Even if you’re not on the front-lines of the alternative-rock LA/Hollywood scene with THE IVY WALLS, there is still a chance you may have heard them. If you happened to be watching “MTV’S The Real World: Sydney,” you might have been grooving to “Lovers In Hotels” (their latest full-length album and title track). Or perhaps recently, you’ve opened up an indie music magazine and heard their name listed in the ‘top unsigned/unknown bands’ to listen to. But maybe, just maybe, you waited for The Alternakids to blow your mind (I’m going to assume that).
I had known about the band strongly for the past two years, but didn’t get a chance to hear them live and dig on the album until ’07. The album quickly became a hit with my so-called ‘traveling collections’… let me explain. Although I listen to a lot of music at home, it’s a rare treat for an album/band to get to travel in my car or follow me to a workout — being blared on the gym stereo. These select few albums get played more than the 5 pop songs on a music station, so it’s crucial they got the talent to survive. The Ivy Walls have it. They offer that unique blend of alternative indie-rock sound, entrenched in musical obsession.
I was given an opportunity to have a few moments with Jeff Yanero, lead singer and ‘creator’ of The Ivy Walls. And in true artist fashion, he slowly revealed himself — and the rare untold fact that ‘MySpace actually works’:
LL: WHAT WAS YOUR PATH FROM WHERE YOU GREW UP TO HOLLYWOOD MUSIC SCENE?
Jeff: wow..I can barely retrace it because it’s so ridiculously winding..but I grew up in West Virginia..I went to school in Florida as well as Las Vegas..After just over a year in Vegas I dropped out and went to New York..That was the best move I ever made because at that point I was disenchanted with everything I’d ever done and it was there that new worlds began to open up for me..Things I didn’t realize were available to me before were revealing themselves as possibilities..It was around then that I got involved with the arts which through a few twists and turns landed me in L.A.The first few months of Los Angeles can really set someone back..Especially if you don’t know who you are or at least who you wanna be..I see these kids just getting here these days and they don’t know there assholes from there elbows..Anyway after a short stint of figuring that out for myself I was able to get an apartment of my own which was unheard of in New York..My Grandma gave me the money for the security deposit and I just began spending days on end reading and writing, working on bad songs, and painting..At one point I enrolled in a life drawing course at one of the community colleges because it was free and it was during that period that I met Ryan (Guitar/Synth) and we started writing songs. We started first in his apartment and would every week test our songs at a local open mic..We were usually piss drunk by the time it was our turn which may have been the only thing entertaining about those songs..But those were valuable times as we still use the creative language that we developed back then to communicate our ideas today..So after some rocky periods of begging, borrowing, and stealing other musicians to play with us, we finally had our shit together enough to actually start a band that we could call our own.
LL: WHAT WERE/ARE SOME OF YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCES?
Jeff: We love “Broken Social Scene”..and the standards “Radiohead, The Beatles, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Cure”..Do we sound like any of these bands?..I hope so but shit I don’t know.
LL: YOU’RE LISTED AS “VOCALS/PIANO/GUITAR” ON “LOVERS IN HOTELS” ALBUM. DID YOU HAVE ANY FORMAL TRAINING FOR ANY OR ALL?
Jeff: I have taken a voice lesson or two but no real training..A lot of what we’ve become as far as our progress is a result of recording..So far it seems like every group of songs which turns into every EP or Record is a bench mark not only of where we were with our sound at the time but also our abilities..It’s like an actor seeing himself on camera..after a bit you begin to know what works for you and where and how you can either stretch or pull back.
LL: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME “THE IVY WALLS” AND WHAT BROUGHT THE BAND TOGETHER?
Jeff: We were in a band called The Fade that just never hit the mark for us..I had the name “The Ivy Walls” put away for awhile during the last months of The Fade so when it came time for that project to dismantle I already had the vision of where we were going..The Ivy Walls reminded me of that moody and introspective period on the east coast..That’s really it..it was mostly just a satisfying notion..At this point RV and I were working together more efficiently then ever..We learned our lessons with The Fade and The Count had always shown us the loyalty of a brother so we just needed to find the right person on the drums..we had used our friend (producer) Erik Colvin’s drummer from Neuromance (Clive Tucker) for a few songs and after playing with Clive we knew how essential a great drummer was going to be..We really enjoyed Danny for his time in the band but this is a tough game..There can be a lot of stuff to get you down when you’re at it day after day..When Adam came in he was one of those guys that we hoped would be looking for a project like ours..We had a lot of talks about hoping he realized the potential in the room.. After a few rehearsals he asked me if Ryan was gay and called Rodrigo”Ricardo” at that point he just became one of us.
LL: HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE ‘THE IVY WALLS’ SOUND?
Jeff: I would say melodic yet driving..I think there’s a dreaminess that we tap into when we’re at our best..Someone (maybe LL) once said our sound was cinematic..I’ve always liked that.
LL: “LOVERS AND HOTELS” IS A WONDERFUL ALBUM. I CAN’T GET ENOUGH IT. CAN YOU TELL US THE STORY ABOUT MAKING THIS ALBUM? I KNOW YOU HAD SOME HARD-TIMES ALONG THE WAY… WHICH INCLUDED NEAR DEATH AND HOSPITAL VISITS. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED, AND HOW IT MOLDED ITSELF INTO THIS ALBUM?
