Hailing from Seattle, Washington, singer songwriter,composer, and multi-instrumentalist Zander Yates has been performing since the age of 16. Having busy years ahead of him, Zander had already released ten albums under various pseudonyms by 2017. Eventually, he would use his name to release 2017’s “ESC Key” which was a combination of Americana,Progressive rock and electronic music. His sound was described as “profoundly experimental” by Martin Douglas. Yates' songwriting delves deep into philosophical questions, psychedelic humor and lofty lyricism. Psychedelic sounding guitar introduce the song, “Xep Sits” for a nifty instrumental intro. Next drops in Xander’s vocals heavily sounding like folky Led Zeppelin songs. A steady rhythm is kept by the interchanging of finger-picking guitars and strumming. Combining a sort of influence from Eastern music similar as to how The Beatles did when traveling to India, Yates brings us together a beautiful and striking melody. The song itself does not have much structure, but this is what characterizes Zander’s folky and psychedelic sound giving an ode to the late 60s. Yates' lyrics seem to be a
wandering of the mind and discusses things that are thought provoking in nature, such
as one’s time is limited. The song ends the same way it started, with a purely guitar
Listen to "Xep Stis" here, and learn more about Zander Yates in our interview below!
What prompted you to make experimental music? Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
I think in a way most music is experimental in nature. I mean we as humans are deciding to play around with vibrations when we could be focusing on any number of things that exhibit a more logical connection to our survival; to me that’s a pretty experimental action. When I’m making my music I’m never really thinking about genre, all of that comes later. I call Exit Strategy Unlimited experimental because its whole concept and creation was one big experiment. I have a whole lot of inspirations, but on this most recent album, I’d say it’s heavily influenced by Mississippi John Hurt and the film composer John Williams. No joke I listened to pretty much nothing but the Star Wars soundtracks during the weeks leading up to recording the album. And I’ve listened to Mississippi John Hurt for a long time and the way he plays the guitar like a whole orchestra is something that opened up a lot for me and it shows up in the album. As a singer I’m also influenced by local artist Glen Freeman and a singer named Mark Anton; they’ve both given me a lot of pointers and helped me a lot, and there are many more locals who’ve influenced me too as a person. We have tons of great music here in Seattle.
Is there a structure or process you use to make your music?
It depends on the song. Exit Strategy Unlimited was basically entirely improvised, as it was sort of an experiment in forcing myself to perform an unlimited style of music under the pressure of limitations in time, equipment, etc. I think if I ever apply a process to my writing it’s in the spirit of challenge. I can’t stop writing music; it’s always there already, so any framework I apply to it is more like a mold than a skeleton.
What is your favorite instrument to play?
I don’t know if I have a favorite instrument because the more I get into playing different instruments the more I blur the lines between them. I love singing because on a certain level it’s impossible to lie with your voice. No one sounds like me and I can’t sound like anyone else. I love that and I try to hold true to it no matter what I’m playing.
What is the meaning of “Xep Sits” and its name?
All the songs in Exit Strategy Unlimited are laid out in steps, “Step Two,” “Step Three,” etc, as a sort of response to a single I put out in 2017 called “Step One.” Streaming services wouldn’t accept those titles because they have rules against using track titles that imitate the track number; my friend suggested I scramble all the track titles into anagrams and I thought it was a brilliant idea so with his permission I went ahead and did it. “Xep Sits” is just “Step Six” re-arranged. It’s the ending of the album and is a tribute to the true spirit within every person, a person’s most natural self, who is often banished to the fringes of a person’s psyche by the orthodoxy of society and pressure of social conformity. To me if there is any hope for us to save the planet and each other we need to become our most genius selves which means unleashing these true spirits. The ending is just me insisting that nature is coming back and that it will win in the end and we’ll find a way.
Why did you use pseudonyms when you previously released your music?
Actually this made me realize I have a mistake in the bio on my website because as far as I remember I think I’ve only used one pseudonym other than my real name- but I also released a lot of music under my name that I’ve since deleted, so that probably applies to your question as well.
As much as I’ve made an effort to hide my old music in the past, I’m actually really excited for it to be rediscovered one day; I love showing where I’ve come from in the context of where I am. When I was in elementary school I was supposedly (and I can’t remember how official this was) diagnosed with a learning disorder called “nonverbal learning disorder,” or NVLD. (I don’t give much weight to this anymore, as I don’t give much weight to many aspects of our education system. I think our society has a very limited, and at times even backwards, understanding of intelligence which I would like to critique in detail some day soon.) This diagnoses, among other things, would give me a lot of self esteem issues growing up, and because of this my path to becoming a singer and songwriter was one that I travelled upon slowly, and for a long time, secretly. When I was growing up there were very few who believed in me at all, so I kind of tested the waters, usually under a pseudonym, but eventually under my real name too. It took me a long time to overcome the mental boxes I had formed out of all of this, because even if I knew the truth in my heart I had to understand it logically before I could apply it to my life.
People say art is subjective, but it’s not; the experience of art is subjective but the art itself is an objective, physical thing. You create it in a physical reality that we share. It took me a long time to figure that out; I am just starting to learn how to create something with respect to its objective existence, so that it is healing and what I consider to be good. I don’t have to rely on intentionally influencing people’s subjective experiences, which for moral reasons I’d rather leave up to them. I create patterns of physical vibration that can have a healing effect on a person’s physiology while I tell my story. I can now build a building (metaphorically speaking) and appreciate its structural integrity - simply the fact that it achieves its purpose, and that its purpose does not rely on any opinion other than my own, and that I can choose what factors I construct my opinion with depending on the goals of the project and not purely the conventions of our brief moment in history. For these reasons I’m now much more comfortable openly sharing my music under my real name. I still have so much to learn, but I’ve already come farther than what many thought would be possible, and what I’m working on now is so much better (in my opinion) than even the albums I’ve put out most recently. My old music (anything I released between 2008 and 2016) was very weighed down by my own pain and outright lack of skill. I just hope that in the future it will serve as a story telling device so that people can listen to my whole journey and comprehend it on a level that can only be communicated with art, not with words. Anything I can say right now is meaningless compared to that.
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