Yob frontman Mike Scheidt sets up stage right, and in front of his effect board he has two beers, two waters, and a bottle of Glenfiddich scotch whisky lined up like pre-show offerings. His unruly hair is pulled back and he’s wearing silver wire-rimmed glasses. In conjunction with his Eastern and Hermetic tattoos, it creates the impression of a man who has been to the edge and back, who knows some things.
I had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Reiseberg, Yob’s bassist, over the phone last month. Unfortunately I fumbled the audio file, so I couldn’t post the interview without fear of misquoting him, but the conversation gave me background information about Our Raw Heart (released from Relapse on June 8th, 2018), which was recorded following Scheidt’s near fatal complications from diverticulitis.
Sunday at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago was my first time seeing Yob. Scheidt seems to radiate wisdom and joy on stage, and maybe his near death experience amplified these qualities. He removes his specs, lets his hair down, and picks up his scotch glass — converting from zen yogi master to rockstar in two seconds flat. After six songs, Scheidt allays fans’ fears, assuring us that he’d had not one drink before he hit the stage. “I’ve been on the straight and almost narrow,” he admits.
After his hospital stint, Scheidt had to learn how to sing all over again, and his retrained vocals sound wonderful. He manages a gruff quality while still ringing through clearly, and his sinister rumble provides diametric contrast that pulls the listener into motion. Scheidt doesn’t make a habit of elucidating his lyrics, but many of the songs feel like a call to action, an encouragement to reach up out of the confusion of the human struggle. And also to bang your head.
From the very first song, Yob is on point. They open with “Ablaze,” the first track from ORH. Reiseberg’s pounding bass envelopes Scheidt’s jangling guitar and vocal melodies in a dull roar that rattles the room as though endeavoring to vibrate the very fabric of reality apart in order to touch the other side.
Travis Foster’s beats incorporate a lot of toms and breaks without crowding the expansive quality of their melodic doom. On the Crash Bang Boom Podcast, he described his style as an amalgamation of classic and progressive rock influences “stripped down to nothingness,” and that he prefers “drums [to be] borderline nonexistent, barely gluing everything together with a lot of transparency.” I’m always hesitant to refer to Yob as doom, because their motifs are very mobile and the song’s themes are often uplifting, but Foster’s slow, resonating beats remind me they do belong among the ranks of low-tempo amp worshipers.
After playing the opening two tracks from ORH, Yob launches into a couple older songs: “The Lie That Is Sin” from The Great Cessation and “Adrift in the Ocean” from Atma (Profound Lore, 2009 and 2011 respectively). Hearing new and old material interspersed offers the opportunity to contrast the two sounds. The older songs feel subdued with a bigger bottom end, as though held down, and these low and crushing songs have their own appeal.
There’s something extra on ORH that makes it seem to soar. The huge, reverberating hits and noise are present, but the songs are mixed a little differently — the drums are more forward, and the gain on guitar is reduced, so the leads sound cleaner. This adjustment is in consideration of the finger-picked melodies on ORH, which would be muddled and compromised under the amount of distortion on previous albums.
The vocals are also clearer and a more vibrant. Personally, I like Scheidt’s new singing style even better than his pre-illness vocals; his range is great, with low groans giving way to soaring declarations. Together, the brighter vocal quality, spacious but present drums, reduced distortion, and thumping bass create a lot of depth in Yob’s sound. The transcendent quality of their music stems from this vertical contrast, as the sludge of a putrid lake bottom is the fecund bed for cultivating green shoots that reach zealously toward the light.
The band stops to change their tuning before returning to material from ORH, and Scheidt divulges a secret to the crowd: “I guess the cat’s out of the bag: Indian’s opening tomorrow night!” Bruce Lamont had been the opening act Sunday, preceding Yob’s tourmates Bell Witch, who filled a hypnotic set with Dylan Desmond’s six-string bass gymnastics and new drummer Jesse Shriebman, who filled the void left by Adrian Guerra’s death in 2016, beating out a somber eulogy. The change in openers in addition to a varied set list from Yob make the show one worth seeing two nights in a row, and I’m curious how many fans did just that.
“Original Face” and “Our Raw Heart” fill out the set. Scheidt takes a moment to introduce the closer, admitting that he tries not to give too much lip service, but he wanted to share with us the concept of ayni, a Peruvian word that means reciprocity or mutualism. “We’ve been given a lot,” he says with gratitude, professing that when people are conscious of their interconnectedness and are cooperative, “you can just feel it.”
Live photos by Jessie Browne
At the end of their set, Scheidt announces that although they are normally done after “Our Raw Heart,” they had a special request “from a friend” for a song they haven’t played it in a while: “Marrow” from Clearing the Path to Ascend. It’s a mesmerizing and moving finale to a terrific set. The way Bruce Lamont watches from backstage makes me suspect he’s the friend, especially since when I saw Brain Tentacles at Reggie’s on June 3rd, he introduced every song they played as “for a friend.”
Afterward, Reiseberg fist bumps fans, and Scheidt cheers for/at the crowd, encouraging everyone to come back tomorrow. Then he pops a squat on the edge of stage for an informal meet and greet, shaking everyone’s hands and accepting their appreciation and well-wishes. The fans were ecstatic to see Yob return, and when I left there were still star-struck people lined up 20-deep to speak to Scheidt. The crowd was so chill during the show that I almost forgot it was sold out until I tried to leave the room.
There are lots of great bands out there, but there are few as approachable and gracious as Yob. Not to mention funny and relatable. I may have lost my interview, but the picture Reiseberg painted for me of Foster swinging a wide turn in a low rider while simultaneously shoving a Filet-o-Fish in his mouth will be forever burned in my mind.
- July 08 Chicago, IL Reggies
- July 09 Chicago, IL Reggies
- July 10 St. Paul, MN Turf Club
- July 11 Omaha, NE Lookout Lounge
- July 12 Denver, CO Bluebird Theatre
- July 13 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge
- July 14 Boise, ID Neurolux
- Sept 6 Sacramento, CA Harlow’s
- Sept 7 Santa Cruz, CA Catalyst
- Sept 8 Pioneertown, CA Pappy & Harriet’s
- Sept 9 Los Angeles, CA Teragram Ballroom
- Sept 12 Albuquerque, NM Sister
- Sept 13 Mesa, AZ Club Red
- Sept 14 San Diego, CA Brick by Brick
- Sept 15 Oakland, CA Metro
- Oct 12 Antwerp, Belgium Desertfest
Featured photo by Jimmy Hubbard