Yonaka – the breakthrough British rock band tackling toxic relationships on their empowering debut

As British rock's great hope release their bold debut album 'Don't Wait 'Til Tomorrow', we catch up with the band to talk over what binds them together, overcoming anxiety, and their comic book future.

“I want them to feel strong,” starts Theresa Jarvis of what she wants people to get from Yonaka’s debut album. “I want them to feel empowered. I want them to feel like they can kick the door down and go get what they want.”

It’s a strutting, confident message from a band who’ve spent the past few years growing in strength; collecting their power and kicking down whatever doors have been stupid enough to stand in their way. The end result is ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, a record that captures all that growth and, alongside a blossoming belief, twists it into a celebration of everything that the band stands for.

Formed a few years ago, Theresa, Alex Crosby, George Edwards, Rob Mason had all dabbled in music before (George and Alex had a math-rock band called The Human Channel, while Theresa had “a really crap thing that lasted a week”) but Yonaka felt different from the get-go. “When we sat down to write, it felt special. I never had that before,” says Theresa. A drunken night out early on saw them telling each other “this is really good, isn’t it? I don’t want to do anything else.” Luckily, they still felt the same way the next morning.

Yonaka’s Theresa Jarvis. Credit: Alessandro Bosio/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

And so, the band set to work figuring out what they wanted to be in public. Early releases ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Drongo’ crept with a midnight want. “In the beginning, everything had to be dark. The music, the lyrics, it had to have a darkness but we were still figuring each other out. We were learning.”

Now the band have emerged from the shadows. “I know it doesn’t have to be like that at all,” continues Theresa. “At first, we were just messing about. ‘Bubblegum’, what the fuck am I talking about there? I feel like we’ve grown a lot. We know what we want to say and what we want to sound like. I know there has to be a message in the songs now.”

“I feel like we’ve grown a lot. We know what we want to say and what we want to sound like. I know there has to be a message in the songs now” – Theresa Jarvis

There’s always been a drive to Yonaka. A belief that they can do this. Every release, from the hectic, eclectic rush of 2017’s ‘Heavy’ EP to the focused adventure of 2018’s ‘Creature’ EP, sees the band turn towards the spotlight but “We’ve only properly just started knowing what we are, and what we want to be,” offers Theresa. “Nine months ago, that’s when we became Yonaka.” It happened on an arena tour, supporting Bring Me The Horizon alongside Fever 333.

”I felt so much strength and knew exactly how we wanted to touch people. It just clicked. Watching those bands every night, it forced us to up our game as performers. You feel so inspired by it because they give it everything.”

Fever 333’s guitarist Stephen Harrison spent the tour giving Yonaka pep talks before stagetime. “He’d come out with these philosophical lines. ‘People are going to grow up different because of you tonight’,” says George. It was something the band had known, but had never really heard out loud. It put things into focus.

“I definitely do think what we’re doing is important. When we get offstage, all these young girls come and speak to me saying we’ve given them confidence to do this or ‘thank you for talking about this, you’ve made me feel better’. If young girls are saying that, that’s fucking amazing. It’s definitely important,” beams Theresa. “We were getting the album together at that point as well, which helped solidify it,” continues George.

“When we get offstage, all these young girls come and speak to me saying we’ve given them confidence to do this or ‘thank you for talking about this, you’ve made me feel better’” – Theresa Jarvis

Written at the tail end of last year, and recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by the band themselves during a hectic January of 16 hour days,  ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is wholly Yonaka. There’s zero compromise and the band never try and be something they’re not. “We had experiences of working with other people and not being happy with the results,” explains Alex of their decision to do it themselves. “We got a lot more confident in ourselves, through those experiences, and we had a solid idea of what we wanted it to sound like. We had full control,” which is something Yonaka relish.

Across its 11 tracks, the gang take their shared vision – and fill in the lines with a neon confidence. “When we write songs, we don’t write 50 and pick two. We write it, knowing it’s going to be a good song,” grins Theresa. “Musically we try and keep it different. We get bored so we don’t want other people to get bored.”

Yonaka, live at All Points East 2018. Credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns

The record deals with rockstar dreams, manipulative relationships and a whole lot of self-belief. ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is a mantra from a band who’ve always grabbed every opportunity with hands, teeth and spirit and always chased more. But more importantly, “‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is a message to anyone who feels like they’re on their own, is on their own or feels like they’re going through a hard time mentally,” admits Theresa.

“It’s saying reach out to someone, change something or do something about it. Don’t leave it too late. I was going through some really bad anxiety myself. I couldn’t sleep properly and I was feeling really shit. I started reading Matt Haig and his writing captured exactly how I felt, but couldn’t explain. That was really important.”

She continues: “Sometimes you feel really lonely,  like ‘It’s just me, I’m going to die’. To know someone else feels the same way I do, that helped me when I wasn’t feeling good. I’ve got family and friends who suffer with depression and it really gets heavy on people. People’s brains, they can take over and put you in this horrible place. ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is a message to let you know you’re not alone. Other people are going through the same stuff and you can reach out and talk to someone.”

“I was going through some really bad anxiety myself. I couldn’t sleep properly and I was feeling really shit. I started reading Matt Haig and his writing captured exactly how I felt, but couldn’t explain. That was really important” – Theresa Jarvis

Yonaka have touched on their struggles with mental health before but never this directly. “It’s good to expose it,” says George. “The more people that talk about it, the stronger the message is.”

“I’m trying to say don’t be scared to talk about it,” continues Theresa, who fearlessly leads the charge across the album. “I can’t preach that if I’m going to be scared to do it myself.”

Despite giving their debut album absolutely everything they have, Yonaka are already “ready to start writing the next one.” They want to take it “somewhere different, definitely. We don’t want to do the same thing, our tastes are always changing,” says Alex before Theresa admits with a smile, “It’s got to be fresh. I’d love to do a Marvel-themed album.”

They carry themselves like they’re ready to be the biggest band in the world, but it’s more than the spotlight to them. ”I think I speak for everyone, we need to do music,” offers Alex. ”Regardless of whether it’s a job or not, it’s something we’d be doing anyway. It’s something we all need in our lives.”

“Now, it just feels right so I hope some amazing things happen for us,” continues Theresa, unafraid to be bold with their dreams. But as for the pressure, “there’s nothing wrong with it because we’re now in a place where it feels like we’ve started,” she grins. “We love attention, so more please.”

Yonaka perform with Bring Me The Horizon at All Points East today on the North Stage at 4.30pm. Their debut album ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’ is out now. 

Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow

Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow, an album by YONAKA on Spotify