CVIndependent

Fri07192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

It’s been a long and winding road for the YIP YOPS, a band many touted as the Next Big Thing to come out of the Coachella Valley.

It all started when the members of the band were still in high school, and the band won a spot to play at the 2014 Tachevah Block Party in Palm Springs. The band then signed a contract with a management group that later fell apart; recorded an album with famed local producer Ronnie King that the band members went on to disavow; and crossed playing Coachella off their bucket lists in 2017.

However, as the summer of 2019 arrives, the community has not heard much from the YIP YOPS as of late, with no new releases and few local shows.

However, never fear: The YIP YOPS are alive and well … albeit at half their former size: The band recently announced both keyboardist/guitarist Mari Brossfield and bassist Jacob Gutierrez had left the band, after completing a Monday night residency at The Echo in Los Angeles. The two remaining members, frontman Ison Van Winkle and drummer Ross Murakami, recently sat down with the Independent in Indian Wells, where Van Winkle filled us in on what was going on.

“We’re writing, recording and trying to develop ourselves more and more,” Van Winkle said. “We obviously had some great milestones over the past couple of years that we hit and we’re proud of, but the goal is still the same: Play bigger shows, and run with bigger artists. I feel like we have a certain head-down-and-work mentality.”

Murakami added that the band has been working hard to expand its name beyond the Coachella Valley.

“The writing has always been constant,” Murakami said. “… I don’t know how it’s possible with all the things going on, whether it’s touring or music videos and all these other things we need to work on. The ideas are still being fleshed out and written, and new music is always there, and it’s building up behind us. The main thing we’ve been doing specifically for the past couple of years or so has been creating a buzz in other markets. That’s been the focus point. We have pretty big goals in mind, and they are not going to be achieved by sticking around in one market. Expansion is always on our minds.”

Mari Brossfield and Jacob Gutierrez played their last show with the YIP YOPS at The Satellite in Los Angeles back in December.

“Basically, the next day, we started this next phase where we started reworking everything,” Murakami said. “Every song that we play live is now reworked and revamped to fit a duo. We decided that playing as a duo was the best way to move forward. We’re both really excited about it.”

Van Winkle said the material will probably not sound very different.

“We’re still playing the same songs in the same structure with the same lyrics,” Van Winkle said. “I think that the songs, because I’ve written all the ones we play—they all come from the same place. In that respect, I wouldn’t say it’s changed as much as it’s evolved.”

Brossfield and Gutierrez left the band to focus on their college educations; Murakami said he and Van Winkle supported them in making that decision.

“We’re still great friends,” Murakami said. “It has nothing to do with anything other than where your hearts are at. Our hearts are in the music, and it just has to be that way. But I think anytime someone makes a decision to move toward something that will make them happier in what they are doing, they should absolutely do it. That’s what that was.

“Since then, I feel like the band has really shifted to where it hasn’t ever felt as good as it feels now.”

Despite all the highs and lows, Van Winkle said there’s nothing they would have done differently.

“It’s so easy to look back on it and think, ‘Oh, we could have done that,’ or some shit like that,” Van Winkle said. “I always think if it got us to this point, I don’t see the need to change much. Going through all these experiences is what got us to this point. Going through the good times and the not-so-good times is what shaped us. If we didn’t have those experiences, we wouldn’t see it the same way as we do now.”

When I first met the YIP YOPS back in 2014 at Ison Van Winkle’s house, he showed me material that he had recorded on his computer. His father, Tony, told me Ison could sit there all night long working on material.

“That hasn’t changed,” Murakami said with a laugh. “He’s still doing that.”

Van Winkle explained: “To me, it’s like a first love. You’re almost obsessed with it, and you’re so attached to it. I can’t imagine not doing it.”

When you look at the social media accounts for the band, it appears that Van Winkle is aspiring to become some sort of fashion icon; his wardrobe looks like a mixture of the clothes from any recent Gucci runway show and a ’70s thrift-store rocker. It’s a long way from the early days when the entire band would wear hazmat suits and sunglasses onstage.

“I like to wear certain things, and if I like a certain thing, I’ll wear it,” Van Winkle explained. “It’s not a master plan or anything; it just happens. Some days are better than others, and we try to keep Instagram (posts) to the better days of fashion and try to hide the bad decisions.”

What can we expect from the YIP YOPS near future?

“We’re hoping that we can get a show or two locally this year,” Van Winkle said. “We miss playing here, and the struggle has been finding the right venue to play at. Other than that, we’re going to continue to play shows in Los Angeles and Orange County, and we have a few festivals lined up in October and November. We’re taking advantage of those opportunities to do more touring and hook up with local bands.

