At Indie Band Guru we love chatting with independent musicians putting in the work to create interesting original music. Our recent discovery Roomtone is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Alex Yaker. He has performed and/or collaborated with a wide array of songwriters such as Duquette Johnston (Verbena, Cutgrass), Bo Butler (the Saturdays), the Silos (NYC), as well as recorded and touring with John P. Strohm (Blake Babies, the Lemonheads, Antenna.)
The latest release by Roomtone is the Thousand Watt EP. We had a chance to talk about the record and pick Alex’s brain to learn more about what drives him to create music. Enjoy the interview here:
Q: Where did the name Roomtone come from?
A: Roomtone is kind of a term that comes from my professional work. When I’m not doing music, I’m actually a sound engineer. More specifically, I’m a location sound mixer. So, in that world, Roomtone is a term that describes the sound of the room vs. the sound of any environment when nothing is happening. If we’re all quiet sitting in a room, you can still hear the sound that the room makes. It could be – none of the rooms are completely quiet so it’s that kind of intriguing, mesmerizing sound, that a room makes. It could be an AC running in the back, it could be some weird sound that a light makes. Basically, that’s roomtone and I felt that was kind of fitting for the music that I was making and fitting because of my professional life.
Q: As far as your new music, how would you describe it?
A: It’s actually evolved quite a bit. Roomtone started, roughly, ten years ago in maybe 2008/2007. When I first started playing, most of my songs I would describe as a bossa nova, actually. I’m a big fan of Brazilian music. There were people that were giving me labels like Indie Bossa-nova, mellow, acoustic, nylon guitar. Then slowly it started evolving into something more upbeat, something more poppy and maybe with even some influences of shoegaze bands of the early 90s. The newest record that’s called Thousand Watts that’s just a three-song EP, it’s kind of a lot more upbeat and a lot more hook bass and guitar bass than what I used to.
Q: As far as how your music developed you mentioned the bossa nova sound, which I can definitely hear in your music. But as far as other artists, who do you think you would say are some of your biggest influences for this new sound?
A: Again, I’ve always been fascinated with Brazilian music so a lot of my earliest sessions were influenced by that. I was always a fan of early acoustic tech music. So people like Simon Garfunkel, I kind of developed my own fingerpicking styles. In my earlier music, there’s a lot of that in it. And then you kniow artists like Neil Halstead did Slowdive because I was always a big fan of early shoegazing, if you know the Cocteau Twins. Of course, I can’t go without mentioning The Beatles. I mean, that’s the craft of making a perfect pop song with everything and it just being perfect. You know, the chorus, the verses, and always when I make music I always try to make a verse that goes with the perfect chorus.
Q: As far as developing that sound, for people listening to your music, what do you hope people take from listening to it?
A: That’s a good question. I always want to make music that’s timeless. Not because I want my music to be popular all the time but I just enjoy music that’s timeless. You know, bands like Beach Boys, The Beatles, or any pop band of the 60s/70s, you can hear some of these songs today and they still make sense and they’re still relevant. Some of the music that we’re hearing today is kind of a niche music that maybe is not going to be as big in five or six or ten years, so I try to make the classic songwriting approach. Verses that make sense. Choruses, nothing that is too not approachable for some people. My approach in music is always a classic songwriting approach.
Q: I know your most recent record is Thousand Watts but I know you’re working on all sorts of music. What is your latest project?
A: Well I play in many different bands. Roomtone is my own personal project but I play in another bad with a friend: All Summer Fiction. That’s another very melodic pop band and maybe in the vein of the Beach Boys. There’s a lot of harmonies and I play different instruments in different bands just to keep it interesting. I’m actually mainly a keyboard player but I definitely play guitar and bass in some bands. It just keeps it interesting for me at least. But what I have coming up after the Thousand Watts record is I have the luxury of having my own studio at home so I don’t have to pay anyone, I don’t have to ask anybody to record for me or play the instruments.
I try to be self-sufficient so that awards me the luxury of creating a lot of music so I think I have about 15 songs that are more or less finished but I want to release at some point. Half of them actually are slated to be just instrumental so I think I’m going to release an EP or a record or whatever that’s going to be just instrumental music. I know maybe instrumental music is not so popular for certain people – for me, instrumental music was always very influential. I’m a big fan of a lot of movies, a lot of TV shows, and a lot of that music had a lot of influence on me so instrumental music was always in the back of my head.
Q: You have your own studio which is a huge, huge plus. For other artists that can make their own studio in their home, what advice would you give to other artists that are trying to break through?
A: Well I think most artists should approach music as, you know, write what comes out of you. Don’t try to please anybody out there, don’t try to write what you think might be this multi-platinum record. Just write the music that you think is in you. The music that makes sense to you, the music that’s inside you and whatever comes out, whatever you want to call it, it’s fine. don’t try to mold it to, you know, “I want to write this record. I want to try to write this song that’s going to sound like this,” just whatever comes out. Don’t worry about labels, don’t worry about criticism, just do what comes naturally that’s usually the best idea. That really shows your true musicianship and what you’re trying to express. That’s what I would say.
Q: Like you said, you have a million projects going on. What’s the next goal for Roomtone? And on your own, like you said, the instrumental album, that sounds very interesting. How far in the future are we looking to get that produced?
A: Well I’m still looking to play some shows. This latest record, Thousand Watts, was released just a few months ago. I’m looking to do some shows in the northeast, you know possibly New York, DC areas. I also looking to travel south. I actually grew up in Alabama. I wanna go through Nashville and go down to Birmingham and you know do some shows and play some new music. But also, like I was saying, I want to finish the songs that I’ve been working on and hopefully maybe by Fall time have new music out.
Q: Any final thoughts that we could share?
A: I think with so many outlets right now like Spotify and Apple Music or whatever you use, there’s so many good bands and so much good music out there. I’ve discovered so much good stuff in just the last year but I’m just happy this is the time that we live in, that we can freely discover new music that’s amazing and it’s just an exciting time.
Hear more of the impressive output from Roomtone on BANDCAMP and let us know if you have any other questions for him.