Source of Yellow are a (mostly) Brooklyn-based trio who play a tightly focused strain of experimental music with a concentration and passion atypical of many improv units. The group consists of Nawi Avila, Nick Hasty, and Peter Kerlin. As the opening group on day two of the NY Eye & Ear Fest, they effectively roused me from my early afternoon stupor with a blistering set that barely topped 15 minutes. The group has just self-released their debut on vinyl and I got to speak with them about the challenges and rewards of putting out your own record, the pleasures of Charleton Heston’s The Omega Man, and their own personal low-end theory.
Max Burke: How long have you guys been together?
Peter Kerlin: Two years. Nawi and I had been in another band called The Holy Childhood and then I stopped playing music for a while and then I met Nick in this graduate program we were in; he was a student of mine, and we started playing. Nawi and I were fantasizing about having a band that would be all low-end — Nawi playing baritone sax, me playing bass…
Nawi Avila: …low-end in competing waves.
PK: So we started out with that idea and it kind of grew. We spent a year before we played, just trying stuff out, getting together a palate of sounds, a distinct palette. Nick does a lot stuff with contact mics and he has a synthesizer that he runs the contact mics through and he drums. So for a while, we developed that palette, getting it under control, and working with a basic way of playing together.
Have you been involved with music your whole life?
PK: Pretty much my whole adult life since I was 18 or something, a lot of bands.
You just put out your first record, your first LP. Was that recorded professionally?
PK: We did it with a friend of ours — Josh Druckman — who has a studio in upstate New York, in Rock Hill, called the Outlier Inn. So he recorded it and it was pretty simple, with very minimal overdubbing. Almost a live record, in some ways. We just tried to get good performances and kept it at that, almost no editing.
NA: One of the songs has overdubs. All songs are live performances, live takes except one. Maybe that’s a fun game to find out which song has the overdub; only one of them does.
PK: The approach was just capture the performances, get the right energy. And we did the mixing and mastering at The Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn, which was great. We decided to do a limited run of 200 vinyl, and we’re still figuring out what we’re doing for digital. If people are motivated, it can be found. We’re trying to figure out what it is to put out a vinyl record yourself, what you should expect. I’ve been in groups that have done that before, but it was always the other people in the band who handled it. So this is the first time for us. But we’re excited; we love the way it came out, got a lot of nice feedback. So it’s been really exciting; we’re psyched.
All three of you guys are from New York?
PK: Nawi lives in Pennsylvania.
NA: I was in Brooklyn for a number of years. I moved back to Pennsylvania almost two years ago, so I’m a commuter.
Nick Hasty: I’m from a small town in Georgia. I lived in Athens for a couple years, but I live in Brooklyn now.
PK: So we don’t get in as much practice as we did when Nawi lived here, but we’re getting used to the new schedule and the new way of doing things.
Do you have a formal rehearsal space?
PK: Yeah, we’re in one of those “big band buildings,” so we struggle against other bands, other people playing in other time signatures.
They don’t have the same ideology about all low-end?
PK: Yeah, and we’ve gotten strangely few complaints about that. It works pretty well. But that was also a first, being in one of those kinds of spaces. But it’s cool.
You are distributing the album yourself?
PK: Right now Discriminate Music is distributing it – we’re just doing local stuff. There’s so many great spots here in Brooklyn, like Academy, Earwax, ESP-Disk. So we’re just doing it that way: “slow distro.” Like slow food, but slow distro. We’re just like…I’m totally distracted by this movie.
[All look up at the screen. Charlton Heston’s 1971 post-apocalyptic classic The Omega Man is playing]
This is a good movie. I’m gonna go watch Omega Man. Thanks guys.
NA: It was a lot of friends who put it together. Josh Druckman and some friends of Peter’s helped us master it. And the art design…
PK: My friend Gabrielle Schies did it, she’s a talented designer. It’s nice to have something that’s really handmade, that feels like a work of art. It has an aura of its own. That’s something we wanna keep doing.
NH: What’s nice about doing it by yourself is it’s not part of a chain or anything. We just made this thing, we got some friends to help us, we all went in, and here it is.
NA: Very professional friends. We thought about doing it ourselves a bit but it was absolutely a great decision to find those individuals to master it. Those noise elements — I love them, but I also want other people to hear them, not be hurt by them. They did such a masterful job – it shines, but it doesn’t hurt your eyes.
PK: Mastering is a mysterious, beautiful process.
It seems like some people have the knack for it, almost a supernatural ability. I don’t really understand what’s going on with mastering.
PK: When you get to work with people who make records all day, every day, and they can be like, “No no no, let’s do it my way.”
You guys were the first band on the second day of NY Eye and Ear…there were only a few people in the crowd. Did you care that you had the four-in-the-afternoon slot?
PK: No, we were just psyched to do it. It’s something I’ve really wanted to do for the last couple years. It’s cool to be here; I have my blue bracelet and I can hang out and peruse records. We were just really psyched to do it. Maybe next time we’ll be better about our response time; we were a little behind the curve. It’s a reason to be up and at ’em.
Source of Yellow, “The Metronome Breaks the Hearts of All Believers” (Source of Yellow, Self-Released)
Interview by Max Burke
Photo (top): Jockey Goggles
Tags: Avant Ghetto, Brian Osborne, Discriminate Music, Josh Druckman, Latalan Hardi Trio, Nawi Avila, Nick Hasty, Outlier Inn, Peter Kerlin, Slow Stoch, Source of Yellow, The Holy Childhood, The Seaside Lounge, Zebulon