By Alessandro Improta
Red Yeti has been a consistent musical fixture in Provo for years now. Their raw brand of rock n’ roll garnered them a dedicated following and landed them commercial licensing deals with major corporations. However, the band has been quiet since they announced the departure of all but one of their core members last February. After months of writing and preparation, Red Yeti is back and ready to rock. We got to sit down with lead singer Kimball Barker and drummer Ian Francis about the history of Red Yeti and the formation of the new lineup. And don’t forget to listen to their new single at the end of the article – premiering exclusively right here.
So, Red Yeti. A lot of changes.
Kimball: Yeah. A lot of changes.
Ian: Kind of. [Laughter] No, major changes.
Run us through the timeline of Red Yeti, how it started, what happened, why the separation. You talked about wanting to get the real story out there.
Kimball: Yeah, totally.
And then just how you guys got together now.
Kimball: I’ll tell you the whole story start to finish. Red Yeti was founded by myself, Kimball Barker, and Isaac Lomeli. I had moved down to Provo in 2011 because I was attending BYU. I transferred from the U.
Are you from Salt Lake then?
Kimball: I’m from Salt Lake, yeah. I was going to the University of Utah and something wasn’t right. I was like, “I don’t know what I should do.” So I applied to BYU and I actually got in, and I was like, “Wow. I never thought I’d ever get in.” So that’s what brought me down to Provo and it was very fortunate because the first thing I do when I get to Provo – my first night in Provo – I went to a battle of the bands at Velour. Velour, even growing up in Salt Lake City, was a huge deal. I would come down and see the local bands. In like 2006 and 2007 when I was in high school, Good Morning Maxfield – which is now Fictionist – was a big thing back in those days. Some pretty cool touring bands and stuff. So I had these connections with Velour and the music scene and I just knew. “I need to be part of that when I move down to Provo.” So first things first I met some bands and was like, “Hey, I gotta get on that stage. Who do I talk to?” So everyone in my complex referred me to Isaac Lomeli and so I met him. He was jammin’ out on the grass one day on his acoustic guitar. I go out there with my guitar and I’m like, “Can I jam with you man?” I was trying the hardest I could to impress him. I was like, “Yo we should play together!” Luckily he wanted to! He was like, “Let’s go to this open mic night and play some acoustic songs. We can play some of my songs and some of your songs!” So we started learning each others’ songs and then started writing our own songs together. In a couple weeks as we’re writing this, I run into Coleman Edwards who is my long-lost second cousin.
Did you know that at the time?
Kimball: We had known each other growing up and stuff, but we had only seen each other at these awkward family parties. We did not have anything to do with each other. We were like, “That guy’s weird man. All my relatives are weird. I don’t wanna talk to anyone here I just wanna go.” [Laughter] We really missed a lot of good times because we were too prejudiced against our own family members. Just thinking everyone was so weird. [Laughter] The coincidence that happened there was that our fathers, who are cousins, were talking to each other at a wedding and they were both like, “Yeah, my son’s going to Provo and he wants to play music in bands. We should set our sons up so they can jam out!” So Coleman had my number in his pocket when I ran into him on the street. He’s like, “Wait, aren’t you my cousin?” And I was like, “Yeah, man. What’s your name again?” We just kinda caught up really fast. And then he’s like, “Such a coincidence, my dad just handed me your number because we should play music together.” He played keys, so I went over to his place and jammed out some acoustic stuff on his keyboard, and it became Isaac, Coleman, and me. From there, we found a bassist and drummer and played together. Our original bassist was Cliff Hardle, and original drummer was Morgan Nowland. We played at Morgan’s garage for the whole summer. We were that setup for the whole summer. Once we formed that band we played our first show in March 2012 – St. Patrick’s Day – at what is now Gezzo Hall, which used to be The Ozz. It’s totally cool how Gezzo Hall is there now and it’s like way cooler than The Ozz.
No offense to The Ozz. [Laughter]
Kimball: But Gezzo Hall did a great job rebranding that. I think they’re gonna do really well.
I hope so!
