“The only ones for me are the mad ones.” So begins the famous Kerouac quote from which the quartet Yellow Roman Candles draws its name.

A little madness goes a long way when you are fighting to live and breathe as a musician. Sometimes the rationale for slogging hours on the road, interminable nights in the studio and art fights with like-minded friends simply does not hold together.

The odd pinch of madness drove YRC to convert a two-car garage to a full-blown home studio and carve a comfortable groove in the no-pretense Portland music scene. Read what Aaron Morse has to say, then watch the Candles burn, burn, burn at Blue on Friday night.

Your band name comes straight out of a Kerouac quote. In what ways do you guys identify with the Beats?

Kerouac is a remarkable influence in who we are as people. He defined a generation that spawned free thinking that led to the music and anti-conformity of the ’60s and ’70s. Music and culture could not be what they are without the creation of the Beats. He is without doubt one of our heroes. Musically, we identify by clashing a wide variety of influences. We play with violinists of both bluegrass and classical influence, bassist Jake Ross comes from a hard-core metal band and, before being a singer/songwriter, I played lots of alternate tuning instrumental guitar.

Describe your sound as best you can.

Well, if I had to pigeonhole it, indie acoustic folk roots Americana. Seriously, it’s difficult to describe. We come from such varied backgrounds. We have used a lot of different instrumentation with lots of different musicians to form the sound we have. We combine my gritty vocals with the purity of female vocalist Sarah (Klompy) Klomparens, and we add violin and upright bass, often bowed to really push through emotion.

What are some of your favorite rooms to play in Portland and why?

That’s tough to say. There are so many amazing venues that truly embrace original local music. Empire (Dine and Dance) is one of our favorites, both upstairs and down. The sound is always great, and the audience is always attentive and responsive. Probably our favorite place to play, though, is Blue. It’s dark, small and intimate. The environment is a perfect fit for our music.

How did recording in a home studio impact the creation of (the CD) “Puppets”?

“Home studio” is modest for what we built. We converted an oversize two-car garage into a five-room, full-production, HD 32-track studio with vaulted ceilings. Self-producing was a great experience. I think it was extremely helpful for us to be able to achieve exactly what we were hoping for without having to explain it to somebody else who could hopefully accurately interpret what we are trying to accomplish. It was definitely a learning experience as we went, but we got a lot of support, and we where able to generate a product we are happy with.

Any good stories coming out of Nateva (music festival) last year?

Definitely. Nateva was nothing short of a life-changing event. We got a last-minute billing, so we lost out on all the publicity that came with it, but it was an amazing opportunity for us. Behind the main stage, they had a complimentary Ben & Jerry’s truck, where we bumped into the iconic Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips after his ridiculously amazing performance. The whole event was great. It was a definite highlight for us.

What was it like growing up in Maine?

Growing up in Maine I think I took for granted, having never lived anywhere else. When I hit 20, I moved around a bit, living in Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York. I soon realized that there is no place out there like Maine, both with the beauty and the people. We have gone on tour twice, playing shows in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and even though we have had amazing experiences and were always well received, I have yet to come across a place that embraces music like Maine. We really have something special here.

How many miles do you think the Winnebago has left in her?

The Winnebago! We bought her for 500 bucks and put maybe $200 into it. It’s a 1979 Dodge, but it only has 70,000 miles right now. She has served us well, never leaving us stranded on tour. She was the backstage green room at Garden Party festival last month, hosting a bunch of local and national acts. She is one of the crew, and we have no intention of letting her go anytime soon.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer.


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