“Musically, as we speak, we’re continuing to write and record. We’re ready to release, but we want to be smart about it and have enough (material) … so that we can build momentum. We have to think like that, because we’re doing it all ourselves. It’s literally just us, and that goes for recording, and I’ve been spending most of the past six months developing my skills to where we don’t have to go to a studio to record and can take the bedroom-pop approach. We can record as many songs as we can and do whatever we want—and make it sound just as good as in a studio. There’s so much freedom.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/yipyops.

The members of the Yip Yops spent much of last summer holed up in their Palm Desert practice space, writing new material and honing their skills.

Turns out all of that work paid off: This summer, the Yip Yops have spent much of their time recording with producer Ronnie King at his studio, Chateau Relaxo, in Thermal—thanks to a recently signed a record contract.

I arrived at Chateau Relaxo on a recent Saturday afternoon just as Mari Brossfield (right), the newest Yip Yop, was getting ready to record her vocals for a song called “Straw Dogs.” Through a handful of takes, her vocals kept sounding better and better. Alvin Taylor, producer and a local drummer who has performed with Elton John, Eric Burdon and Sly and the Family Stone, was also present, and tutored Brossfield on where her vocals fell flat a couple of times.

The Yip Yops have certainly come a long way. The band earned a slot at the Coachella-affiliated Tachevah Block Party in 2014, before spending much of last summer in their practice space. After the Yip Yops re-emerged, the group won the Battle of the Bands at the Date Festival back in February.

Then came the biggest accomplishment of all: In May, the Yip Yops signed with Hood and Associates, a talent-management group and record label headed up by Randy Hood and hip-hop artist Ditch.

Soon after, the band made up of four local teens was recording with Ronnie King, a man who has worked with Mariah Carey, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Rancid, Pennywise and many others.

At this rate, who knows where the Yip Yops will be next summer?

Ison Van Winkle, the band’s guitarist and front man, said recording sessions have been going well.

“There haven’t really been any challenges so far,” Van Winkle said. “I think it’s gone pretty smooth, because for the most part, we’re playing the music we’ve been playing for a while now. We have kind of a clear vision as to how the songs should sound before we come in.”

However, Van Winkle said the experience of recording in a studio has led to some tough lessons.

“You can practice it one way in the studio, and it sounds phenomenal, and then recording in the studio, everything is magnified times 10. You have to change and maneuver around it,” he said.

Drummer Ross Murakami agreed.

“We’ve learned from some mistakes early on,” he said. “But I wouldn’t really say they’re mistakes, just ways to do things better. When we come back to the studio, there will be a different approach, especially for my drumming. I’ll do some programming and have a personalized click going that will make my recording a lot smoother.”

Ronnie King has been a good fit for the band. His studio in Thermal is also a perfect location for the band members, because it means they don’t need to make the trek to Los Angeles to record.

“He was the first person that the label brought to us, and we heard a lot of great things about him,” Van Winkle said. “We met up with him, and things just sort of clicked. We didn’t really see the need to find anybody else. It’s nice to have someone this good, this close.”

King’s studio in Thermal is on a date farm. There’s a swimming pool, a tennis court and a basketball court.

“If you get really stressed out, and you’re over-thinking things, you can just step outside,” said Jacob Gutierrez, the band’s bassist. “The name that Ronnie has given it fits perfectly: Chateau Relaxo.”

Murakami agreed. “You’ve got a tennis court; you have a pool—and there’s a cute little wiener dog to play with.”

King said it’s been rewarding to work with the Yip Yops.

“This project is interesting for me, because I grew up here in Indio; I was born and raised in Indio,” King said. “I left the desert 20 years ago. Ever since I came back, I’ve been really into the local music scene. It’s something that’s starting to gravitate, and it’s even starting to gravitate toward the studio here.

“It’s kind of a weird thing, because I heard about the Yip Yops … through Alvin Taylor. I’ve known this guy for years who works at their label, and he called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign this band, the Yip Yops, to a deal, and they live in the Coachella Valley, and I know you have a studio out there.’ After I went and saw them, I said, ‘This is going to work!’ It’s not a crapshoot, and it’s not just a band off the street looking for a miracle. We have big executives and big financing behind this thing, and there’s nothing left to the imagination—it’s a business deal. … Their dream gets to come true, so it’s been a fantastic time working with them.”


This wildly successful year for the Yip Yops has also included a big change: The three-piece group became a four-piece, thanks to the addition guitarist/keyboardist Mari Brossfield.

