There’s a phrase one is bound to hear from time to time: “Left in the lurch.” It’s the kind of catch-all, general phrase used to denote the feeling of abandonment and helplessness one feels when placed in a difficult, often intransigent position.
And, in many ways, it’s a feeling that’s somewhat analogous to right now in our current moment. Amid our pervading sense of cultural and political stagnation, with global politics teetering on a knife’s edge and a lack or suspension of any possible alternatives, it’s little wonder that the “lurch” feels more universal than ever.
For Kayhan Vaziri, bassist and vocalist for Nashville, Tennessee underground trio Yautja, it’s a feeling that’s all too familiar. When it’s suggested that the band’s latest LP and Relapse Records debut, The Lurch, deliberately evokes a sensation not unlike its figurative namesake, Vaziri agrees and expands the connection.
“You’re definitely not wrong about the ‘being stuck and abandoned in difficult positions without help’ part,” he says. “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.”
Across The Lurch, Yautja take their trademark hybrid of grind, sludge, and hardcore to its all-consuming, atavistic conclusion.
“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,” Vaziri explains. “‘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 real, meaningful connection with others. ‘Catastrophic’ is pretty directly about homelessness, poverty, and displaced peoples, which being ‘left in the lurch’ definitely applies to.”
With the band’s members splitting time between Alabama and Tennessee, Yautja decamped across the country to Chicago to record material that would become The Lurch, with producer Scott Evans at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio.
“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,” says Vaziri. “We stayed in the ‘apartment’ area of Electrical Audio during our time recording, so it made the workflow and settling in very easy. 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 traveling to accommodations.”
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. And yet, with much of the U.S. and the rest of the world slowly recovering from the near-brink of the global shutdown, fans will have to wait a little longer before Yautja hit the stages once more with new material in tow.
So, to skew things purely hypothetical, we put this question direct to Vaziri: What’s his idea of a dream tour package? At first, he’s hesitant to answer (“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 soon relents.
“We always want to tour with friends and people we connect with on a personal and ethical level,” says Vaziri. “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. 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.”
Watch the video for “The Weight” here:
Photos courtesy of Yautja, Scott Evans, and Chappy Hull.