Time can be unsettling. Some weeks pass like the blink of an eye while days can drag on for what feels like an eternity. As it passes us by, we often get anxious about what’s to come, maybe feel a sense of relief, or even get preoccupied in a past moment. Everyone fosters their own, personal relationship with this crucial concept. As an over thinker who finds comfort in nostalgia, Yeek is always trying to anticipate what’s around the corner for him. He may never truly find the answers he is looking for, but Future Reference, his newest album, helps to soothe the many discomforts of time.
A cassette tape snaps into place. A familiar voice with a vulnerable undertone chimes in, “This is for use at a later time. Hope this helps.” He’s talking to himself–providing the sense of a time capsule. The tape crackles and the bouncy piano of “Before I Go” kicks off the album. A Yeek-centric beat takes hold of the track, adding a contagious rhythm that brings previous release “Freaky'' to mind. A violin comes in as the intensity of the beat lessens; a new side of Yeek shines through. While referencing the past within the rhythm, he simultaneously introduces a new element of his sound. A sense of culmination arises within the listener while Yeek’s soft yet intentional vocals tell stories of unsuccessful relationships, finding himself, and navigating his emotions.
“It’s kind of just a fusion of everything I've ever made in the past. It's an ode to every version of Yeek so far. I don’t know how to explain it. It kind of feels like the final boss, but I know that I'm not going to stop making music after. But right now, it feels like all the stuff I've learned from all my other projects are released into this one,” shares Yeek.
This quasi-boss of an album isn’t meant to be understood as one of those writing a letter to your past self exercises. It’s meant to be a grounding tool where instead of giving advice to his past self, Yeek gives advice to his future self. He says, “It’s bound to every sense of time, like the past, the present and the future. It’s self-love for myself in the future while also being a nod to the past. But it’s also where I am now in the present with my growth in music and personally.”
The album is littered with little insights that Yeek has left for himself. Some of them have to do with the state of the world like “Don’t sound alarmed, the planet is warming, climate is changing” on “Global Warming.” While others offer him personal reminders like “This is your therapy, also seek therapy” on “Stress Reducer” and “Do everything that’s gonna make you happy and if it ends up not making you happy, then at least you tried” on “At Least You Tried.”
Within this capstone record, Yeek isn’t simply sticking to what he knows, but taking this opportunity to enhance his sound. Having come up in the age of bedroom pop, 2017, he’s known for a DIY sound. Back when “Flaming Hot Cheetos” by Clairo was the best song teenagers had ever heard and when knowing how to play “Coffee” by Beabadoobee on the guitar was the coolest party trick, Yeek started gaining traction with “Only in the West.” The guitar-powered track paints a self portrait of Yeek at the time. Having moved to Los Angeles from Florida to pursue something creative, the song catalogs his new lifestyle. His music doesn’t pay his bills or for his meals. He rides the bus and is suffering from the “west coast blues.” This portrait is still meaningful to the 32-year-old singer, but something about the term bedroom pop doesn’t sit right with him. His cadence quickens and his diction becomes deliberate. Passion arises and it becomes clear that it’s a topic he has mulled over a few times before.
“I felt like [the term bedroom pop] was an attempt to discredit people who were actually making music from their bedroom and making it sound like they did it in a studio,” emphasizes Yeek. “It’s kind of undermining and almost tricks people into thinking that it isn't hard work.”
Often mashing together elements of alternative, hip hop, and pop, his sound is defined by a lack of boundaries. In order to create this expansive feel, he admits that he spent the majority of his career emulating different instruments with synths and other tools. But with Future Reference he was able to bring in instrumentalists to achieve the sound he’s been searching for.
“It added an element that I've always felt was missing in my music. It all sounded a little more timeless and like something that can age finely. But I was ready for it. I felt like I maximized everything I could do with the DIY stuff. And I just felt ready mentally to involve instruments,” shares Yeek.
Given the persistent reference to his previous work, this fourth album functions as a direct connection to his most foundational project Sebastian, Yeek’s second album which features “Only in the West.” Sebastian is strictly DIY. With the heavy usage of indie guitars tunes, resounding hip hop beats, and the consistent narrative of heartbreak, its sound helped Yeek find his own path within music.
“Sebastian felt more sporadic. I wanted Future Reference to be a polished version of Sebastian, something that felt more intentional, as far as the sonics. I just wanted to polish my piano playing, my guitar playing, my production and vocals a little more,” tells Yeek. “I wanted it to be like an evolved version of Sebastian.
“Future Reference” is more than just an evolved version of his sophomore album, but rather a diverse sounding collection of music that brings together every element of who Yeek is. While embracing experimentation and a genre-transcending sound, he provides a uniquely Yeek-sounding track every time a listener presses play.
“There’s no wrong way to do anything. We're all doing making music in our own way, ” tells Yeek – a sentiment carried throughout the entirety of “Future Reference.”
Photographed by Erica Brown
Styled by Jenny Nayoung Kim
Written by Cerys Davies
Producer: Bree Castillo
Set Design: Natasha Parbhu
Art Assistant: Luis Reyes