Electronic Instrumental Duo Hello Yes Release ‘Lost Signal’

You’ve heard all the cliches about making electronic music. That it’s just someone pushing buttons on stage, or using preset sounds to make a basic house track.

Yet, that’s been changing for quite some time. Although electronic acts have long turned to studio musicians to flesh out their sounds – see the Pet Shop Boys’ decades of collaborations as one example – recent developments have included more instrumental-rooted attractions.

Timmy Trumpet is perhaps one of the more prominent, followed by violin-playing Marina Bo and legions of producers who compose via keyboard or percussion.

Hello Yes overlaps with these developments. The duo consisting of guitarist Mitch Bell and saxophonist Aaron Leibowitz have been the touring and collaborating band for producer ZHU.

As well, their sound as an independent act firmly falls into groovy dancefloor territory – versus pop or rock with EDM elements – yet they also pull from classic songwriting techniques. 

Making appearances at Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest, Lollapalooza, and other events and more recently touring with the reunited Swedish House Mafia, they just dropped their latest EP – Lost Signal, out in October on Gravitas Recordings. Vacillating from moody to upbeat and modern to nostalgic, Lost Signal attests to the idea that not every house release needs to be software (or even keyboard) driven. We spoke with them about the release and their approach in general:

What drew you together to start making music?

We were already making music together and touring.

A natural progression of friendship shared experiences, and spending a lot of time together on the road led to making beats and songs.

The early sound from our demos is quite different from where we ended up on the first release with Listen Clearly.

What has been your process for composing songs? Is all your music organic, or do you also incorporate electronic elements?

Songwriting has been a mixed process. Sometimes Mitch has a crackin’ beat, and we work together on the vocals. While other times, Ronny will drop an idea in a folder, and Mitch will re-work and arrange it.

The electronic elements have been present from the start. I think a big inspiration for this project was to take what we’ve learned about melding organic and electronic elements together and create our own version of it. 

Since your origins involve electronic dance music, what do you is the role of live and organic instruments in making dance music?

Electronic beats are the foundation for dance music, so fat resonant bass and drums that slap are what make the people bounce. The live instruments are the secret ingredient, the way to the soul, the human element.

The role of live instruments in electronic music is evolving quickly, but instruments like sax and guitar are naturally melodic and work well as top voices.

Sometimes, using the live instruments to break away from the dancier elements of a driving beat into a breakdown is more impactful than attempting to turn a sax into another synth part in a section in a big drop.

You also support ZHU as his live band. What is your approach for preparing for shows?

We have learned a lot working with ZHU about building a live show. There’s a lot of prep work that goes into the set, building it with the audience in mind and working in some flexibility for live moments.

We have shared playlists that we add inspo to and are constantly bouncing back ideas on what might be cool for the live show, whether it’s remixing something old with something new or taking a section of something and adapting it for live.

How receptive have audiences been to live music on stage?

We have only had a couple shows at this point, but the reception has been pretty epic. The live instruments are definitely a big part of it.

Both of us have been playing our instruments for a long time and are very comfortable with live performance, improvisation, and adapting in that way.

Bringing those live skills to an electronic style of performance has proven to be quite powerful.

With all the dance music subgenres out there, how would you describe your sound?

Indie House or Indie Dance would probably be the most straightforward way to describe it. We are aiming to get more indie kids into the rave scene.

With that said, the name of subgenres nowadays are getting pretty hilarious, and we can appreciate that. Chill Twitch for ex: love it.

Tell us about your EP, Lost Signal. How did the concept come together?

The Lost Signal theme stemmed from our name Hello Yes as a phone greeting and the idea of a phone signal or signals getting lost.

The setting in space seemed fitting for some of the more psychedelic and moodier sounds on the record.

Lyrically, tracks like “Never Feel the Same” and “The Lesson” are exploring trials and tribulations of relationships, which also ties into signals getting lost.

You also collaborate with other artists: How do end up collaborating with other artists, and how do you adapt to their sound or vision?

Other artists who have collaborated on the first two EPs are good friends of ours who we work with regularly and have great rapport with.

We usually have a vision for what is needed, whether it’s drums, trumpet, mixing or whatever, and since our friends are so damn talented, it’s usually super easy to blend their sound.

If we are writing new material with friends, it’s as simple as taking an idea or part we like and then building off of it. Once we start building, it naturally becomes our sound and direction.

More recently, you’ve been touring in support of Swedish House Mafia. How has your time on the road been so far?

The dudes are legends for sure. Getting to share the stage with Mr Axwell…crazy. Playing rooms like Madison Square Garden and arenas has been an absolute trip, and we are grateful for the experience.

We hung around for their performance at the LA show at Bank of America Stadium, and there was a hurricane warning that resulted in a packed stadium with rain pouring down on a hot summer night. It was epic to see them like that.

Writer

Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born EDM and synthpop enthusiast and interviewer who recently relocated to beautiful Boston, MA.

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