Bluesbreakers: The Yawpers

Not since Born In The USA has an album title been so ripe for misinterpretation as The Yawpers’ American Man. If you’re conjuring up mental images of star-spangled banners, apple pie and good dentistry, then Nate Cook is quick to dash them. “It’s not patriotic at all,” stresses the frontman. “We’ll probably run into the same issues as Springsteen, where the wrong people get their hands on it and make it their own. The record has a sense of the darkness that’s very prominent in America.”

The frontman, along with guitarist Jesse Parmet and drummer Noah Shomberg, formed The Yawpers in Denver, Colorado in 2011, thrashing out “dance music for existentialists” on acoustic guitars. “I love violent punk music, country, shit like that,” he says. “And I always had a deep affinity for Nick Cave, Dylan, Waits, Springsteen: people with substance to their music. I wanted to add together some of those elements – rockabilly, punk, country, shit- kicking rock’n’roll – and we all were on board with that.”

Though it was recorded at Blasting Room Studios outside Denver, the mindset that pervades American Man was formed years earlier, miles further south. “My upbringing in Texas was in a very conservative small town,” recalls Cook, “a lot of racist bullshit. The song American Man is written from the perspective of someone from my hometown. Somebody who is so nationalistic that they lose touch of reality. Patriotism to the point of psychosis.”

Pointedly, that song is followed by the escapist country-rocker Burdens, which finds Cook venting the suffocation he felt at 17. “Just that desire to get the fuck out of where I was,” he nods. “Back then, I was just telling myself that if I got out of there my world would be perfect. I still feel that way. I’m still dissatisfied. Here in America, there’s a sense that the entire fucking world is just falling apart. The conservatives think it’s ending because the moral fabric is falling apart, and the left thinks it’s ending because we’re gonna destroy the fucking planet. Ah, it’s so beautiful for a writer…”

The Yawpers don’t so much play gigs as spew their frustrations over venues. “We play incredibly violent, cathartic, frenetic shows,” says Cook. “What we’ve been known for is putting on shows where somebody breaks their leg. We’ve played for people who don’t appreciate us. I can live with that. But I don’t think anybody has ever walked away thinking that we didn’t mean it.”

Did you ever go back to play your hometown?

“I’ve played within 45 minutes of there. I imagined having that prodigal son moment and telling these people who were assholes to me when I was a kid to go fuck themselves – but it didn’t work out like that. I just unceremoniously played a show, then left.”

“I like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters. I’ve been really into Freddie King lately, and obviously Robert Johnson, that sort of stuff. But I’ll tell you the biggest one, and the one I play the most – RL Burnside. His style of trance- rhythmic guitar work is just astonishing.”

American Man is out now via Bloodshot

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.