Kimball: I hope so, too. That’s one we really got behind as a band. We’re like, this is a huge venue, it can bring in so many cool acts. We gotta get this thing going. We’re still on that mission to make Gezzo Hall the place. Not to detract from Velour or Muse or any of the other venues. So we played our first show and stayed together for that whole summer. In that time we won Raw Artist musician of the year, played some really cool places, opened for some really cool bands. Then once fall hit, our drummer and our bassist were both graduating and were gonna move out of state. They were like, “Yeah, let’s just call it here. You can either stop Red Yeti now or you can find replacements.”
So this is just the third iteration.
Kimball: Yeah! So I was kind of like really confused then. Should I bury Red Yeti and start over? But as luck would have it, Coleman and I went to Guru’s just to chill out and Jenn Blosil and her sister, Chelsea were there playing an acoustic set, and their brother, Nic Blosil, was playing drums. Coleman was like, “I know that guy.” I was like, “Maybe we should talk to him about playing in Red Yeti.” He’s behind half of his kit playing this pop music, and we could all tell – he wants to be unleashed. We need to take him off his chain! [Laughter] So I approached him and we set up a practice at his house. And it was not going very well. It was going really bad until we played a song that we wrote a long time ago called “Fine Line.” Nic heard that song and he was like, “I wanna be in this band.” We were going this whole practice, struggling, and he was like, “I’m not sure about this,” and then we played “Fine Line” and everything just clicked. So then it became Isaac, Coleman, Me, Nic. We didn’t have the bassist at the time. We were going sans bassist. Which is such a dumb idea, but we thought we were cool. And then we had a female singer, Kate Berry, sing with us for a little bit.
Was she just doing back up stuff?
Kimball: No, she was pretty dang involved with it. She did backup stuff but then she was a really great composer. We would actually learn some of her songs and play them. So that was a new iteration of Red Yeti. As time moved on we were like, “We need a bassist.” And Jared Scott had just moved into my area. He moved in and he heard about Red Yeti and was like, “Yeah, I wanna play.” He’s a really great guitarist. Played guitar for years and wrote music for years. He approached me and was like, “Do you wanna get together and jam sometime?” So he came over to my house and we jammed acoustically. He’s like, “That sounds great. How can I help your band?” I was like, “Dang. We’re pretty full on guitars. You wanna play bass?” He’d never played bass before, and on top of that he’s a left handed bassist. [Laughter] Being a left handed bassist is a really rare thing, and it’s really hard to find a guitar for a left handed bassist. But he made that commitment that night. So he went out and bought a $500 Fender bass, left handed, the only one. It had like dust on it – no one had touched this thing in years. He goes out and buys it and he’s our bassist. So, I’m going into deep detail here because I want to get the full story out. I told Coleman and Nic that I found us a bassist, and they were kind of upset about that because they were talking with their bassist friends and were going to bring them on. They were like, “Why did you commit this guy already without even consulting us?” But as soon as Jared showed up at practice we all felt it. We knew he was the right guy. Because on top of being good musicians, you want a band of guys that can get along. You want guys you can spend time with.
Yeah man, if you can’t get that it’s the worst.
Kimball: Jared was that guy. So that became – let’s call that the third iteration. Oh! I forgot to mention that we had a banjo player for a good while. Andrew Livingston. Great musician. When that first iteration phased out, he kind of went his way, too. He was great. Added a lot to the music. I want to make sure he gets mentioned.
So was Red Yeti not like what it is now? I mean, I feel like to have a banjo player you’ve gotta have a different sound.
Kimball: Very far from where it is now.
Ian: We started out as like a folk band. A pop/folk kind of thing.
Kimball: I blame myself. [Laughter] Because I wanted to be a part of the scene. I had this image in my head. Growing up in the music scene in Provo, I was like, “Okay, I wanna be a part of everyone and everyone is playing this folk music. That’s what’s cool right now, so let’s do that!” So I blame myself. It was a total mistake. I go back and listen to the first EPs – like you mentioned – and I listen to it. I’m like, “It’s not a bad song, but it’s totally not us. It totally wasn’t me!” But I was just trying.
