Courtesy of The Oriel

With ‘Rufus,’ Yot Club Welcomes Everyone

This isn’t your sugar daddy’s yacht club – this is Gen Z’s Yot Club.

Laidback downbeats mixed in with a fictional character study and an underground energy, the latest from Yot Club is pretty much to pinnacle of what Yot Club is. The band, which is wholly and singularly Ryan Kaiser, is not a brand new entity. Over the last handful of years, this act has dropped singles, EPs, and more in the vein of bedroom pop, in line with indie rock roots, and closed to the heart of Kaiser himself. There’s a familiarity and a professionalism that few original acts have, but the way this musician works from the ground up, it makes sense that there are such qualities in only the second LP from the artist.

The Aquarian got to talking with Kaiser about stepping into the world of his most succinct and committed release to date.

It’s been a lot of fun to have the entire Rufus LP out in the world. How does it all feel to you – putting it out there, having all 13 songs able to be listened to?

It’s crazy, because I’m definitely the type of person that as soon as I make something, I get really excited and I want to share it immediately. Back in like 2019 and 2020, that’s how it was. I had very few listeners, there were very low stakes, it was all fun, and I would just put things up on Spotify for gigs. Now there are actually people listening. Now I have management and they’re like, “No, we’re gonna do this the right way.” The stakes are higher; they’ve explained it to me. I’ve been putting out a lot of short things, a lot of eps, and so now it’s finally the time to kind of be serious and make full length albums that would compare to other hour-long projects that are being released and are also actually kind of serious.

It took me some time. I’ve been working on some of these songs from almost two years ago… since before off the grid came out. There were a lot of extras and it really got whittled down. I just tried to be honest with myself and be like, “If this song wasn’t by me and I just heard it, would it mean anything? Would I save it?” I tried to whittle it down to only ones where I really felt strong about it, but it’s a weird feeling. It’s like if you were a painter and you painted something that you were super excited about so you wanted to show everybody, but you have to put a sheet over it for six months to not show anybody. It sucks, but it feels good once it’s out for sure.

I am so glad that this is a longer release, longer project, and more thoughtful creation. Kicking the album off with “Stuntman” and closing with “Lazy Eyes” makes this record feel very well-rounded. I was curious about the tracklisting, though, and learning about how you wanted to open the album, close it, and how that came to be structured as so.

I definitely made “Stuntman” with it being the first song on the album in mind, which is why it opens the way it does. I also used to just make songs during COVID-19 [lockdown] when shows weren’t even happening and I wasn’t making any money from it. I wasn’t thinking, “How is this gonna translate live?” That was something that I was thinking about on this album, though, because shows are back. [..] When I was making every song, I was definitely thinking about how they were gonna translate live, so “Stuntman” was definitely intentionally made as an opener. It opens the album up. Some albums start with a cold opener – a really strong song or whatever. It just kind of feels like too much of a cold open. It feels kind of awkward. I wanted there to be an intro song, but I didn’t want it to be like an instrumental or like the typical 40-second intro song. I wanted it to still stand alone as a track.

With “Lazy Eyes,” I didn’t necessarily make it to be the outro, but just the way that it slows down at the end and is kind of goofy, I felt like a bow was tied around it nicely. Honestly, “Lazy Eyes” is like one of the oldest songs. That’s one of the ones I was referring to, like… it was almost two years ago that I was working on that.

Oh, wow! It is one of my favorites on the album, and “Human Nature,” too. I think that everything does come together on “Lazy Eyesin a way where it wraps everything up. It’s almost saying, “This is the Yot Club. You’ve heard all these songs, you’ve got a little taste of everything, but this is Yot Club. Take it or leave it. The album’s done, and hopefully you start it again.”

Thank you! Early on, “Lazy Eyes” was gonna be a single. Then as I made more songs, it kind of started to get pushed back. Not totally – I still love it, but with the singles, you have to think about stuff like, “Oh, the chorus doesn’t come in until two minutes into the song. That’s too late.” People get picky and stuff. I really loved it, though, and it was one of my favorites. Then, as I made more songs, I got the same excitement for new stuff, you know?

For sure, and even right before “Lazy Eyes” is “Rufus.” To me, I love that song because it starts with a question. I thought it might have been a cool opening track because it’s kind of posing something to the listener before diving in. At the same time, you said that you kind of wanted your opener to still be a standalone song, to just be enjoyed in all contexts, whether it be a single on stage or within the album as a whole. “Rufus,” though, is sort of placed toward the end, as the beginning of the end – even as the title track.

Thanks! I wanted this album to kind of have a mascot per sé, to personify the emotions and stuff that are in it. I’d say it’s more emotional and vulnerable of an album than I’ve made in the past.

I don’t really wanna be like the center of attention absorbing all of the emotions, so I guess I created Rufus kind of as this character to personify all the things in the song. For the longest time I couldn’t think of a name for that song, and then I was like, “Oh! That’s that! This could be the title track!”

So the song came before the name of the album.

Yeah. That was another really early one. I like listening to a lot of spacey nineties stuff, like Galaxy 500 and Granddaddy, and that’s kind of how I wanted the whole album to be. After I made like four or five songs, I had that one, then I had “Lazy Eyes” and I was like, “Alright, this is gonna be kind of a low energy album. Maybe I need to make some more upbeat stuff to mix in here.”

I don’t necessarily wanna make songs that are just like, “Here’s this song about me and this thing that happened to me,” and it’s only me. It’s personal – all of this stuff. A lot of times people interpret it in their own ways or project it onto their own life., and I think that’s good. That’s why I kind of try not to overexplain the meaning of songs, because a lot of times people are very generous in their interpretations and they extract a more meaningful thing from it than what you even meant. 

That’s the whole Rufus thing, I guess. I just wanted it to be like a fake character, less about me, and with the realization that it can be projected into any type of meaning. A lot of this stuff can be interpreted in whatever way you want, which is how I want people to listen. I want people to go into this with just kind of a nonchalant, goofy vibe, not expecting much or not expecting it to be some profound, crazy statement. 

There is a DIY indie aspect to everything you do and I believe that it will maintain no matter how big you get, but there’s something about your music that always gets me talking: the visual aspect of what you release. Almost all of your artwork is colorful. There’s a really cool aesthetic to the songs, singles, albums, and the art staging it. What is the process of coming up with that?

Oh, I appreciate that. I kind of use the same approach as listening to music – I’m like, “Would I actually listen to this? Would this stop me and make me save this to a playlist?” I try to do that with art, too. If I was scrolling and I saw a bunch of art pop out and speak to me above the other things? I want to be honest and want to make sure that this is something that the art does. The way that I do the album art, or did early on, was I made my own. Eventually I started having people make it, but I was still kind of collaborative. I try to have a big say in it to this day. Basically what I do is I listen all the way through the album and, inevitably, there are gonna be some reoccurring words and some reoccurring themes. The word ‘sleep’ is in three different songs, so I make note of that. I basically kind of make a mood board for directing and I send it to the artist and I give them an idea of what I was thinking. For example, with Rufus, I told them I wanted it to be needlepoint, so we hired an actual professional knitting person. I wanted it to look like when you go to grandma’s house and it’s like the ‘home sweet home’ needle point type of art. Needlepoint is always so wholesome, so with the house on the hill, I wanted it to also be kind of unsettling and up. That was basically the premise I gave to him. I was just like, “I want something that makes you sad and happy at the same time; that’s just weird and surreal and done in needlepoint and centered around this fictional character Rufus.” The artist’s name was Jay Vaz – that is who knitted it. I wish I could see the real version [Laughs]!