Yot Club

Rufus, the collection of 13 sonic episodes, is the newest Yot Club compilation, tying up Brooklyn-based Ryan Kaiser’s vulnerabilities into a non-linear cartoon album. 

From working three jobs, going to college, and sharing his music under various SoundCloud pseudonyms, Ryan Kaiser, known as Yot Club since sticking to the name in 2019, analyzes the job and day-to-day of being a musician. Despite residing in Brooklyn, New York, which is the ultimate dream for any artist, Kaiser does not romanticize the city or the business side of things. Instead, he stays grateful people are interested and for his always optimistic, supportive fans. 

Embracing his vulnerabilities and newfound will to dig deeper with his songwriting, Kaiser enjoys using his musicality to confuse people in juxtapositions. Rufus offers euphoric riffs, nostalgic undertones, and upbeat sequences, a playful soundtrack for any occasion. 

“I’m not trying to make an overarching grand statement,” says Kaiser about the album’s messaging, referring to it “as publishing a diary publicly.” There is something unbelievably relatable about life’s uncertainty and indecisiveness on “Fool” and our tendency to always leave on “Human Nature.”

For 1883, Yot Club’s Ryan Kaiser discusses the ins and outs of releasing an album, the role of Rufus in the record’s overall delivery, his parents’ CD collection, and what would make it onto his playlist for aimless walks around New York City. 

How do your weeks before an album release usually look like?

The finishing touches phase was probably around November or December of last year. The weeks leading up to the release of an album are very different than the rest of the year. For me, it almost feels like I have a regular office job. My manager Allie will send me a to-do list and it’ll be like I “need to answer these questions and then you have a Zoom” and it’s a lot more normal. I appreciate it. Normally my days are so loose and ambiguous. I wake up and I’m thinking, “Do I feel like making music today? Or would I rather feel like writing something or do I feel like working on something old?” I figure out what I wanna do with the day. Now it’s more regimented, more like a real job. There’s a lot of t’s to cross in i’s to dot, you want to make sure, you talk to everyone who’s the slightest bit interested in talking to you because you want the album to go as far as possible.

What is your favourite part about putting it together and releasing an album?

I have a lot of fun making music, writing songs, turning ideas into actual things. That’s the most fun part for sure. Releasing it off into the world is definitely fun in a different type of way. All the things you have to do, asking people to pre-save and then telling people to click this link and then follow this; it feels more like running a business for sure. That’s a testament to how far things come, the fact that you can treat it like a business at all. Luckily I have really good management and they take care of a lot of things for me. They do make it to where I just have to worry about the music and saying a few things on social media. The management makes things way easier for me because I have really good people around me. 

How does it feel to have your album out for everyone to hear when it was only yours for so long?

It feels great. It’s working for a really long time on something and then people finally get to see and hear it. It’s super satisfying. I used to be super strict about having to do everything myself. I have to play every instrument and sing every note. I always thought it was weird how a solo artist would release a project, but there were 40 names on it. It’s not really a journey into the mind of this person if there are 40 people on it, you’re not really hearing this creation from their deep mind or anything like it. Many hands have been on it at that point. I’ve always tried to make the projects really personal, like publishing a diary publicly, and not having too many cooks in the kitchen. I definitely didn’t have too many cooks on this recent record. I had some help from Patrick Wimberley, who’s a great producer, and then a few of my friends that write songs I had them help me out. But 10 out of 13 of the songs were just me all alone though.

Rufus comes out on March 29th, after the release of two singles, “Pixel” and “Nostalgia”. Before we address the record, I have to ask what version of you is Rufus embodying,or who is Rufus in the concept of this album?

I was talking about this the other day. Truthfully, the songs don’t have a lot to do with each other. It’s similar to when you watch a cartoon and it completely resets at the beginning of each episode. It’s not linear. That’s how the album was so I needed to find a way to tie everything together and bundle it all together in some way. It is a more vulnerable album. It’s a more honest album and the songwriting, I’ve gotten more comfortable sharing personal stuff through songwriting. Rufus is a mascot for the project. It gave me a character to project all that vulnerability and honesty onto, so I don’t have to absorb it all myself.

Could you tell us what the separate sonic episodes are bout?

Feelings and shit. When I first started, I felt like I was trying to model after bands like Real Estate, for example, where you’re talking about green fields, trees, wind and horses. It’s these things that you can write songs about and they sound cool to the listener and you don’t have to give up too much personal information. As the writer, that always seemed appealing to me in the beginning. I was uncomfortable with oversharing. It’s still not grossly personal or anything, but if I was feeling sad, I’d make a sad song. Not everything was just visual anymore. They were more introspective songs. I wanted to give it a goofy little character so people know it’s not that deep. I’m not trying to make an overarching grand statement. It’s a cartoon album. It’s non-linear, just 13 nice songs. 

