INTERVIEW: John Andrews and The Yawns

There’s something to love about a small New Hampshire town when your biggest first world problem might be deciding which of the two coffee shops within a ten mile radius to support.

But, speaking as a former NH resident, the isolation and process of learning how to restlessly cope during the unforgiving winters eventually burdens most transplants. For John Andrews though, a leap to the Granite State sounded like both a much needed change and a perfect fit for him and his band, The Yawns.

“The past few years, I just haven’t been able to relate to the city,” Andrews says over email. “I’ve lived in Boston and Philadelphia and I do appreciate a lot of the things cities have to offer, but I definitely find more peace in smaller towns and the country. I love the solitude.”

Andrews’ first full-length, Bit By The Fang, deceived its easygoing psychedelic exterior with a backstory of tour fatigue as a member of both Quilt and Woods as well as the dissolution of his living situation in the Amish country of Pennsylvania due to extensive touring. Bad Posture, his upcoming second album on Woodsist, seems to finally emphasize the ‘home’ in his home-recorded music in comparison, written “slowly & quietly throughout the winter” near a wood stove in Andrews’ New Hampshire farmhouse. When it came time to record in the spring, Andrews maintained his pastoral songwriting approach; the barn doors were kept ajar to allow the crickets and “occasional truck driving by” a chance to sing backup.

“I live with my band and my best friends, so I still have social interaction,” he assures, “[but] I moved to New Hampshire because I wanted to focus on my art as opposed to going out to bars.”

Posture’s first offering, “Drivers”, offers aching relation to tired truckers, culminating in Andrews exhaling its chorus, “I don’t know you no more, don’t owe you no more”, in seeming response to the nomadic lifestyle. Self-realization and plain acceptance feel like necessary functions in Andrews’ songwriting, both of which are prominently on display when asked about the album’s title.

“I have bad posture. It’s something I work on,” Andrews admits. “I try to stand up straight but sometimes a few minutes later, I just melt back down to where I was. It’s just human.”

The “Drivers” video plays at the lyrical notion of fighting off demons with a smirk, placing The Yawns’ drummer in a devil’s costume and challenging Andrews to a lake hockey game. Posture more earnestly tackles the demons of solitude with the inclusion of “Home Is Just As Good As Anyplace,” a cover of outsider Americana legend Biff Rose. Andrews says that Rose, who has been an acquaintance for about six years, cast a large shadow of influence over Posture and his songwriting as a whole since he was introduced.

“I listened to his first record, The Thorn in Mrs. Rose’s Side, when I was about 20 years old and it blew me away. The lyrical content is unbelievable, truly poetic. Some of my friends can’t fully get into the music because it is sort of eccentric at times, but I just embrace that the same way I embrace Daniel Johnston’s music. Biff has battled some demons the past few years of his life and, although I cannot always agree with him politically today, there was serious magic, innocence, and purity to his music way back when.”

The echoes of Rose’s innocence and purity in songwriting feel very much alive in Andrews’ homespun creations, even down to the film nostalgia of the “Drivers” video. Considering the video builds to a hockey fight that crowns Andrews victorious amongst angels and friends, I asked the self-proclaimed Bruins and Flyers fan to conclude by naming some of his favorite hockey fights.

“The most memorable hockey fight is when I beat Satan in the video!” Andrews cheekily retorts.

Considering he literally beat the devil and claimed the prize of playing music on a New Hampshire porch with friends, I concede that he might have a point.

Bad Posture is out on 3/10 via Woodsist. John Andrews and The Yawns will join fellow Woodsist act Hand Habits and Ryan Major & The Love Strangers at Lilypad Inman in Cambridge on Sunday, February 10th. For more information, check out the show page here.