Yarn's Year

The alt-country road warriors, back with a new album.

“The mood in the band’s never been better,” Blake Christiana says, his contented confidence detectable even over a shaky cell phone connection stretching in from Bozeman, Montana.

“I think we got too comfortable there for a few years. We just did our thing, and we got a little stale. But now we’re back in the game. We’re excited about being back on the road, and we’re having fun with it again," says Yarn's frontman and songwriter candidly.

Out on the road, back in the proverbial game, Yarn is pushing westward, expanding into new markets from their former-Brooklyn stronghold, after recording and releasing a new record, This is the Year. They’ve also slimmed down to their “the core four members." Despite the changes, it’s not a new Yarn, but a renewed Yarn. They’re catchy, unapologetically optimistic on their latest work, having survived some palace intrigue, which included scrapping a record that’d been some years in the making, as well as the departure of a long-time member.

Admittedly, it had been a difficult stretch for the ten-year alt-country veterans, but This is the Year represents a corner turned, the musical manifestation of relationships that are repaired and refreshed, within a band that’s reenergized.

“My wife told me to write a song called, ‘This is the Year.’ I [did it] pretty quick, in like ten minutes,” says Christiana. “It just felt like the right title, the right track for the record. It was like, ‘Okay, we got this. It feels good again.’”

Sonically, This is the Year encapsulates Yarn’s optimism in a blend of old and new, the sound of a down home Texas outlet turning up in modern day Nashville, something like crossing Zack Brown’s jam band posture with a Randy Travis traditionalism. It balances the Randy Nelson VHS tapes and the steady flow of Willie Nelson songs that Blake Christiana was raised on, and cross-pollinates that influence wtih his teenage musical independence, when he spent years in study of Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Grateful Dead.

This renewed sound pops on the record’s title track, where lyrics with anthemic simplicity--This is the year, we’re gonna make that change/this is the year, we start all over again/This is the year, we’re all gonna come out swingin’/we’re gonna raise a glass to a new beginning--meet fuzzy strat solo’s, breathing extra life into the roadhouse country that insulates the album. This is the Year finds its footing and maintains its freshness by balancing standout standards like “I’m a Man,” “Sweet Dolly,” and “Long Way to Texas” with the more genre-bending “Love/Hate,” “Now You’re Gone,” and “Easy Road.”

“The record is half country, half pop-rock--or something like that,” says Christiana. “We consciously made an effort to make a studio album that, at least somewhat, represents us as a live band. I think we did that, at least the best we’ve ever tried.”

Crowds, like the one last night in Bozeman, are responding to the new songs and the paired-down lineup much in the way crowds have always responded to Yarn, a band that’s long-prided themselves on their live performances. However, even though this record is internally cathartic, that emotional release is shared, as it's always been, between stage and crowd.

“That’s what people seek in music; it’s the therapy,” Chritiana says. “If you're seeking a good time, for people to party with, we provide that meeting place, and make that good time even better.”

Yarn’s rolling catharsis is only just beginning, and when asked what an ideal next twelve months is for the band, what they hope “This is the Year” eventually means, Christiana jokes, “Divorce, jail time, rehab, tabloid covers. You know, the good things in life.”

He laughs to himself, and something about Blake Christiana becomes abundantly clear: speaking to him is like listening to Yarn.

The sincerity of conversation comes without self-importance; there's thoughtfulness that lacks pretension; it’s unguarded, without agenda, and maintains the contented confidence that’s initially so strinking.

For now, Yarn’s plan is to keep up the westward expansion, to do more in California, Washington, Oregon, and the Mountain West states. They’ll be back in the studio in September, to keep the forward momentum going, and to make up for the gap left in the scrapped record. On the next release, expect the veteran band to keep growing, to not make the same record twice--to avoid getting too comfortable, to avoid growing stale. To stay in the game. 

“The next 12 months,” Blake says, “we’re just gonna keep bustin’ our asses.”