Just trying to make something. I get that feeling.
Kimball: Exactly. But yeah, things were going great. We had a new bassist, and then Kate Berry left on her mission. We replaced her with Christi Conger, who did a lot of the same stuff. She and I actually wrote a lot of songs together that worked out really well until she left on her mission. And that brought us to the final Red Yeti. Just the five guys. We had a practice together after Christi left. Not saying anything bad about her involvement with the band, but as soon as it was just the five guys, everything felt super loose. We were like, “This is right.” That’s when Nic was like, “We really gotta play more rock n’ roll. Whenever we’re just jamming stuff – not learning music, just jamming – we play really good rock music. Why don’t we go in that direction?” So I credit Nic for taking us in this new direction of rock n’ roll, getting away from the folk stuff, and ultimately just being honest with ourselves. This is who we are. We’re loud. We are really into this gritty stuff. If that’s in all of our souls, we’ve gotta express that.
So you guys were at this fourth, fifth, – thirtieth iteration for a long time, weren’t you?
Kimball: Those five guys. That started in 2013, and then stayed that way – didn’t change. We recorded two more records – two EPs – and that brought us to March 4th, 2016. It’s kind of crazy how it’s almost four years to the day. 2012, St. Patrick’s Day at The Ozz, and then we ended March 4th, Velour, 2016. Leading up to that show, we all had these really honest talks with each other.
Band DTR. [Laughter]
Kimball: Exactly. We’d just finished this record, and we were really psyched about it, and Nic and I were really working things on the business side and things were really going well. And then, one by one, everyone just started to feel it. It’s hard to describe. No one said a word, but we all could kinda like feel it. The first ones to bring it up – like hey I think I’m gonna move on – were Jared, our bassist, and Coleman. They’re married now. They actually met their wives through the band. Met them at shows. I think that’s what endeared their wives to them. “Oh, rockers. We like them!” As soon as you’re married, things change so much. I mean, you’re a married guy. You know how it is.
I’m not, actually. No.
Kimball: I thought I saw a ring, dude!
Wrong hand. But thanks for rubbing it in. Appreciate it. [Laughter]
Kimball: Sorry! So you will know, when you are married –
“When you’re older!” [Laughter]
Kimball: Things change. Priorities change, and I understand that. I’m married, and I’ve got a wife that loves that I play music. Not that it doesn’t stress her out that I’m not home or that sometimes my priorities get messed up. But she’s super patient and understanding. Ian’s wife, too. The guy plays in six bands.
Ian: She comes to like, almost every show, too. I don’t know how she does it.
Kimball: We’ve got awesome wives.
Ian: She helps me move all my drum stuff. Which is not fun.
I mean, you married a roadie. That’s fantastic. That’s phenomenal. [Laughter]
Kimball: A roadie, a manager, an accountant, a cheerleader… [Laughter] Yeah, so Coleman and Jared expressed to us what they were doing, what they were up to. Kind of their vision of life. It wasn’t the vision that the band was going in. They said, “We think it’s better that you replace us instead of getting to this point and then being like, sorry guys, we’re gonna get off this train.” So it became Isaac, Nic, and I. We were actually really stoked. Three guys, we’ve got a ton of freedom to do all this cool stuff, and started digging into this.
This is still before the last show? So Jared and Coleman had said, “Alright, I think we’re done.” Show still hasn’t happened. But they had already given their two weeks, if you will.
Kimball: Yeah. They gave their two weeks – which were actually two or three months before March 4th. We had booked that show because we wanted to promote the EP.
That was the release show, right? For that EP?
