San Francisco’s The Y Axes latest album No Waves addresses anxiety – both personal and existential – with humor, nostalgic synths, and the kind of emo spirit any ’90s kid can respect. The band has a strong a visual component to its live performances, and we get to see some of that in a surreal new video for one of the album’s standout tracks, the wistful but energetic “Moon.”
In the video, bandmates Alexi Belchere (vocals), Devin Nelson (guitar / vocals), Jack Sundquist (bass), and Paul Conroy (drums) dream of leaving earth and watching it from afar, though they spend most of the time in bed, with subtle projections lighting up their faces. Belchere’s voice penetrates the darkness, her lyrics “I wish I was born a planet / Or a comet / Just me alone with the moon and space” matching time with the driving beat. She’s searching for absolution in obliteration, a shift in perspective that makes the drama on earth seem small and insignificant. Though she grapples with angsty feelings, the video – and the music – stay pretty light-hearted, breaking the fourth wall by its end to pan out on an epic pillow fight, the perfect release of all that internal struggle.
Watch our exclusive stream of “Moon” and read our interview with the band below.
AF: Alexi, you and Devin met at San Francisco State University over a decade ago. The Y Axes still live and work out of San Francisco. How has the city changed over the years?
ALEXI: The city’s changed completely into a San Francisco-style theme park. Superfically, it’s all there, with the Castro, Upper Haight, and Mission districts still standing, but behind every door you’ll find a pour-over cafe with neatly sanded reclaimed wood counters, and in front of that door is a homeless person in a sleeping bag curled up in a ball who can’t go inside for a glass of water.
Musically, we can always count on new bands forming every year. I can go to an awesome show every night, and I feel like the sense of community in the SF music scene is stronger than ever. Maybe it’s because the cost to live here is so high that if you’re making music you either put your whole self into it or you quit, so the musicians that are here are fiercely connected through that shared experience.
AF: How has the band’s music changed during that time?
DEVIN: Though the production quality has increased dramatically from album to album I think the core thesis of the music has remained the same. We have always strived to make fun cool pop music with a little bit of a hidden progressive edge but I think we’ve managed to refine the presentation.
AF: Y’all carry yourselves as a band with a sense of humor. How does that translate to your onstage personas? What can a fan expect from a live performance?
DEVIN: We are a band of awkward weirdos and our stage persona is a band of awkward weirdos powered up by music. We try very hard to simulate the quality of our recordings in a live setting while still bringing the energy. We love playing and I think that translates pretty well to what we do on stage. Also we have cool projections that add a visual component!
ALEXI: I feel like individually we can be silly but as a band we don’t have much of a sense of humor, but because of that we’re like all each other’s straight man. I tend to tell some quick stories in between songs if I need to stall for time, and life is so ridiculous that they can feel like jokes. “This song is about feeling so crushed by the weight of the world you can’t get off the floor” usually gets a laugh. Maybe it’s because there’s something knee-jerk funny about talking about that kind of stuff.
AF: Can you tell us a bit about the themes on your recent album No Waves?
ALEXI: A lot of No Waves focuses on looking inward in response to outward struggles. Songs like “The Gap in Between,” “Another Timeline,” and “Empty Space” are about anxiety and self-doubt. Songs like “How We Begin,” “One of Us,” and “Nevertheless” are about coming to terms with the horrors of the world around us – honestly, they’re contemplations about coming to terms with my own privilege, how on an individual level I must use it to amplify and lift others up.
AF: What is your favorite part about performing as a band?
ALEXI: I feel truly honored to play with such talented and passionate musicians. On stage, I can’t help but get absorbed in what everyone else is doing – watching Devin do a solo or thrashing around, watching Jack simultaneously grooving and headbanging, and watching Paul nail a particular fill, it always gets me pumped. My favorite thing about performing personally is connecting with people as they sing the lyrics back- that’s a dream come true for me.
AF: How do you see The Y Axes evolving in five years? Are there any goals you have as a band or projects you’re dying to work on someday?
DEVIN: I think the main goal at the moment is to expand our touring. We would love to play in places besides the west coast but haven’t reached the point where we can afford to just yet. Maybe we will blow up or maybe the economy will shift to better support art so we can quit our day jobs. Regardless we are committed to making stuff happen on this front!
Y AXES TOUR DATES
7/31 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Shop
8/02 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
8/03 – Portland, OR @ Kelly’s Olympian