the chorus, and then merged them together, so it’s quite a good mix.

Joseph: For ‘Spooky’ I just wrote a demo of almost everything all by myself and I brought it– 

Max: Yeah ‘Spooky’ was pretty much set. It was like a whole song; I was surprized by how complete it was.

Joseph: Once I start hearing it I’m like rushing to get it out, and everything usually comes out within 24 hours, unless I have to push it a bit more.

It does work… you get a coexistence, a combination, it doesn’t feel like one is pushing against the other. So yeah it does work quite well together. There’s something about ‘Honeymoon Suite’, the song, that reminded me of the talking bit at the beginning of ‘Rocky Racoon’. I don’t know if you guys at all are interested in – or just like – the Beatles but that is the vibe I got in a contemporary sort of way.

[all laugh]

Max: If we have to talk about our influences it would just devolve – or evolve – into a conversation about the Beatles. The way that me, Lewis, and Joseph all became good friends was chatting about the Beatles on the way home from school. And then Bob Dylan. It was all about music. 

Joseph: I don’t know if I wanna go down in print journalism as a Beatles Boy [laughs]

Max: It’s a blanket of Beatles influence but it’s not just the Beatles

Lewis: You know there’s a conscious effort to not talk about the Beatles, because everyone’s been influenced by the Beatles. It’s all there. Trying to summarize five people’s influences is just too broad, because we all like different music. However, it all overlaps. We all bring our own stuff to the table.

You can find Honeymoon Suite on all streaming services, as well as purchase it on Bandcamp

About Yellow Helen:

Fin Logie (Bass), Joint Honors Film & TV and Comparative Literature at Glasgow University.

Max Weaver (Drums), Film and Media graduate from Queen Margaret University.

Joseph Flower (Keys, Vocals), studies Film at Edinburgh Napier.

Joe Cornfield (Lead Guitar), studies Politics at Stirling University.

Lewis MacPherson, (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), former Film student at Queen Margaret University.

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