Jeff: Yea it was a year of challenges and changes..I passed out the day after a show in Silverlake on August 9th..I was having wacky heartbeats and nobody could explain why..The tests would take weeks to get approved by insurance and in the meantime my Mom had come out to look over me..At that same time my Grandfather was really ill and in September I went home with her not knowing what was the matter or when I would be coming home. The trip proved to be important as it was my
last visit with my Grandfather and on ‘September 11th’ I flew back to L.A. scared shitless. That night I went to see Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams at the bowl and as I sat there I couldn’t even enjoy the
show..I was always weak and now a nervous wreck and my heart never seemed to beat appropriately for the moment..The guys in the band we’re incredibly patient..I don’t know if they ever considered looking for another band but we had a lot of jokes about rockstar INXS..I told them if they ever did to me what those shitheads did to michael hutchence that I would haunt them forever. So during October RV and I layed down a couple rough tracks off the cuff one of which was “halloween”..By Thanksgiving I would being given a diagnosis of Dysautonomia that was corrected as quickly as it came about with a low dose of a blood pressure medication..A few days later my Grandfather died and we hung things up for the rest of the year..If we hadn’t already done so much at that point I’m not sure what would’ve become of Lover’s in Hotels..For me it was “The Bombs are Falling” that tied everything together..It was encompassing of my life and also of where I hoped our sound was going.. That year really aged me.
LL: I GET THE FEELING YOU’VE THAT YOU FEEL THIS ALBUM IS SOMETIMES LIKE TWO DIFFERENT MOODS OF YOUR LIFE? CAN YOU PICK OUT TWO SONGS THAT REALLY SHOW THE DIFFERENCE, AND REVEAL WHAT WHAT EMOTION/TIME WAS COMING ACROSS?
Jeff: I think Faster was one those bratty moments of talking about things like being up for days and wanting someone not to leave you..I wish I could always carry a load so light..I think Halloween shows the darker side that we were experiencing..I felt really desolate during that period.
LL: THE TITLE SONG WAS RECENTLY ON MTV’S REAL-WORLD: SYDNEY? HOW DID THEY FIND YOU, AND HOW DID THAT COME TO HAPPEN?
Jeff: It was pretty simple..They contacted our Myspace.
LL: WHAT’S YOUR METHOD FOR WRITING MUSIC AND LYRICS? ARE YOU ALWAYS MUSIC BEFORE LYRICS? DO YOU HAVE ONE SET STANDARD PATH THAT INSPIRATION SEEMS TO FIND YOU? DOES A SONG JUST SORT OF REVEAL ITSELF TO YOU, OR DO YOU REVEAL YOURSELF TO YOUR MUSIC?
Jeff: We do it every which way..RV is a very prolific guitarist..We moved into the same building because of our excessive song writing bursts..It’s nothing for one of to be at the other’s door at 2 in the morning with a guitar strapped on saying “you gotta hear this”..Lyrics are crafted several ways..Sometimes they come with the music, other times they are notions that have been waiting for a home, and sometimes they are crafted for the song.
LL: THE FIRST TIME I HEARD “THE BOMBS ARE FALLING”, I WAS VERY IMPRESSED BY THE ENTIRE ENSEMBLE OF SOUND — THE MOOD IT EVOKED, PRESENCE IT CREATED, AND ATTENTION IT COMMANDED, AND ALL WITHOUT FEELING ‘HEAVY.’ I THINK YOUR MUSIC IN GENERAL HAS A SENSE OF INNER-HOPE, EVEN IN ONE’S WORST OF MOMENTS ND TIME. DO YOU FIND THIS TO BE THE CASE WITH
YOURSELF? DO YOU FIND A THEME OF INSPIRATION SURROUNDED IN DARK CORNERS OF YOUR MUSIC? OR DOES IT FEEL ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FOR YOU?
Jeff: I think that minus the year prior to the release of the record that our mission has been very youthful and full of good people and fortune..I think that through the years we’ve helped each other not let things get too heavy..I think music is a big part of that for us..I think that sense of hope is what drives us to keep coming back and doing this together.
LL: ARE THERE ANY OTHER LOCAL BANDS YOU LIKE?
Jeff: of course.. Midnight Movies, Neuromance, and Erik’s new project “Modified by Man”, a faulty chromosome, Winston and the Telescreen.
LL: I KNOW YOU’VE BEEN WORKING ON SOME NEW MUSIC. WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM FROM THE IVY WALLS IN ‘O8?
Jeff: Lots! We’re gonna play a few new tunes at The DERBY ON Feb. 5th.
LL: WE SHARE SOME MUTUAL FRIENDS, AND SOMETIMES YOU GET REFERRED TO AS “BOUNDER” AND VICE-VERSA TO THEM. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THIS?
Jeff: (Laughter)hahaha! only one of the other bounders could do that..ha,ha.
Visit THE IVY WALLS at their MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/theivywalls), and come out and celebrate Super Tuesday night at the world famous Derby in Los Angeles (2/5/08) at 11pm with a vote, and a show of support for The Ivy Walls — Or catch them again sometime this year, and of course buy their album “Lovers in Hotels” (available on itunes too) and enjoy. Until next time…
— fearless23 (aka. LL).