Fresh from a sweaty Rebellion debut Rob Galloway, frontman for the Yalla Yallas talks to Ten-Midnight.com about how he got there eventually and who inspires his partially naked stage persona that has venues jumping.
What were the local bands you grew up with in Leeds, who did you first follow and started to inspire your own music?
I was really lucky to grow up in Leeds, which has such a diverse and talented music scene. You’d get all the big bands coming through and there were lots of quality smaller bands too. In my teens, I would follow Terrorvision from Bradford. They were riding high in the charts at the time. I always loved the energy of their shows. I would go anywhere to see them. There was a band called Bedlam Ago Go which had a huge lyrical influence on me, they had this song called ‘Northern Nights’ and it was based on The Ruts ‘Babylons Burning’ but re-written and fused with hip-hop. It was a really sinister sound. The band that really stood out for me though was The Frenzies. I had been doing a few gigs as a solo artist and I was booked as their support and they simply blew me away. They were hi-energy garage rock n roll. A little like The Stooges. Sasha was such a frontman. It was at that moment that I knew I had to form a Rock n Roll band. Nothing was going to stop me. I went home that night and wrote ‘Stand Up’ and started recruiting band members.
How would you describe your first steps into playing in a band and playing in front of a crowd?
I started out as a solo acoustic act. I was terrible. I only started playing guitar in 2003 at 20 years old. As soon as I could play three chords I started playing gigs. I was a terrible singer. I pretty much learned in public. I’m sort of glad I did. It gave me a kind of resilience. I learned how to handle rowdy crowds. In Leeds, if they think you are shit then they will tell you. After a while, I decided to use some backing tracks and get an electric guitar. I was aiming to be a one-man Big Audio Dynamite. I started to improve. Instead of being shit I’d become hit or miss. Some gigs would be great and others would be a disaster but never in-between. I always felt like I had to work harder than anyone else. I had no natural talent. I still couldn’t sing or play guitar. I had ideas though. I had a vision and I knew that someday it would come out of me. I just needed time. I was very aware that the local scene thought I was a joke and shouldn’t be on the stage. My reviews were terrible but it only made me work harder to prove everyone wrong. I formed The Yalla Yallas in December 2008 and that’s when I realised I’d found my place. Having a band behind me would free me up to be the manic crazed frontman that I am. We were still raw but we started getting good reviews and the local scene started to warm to me. Though I was still learning the transition felt natural.
The early days of the Yalla Yallas, what were you looking to achieve and what sound looking to make?
I really wanted to make primal hi-energy rock n roll music. Iggy and the Stooges, Dead Boys, Primal Scream, Guns n Roses. I wanted us to sound dangerous. There was a rage inside of me. I was angry at breaking up with Clare. A truly wonderful woman, who I loved dearly but it wasn’t working. Mentally I was unstable. I had all this energy and I needed to get it off my chest. So I channeled it all into music. That was the catalyst. I just wanted to make music that would make me feel indestructible. To give everything I had to give. It was a matter of life and death for me. No hiding places.
Do you remember your first attempt at songwriting, how was it received by those who heard it?
Yeah, luckily I had the right people around me. Most of my friends were in the music industry either as musicians, roadies, promoters, and they knew the value of encouragement. Everyone knows that your first songs are terrible, but rather than take the piss out of me they would lend me books by Hunter S Thompson or recommend bands or artists that would inspire me. Some would sit me down and show me some guitar chords; others would push me to do better. Recently I found a disc with some of my early songs. Most are embarrassing and I would hate for anyone to ever hear them, but without those songs then I wouldn’t be where I am now. As painful as it is you’ve got to go through that process. I’m just so thankful for the people I had around me. Imagine if they had encouraged me to give up.
Your stage shows are not a dull affair, have you stolen any moves from those you admire or is it a case of the music taking you over in the moment?
Both. The music often takes over me. I’ve never really consciously stolen any moves but subconsciously most definitely. I’m lucky that I’ve actually seen some of the world’s greatest frontmen live in concert. The likes of James Brown, Axl Rose, Scott Wieland, Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Bono, Nick Cave, Patti Smith. Some of that is bound to sink in. As a frontman I feel that you have to own the stage, the room, and even the car park outside. There’s no point walking on stage and looking like you’re going to piss your pants. Especially if you’re fronting a band like ours, you’ve got to be prepared for anything. In the words of Rose Tattoo “Nice boys don’t play Rock n Roll”.
Clothes seem to be an accessory you can either take or leave at times, were you like this as a kid or is it something you have grown into as you have got more mature?