With second albums, artists are often faced with less pressure to establish themselves but maybe more responsibility to level up and come up with something new. How did you feel coming into the recording of this album? 

I’ve definitely had less pressure. I had so much positivity come back to me. People are so nice and so validating. I don’t really have a lot of people being mean, it’s mostly people constantly saying how much they like it or appreciate it. I guess that things like that over time will make you more comfortable, and make you worry less. I really don’t worry that much about whether people are going to like it anymore, I used to worry like that, but it is what it is. These are the songs I made. I’m not swapping ’em out. 

One of the lead tracks is “Pixel”, which touches upon how we can become caught up in our own world, and technology, comparing ourselves with people online. What’s your relationship with social media?

I have two accounts I barely post on, the other one’s called Not Yot Club.I mostly just post on Yot club. I enjoy social media, I spend a good bit of time on social media, and interact with people on there. It sucks to have to ask people to do stuff, be like, please, pre-save, please listen to this. Please spend money on this hoodie. But it’s part of it, and I have people that help me. I’m good at casual posting if it’s for fun. 

What moment or situation triggered this angle for a song?

I wrote “Pixel” in one night when I was over in LA, It’s very influencer-core city. It was about how in the past, you used to only really be aware of the community around you. If you lived in a small community, the world probably felt very small. But now you’re aware of everything that’s happening in Japan, Germany, Ireland and America. Simultaneously, you’re aware of how incredibly big the world is and how many people are trying to do the same things as you. And it can be depressing and disheartening. You’re always going play the comparison game and think this person’s doing the same thing, but better. I guess that was the whole idea of the song.

There is a prevailing feeling of nostalgia on this album. What are you most nostalgic about? In the music world and in your life?

I guess something nostalgic musically to me would be when I was a kid, my parents had a collection of CDs probably like 2000 CDs. They were into a lot of quirky white dude bands from the 90s, like Cake and the Proclaimers and They Might Be Giants and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. They had ska, they had weird progressive stuff. I got into that at a pretty young age. I would just play stuff on my radio. I had my dad’s radio that he had from college that I got down out of the attic and I would just listen to all other CDs in my room. I really liked Green Day’s Nimrod. Audio Slave was another one. The parent CD collection was pretty nostalgic. That’s probably what made me eventually want to take guitar lessons as well.

Across the 13 songs, there is a beautiful balance between the carelessness of surf-pop and angsty social commentary. Would you say that is the current juxtaposition of society, we want to live carelessly but also care so much abut the global ongoings?

It’s a bit of a juxtaposition. That’s always a goal of mine. I don’t want to make a really happy song and it sounds really corny and happy. I’m going to make a sad song and it’s cheesy with how sad it sounds in a non-subtle way It is. I want people to hear something and be like “I can’t tell if this is happy or sad”, instead of just making real happy music, making real sad music. It’s confusing people, but they’re not really sure what to think of it. It’s got a hint of curiosity and nostalgia mixed in that kind of makes you sad.

You also collaborated with the likes of Tommy English (Carly Rae Jepsen, Kacey Musgraves), and Patrick Wimberley (Lil Yachty, Joji, Blood Orange, MGMT) and others. What creative energy did they bring into making Rufus?

Tommy English and Patrick Wimberley, they’ve been doing it for longer than me. They’re more experienced. They are the two main producers I work with. They’ve worked with so many people like MGMT, Beyonce and beyond, they are a lot more experienced and have all types of cool gear. They would make good recommendations. It was Tommy’s idea, for example, to put the slide guitar on “Pixel” and it wouldn’t be the same without them. I brought my mixes into Patrick that I did to the best of my ability and he boosted them, made them bigger, made them hit harder, more enjoyable to listen to.

You just confirmed details of your biggest UK and Europe headline tour, including a London show at Oslo on October 3rd. Did you think of the live shows when making this album?

That’s something I always think about now. When I was making songs like in 2019 and 2020, I was just doing it as a pastime and it was also the pandemic. The last thing I was thinking about was playing the songs live. A lot of the songs aren’t even in a real musical key. I’ve sped them up to where they’re in a weird in-between key that you can’t actually play on an instrument. The beginning, back in the beginning I was making songs that are very hard to play live now. That’s definitely something I think about because I know I’m going to be playing these live.

