The definition of “house” has evolved with a little help from the Santa Cruz music scene, and in the case of Ya Mi Na, the music scene has evolved with a little help from “home.” It all started one night at a house show when UC Santa Cruz alumnus Erik Wright saw Beau, a UCSC alumna, from across the room and asked her to dance.
Ya Mi Na, a local band featuring Wright on guitar, Beau on lead vocals, Zach Scotton on bass and Allen MacMorris on drums, forged its musical relationship through mutual friends and hometowns.
The band recently played a show at the Pink House that presented the “house” as a venue for entertainment. The show was put on by Jake Rusting, a UCSC transfer student and the lead guitarist of local band Lost Dog.
The do-it-yourself style of house shows, where locals organize shows and open the doors of their houses for showgoers, are popular throughout Santa Cruz. Beau said shows of this style make music more accessible.
“People are able to come without having to pay. There’s not so much of an aspect of someone making money off of someone else,” Beau said. “It’s a very grassroots way of putting on an event.”
In preparation for the show, Rusting was contacted by Marissa Seiler, lead guitarist and vocalist of Golden Hour, an all-female post punk band from Portland, Oregon. While touring California with Sister Palace, another band from Portland, Seiler asked Rusting if he could arrange a space for Golden Hour and Sister Palace to play in Santa Cruz.
The show was initially booked for SubRosa on Jan. 24, but when Rusting caught wind of the venue being double-booked for that same night, he scrambled to find another location to showcase both Golden Hour and Sister Palace. After getting in touch with multiple friends, and even some co-ops around town, Rusting finally found a new venue — the Pink House.
“It takes a certain amount of respect and intimacy to hold a house show because there’s going to be a lot of people coming in [who] you might not know,” Rusting said. “The people of the house have to be willing to have this trust for the person putting on the show.”
In addition to Golden Hour and Sister Palace, Lost Dog and Ya Mi Na were also put on the bill. Lost Dog did the honors of opening the show, while Ya Mi Na shut it down as the final performance of the night with its closing song “Breath Ocean Sea.”
“I like that it was a really cohesive show,” said Ya Mi Na bassist Scotton. “We all fit within the flow of a show. Not in terms of who’s better or worse, opener or closer, but it felt like we could all be on tour and draw the same crowd and that everyone would be stoked on [these] bands.”
Twenty audience members moshed throughout the show, pushing each other and running back-and-forth all over the dance pit. Some even crowdsurfed, but there was still plenty of room for dancing.
“I hadn’t been to a show like that in a while where I was really happy to be dancing to the music,” said Ya Mi Na vocalist Beau. “By the end of the show, I felt like I had big band crushes on all the other bands that played. It was fun to play a show with bands that sound great and that are fun to be around.”
Members of Ya Mi Na also described some of their musical influences. Wright, the band’s guitarist, said he’s inspired by Tera Melos, an indie math rock band from Roseville, California, as well as Palm, a band from Hudson, New York. As Wright’s roommate, Scotton said his main influence for Ya Mi Na is none other than Wright himself.
“It comes down to listening to Erik doodle [on his guitar] in our room,” Scotton said. “That was my inspiration of how I would write songs, understanding how he plays guitar and then it was all natural from there. I let my fingers go.”
When asked to describe Ya Mi Na’s distinct sound of loop-based thrash pop, MacMorris, the band’s drummer, defined it exactly.
“It’s what it sounds like, man,” MacMorris said. “[Wright] uses a loop pedal and writes very poppy, melodic riffs. We play high energy and it’s thrashy.”
While UCSC transfer student Rusting usually performs solo, he recently wrote a song called “Hell Open Wide” which he felt confident enough to perform with MacMorris last Saturday. Having established a friendship prior to playing music together, Rusting felt their performance went off without a hitch.
“We’ve shared musical influences and it was really easy to start playing with [MacMorris],” Rusting said. “It felt very natural and sweet to have this open communication. Lost Dog is going to make a transition into Lost Dogs, now that we’re collaborating on this musical project.”
Rusting also discussed the process of transforming an ordinary home into a house show, altering the concept of a “home” entirely, in relation to playing music.
“It’s like making a place where you live be whatever you want it to be, not just what you think a home is,” Rusting said. “Home is merely a place where you feel content, or comfort. It’s more of a feeling than a physical space. Being creative is like finding what it means to be home.”
Ya Mi Na celebrated its anniversary on Feb. 1 and is expected to play an upcoming show at the Art Bar and Cafe on Feb. 27. Check out Ya Mi Na, Golden Hour and Sister Palace at bandcamp.com.