Behind the Music: Interview with Yehra

‘We really want our tracks to sound expensive, but there’s nothing expensive about how they are made.’

With their new single ‘Magnetic’ being added to May’s #FridayFinds Spotify Playlist, we simply had to find out more about Yehra – a duo who prove that even when you haven’t met each other, it’s possible to create spellbinding music. 

Hi Yehra, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Introduce yourselves to your future listeners. Thank you, David. We’re Yehra, a trans-Atlantic dream-pop duo consisting of Jen from Barbados – now based in Canada – and Rasmus from Copenhagen, Denmark.

If you had to describe your sound in no more than 5 words, what would they be? Sad, but sexy.

Which artists inspire you and do they impact your sound in any way? Rasmus: Oh man, there are quite a few. But to start somewhere, in my teens – around the time I really started getting into writing my own music – I was really into a lot of British acts and it was formative for me. And I’m not just saying that because you are a UK outlet. Stuff like Radiohead, Portishead, Massive Attack, Underworld, and The Smiths. I still listen to them a lot, even though my taste is broader nowadays and I appreciate more cheerful music as well. Jen: It’s so hard to choose! One of our strengths as a duo is that we love a lot of the same music – all the artists Rasmus just mentioned are favourites of mine as well. I’d throw lots of pop in there too – both indie sounds like MGMT and Gorillaz as well as some straight-up pop like Taylor Swift, Max Martin-style hits. 

Turning to your stunning new single ‘Magnetic’, what is the story behind the title and its creation? Rasmus: I borrowed this Fender bass, but more a guitarist than a bassist, so I laid down this kind of ‘guitarist’ bass line. I added a bit of keys and drums to that and felt like I had a pretty good mood right there. I send that to Jen, and she quickly made the melody you hear on the song. My dear friend Otto Rud added the fantastic slide guitar with a beer bottle one fun night and another dear friend Rasmus Juncker, an incredibly talented producer and drummer, helped with some final touches on the production and tracked a bit of the drums as well. Jen: ‘Magnetic’ is one of those tracks that already had its title before any words were written. Rasmus sent the instrumental to me with the label ‘Magnetic Woman’ and I thought that was a pretty cool concept, so we went with the whole idea of being drawn to someone as a force of nature. 

‘I remember telling my Mum that I’d found this great producer and I was going to catch him early before he got too famous!’

How does the fact that you live in two completely different places affect the songwriting/recording process? Jen: I spent my teens and early 20s playing in rock bands, so this was certainly a shift for me. But working mostly via email has kind of forced us to write out all of our thoughts, and I think that’s actually been good for the project. Rasmus: It’s kind of weird because you never have that ‘live’ reaction from the other person, but somehow it works for us. I tend to be quite excited when sending an idea to Jen, like I’m really hoping I’ll impress Jen and looking forward to hearing her thoughts about it (luckily, she usually praises the ideas, haha!). Jen is just so good at extracting the melody that an instrumental is begging for. Jen: I love that. I remember telling my Mum when I first started working with Rasmus that I’d found this great producer and I was going to catch him early before he got too famous. I’m glad that feeling is mutual 😀

With you knowing each other for many years, why was 2021 the time to release your debut tracks? Rasmus: So yeah, I think 2012 was the first time we mailed together! It’s been a bit of an on-off project over the years, and it wasn’t really like ‘we’re gonna make a duo!’ in the beginning. It all happened pretty slowly and organically. At some point, we just had this handful of songs we really loved and were proud of. It was a natural deduction at that point that we had to start Yehra and the timing just felt right now. Jen: I think we’ve both also found a sweet spot in our lives as well – we’ve learned a lot over the past few years from our other music projects and we’ve grown up a lot. Now we’re ready to apply that knowledge to releasing these songs. 

Both your tracks to date have an incredibly polished sound to them. How important was it for you to deliver something of such high quality so early in your career? Rasmus: Thank you, I am really glad you say that – to be honest, I really wanted it to sound like an expensive record. There’s nothing expensive about it how it was made though – 99% of it was made in our respective living rooms with a laptop a bit of basic gear. I have to give a shout-out to our mixer Mads Oustrup, he mixed a lot of Robin Hannibal’s work over the years including Rhye, Quadron, and Niia. Jen: Mads really did an amazing job on the mix. We also have a lot of unreleased songs, so I think having a lot of material to choose from helped us get a more cohesive sound. 

So how will your other releases build on this sound? Jen: It feels different in a good way to keep writing now that we’ve started releasing music, especially after going through that process of choosing which songs we’re most excited about. That actually really helped us define our sound. So now that we’re more self-aware it will be cool to see what comes up. Rasmus: I don’t think we’re quite done exploring the mood of the songs we have so far, so probably more in this ‘soft space’ coming up.

What do you listen to when you aren’t creating music? Jen: It depends on the context – Spotify’s ‘song radio’ feature is my friend. For making pancakes on a Sunday morning it’s Bessie Smith’s ‘Backwater Blues’ or Fleet Foxes ‘Ragged Wood.’  I love a good EDM or Ariana Grande song while I’m working out or drinking beer on a sunny afternoon. I’m also obsessed with classic calypso artists like Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener. Rasmus: It might be a bit of a cliché, but I have a really broad taste and don’t stick to just one or two genres. Sometimes I fall in love with an album and listen to it over and over, for instance, The War On Drugs with ‘A Deeper Understanding.’ It just sonically blows me away and I love the optimism around the whole expression of the record. However, the most consistent genre I’ve listened to for the past decade or even longer is ambient music. I can almost always listen to that. Stuff like Aphex Twin’s ambient pieces, Huerco S. and Alva Noto.

Both of your releases so far have been added to numerous Spotify playlists across the globe. How does it feel to know your music has such wide appeal? Rasmus: Feels very good! – even more so considering that everything is completely organic and the fact that you’re always competing with the best out there. Jen: It’s especially nice to know that Spotify’s editorial team is up for lending support to completely independent artists. We’ve also received amazing support from blogs and indie playlist curators around the world – in particular Scandinavian Soul and Indie Shuffle took an early chance on us and we’ll always appreciate that. 

‘Jen is just so good at extracting the melody that an instrumental is begging for.’

So does the chance of success, or the opportunity for self-expression, drive you more as an artist? Rasmus: Success is very relative; I feel like it is a success already. So, I’d say self-expression, even though I feel like making the music is almost like an urge rather than a conscious self-expressive process. Jen: It’s always amazing to get such positive feedback on something you’ve worked hard to make – it’s really encouraging. I think we’re aiming more to create a vibe that people can enjoy and relate to, but there is some self-expression in there for sure! 

Looking ahead, what are your musical plans for the rest of 2021? We’re going to release our debut EP ‘Magnetic’ (the single just released is the title track)! That’s the main focus, but of course, we’re also already thinking about the next release so stay tuned!

And finally, what musical experience stays in your minds to this day and why is this the case? Rasmus: Oh man, I have a lot of good memories from Roskilde Festival, a legendary Danish festival. Playing there with my old band Kúra in 2012 was the best one. Jen: Yes! Live shows always stand out as my most memorable experiences. I’ve been lucky enough to play with various projects at some of Toronto’s best venues like Lee’s Palace, The El Mocambo, and so many more. I think we are both really hoping and looking forward to playing a live show or two with this project. 

Thanks Yehra for chatting with Listen to Discover

Photography Credits: Omar Elkharadly (Featured Image & Jen Portrait), Clara Zapfee (Rasmus Portrait)

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