Yaeji’s back With A Hammer on Arvos with Bri Kennedy
May 24th 2023
Yaeji’s music has always felt unhurried. Playfully yet carefully taking apart and putting back together genre conventions, her tracks carry a sense of quiet and beautiful determination; the contra-bombastic yet still extremely kinetic rhythm of self-reflection on the dance floor. Her music sounds like someone drawing the architectural plan for a nightclub with a crayon.
It’s been a hot minute since we’ve heard from the electronic dance-art-pop producer, who rapidly rose to global fame in 2017 with the release of her eponymous EP and acclaimed follow-up EP2. Six years (and one stunning mixtape) later, Yaeji’s debut album is finally here and so is she, back in Eora/Sydney for two shows at the Sydney Opera House. She spoke with Bri Kennedy on Arvos all about her album and her new live show.
Until With A Hammer Yaeji’s approach to songwriting was usually spontaneous, creating words and sounds based on things she’d felt or learnt in the moment. For her album, however, she deliberately set out to create a narrative framework in which to house her music.
“I was thinking of creating a story before the music, so that when I went into the studio, I would be in that space, in that world that I’ve created, and I would be writing music from it.”
Building a home for Yaeji’s sound started through a collaboration with watercolour illustrator Sseongryul. Mutual fans of each other’s work, the two met weekly for sessions in which Yaeji would tell stories and share dreams while Sseongryul drew. These scattered illustrations eventually formed into a graphic novel of sorts, and with it in parallel the music was developed.
“It’s a world where this hammer exists. A hammer birthed out of anger that I felt for the first time. So that’s why the album became With A Hammer. And that’s why I carry a sledgehammer around.”
A visual and material focus for the idea at the heart of her new album, the said hammer joins Yaeji on stage during her live performances. The tour began in April, the day before the album dropped. Taking With A Hammer from the studio (where she usually works alone) to the stage so soon meant Yaeji witnessed her fans engaging with the new music in real time.
“Every show I got to just witness how [the album] travels. It’s been the most grounding and most real time reaction. I’ve felt an experience with people who discover my music. It’s been really nice.”
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In the same way she took the time to very deliberately release this capital “a” Album, Yaeji has developed a new live show with a strong conceptual grounding for her capital “t” Tour (if you will). No longer behind the DJ decks, Yaeji instead stands on stage alongside two dancers in front of a giant LED screen. Many elements working in tandem, her concept world is brought to heightened-reality life, a structured flow of energy split across three acts.
“I’m expressing a lot through movement and choreo and expression, just facial expression, emotional expression.”
“This tour … has been so transformative, and deeply loving, and so joyful too. I’m really looking forward to being able to continue this in other places, especially places I haven’t been or haven’t lived in before. And being able to share joy that way.”
Catch Yaeji performing on May 27 and 28 as part of Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House (FBi supporters can score a double pass on us here). Listen to her full interview with Bri Kennedy up top and buy/stream her album With A Hammer below.