High Hopes: The Yawpers

“I guess most rock’n’roll musicians grow up as disaffected, moody youths,” Nate Cook, singer/guitarist with The Yawpers, says with a chuckle. The curly haired 20-something is a chipper interviewee – until the themes of his band’s third LP, American Man, crop up.

“It should have been ‘Western World Man’,” he explains of the album – a countrified ruckus of Lightnin’ Hopkins blues and raw rock’n’roll, with a dash of MC5 punk. “It wasn’t meant to be specifically about Americans. Each song was intended to be a perspective of a different faceless drone in the Western world; a different character in this bland, slowly dying world.”

This disenfranchisement has early roots. Cook grew up in Boerne, Texas, a “really shitty podunk town” where people were chiefly interested in protecting their gun rights. Happily his family introduced him to classic rock and blues, and at the age of 12
he discovered early Beck. “It blew my mind,” he recalls. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Since then music has been a constant love affair.”

The sprawl of styles on The Yawpers’ album echoes Cook’s varied experience. After ill-fated ventures with first band Von Cleavage (“really pedestrian punk, like you do when you’re sixteen”) he cut his teeth in Boulder, Colorado, fronting Nick Cave-esque alt.folkers Ego vs Id. By 2011 they’d dissolved, after which Cook and guitarist Jesse Parmet upped the ante and formed The Yawpers.

Cook, who was also writing for local press, channelled his literary side into spiky, articulate lyrics. Now Denver-based, and completed by drummer Noah Shomberg, The Yawpers are seeing a rise locally in rock’n’roll.

“Music’s divided here to some degree,” he muses. “But it’s a vibrant scene. Indie-folk was a ‘thing’ here for a while, but it’s starting to subside. One of our cats, Nathaniel Rateliff, is in the UK right now. He just broke out of here. We’ve got a great metal scene and punk scene, and the rock’n’roll scene is just starting to make some headway.”

As, indeed, are The Yawpers. Their tour schedule includes the revered likes of Red Rocks and the Viper Room, and plans to visit the UK in 2016 are in the works. After an awful lot of pizza-joint gigs, the band are savouring every second.

“Up until this point, about eighty per cent of the shows sucked,” Cook concedes. “Mostly because when you’re getting your feet on the ground you have to start at the bottom. So you end up playing pizza parlours on a Tuesday at five pm for six people who just want to get the fuck out before you get too loud. But those rare moments when you get to transcend what you’ve been doing…
It sounds trite, but seeing something that matters to you also matter to somebody else, watching that happen has been life-affirming. It’s made the struggle start to feel worth it.”

FOR FANS OF: R.L. Burnside

“I’d say R.L. Burnside,” Nate Cook says when asked about the band’s influences. “A lot of The Yawpers’ early vocabulary came from him, Steve Earle and Lightnin’ Hopkins, some of those other older blues cats… And Nick Cave is a huge lyrical influence on me; he has a very narrative, dark approach to Americana. He’s my personal hero.”

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.