The Yip Yops won a coveted slot at the Coachella-related Tachevah block party back in April.
And then, the three teens seemingly disappeared, save a few shows here and there. Turns out they’ve had quite a summer vacation.
The band recently invited me to frontman Addison Van Winkle’s home in Palm Desert. The band practices in the pool house behind the Van Winkle family home—and these are the nicest digs I’ve seen any local band have for a practice space.
There’s air conditioning. There’s nice carpet, couches and top-of-the-line equipment, featuring brand names like Fender and Gibson.
The band played two new songs for me; Van Winkle’s father, Tony, played the keyboards on one of them. Van Winkle’s vocals are somewhat similar to those of late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, and the band’s sound hints at ’80s alternative—but with an experimental touch that is not typically heard in music today. Van Winkle, 15, looks as if he’s in another world as he sways along, playing his guitar and singing. Ross Murakami, 18, the group’s drummer, is a hard-hitter with impressive skills, and bassist Jacob Gutierrez, 15, gives offbeat songs even more of a personality.
Van Winkle said Murakami offered him the primary motivation for starting the band.
“On a random day, we got asked by a family friend to come over, because their band was playing,” Van Winkle said. “It just happened to be Ross’ old band. I went over there, and I was the shy guy, kind of like a turtle, sitting there and not saying anything. When we were sitting there, my dad looked over at me and said, ‘It’s incredible how hard that drummer hits!’ You couldn’t take your eyes off of it.”
Van Winkle, a La Quinta High School student (along with Gutierrez), started the Yip Yops about year later.
“It was a week after I broke up with my old band,” Murakami said. “It was weird timing.” He soon became a Yip Yop.
The band won a slot on the Tachevah stage—and the experience inspired them, they said. Gutierrez said he and Murakami zoned out and found a place where they played better.
“When you see everybody responding to what you’re doing, it makes you so much more inspired to play,” Gutierrez said. “… It was so crazy how fast the set went by.”
After Tachevah, the band members at first wanted to play more shows right away, but they instead decided to spend their summer vacation largely under the radar. They’ve practiced for at least several hours almost every day, and Van Winkle has written about 10 new songs, they said.
Where does the dedication come from? Murakami and Gutierrez both pointed to Van Winkle.
“A lot of the latest songs, I’ve been programming on my computer,” Van Winkle said. “I’m in here constantly, until 3 in the morning sometimes.”
Murakami attested to that fact. “I bet most of the time, when Jacob and I aren’t here, Addison is here working on a new song.”
Do they ever wish they could be doing something else—like taking time off and enjoying their summer vacation?
“Sometimes, it gets a little boring,” Gutierrez said. “… It’s funny that my mom told me the other day, ‘This summer has been really entertaining.’ I’ve been at this house a lot. Throughout the week, when she’s at work, I’m at band practice. When she’s off work, she picks me up. When she goes to work, I go to work.”
Murakami, who has already graduated from high school, also works a part-time job at Hot Dog on a Stick in the Westfield Palm Desert.
“I just got promoted to ‘assistant hot-dogger,’” Murakami said with a laugh. “I’m getting a lot more hours, and even with those long hours, I’m still here more than I am at work. I don’t have school in the picture, so the time I don’t spend here is pretty much at work. This is my home away from home, I guess.”
The Yip Yops have been working on new material, but they aren’t interested in recording an album to sell independently. Instead, the band members said—without going into specifics—that they’ve been sharing material with record companies, some of whom have expressed interest.
When it comes to the dream of being career musicians, the Yip Yops have ample support from Addison’s father, Tony Van Winkle.
“When it started out, I looked at it as Addison’s hobby,” Tony Van Winkle said. “As this trio came together, and seeing the talent they have, seeing the way they work together, and the commitment that they have, it didn’t take long to realize that it was more than that. They had a very strategic conversation about where they were going and (their goal of) getting on to the final bill for Tachevah. They set a goal for themselves—and they went out there and did it.
“I’m a bit surprised that they are as committed as they are, but I realize with Addison that he has to do this. It’s something that’s in him. He wants to get it out, and he wants to do this for a living.
For more information on the Yip Yops, visit www.facebook.com/TheYipYops.