Returned Mormon missionaries hold to values while pursuing rock 'n' roll dreams
Provo, the college town in the middle of Utah Valley, has seen a surprising amount of success in a place much different from it: the music industry. But while the morals of the two worlds often clash, the band Red Yeti is using its values to find success.
The band consists of Kimball Barker, Coleman Edwards, Isaac Lomeli, Jared Scott and Nick Blosil — all Brigham Young University students, all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all ready to bring something new to the music scene.
“We’re five Mormon guys, and I feel like it’s about time that people really saw that there is an equal standard of fun without anything but pure music and pure crowd interaction,” said Blosil, Red Yeti’s drummer.
Becoming who they are now — a band with a recently released extended play, which is more than a single but less than a full album, and winners of the 2012 RAW Artists “Musician of the Year” award with a growing fan base — has been a process.
“I first moved to Provo I was really into indie folk music so I was writing that stuff,” said Kimball Barker, Red Yeti's lead singer. “Then I got together with Isaac and also Coleman, and I kind of just kept up with the indie folk stuff, and these guys were good enough to just go along with it.”
But slowly, things started to change.
“We were jamming after practice one time and were doing really blues-rock-like riffs and stuff,” Barker said. “Nick was bold enough to be like, ‘Dude, you should play this because this is you. You really seem honest and like you’re really expressing yourself when you play rock music.’”
Over time, this and other experiences guided the band to its current sound. Now, the band members agree that while they draw inspiration from many sources, they’ve found their niche in rock ‘n’ roll.
The band's tribute to classic rock in a modern era creates a sound that resonates across generations.
“We’ve found our most avid fans actually among our parents’ generation and then among high schoolers and teenagers,” Blosil said. “It’s really exciting to have that mix.”
While rock ‘n’ roll isn't necessarily the first place people think to find five returned Mormon missionaries, the band infuses its music and performances with the values and passions from each member's life — values like honesty, unity and service.
Throughout its evolution, the band has emphasized the idea of honesty, and each member feels this commitment to honesty will bring the band success.
“We finally just discovered that it doesn’t matter what people want to hear,” Edwards said. “It matters ... what the honest music is that comes out of you. The most important thing is you basically play your emotions. You get out what’s on the inside, and you’ll find the people who like that. People will relate to it because it’s genuine.”
And like the adage says, the members of the band believe the truth will set them free — free to follow whatever sound best suits the band and free to be true to themselves.
“We really do feel like when people hear us, they’re going to feel us,” Barker said. “They’re going to feel that honesty and that we’re really trying to reach them and really opening ourselves to them, and that gives us freedom to, to do whatever we want with it. ... You know, we’re not under anyone else’s control but our own, and that’s how we want to keep it.”
But this honesty isn't confined to their time in the recording studio or on stage. Instead, the band members find that the first requirement of honest, genuine music is honesty in their everyday lives.
“I think living an honest lifestyle ... brings honest music,” Scott said. “Because that’s kind of your fuel tank. You live certain things, and as you’re honest with yourself all the time, one, it’s going to be easier to write honestly, and, two, you’re going to have more things to write about.”
Another band priority is creating an experience for concertgoers and emphasizing live shows. The band takes seriously the sacrifice fans make to attend shows, and it wants to give performances that uplift, change and unify people.
This make the band's concerts high-energy events in which attendees are encouraged to take part.
“If you want to hear the music, listen to it online. If you want to experience the music, come to our shows,” Scott said.
Lomeli believes fan participation benefits the band and concertgoers.
“I think allowing people to be a part of the creative process gives them ownership of the happiness they walk away from, which in turn strengthens their internal ability to find that happiness later after our show,” Lomeli said.
This shared ownership and connection is one of the reasons the band attracts younger fans, and in a time when there are few role models in the industry, Red Yeti is excited to inspire and include teenagers.
“We are individuals, but it’s about Red Yeti. It’s about the collective band identity,” Blosil said. “(And that’s partly) why we get such good feedback from teenagers, for example. Because they’re looking for role models; they’re looking for heroes. And they’re going to find them wherever. And we know today there are so many heroes or role models that we don’t necessarily agree with value-wise and so that’s another reason why we focus on the live performance as well as the ownership, the connection with the band.
"Because it’s more than just the sound bite. It’s more than just, ‘I had a great time at that show.’ It’s really taking part of Red Yeti. We’re owned by everybody.”
Another value the band focuses on is working with and helping others.
Throughout its evolution, Red Yeti has made working with other artists a focal point. Its April 4 EP release concert featured work from BYU industrial design, graphic design and music recording students to create one-of-a-kind set design and custom merchandise.
“(We really want) to help other people who do art really grow and really become more, and we really enjoy helping people become to reach their full potential,” Lomeli said. “We want the opportunity to work with them because we know they’ll benefit us, and we can benefit them and help each other have a blast.”
By blending different art forms, the band feels its concerts help not only those who contribute but also those who attend.
"I think our goal in writing music in general is to kind of inspire and really help other people find motivation in their lives, and I think when you bring in another medium, another artistic medium, it really adds more flavor and more applicability to the music, and it really can kind of help people a lot more," Scott said.
And by creating performances that showcase dedication and passion, Red Yeti hopes to inspire listeners.
“When you go to a performance and you see all the hard work people put in to it, I think it can really inspire you, and that’s what we hope to do when we play shows,” Edwards said. “We put a ton of work into it, and I think it can inspire them in whatever they do. Maybe they do ballet; they don’t play rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s fine. Maybe our show can help them be more inspired and be able to do their talents even better and help other people as well.”
The band members believe music has changed them for the better since they were young. Now they hope their music can do the same for others.
“I think (motivating people to do good) would be to deliver content that doesn’t just merely entertain but influences them to be able to find strength that they didn’t already otherwise have,” Lomeli said. “And the only way we’re going to do that is by giving them, I would say, two things: good music and then something to look to.”
By being “something to look to” in the music and rock 'n' roll industry, the band even sees what it's doing as a type of missionary opportunity.
“If we can be an instrument in God’s hands into helping people understand the gospel a little more or just help them understand themselves a little more, and to want to be happy, whether that be through the gospel or just coming to together with other people at our shows, it’s just about helping people feel better about themselves,” Barker said.
Alison Moore is a writer for the Faith and Family sections at DeseretNews.com. She is studying journalism and editing at Brigham Young University.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @alison_kathleen
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