Following his critically acclaimed 2019 EP nervous, which featured collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD, Monsune, and Jacques Green, Japanese-Canadian singer-songwriter Jonah Yano has come through with an intensely personal debut full-length titled souvenir. Released on Father’s Day, the album was recorded between his home in Toronto and Red Bull studios in Tokyo, Japan, where Yano travelled to reconnect with his father after 15 years. Following the separation of his parents in 1998, Yano moved from Hiroshima to Vancouver, but it wasn’t until he moved to Toronto in 2016 that he started making waves in the local music scene with a series of self-produced songs. Souvenir is his most strikingly affecting effort yet, capturing unique snapshots from his past and weaving them into a complicated but tender portrait of family relationships that is sure to strike a deep emotional chord with many. Highlights include the smooth R&B jam ‘delicate’, the dreamy, painfully candid ‘congratulations, you’re in first place’, and the gritty, expansive ‘strawberry!’, which is reminiscent of Yves Tumor’s latest work. But nothing hits quite as hard as ‘shoes’, the album’s heart-wrenching closing track, written and sung by none other than Yano’s father, in which he recounts a story about a pair of shoes he bought for Yano as a child.
We caught up with Jonah Yano for this edition of our Artist Spotlight series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk a bit about their music.
What’s your earliest musical memory?
i honestly can’t think of a definitive first memory with music. however i do remember very clearly buying avril lavigne’s first album “let go” when i was super young and my friends mom who drove to the mall that day played it on the car ride back home. i loved that. between you and me, i still listen to that album every once in a while
Who are some of your influences?
lately i’ve been really digging into all of Phil Elverum’s work. he has a lot of music out under a few different names (Mt. Eerie, The Microphones, D+ & a couple more). his work as Mt. Eerie has influenced me a lot in terms of lyricism. longtime fan of Feist as well. Been reading Gertrude Stein poems again too. Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn are big ones too.
What was the inspiration for your debut album, souvenir?
well the main idea for the record is to tell stories of my life, and family’s life, from different narratives. so lyrically it’s all very inspired by my own experiences and internal dialogue as well as the experiences of different people in my family. the title “souvenir” is meant to describe what these songs are to me. little reminders of the things i’ve felt or thought or lived throughout life so far.
Why did you decide to release the album on Father’s Day?
the last song on this album, shoes, is a song i made with my father. before last year i hadn’t seen him in like 15 years. so the decision to put it out on father’s day is sort of a reclaiming of that day for me. it’s not ever been a day i really enjoyed all that much with having an absent father and all ahaha. so yea, now father’s day for me is souvenir day, and the day i’ll always remember as the day i put out my first album.
How was the writing and recording process like?
it was sort of all over the place. i’m a pretty sporadic person in terms of work ethic. inspiration comes frequently for me but my ability to use that inspiration and turn it into a song or poem is something that’s a litle less frequent. so for this record the writing and recording had no real definitive process because making every song was such a different set of circumstances. some came naturally over the course of a couple days, some took an entire year. some were recorded in toronto, some were recorded around japan. the lyrics were written in a notebook a lot of the time but there’s a couple songs where i didn’t even write the lyrics down. just built them in my head and tracked them. if i had a defined process i would be a much more efficient musician but unfortunatey for now i have no idea how to create the circumstance that outputs a song every time. maybe i never will. just kinda throwing punches in the dark.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
maybe it’s best to answer this question in a really micro way because so much of the rest of the year depends on things beyond our control. i want to get better at playing upright bass, been learning the last few months. i also want to just take care of my brain. been trying to excercise more too. my only real plan right now is to just become a better person in the ways i can. eating good, informing myself, trying to keep my chin up. i think that’s a good place to start.