Amateur Observer was your first SoundCloud project, how many more did you have? 

I can think of two more. I mean, one I did, they were all secrets. I didn’t tell anybody about them. It was all just me experimenting.

How were they different?

There is no answer to that. Honestly. I can’t even remember why and I don’t think they were that different. Some of them were different types of music for sure. But I wish I kept all that stuff online. There’s only one thing that’s still out there on the Internet. It’s someone who stole my song and put it on Bandcamp, which I appreciate. I wish I kept it all up there. I didn’t have anyone to tell me it was good back then, so I had to rely on myself and I was just telling myself it sucked. I wish I still had the computer or something.

What made you land on Yot Club in 2019?

Releasing music under Yot Club, I got better. I got bigger and better responses from that one. A lot of people messaged me and told me I should put this on Spotify or “I wish I could listen to this on Spotify”. I think finally I was just like, “okay I’ll figure out how to do that”. My rent at that time was around $250, so it wasn’t a crazy thing to be able to pay the bills with Spotify. I started putting it out. It felt like a game. After I put three EPs on Spotify, after a few months, I realized it was building up, it was growing. It felt like a fun game to me. I was making all this music anyway. Most of it sat on my computer and didn’t go anywhere. I thought I could put it on Spotify and see how much this thing will grow. It grew to a hundred thousand monthly listeners, and that was when people on TikTok started using my song “YKWIM” and from there it went from a hundred thousand to millions. It was just fun pastime. I had three jobs when I was in college and I took 18 hours worth of classes each semester. It was nice to have one thing that I could do that was my own thing. I wasn’t forced to be there, forced to do it.

What did you study?

I studied Entertainment Industry and Entrepreneurship. 

At the end of 2022, you moved from Nashville to Brooklyn, New York. Could you compare these music cities?

They’re so different. Nashville is a music city, but I feel like it’s more of a music business city. You have your ASCAP, BMI, and iHeartRadio buildings. It’s all these corporate people who work in the music industry as well as lots of sync, licensing musicians, and jingle musicians. There are obviously real musicians, and there are cool bands from Nashville, but it felt like the majority of the scene were musicians who were working on the back end of the music industry. Nashville’s growing like crazy, kind of having growing pains right now. I think 150 people move to Nashville a day and it’s still a small city, geographically, so walking into a restaurant trying to get a seat anywhere is tough. There are so many fucking people there. I know that sounds crazy to say in comparison to New York because there are a ton of people here. But it’s a huge city. I love New York. It’s easy to get around. I never drive my car. I have a lot more musician friends who are in bands I listen to. It’s a weird comparison. There are things I like in both cities. I miss the smallness of Nashville. I missed the close-knit scene. Everybody knew each other and you’d see all the same people at all the shows and everyone was cool with each other. And now it’s just kind of like you see random motherfuckers everywhere you go. I’m moving to Philly in June. I just like to move, honestly, I like to live in different places.

In your opinion what would be the best album to play on repeat for aimless New York walks around the city? When sober and a little buzzed?

Sober – If I’m walking along the river, I might put some George Vincent on or Nuclear Daisies, they’re super industrial and loud. I feel like it matches the vibe of the city. Also Full Body 2 and Hotline TNT. 

Drunk – Funkadelic, Delegation, Chaka Khan, Sister Sledge, the Balckbyeds, I turn into like a 70s soul person, I turn into an uncle. For a newer artist, Zach Fox, he is also a comedian. 

As a New Yorker, how does your day look like? 

I spend a lot of time at home. I got my music studio downstairs, so I just like to work in there. I take my dog for two walks a day. I’ll go into the city to meet friends and stuff for stuff like tonight, like go see a show. We’re going to be near Tompkins Square Park area, but I’ve realized I love staying home and just chilling and cooking and hanging out with my dog. It’s kind of crazy to pay New York prices to be that type of guy. 

Do you believe in having a bucket list?

When asked me recently what my bucket list is, it made me think about death too much. There are cool things out there that I don’t even know exist, so I think it’s ignorance to make a list, get your heart all set on this list. These are just things that you know exist right now. My bucket list is to try whatever thing is in front of me at the moment. I saw a tweet about it recently, the word bucket list was most popular in 2007 because of the movie Bucket List. And since then, no one really gives a shit about that. 

Are you driven by setting yourself milestones?

It is already so much further passed what I thought was possible. I don’t know. I don’t wanna start setting milestones now. I want to just see where it’s going to go. I never expected it to go this far, so I don’t want to change the formula. I don’t wanna start jinxing things.

Rufus is out now.

Interview Karolina Kramplova

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