On their Relapse Records debut, Nashville underground trio Yautja take their trademark hybrid of grind, sludge, and hardcore to its all-consuming, atavistic conclusion.

Everything about The Lurch feels primal. The stalking stab of dissonant guitar riffage. The unsettling atmosphere of tectonic tempo shifts. The murky morass of glacial fuzz and doom. The frenzied bark of disembodied vocals. It’s a record at tension with limbic flight and fight responses, that eternal dance between predator and prey, evoking the band’s namesake in both intent and present danger.

Various influences are manifested on the LP through whirring sonic whiplash—Mastodon’s lumbering weight, Converge’s incendiary intensity, Gorguts at their most oblique and brain-melting—appearing as peripheral ephemera that quickly morph into strange new forms, at once familiar and lucid. Given that Yautja features members of several other notable heavy music acts including Thou, Coliseum, Mutilation Rites, and more, this connection feels more than appropriate.

Roaring out of the depths of the American South, there’s also a decisive political consciousness at work on the album, bearing out the group’s personal frustrations amid biting social commentary. Spreading their palpable malaise and malevolence across nine tracks, it’s clear that Yautja want the listener to be on edge, hyperaware at all times, constantly denied the sweet release of emotional reprieve. In The Lurch there is no escape, only further descent into suffocation and stagnation. Embrace that fear, know it well, and fight for your survival—if you dare.

Read our interview with bassist and vocalist Kayhan Vaziri below.

You guys live between Alabama and Tennessee and recorded the album with Scott Evans at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. That’s a solid drive across the country. What was that experience like in terms of travel and temporary relocation for the period? How much did the social-political climate of 2020 feed into the recording process of the record?

It was a pretty solid big drive up to Chicago for us, but we’re pretty used to bigger drives from the amount of touring we’ve done over the years. As far as relocating, that part was actually pretty comfortable and awesome. We stayed in the ‘apartment’ area of Electrical Audio during our time recording so it made the workflow and settling in very easy. We cooked a few meals there, had an area to relax and watch movies to decompress, had some amazing interns to make us coffee, etc.

It was also nice to be able to wake up, be at the studio, and then work until steam ran out for the day, not having to worry about packing up or travelling to accommodations. We actually recorded this album right before shit hit the fan last year, but a lot of the socio-political stuff that was being highlighted in 2020 has been brewing for YEARS and is only now just starting to boil over.

How does a typical Yautja track come together? Is there even the concept of a “typical” track, or coherent process to recording at all? How does a Yautja track go from nebulous riff idea, chord progression, or lyrical germination to a fully fleshed-out composition?

There is definitely not a concept of a “typical” Yautja track (laughs). But, there is an order-of-operations to how songs arrive at completion—although there are a couple of tracks that we think of as “complete,” and then little things here and there will get reworked in the studio.

Most of our songs start with a riff or two from our guitarist, Shibby [Poole], and then Tyler [Coburn] will add his drum magic with bass to follow. Those two are the masterminds in the band as far as writing the music goes, and then I add little touches and riffs here and there. We typically do a couple of “demo” recordings of a track when a song seems to be nearing some sort of completion musically and then will add little tweaks here and there. It’s usually a group effort with lyrics and vocals, with those usually placed after the music is mostly done.

There’s a colloquial saying (“Left in the lurch”) that refers to being stuck or abandoned in a difficult position without help. In many ways, it’s a feeling that’s somewhat analogous to how a lot of people feel, as they deal with this pervading sense of cultural and political stagnation and wrestle with a lack or suspension of available alternatives. To me—and I may be reading too much into it here—it’s a theme that feels pertinent to the tone and vibe of the record. Could you expand on the meaning behind the album’s title and how it may (or may not) feed into individual themes for specific tracks on the record?

You’re definitely not wrong about the “being stuck and abandoned in difficult positions without help” part. The Lurch also refers to slowly trudging along; whether that’s slowly moving towards progress or just not laying down and giving up—surviving. It’s a theme that weaves throughout the record and rears its head on some tracks more than others. Songs like “The Weight” and “Before the Foal” deal with the stagnation of reaching real equality, performative activism, and giving a platform to people who are self-serving rather than actually making changes to better this world or their community for oppressed peoples.

Tethered” and “Wired Depths” deal with how technology that was supposed to open up the world and connect it more has actually tied us down more in some ways and made it difficult to progress and have a real, meaningful connection with others. “Catastrophic” is pretty directly about homelessness, poverty, and displaced peoples, which being “left in the lurch” definitely applies to. Other tracks like “Clock Cleaner” deal with a more personal lurching and stagnation.

Obviously, the musical climate right now isn’t exactly perfect for touring bands and new releases. So rather than ask what you have planned in the future, let’s skew things hypothetical: What’s your idea of a dream tour package? Current bands, past groups, fests, specific locations, and dates—all valid; no wrong answers.

There’s a lot of crossover between our musical tastes but also a huge variety too, so I can’t exactly speak for the entire band on this one—but I’ll give it a shot. We always want to tour with friends and people we connect with on a personal/ethical level. If I had to pick a current and semi-realistic tour package, it would probably contain a band like Neurosis, Carcass or Gorguts as headliner, with support bands being any mixture or combination of Inter Arma, Cult Leader, Dropdead, Portrayal of Guilt, Yashira, Full of Hell, Skeletal Remains, Haunter, Primitive Man.

As far as fests go, we’d love to play Maryland Death Fest proper (we’ve played after shows there a couple of times), Migration Fest, Obscene Extreme, Psycho Las Vegas and, of course, the almighty Roadburn Fest. I love touring in the spring or the fall, it’s not too toasty and not too frosty in most places. Full North America, all of Europe, and it’s my dream to play anywhere in Southeast Asia.

Final and obligatory namesake-related question: What are the best and worst pieces of Predator/Yautja-related media?

The best piece would be the original Predator (1987) movie, obviously. There’s a couple of cool Predator related comics and video games—the Alien vs. Predator arcade game from the ‘90s being my personal favorite—that are pretty sick as well.

Predators (2010) was okay, and so was The Predator (2018), which came out a few years back. We had a good time seeing that one on tour. The AVP movies and Predator 2 (1990) are awful but so much fun to watch: I mean, how can you go wrong with Danny Glover and Gary Busey in a sci-fi action movie?

Pre-order and pre-save The Lurch here.

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Owen Morawitz is a writer, thirty-something human male and an avid devourer of coffee, literature, philosophy, science fiction, westerns, and film noir. He enjoys carving out a meaningless existence in the abyssal void and listening to music that’s at times poignant, abrasive, and restless—except when hungover.

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