Yardlets have a partnership that would make most other musicians jealous. A power-duo of sorts and friends since forever ago, Sam Goldberg Jr. (of Broken Social Scene) and Jeff Edwards both live by the same set of principles: create what you want when you want to, and have fun doing it. While this may be a simplified version of who they actually are as distinct individuals, together they form an unstoppable band who understand each other on multiple levels; their opposite traits and shared experiences blending together to establish something greater than the sum of its parts.
Their latest album Good Hangs, which serves as the follow up to their debut Middle Ages (an album that featured Death from Above 1979’s Sebastien Grainger on drums) delivers a collection of skuzzy, revved-up psychadelic tunes that are complex and candid in equal parts. With help from Tim Fletcher of the Stills on bass, and David Dejas of Mystic Motorcycles on drums, Good Hangs is proof that fun songs with straightforward lyrics aren’t necessarily devoid of emotional density. We sat down with the duo to discuss their friendship, their future, and everything in between.
“Humour is not illegal in music. It’s great not to take yourself so seriously.”
The Main: At the beginning of what you’ve labelled your “fun” bio, you state “hey, we’re Sam and Jeff and we like martinis.”
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the old us.
Sam: We were way more reckless and out of control back then. It was a weird phase for us—maybe not a weird phase, but a great phase! We couldn’t maintain that pace.
Jeff: For our first album we wanted to just do something…stupid.
Sam: Absolutely dumb. And it’s interesting because people are like “we want that again!” But that was a concept in itself. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over because it gets boring, right?
TM: Good Hangs seems a lot more polished than Middle Ages.
Sam: Absolutely. For this one we were trying to mimic a drum machine. We wanted it to be more mechanical sounding, more hypnotic as opposed to the first one.
Jeff: Before, we’d be like “let’s write a punk-rock tune,” and now we’ve decided to just play what comes naturally to us. I’m happier, personally with this one than the first one.
Sam: The first one was cool because we wrote those songs immediately and recorded them. The excitement of that translates there. On this album we were striving for a larger sonic template. That first record was crazy. We sang into the mic and that was the final vocal take. The guitar we played? That was it. We didn’t redo anything. And then Sebastien came in and played drums. It’s hard to replicate live—and we didn’t have Sebastien because he was doing a DFA reunion, and playing Coachella when we were asking him to play shows for $5 [laughs]. So for this one we became more of a band. We have a better live show now, which is great. I remember we played a show at the Horseshoe two years ago, whatever it was…and every industry person was there. It was cool, but we weren’t the best. It’s tough looking for management. There are just so many bands now that it’s fucking nuts.
TM: Are you still self-managed?
Sam: It’s insane. We got FACTOR funding, which is great, but it’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of sitting in front of a computer. I now know why there’s record labels and managers, but we’re grateful that we live in Canada, we’re really lucky in terms of funding.
TM: And you worked with Jace at Breakglass Studios this time around, as opposed to recording everything exclusively on a laptop.
Sam: Yeah, he’s an asshole, he’s the meanest man—no I’m kidding, he’s the nicest guy. He’s always happy, he’s smiling, he’s hugging—it’s the best environment to be in. If you ever want to make a record, go with Jace. He’s so fun. And he got the vibe we were going for from the top.
Jeff: There’s just the right amount of dark things happening in his brain to understand where we were going.
Sam: I pretty much had a vision of what I wanted it to sound like, and he just sort of amplified that.
Jeff: He did all the technical stuff that we don’t understand.
Sam: Very wonderful man, I love him.
TM: And is there any label that you have your sights on now that you want to be a part of?
Sam: I think a manager these days is more important than a label. You can be on a great label, but if there’s five bands that have done very well, and they have records that are coming out the same time, there could not be as much priority to push your record. I could be wrong, but that’s sort of what I’ve been hearing these days. Overall, you need to put together the “team.” You get your publicist, you get your booking agent, and you sort of just put your own puzzle together. But most importantly, you need a manager. The day-to-day guy who’s getting you out there and putting stuff together…it’s tough.
Jeff: I feel like, for this record so far, we’ve only played like 8 shows or something, but every time we play people are super stoked. It’s nice. All we want to do is keep playing, trying to expand our audience, and putting smiles on peoples’ faces. Or making them cry.
TM: And do you find it hard to balance marketing yourself, and making music at the same time? Do you find it takes a toll on the creative process?
Sam: Absolutely, 1,000%. I’ve been in front of my computer for two months straight. Dealing with booking agents, publicists, radio people, when what I really want is just to hang out and write songs with Jeff. But I’m not going to complain, because we did get funding for it. It’s good to learn this stuff, absolutely—but it takes time away. [Laughs] I keep saying manager over and over again, but we put out a record and there’s so much prep. It’s months and months of work. You accomplish most things you want to do but it’s always like “I should have done this,” or “I should done that.” The first record was dropped digitally online. We were just like “let’s just put it out today”…which probably wasn’t the best idea.
Jeff: We didn’t give it the attention that it deserved.
