Plugged In: YAYO

Photo by Matt York
Plugged In: YAYO

By Mike Duffy, January 26, 2012

To say that YAYO is having fun as an upstart band would be an understatement.

The Austin, Texas, quartet pals around like a collection of high-school buddies, laughing, pulling pranks and reminiscing about late-night basement jam sessions.

That’s probably because YAYO is not far removed from that lifestyle. 

In fact, with each member hovering around 20 years old at the moment, who’s not to say that YAYO’s upcoming EP and subsequent shows at the South By Soutwest Music Festival can’t be one big rager?

If YAYO had its way, that would be the plan.


“We’re just a bunch of high school punks from Texas,” frontman Yayo Sanchez told Fender.com with a devilish smile. 

Punks? Maybe. 

But the way YAYO approaches music is very mature, even if it comes with a big helping of youthful exuberance.

The 18-year-old Sanchez himself boasts a resume that would cause many an accomplished musician to bristle with envy.

He says his father turned him onto KISS at the age of 9, and after he received a guitar later that year, there was no question where his life would lead.

After attending a rock and roll fantasy camp, Sanchez met up with one-time KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick, who took the prodigy under his wing.

That relationship opened the door to sessions with heavyweights like Slash, ZZ Tops’ Bilyl Gibbons, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, The Who’s Roger Daltrey, KISS’s Paul Stanley and Queen’s Roger Taylor at various industry gatherings.

“He kind of led the way at the beginning and introduced me to a lot of people,” Sanchez said of Kulick.  

“It’s crazy. You just have to think in your head that you’re at home jamming and put everything else aside. ‘Alright, he’s just another guy,’ you know?”

By 2008, Sanchez had released a four-song set of demos featuring Kulick on bass and Slash drummer Brent Fritz.

Now, however, Sanchez is anxious to put out his first professional work with his bandmates and friends.

With Aaron Altounian on guitar, Gavin “T-Rex” Zapata on drums and James Pagliuco on bass, YAYO has an EP scheduled to hit shelves soon and a SXSW appearance scheduled this March.

“We lucked out because we live in Austin, so it would be like, ‘Oh, SXSW is coming up. Let’s book some shows,’” said Sanchez, who is laying down the final vocal tracks for the EP next week.

And if all goes well, YAYO will have hard copies on display at those SXSW shows.

To add to YAYO’s momentum, the band sold out the Parish in Austin last December and offered an acoustic performance at the 2012 Fender Showcase at NAMM in Anaheim last week.

“That got us all excited to try out the new sound,” said Sanchez. “We’re still discovering that, but it’s coming to life. It was the first time we’ve been able to travel as a full band, so it was a special moment for us.”


 YAYO turns in a blistering performance at the 3rd Squirrel Record Store

As the band has rounded into form, the guys have brought in influences such as the aforementioned KISS, Anthrax and Led Zeppelin. 

“We like to call our genre epic,” Sanchez half-joked. “Rock and roll from space.”

“You can definitely hear the metal/rock influences in there,” said Zapata.

The songwriting process for YAYO was truly DIY.  A lot of it was done the old-fashioned way — just
getting together and noodling around on their instruments until something caught their ear.

“We all meet up at my house in my garage and just jam and see how it goes,” said Sanchez.  “It sounds simple, but that’s the way it goes.”

The guys’ real education has come at the hands of Nashville-based producer Brian Virtue, who is manning the boards for their debut effort.

Virtue has worked with Jane’s Addiction and 30 Seconds to Mars, and his frank guidance caught YAYO by surprise once they got into the studio.

“We were just jamming for our producer,” said Sanchez.  “We were geeking out, but the first thing he said was, ‘That f***ing sucked!’ and walked out of the room.”

Said Pagliuco: “I felt like I was getting more criticism than anyone else in the room, but I learned from it, too.”

At the end of the day, the band is thankful they have Virtue helming their rookie work.

“That was our college right there,” said Sanchez.  “We were learning from one of the best. It was putting us on the spot. That was exactly what we needed to get better.”

For a group of truly young men dreaming of making it not too long ago, seeing that EP in its finished packaging will truly be a momentous occasion.

“We were just kicking back after a late night, just like, ‘Screw work!’” said Sanchez.  “Not too many people give up everything. You’ll never know if you don’t try.  We’re not losers or anything. School’s cool if you’re down with that, but we feel like we were put on earth to give something more.”



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