INTERVIEW: What the hell is a Yobwoc anyway? Super American talk their return and album sampler out now on Take This To Heart Records

Super American by Benjamin Lieber
Photo by Benjamin Lieber

The boys are back in town. No, really, I mean it. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a world that is literally on fire, Super American has returned from the dead with a handful of bright and charged up new songs to help usher us into a new decade, a new head space, and more importantly, a brand new album. Now, the details on a new full-length are still vague, but Super American promises that the three songs that make up Yobwoc won’t be the last we hear from the before the year is through. With this being their first release since spending a year apart, the band is considering this to be a soft-reboot of sorts. What exactly does that mean? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Super American’s mission statement has remained the same from their conception. The boys have strived to serve as an antidote of sorts for the dark times that we’ve all found ourselves in. They offer a momentary vacation from an otherwise looming reality through enigmatic slices of guitar pop equipped with arena-ready hooks, playful and buoyant harmonies, and the kind of youth-infused disposition so infectious that you can’t help but to feel affected by it. The only difference now is that the band seems to have a clear vision for what the future looks like instead of just rolling with whatever hand they’ve been dealt. In other words, the core of this project is still very much the same, we’re just running on a new save file.

The band’s career to this point has been a series of flash in the pan moments that have helped build an audience of devoted fans. In 2017, they released the Disposable EP, which introduced us to the kind of nostalgia infused pop rock that now feels uniquely their own. Shortly after, we were gifted two standalone singles in “Good Boy” and “Samantha’s Song,” and while they felt like a radical departure from their previous work, hindsight shows that they were the perfect bridge between that and their debut album. The album, Tequila Sunrise, was released in the Spring of 2018 and stands as one of the best pop records to come from any band in this scene. The songs are thoughtful and infectious and showcase the band bending the rules of indie rock and pop to create something that felt as warm and buzzy as the title implies.

They toured on the heels of that record throughout 2018 before the buzz started to wear off internally, causing things to dissolve at an alarming rate. While there was never an official hiatus or break-up announced for the band, they disappeared from social media completely and spent the next year in silence. Matt [Cox – vocals, guitar] and Pat [Feeley – vocals, bass] spent 2019 focusing on other avenues and had completely stopped writing music together, but like tequila and lime, the two belong together. When asked about why they felt early 2020 was the perfect time to stage their comeback, Pat said that it was something that he just couldn’t stay away from. He went on to say that, “Matt and I working together was always the most fun that I’ve ever had, and as so as soon as it felt fun and like we were ready to do it again, we just jumped right back into it. And here we are.”

It’s that carefree kind of attitude that had spilled over into their songwriting that allows it to feel like that escape that we all turn to pop music for. Of the three songs that make up Yobwoc, “Untitled” is one that I was immediately drawn to. I immediately felt inclined to listen to the song a hundred times on a loop and memorize every lyric, specifically because of the bright delivery of opening line, “You can plant me/I wanna be a tree/I wanna show you everything I see.”

It paints such a vivid picture and communicates a familiar feeling so powerfully without having to rely on language that might otherwise feel cliche. When asked about their songwriting process, Matt was quick to reply with, “It requires no thinking. It’s just all feeling.” Pat further broke down the process for that song specifically saying that Matt came to him with that line and the music for the chorus pretty much written, and that same day he got home and just sang what would become one of the catchiest hooks I’ve heard in a long time into his laptop. He mentioned that the bridge was a whole separate thing that they brought into the song and that they wanted it to really feel kind of like old school emo. Specifically, he stated that “we wanted like a lot of vocals going on and wanted to feel like old school Taking Back Sunday.”

It’s safe to say that this was a success for the band. A lot of the comparisons that I’ve made while pitching Yobwoc to friends are to Taking Back Sunday, blink-182 (pre-self/untitled), and Third Eye Blind. To that end, I noted that I’m often quick to compare these guys to bands like Third Eye Blind and The Lemonheads and was curious about what bands really helped to shape their signature brand of songwriting. Pat answered with, “I think it’s safe to say that we listened to like all of the big guitar bands of the 90s and 00s and borrowed a little bit here and there” before Matt quickly and confidently responded that his biggest songwriting inspirations are The Jerky Boys and John Mellencamp. An answer that was promptly met with laughter, but the honesty of it rang through the more we discussed it. The latter was explained by Pat, who said that, “Matt’s been doing a lot of the guitar playing this time around. There’s a lot of elements of bands like blink for sure, but I think you can really hear the Americana influence from acts like Mellencamp when he plays that keeps it from being, like, typical pop punk or emo.”

I’d have to agree with that statement. I’ve long said that there’s something about what Super American brings to the table that no other band can replicate. Plenty of their peers have clung to the nostalgia of 90s alternative but I can’t think of another band that sounds like they could dominate airwaves both now and 20 years ago. It’s the influence they bring from genres outside of their own that have helped mold and shape Super American into the band that presented us with something as immediately palpable as Yobwoc.

As for The Jerky Boys, I think that one can be left to creative interpretation. For those unfamiliar, The Jerky Boys are a comedy duo best known for their prank phone calls. It’s this lighthearted sense of humor that informs a lot of how this band acts and the attitude that they bring to the industry in general. Take for instance the name of this sampler. I’m sure that at least one of you has been wondering what the hell a Yobwoc is…and the answer is simple. It’s reverse cowboy.

I asked if anything outside of clever wordplay inspired the name, to which Matt replied,”…it’s really listener’s choice. It’s either Reverse Cowboy or Yobwoc.” Pat went on to add, “I really like the humor aspect of it in like that old-fashioned, blink-182 type of way. But, also, I look at it as like, in terms of societal norms, making it the opposite of like the super masculine cowboy kind of thing.” Which makes continues to make more sense the more you listen to not only this sampler, but everything else that Super American has released to this point. This band has never been afraid to feel and to feel loudly. They aren’t afraid to be wildly in love or choked up over heartache; they don’t need to dress it up in elaborate metaphor to feel comfortable expressing just how it they feel.

As for what the rest of 2020 looks like for Super American…well, there’s nothing that we can really talk about just yet. In the meantime, Matt and Pat did mention that they’re toying with the idea of a podcast that will see the duo reach out to their peers and just have a low-key, zero pressure conversation about life, music, and everything that might fall in between. I will say this, though. You should probably keep your eyes peeled for some big things coming sooner than later for these boys. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Yobwoc is available now through Take This To Heart Records and is just a small taste of what this band has in store for 2020. The world might be a lot of things right now, but it’s about to get Super American, baby.