Kimball: It was kind of an exclusive release. We just did hard copies. It’s not online yet or anything. We wanna change that soon. So they kind of declared that after March they’d be done. Nic and Isaac and I were working on things. We had a manager, we had a booking agent – we were all excited about things. And then, Nic and Isaac – independently of each other – came to their own conclusions after asking, “Yeah. Is this really the direction I wanna go, too?” So it was really unexpected, but I can understand them now. I was kinda upset, how out of the blue it was. I was counting on going all the way with these guys. It was a big shock. So once they put in their two weeks, we just decided that March 4th would be the last show with us and we’ll start moving things along. And then that week I start auditioning drummers and looking for a new bassist and I met some really talented people, but like I said you want talent but people that you can jive with. I remember leaving this audition with this drummer, and he was an awesome guy – awesome drummer – but I was like, “I just don’t think I could road trip with this guy!” So out of desperation I called Ian. I was heartbroken. I was at a loss.
Ian: He was sobbing. [Laughter]
Kimball: I was sobbing! No, I knew he was busy. He’s a really busy guy. He’s dedicated to all his bands. He just released an album with Josh & Ian, so, I knew he was very committed to these other things. I was just hoping beyond home that I could convince him.
How did you guys know each other?
Ian: Let’s see, we met in 2013. I was in a band at that time called Ahoy, Captain. And we played at the Shred Shed, which is no longer.
Kimball: May it rest in peace.
Ian: Yeah, it was really cool. Unfortunately, it’s gone. But Ahoy, Captain played and Red Yeti played after us. It was love at first sight – first listen.
Kimball: Yeah we played together, and Ian and I just jived, you know? Even though we were in different bands we would just talk about music. I’ve gotta tell this story about how Ian saved my marriage one day. I was engaged to my wife long distance. She was down in Arizona. I was up in Utah. We’d only see each other once a month. It was hard. One day I was going crazy with it all. I was like oh my gosh, what am I doing with my life? This is insane.
You were engaged at this point, you said?
Kimball: Yeah. I was still stoked to get married and stuff, but building up to the marriage, things get so stressful. I texted Ian out of the blue. We hadn’t had deep discussions before or anything – we were just like friends. For some reason I just felt like I needed to text Ian. He gave me the best advice. He was like, “Oh, yeah, You’ll have those days. You just gotta choose every day to be in love with your wife. You’ll wake up some days thinking, ‘What did I just do?’ But it’s so worth it man. You’re gonna love it.” I think he helped calm me down. I wouldn’t say I was doubting my marriage or thinking that I shouldn’t do it, but he really helped me put things in perspective.
Ian: Yeah. I’m gonna quit drums and be a marriage counselor. [Laughter] But yeah, that day it just kind of happened out of nowhere. I was just walking in between classes. I’m glad I could be of assistance.
Kimball: Since that day, Ian and his wife, Heather, have been Liz and I’s best friends. So it worked out. They knew they needed cool couple friends, so that’s why they helped me out that day.
Ian: This is our chance. We need them to get married. They’re so cool! [Laughter]
Kimball: So I called Ian and I knew he was busy. I was like, “Well, maybe you should consider playing with me sometime.” And he was thinking I was talking about another band besides Red Yeti, because he was like, “Oh, Red Yeti is still going. That’s never gonna die.”
Ian: I was in shock, too, when I found out.
Kimball: I was like, dude, Red Yeti’s done, man. He’s like, “Okay, I’ll call you back!” He was going to rehearsal at the time, so we talked later that night and he was like, “Dude I don’t care if I don’t have time, I’m in. Let’s do this.” I knew I could count on Ian.
Ian: It’s one of those moments where you’re like, “I’m already in five bands. What’s six gonna do?” [Laughter]
What’s the difference? Let’s throw one on there!