Sam: We didn’t prep the record enough. If we got a publicist, like we did this one, and really rehearsed, and really did it right, it probably would have been smarter…but we were just two bozos having fun and joking around. Our shows are better now, we’re really, really good [laughs]. We rented a laser, a projector, a smoke machine. You don’t want to see this face with a bright light on it.
TM: How important is humour and playfulness to your band’s persona?
Sam: Humour is not illegal in music. It’s great not to take yourself so seriously. We just want to have fun! Let’s just fucking have a good time and escape for a while. I’d rather go out and play some show than go out and beat some guys up in front of the pizza place or something. We’re not trying to change the world with this project. Before this I was playing in Social Scene, and some other pretty heavy stuff, and I just want some fun!
TM: You’re skateboard buddies from a while back. How did you first become friends?
Jeff: I met Sam a while back. We were with a bunch of people on something—I’m not sure if it was acid or mushrooms that night—but Sam was like “let’s go to the pet cemetery!” So a bunch of us all went to this pet cemetery at four in the morning. That’s the first time I met you dude!
Sam: I don’t even remember that.
Jeff: Yeah, it was the pet cemetery.
Sam: We used to snowboard a lot together—actually we worked at the Dorval Airport, which is now the what, the Trudeau? We worked together, we used to push those baggage carts around and it was so fun! We worked in this huge airport and you could kind of just do whatever you wanted. I had a huge van with a cargo bed in the back, so we would take shift and like pass out in the van—
Jeff:—we used to sleep in his van instead of working. Fucking shifts were like 12 hours long—
Sam:—and your boss couldn’t track of where you were—
Jeff:—and we were just shitty kids who wanted to just like, skateboard and have fun.
Sam: And then I think it was around 2010 when Social Scene was slowing down, when I was like “I just gotta start something new,” and then I reached out to Jeff. We didn’t have a concept yet. Then we developed the concept of “let’s get together and record a song in three hours, no matter what, and that’s it.” That’s the concept. And we did it, and it just clicked. The name we got because Jeff was building a skate ramp down in St. Henri somewhere, and I went to visit him and there were a bunch of dudes working on the half-pipe. I was like “who are those dudes? Skaters?” And Jeff was like “nah, they’re just a couple of yardlets”…and I was like what the fuck is a yardlet? And he was like, you know, a hobo! And then I was like that’s your fucking band name!
Jeff: We’ll get together and then we’ll sit there with a couple guitars, and I might try something and Sam will be like “that sounds shitty,” or “I like that,” but it usually just comes together quickly.
Sam: We’ve had some really bad songs. There were some throwaways on the first record that if they were on record, any record, people would have thrown us in jail. We had one song called ‘Glory Hole,’ and it was about being so pent up that you just wanted a blowjob from anything. So the song was about going to a porn theatre, and one of the lyrics was like “a mouth is a mouth!” We wrote some really disgusting, degrading stuff. There were some doozies. What others ones did we have that were ridiculous?
Jeff: Man, I don’t remember anything past last week.
TM: Has being friends for so long has lent well to your songwriting relationship?
Jeff: We understand each other real well. We’re kind of like brothers. I could tell Sam to fuck off, and then the next minute it’s like it never happened. We but heads a little bit, but it’s good because it contributes to the creative side I guess.
Sam: Not for me.
Jeff: It’s my job to bring the reckless side out of Sam. And whenever I see it come alive, it’s the best thing in the world.
Sam: Jeff might be a little more reckless than me. When I was the guy putting the songs together, and editing—we both live on Esplanade—and I’d look out at the park, and Jeff’s out there with a couple of beers, all I’d think was “fuck I’m going to kill that motherfucker. I can’t wait to reduce his points on songwriting when this is done.”
TM: Have you lived in Montreal all your lives?
Sam: I lived in Toronto for almost ten years, but I just love this city so much. My family’s here, this is my city, I can’t leave. And I like smaller cities too, Toronto is nuts. It’s like New York City now. You can’t run errands without standing in line. Montreal’s mellower, I prefer the vibe here. Toronto’s like a Gap Ad, everyone’s well coiffed, everyone’s making money.
Jeff: What we love about this city is that it’s also crazy and wild, and there’s so much turmoil.
TM: So Yardlets: in the next 5, 10, 15 years, where do you see it going?
Sam: Well we’re going to keep making records. It’s fun to come out with concept for each thing. Whatever the next thing will be—whatever excites us.
Jeff: We’re still into living everyday. As long as we have thoughts and ideas we’ll keep doing it.
Sam: [Laughs] As long as our brains are still working, we’ll write songs.
Jeff: Once you have a writing partner and you figure it out, you’ll never run out of ideas.
Sam: Yeah, we’ll make more records, I want to make more records. We’re thinking about recording on this old cassette deck that Jeff bought. Just like straight to cassette would be really fun. I think what we need to do is capture what we’re more like live, and that energy. Or maybe we’ll do something more live off the floor. Or we could even just make singles! Release singles like every six months, you know what I mean? We’ll have a song featuring Rihanna, dress another song up like a Britney Spears track. Whatever works. But so many songs have already been written, so it’s tough…it’s really tough.