“Last summer, I wasn’t even a full-fledged member of the band,” Brossfield said. “I didn’t even know I’d be recording with them. I met Addison (Ison) through our guitar teacher, and I was singing, and Addison was also playing, and he heard my voice and asked me to try singing this song called ‘Sugar.’ It just kind of took off from there—and here we are.”

The other members refer to her as the missing piece of the puzzle.

“Before, it was just kind of a guitar, bass and drums kind of thing,” Van Winkle said. “But then when we brought in Mari, we were able to add a whole new element of keyboards, which is a huge part of the band. Then a female vocal on top of that—it takes it up another notch. She really helps shape the band.”

There’s a fascinating story as to how the Yip Yops encountered Hood and Associates—involving a chance encounter with CEO Randy Hood.

“Jacob and I were leaving Coachella in 2014. We were in the car getting out of the parking lot, and this guy knocks on my car window,” Murakami said. “He’s like, ‘Want to make $100 and give me a ride to my hotel? We drive him to the Hyatt. In the car, we’re showing him our ‘Oduya’ music video, not thinking anything about him or who he is. We were just trying to spread the name, and we’re showing him the music video on a phone, and he immediately came up with some ideas with what he’d want to do with this. He called us three or four months later, and he wanted to schedule a meeting.”

Gutierrez said he still has problems believing this chance encounter happened. “The funny thing is we met this guy driving out of Coachella. We completely forgot about this guy, and all of a sudden, we get this call about meeting up with his manager, because they want to put us on their record label. It’s mind-boggling how that happened.”

But … did Murakami get the $100?

“I did!” he said with a laugh.


After Randy Hood spoke to Ison Van Winkle’s ever-supportive father, Tony Van Winkle, Tony was eventually put in touch with hip-hop artist Ditch, who also works for the label.

“He had some things he was doing, and he was trying to find a way to fit the band into it,” Tony Van Winkle said. “It was a couple of TV pilots and things like that, and trying to see how to incorporate the band, and then after several conversations, it sort of went cold.

“Then back in October, I got a text from him saying, ‘A manager friend of mine is going to be reaching out to you.’ I got a phone call from Ditch, and he said, ‘Hey, we put something together to meet the band.’ He said, ‘If you can bring your equipment, we’d like to rent a studio and hear you play live.’ (The band) did a 45-minute set with Ditch, and the comment I think I remember from Ditch is, ‘I hear 20 bands when I hear you guys perform, and you don’t sound like any of them.’

“Eventually, that led to a proposal, which led to a contract.”

Ditch explained what Hood and Associates does, and what attracted him to the Yip Yops.

“It’s basically everything under one roof,” Ditch said about Hood and Associates. “It’s a modern-day label: distribution, production, artist development, PR and marketing. We spent a lot of time looking for talent and auditions. We’ve gone through every online band you can think of, and we even tried some of them out live. We didn’t find anything. There was nothing innovative and nothing really current; it’s a copy of a copy. We didn’t find anything interesting enough to invest a large amount of money into.

That is, until that chance encounter happened between Randy Hood and his young Coachella drivers.

“(Hood) showed me this music video of these kids he met at Coachella, and they’re in a garage, and there are garbage bags all over the wall. He’s like, ‘Go check them out live,’” Ditch said. “I came out and checked them out at their rehearsal house a few times, and I said, ‘You know what? These guys really have some potential here.’ They were different; their energy was different; their attitude was different; and they all worked well together. It took from January until May to us for them to actually sign them.”

Hood and Associates is deeply invested in the Yip Yops and has goals in mind for the group.

“Randy’s goal and my goal is to get a hit song,” Ditch said, “whatever we have to fuse together to make a hit record—because in this day and age, it’s extremely hard to do that. We’d also like to get the band to work with Skrillex, and we’re heavily in talks with him and his team, and (we want to work) with him or Diplo to get a song to bring us into that festival market. There are some other collaborations we’d like to do, and we’re in the position of where we hope we can do that for them.”

Alvin Taylor said the band’s potential is off the charts.

“I see a real hunger, thirst and desire for them to be the best that they can be,” Taylor said. “I like the quality they have as young people who are very innovative, creative and open-minded. They’re one of the best bands in America I’ve ever seen or heard. Believe me, I’ve heard and listened to a lot of bands. I’m not bragging, but I have 57 gold records and 28 platinum records to my credit, and to be able to take the experience I’ve had working with those groups and bring it to working with these guys—it’s amazing to see how they’re like sponges, and they soak up everything.

“The lyrics are great; the music is great; and the musicianship is at a high, mastering skill. I’m excited to be working with them.”

Stay tuned.

Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald

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.