Kimball: Really, I always thought to myself if I could play in a band with Ian that would be incredible. He’s an awesome drummer and cool guy. And then the other person that came to mind was my friend Kim Bjerga. I met him through bands as well. Played in a battle of the bands with them up in Salt Lake. He was playing bass in a band called Apollo’s Army. They’re from Cedar City. Really awesome alt-rock band that really shredded really hard. When we met that night we just hit it off really well. Kim and I stayed in touch. He actually came and lived on my couch the whole summer of 2014. It was an incredible summer. Knowing he was a great musician and a cool guy, I was like, “If I could have a super group, it would be Kim and Ian and me. That would be the coolest group.” I called up Kim that same week that Isaac and Nic told me that they were done. I start thinking, “Who could I put in this band? I want it to be Kim, I want it to be Ian on drums.” So I call up Kim and he’s like, “Totally. I’m down. Let’s do this. I miss playing in a rock band.” He plays with the Naked Waiters. They’re really awesome. A cute ukulele band. But you know, you can only do that so much. You need to rock out sometimes. So Kim was totally on board, Ian was on board. Then on March 4th, we played that last show at Velour and said goodbye to the old lineup. It was a really touching show. We were all so in love with the product that we made and had good feelings for one another. It wasn’t a bad breakup by any means. I still see those guys. I still hang out with them. Things are still really great. It was just time for a new rendition, and that came with Ian and Kim. March 4th we played that show. March 5th I was jamming with these guys in my parent’s basement. The next day, we got together and started learning the new songs off of the EP and getting into this new stuff and it was incredible for me. I loved it. I love the three-piece. I love how raw it is. I think that’s the direction Red Yeti needed to go. Red Yeti was awesome but it was getting a little over-produced for my taste. We had a great producer. Jordan Clark was producing it. We had some incredible engineers and stuff. But I wanted something a little dirtier. A little more, for lack of a better word, GRR. GRRR. I don’t have a word for it. Just GRRR.
Ian: It was good. I liked it. It was really surreal for me. Since I saw Red Yeti in 2013 I always admired them. I liked all their songs. So to be sitting behind the drum set as the drummer playing them, was kind of like, “Holy crap, how did I get to this point?” It was frightening and exciting. It was frightening – such a heavy responsibility now. There’s all these songs I need to learn and fill in for Nic. But at the same time, I was like yeah, I’m super ready to do this. I always loved Nic as a drummer. But I always thought, if Nic left for some reason, I’d probably be the first in line. So, it was just great to finally have the opportunity to play Red Yeti songs.
So why hold on to the Red Yeti name? It’s just you at this point. You’ve lost everybody. Like, I think at that point it would almost be easier to be like, “Hey my buddy Ian, hey, Kim. Let’s start a new rock trio together. Blue Yeti.”
Ian: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like Red Yeti has come so far and evolved so much and been noticed by so many people I feel like it would be a tragedy to completely throw it all away. You think of everything you’ve done over the years, all of the reformations that took place, all the practices and all the exposure you’ve gotten on TV, airplay, radio, all the venues you’ve played. Red Yeti has some awesome traction. To me it makes sense to keep the name.
Kimball: Yeah. Amen to that. I did go through a crisis where I was like, do I replace it or just start over? I was thinking of new band names and I was like, “These all suck, man.” [Laughter]
Ian: It’s the hardest thing! Thinking of new band names is the hardest thing!
Kimball: I came to this realization, just like Ian said. Red Yeti has a lot of things going for it. It’s got brand recognition. We have music out there that’s still getting played, it’s still getting used. I have these connections with people all over the country through Red Yeti. I was like, if I tried to start over it would be a lot of work. I’d be starting from the very bottom. So I felt like this is a blessing that I have this brand to work with and I can continue playing the music and book shows as Red Yeti. Even though we’re a local band, I feel like the name has a draw to it on its own.
People have heard of it for sure.
Kimball: I just thought that’s a wise move from a business perspective. But also, it’s just in my heart, too. It’s the Red Yeti.
Ian: Kimball is the Red Yeti. [Laughter]
Kimball: On top of that, we have this record that’s not even released yet, officially. I wanted to release that as Red Yeti and continue playing those songs and other songs that we made before. Yeah, I just had to hold onto it. Too precious. It was too precious to me.
So, trio right now. Are you gonna stay that way? You gonna expand? What are we thinking?
Ian: I really like the three piece. There’s a magic in a three piece. A special kind of magic in a three piece. I’m open to it, personally. I want to see how it goes.