Most of my friends will tell you that if you haven’t seen me naked then you’re probably not one of my close friends. I’ve always been like that. I don’t wear a lot of clothes around the house and I’m not really shy about my body. I don’t see why anyone should be. I don’t understand why society is so freaked out by naked people. As for the clothes that I do wear on stage, I design my own. I usually spend the previous evening to a gig in my garage making a stage vest especially for the show, often I end up throwing it into the crowd or giving it away afterwards. People are even trying to claim them before I walk onstage these days, which is nice. I think having an image in a band is important. You’ve got to stand out.
The Yalla Yallas made a big impression on your debut at Rebellion, how would you describe the experience and the festival overall?
It was incredible to finally get to play. I’ve wanted to do it ever since I was a teenager when I used to go to Holidays in the Sun in Morecambe. I’m really glad that this was our first year because I think we’re at our best right now. It was nice to walk out on stage with three albums under our belt and with a tight band. It was nice to be able to make that impact and surprise a few folk. We’ve been quietly going about our business and learning our craft, whereas if we’d played five years ago, for example, we wouldn’t have been ready. I was really impressed with all the crew on the Opera Stage, its great to be able to walk out knowing they’ve got everything taken care of. It meant I could be really relaxed and focus totally on my performance. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. All I wanted to do out there was to repay Darren’s faith that he showed in us, by giving us such a glorious stage to play on. I was considering making it our last ever gig but now I’m more inspired and more determined than ever. I’m going to work even harder to make sure we can play there again if they’ll have us back of course.
The festival overall is great. It’s grown incredibly since I was a teen. The atmosphere is great and the line up is becoming more diverse, but still retaining its rebellious heart. Seeing the inclusion of bands like The Wildhearts and IDLES brings a renewed energy for me. Although still great, I’ve seen most of the old school punk bands many times. One thing that I must learn that for the next time, I need to set off earlier to see the bands. I’d set off and on the way I’d bump into someone I know, and anyone who knows me knows I can talk forever and I’d end up missing the bands I was planning to see.
What was your highlight from this year’s Rebellion apart from playing yourself, who were the bands you checked out?
My highlight was IDLES they were fantastic. I had this overwhelming feeling that I might someday be proudly telling the next generation that I was there for IDLES. I wondered if this is what it must have felt like to see Nirvana in the early 90’s. It just felt incredibly important. I loved them. The Adicts are always amazing. I also loved the glam and the Rock n Roll of bands like The Featherz and Michael Monroe. I was also pleased to catch Berlin Blackouts who I have wanted to see for a while.
Your solo performances must have been a daunting experience when the audience is so close to you, what do you get out of the intimacy of those gigs?
I love playing solo. It gives me that little bit of freedom from the band. I can play what I feel like on the day. I don’t feel like there is any kind of expectation from anybody. Sometimes I play the band songs, other times my solo songs, and every now and then I try out new songs and new ideas and then I can bring them back to the band. Also playing solo means there is more emphasis on my lyrics, which can sometimes get lost in the frenzy of a Yallas gig. Some people prefer my acoustic gigs and I seem to have my own following for that. It’s just different. It keeps me fresh.
Rob is asked to replace the frontman of a punk band for one huge gig, which bands songs would you love to sing?
You couldn’t replace him but I’d have to say Iggy and the Stooges. I’ve always fancied covering ‘Search and Destroy’, ‘No Fun’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, ‘Gimme Danger’, ‘Raw Power’ but I’m of the mind that those songs should be left alone. You’ll never do it as good as those boys. I really hate it when bands do shit covers of my favourite songs. I hate tribute bands even more. Thinking about it I’d decline the gig and let someone else take the flak for ruining those songs. I don’t want that kind of responsibility.
You are asked to fill in as a DJ on a national station, what tunes are first on your playlist for the public ear?
I’ve actually had a couple of spells as a radio DJ. It was one of my favorite things to do. So let’s say they give me a show on Radio 2 or 6Music on the drive time hour. I’d love to be all rock n roll and make a statement but I think I’d want to keep the job, so I’d have to play it safe and cool. So my triple play would be ‘Stagger Lee’ by Lloyd Price followed by ‘Baby Get It On’ by Tina and Ike Turner and to close I’d go for ‘The Train Kept A Rollin’ by Johnny Burnette. I think that’d get everyone going on the way home from work.
Play: Yalla Yallas – Medusa
After the release of your third album “Medusa in May last year, does the future hold for the Yalla Yallas and Rob Galloway?
Well I feel like we’ve come to an end of the Medusa album cycle and we’re all gigged out, so we’ve just announced a little break until spring 2019. That should give us some time to record the next album and refocus our energy. It’s more than written and we just need to start rehearsals and get it recorded. I’d written over 80 songs for this next record. I’ve got it down to about 20 now, and I’m just trying to trim it further to about 12 songs. It would lend itself to being a double album but we simply don’t have the hard cash to go down that route. I’m really looking forward to working on these songs.