Kimball: We’ve been kind of slacking off lately, so I’m glad we’re getting this article out there so we can really get back at it. I feel like it was Kim that really brought it together. We were playing and we were all riffing off of each other, but I remember playing “Cease Fire” and Kim added this whole new part that no one had thought of before and it just changed the whole song to me. That just confirmed it to me and I was like, “This is going to work! Oh my gosh. He did it!” and Ian’s grooving and all of a sudden I was like, “This is it. This is going to work really well.”
Moving forward, is it old Red Yeti with different people? Or are we changing sounds? I know you said you wanted to get more “NNNGGGT.”
Kimball: How are you going to write that? Like in the article?
Ian: [Spelling] N-N-N-G-G-G-T?
We’ll include a sound byte. Anyways, moving forward. Still playing old songs it sounds like?
[Interview Continued Below]
Kimball: Yeah. We still will play – I guess you call it – the classics. We’ve got “Take Us Alive,” we’re playing “Cease Fire,” we’re playing stuff off the new EP that a lot of people haven’t heard. Only people that were there on March 4th have heard these songs. And then on top of that we wrote like seven new songs.
So you’ve been writing a lot?
Kimball: Oh yeah. It was funny because we were gearing up for this awesome festival show that got snowed out at the last minute. So we had over an hour’s worth of music. Old and brand new stuff that no one had heard. We were all stoked to unleash it, and the weather just wasn’t agreeable.
Ian: We were so amped. We were so ready, too. It’s like we practiced every night that week. We practiced the day of. Busted our butts for it and then mother nature had different plans, I guess. We haven’t played since. [Laughs]
Kimball: It was just too heart breaking.
So are you guys booking shows here pretty soon? What are the plans?
Kimball: We’ve got like a full summer lineup. We’re playing at SoDa Row Concert Series on July 29th. Then we have something in June but I’m hesitant to give a date because I don’t know if it’s confirmed. Then August 15th and 16th we’ll be hitting the road with Telesomniac.
Nice! Where are you guys headed?
Kimball: We’re gonna go play down in St. George and we’re gonna play down in Vegas. Those guys are awesome. We love those guys.
Ian: We’ve got some local shows, too, that’ll be good.
Kimball: I really would like to release another record for Red Yeti. Some really NNNGGGT stuff that’s really heavy. Cool stuff that we’ve been writing. I just feel like, you know, to be completely honest, when Nic decided he was done – that he wanted to go a different direction with his life – I was really conflicted because he and I had written an album’s worth of really cool songs. I was like, well what are we gonna do with these? These need to get out there. They must be heard! To me they’re just too good. So that’s one of the reasons why I needed to keep Red Yeti alive was because I think people really need to hear these songs. That’s kind of the next goal. To be playing. Keep our heads above water. Make sure people still know that we’re out there. That we’re putting on shows. That we’re out there to give people that outlet – give people that release. Come to shows and just get wild. So yeah, in the next little while we’d like to release another record with this new stuff and see where it goes from there.
Ian: I’m excited for the new stuff. It’s fun to play the old stuff, too, but I feel like these new songs just have a new energy and punch about them.
So how do they differ? I know that’s hard to describe.
Ian: I’d say they’re more – I dunno. There’s more of a bite to them. There’s a lot of transitions and parts. There might be some parts that will take people by surprise. Like whoa, I didn’t expect that to come in at this point. So I’d say it’s a little more unpredictable and edgy. Which is what I think rock n’ roll is all about. Being unpredictable. They’re just super fun to groove to. I think there are some songs that are slower that you can groove and other songs that you can rock out and mosh to.
Kimball: I think you said it right. Edgy. It’s just edgier. Really unleashed. I think that has a lot to do with the three-piece. It’s just so raw. So untamed.
Yeah, to pull off a three-piece I feel like you have to bring that energy, for sure. You’ve gotta be a little over the top, because if not it can get really empty really fast.
Ian: Being in a three-piece, no one is going to make up for your slack. You’ve gotta pull your weight and you’ve gotta play loud and fast.
Kimball: Loud and proud!
Check out Red Yeti’s first official single with their new lineup, “Doctor, Take a Look.” Stay tuned for the official release of their EP, Rx. You can like them on Facebook here.