As a truly refined creator of ambient electro-pop music, I had a chat with Kurt to find out what set him on the path of becoming an emerging producer and singer-songwriter.
Kurt Sines is the Brisbane-based creative behind Yoste. While his story started off in a “a very bad pop punk band at the local street festival”, Kurt quickly ditched writing “Green Day knock-offs” for a more refined sound. Although his music took time to mature, Kurt is open to how his music began as a front to impress his friends. “It definitely started just to impress my friends and the more and more I do run with music as a project, the more it actually becomes a long-term career,” he tells me. “On a daily basis it’s all about trying to impress the people around me in a lot of ways and the motivation is a little bit intrinsic – it’s a cathartic thing.”
On Kurt’s Spotify biography lies a quote from Philip Larks; “Life is first boredom, then fear”, a line he clearly relates to. “I feel now as if I’m coming out of the other side of a very prolonged period of pure existential dread which lasted about three years,” he explains. “I was just grappling with the general sense of purposelessness and futility and a little bit of fear about what all of it means. All of that followed pretty strong into the music and what I wanted to do with the project”. Despite his success, it’s clear the pressure of being a young producer is a prominent personal anxiety.
On an existential tangent, it was interesting to hear Kurt explain his relationship with mental health. “Early twenties, you feel so strongly that you should be doing something impactful. You should know what you want to do, you should be in control of your finances, your purpose, your art, and then just looking to the end, mortality, and wondering what the impact will have been, if anything. I suppose that’s why the Philip Larkin quote hit me hard. Just the knowledge of mortality as a beautiful thing rather than something to be feared. I feel like I’m treading more in that direction.”
When it comes to music, Yoste weaves a very calming, mellow sound. I ask Kurt if that direction was intentional. “It was something I settled into. I think lyrical content is super important to give the depths to the tracks. I always like lyrics that are kind of visual or quirky or interesting, not necessarily purely a narrative that’s easy to follow,” he says. “I did want to make things, initially, mellow that someone might be able to have on repeat for an hour, just pay to attention to or not. But, definitely now, I’m trying to write things that are self-contained and tending slightly towards the pop and alternative pop world because I think that’s a really powerful vehicle for conveying emotion.”
When it comes to new music, Kurt has a lot for you to explore. His recently released single, ‘Arc’ is his self-proclaimed favourite. “It is the closest of those songs to my ideal in terms of having few enough elements, so it doesn’t get cluttered, but enough so that it’s interesting,”. He continues to outline how the song is “a little bit more optimistic” and seems to offer “an answer to all the existential answers that I have been wrestling with throughout the rest of the songs”. It sounds like Kurt has found comfort in the ambitious. “Even if that answer is: “I’m okay with not having an answer”, and ultimately, finding comfort in a moment or a person. I like the optimism of that.”
Another hit-track of Kurt’s is Danny Godwin collaboration ‘Side’. Kurt outlines the story of how the remix came to be. “It just came about by Danny, who goes by Godwin, emailing my managers. It was quite as simple as that,” he laughs. “I’m pretty strict about what I say yes to. Just because I’m not really interested in remixing, generally, or writing for other people, or producing for other people. I’m not sure I’ll do a whole lot of it, but I did really like that track and thought it was lovely.” While Kurt isn’t all too fond of producing, it seems a perfect combination fell up on him. “It was also largely as a result of the particular circumstances—I had a window, I had the time and I wanted to give it a shot.”
Following the release of new singles, I ask Kurt if we can expect any new music. “Well, the first EP is done, and that’s coming out, and that’s definite,” he tells me. “I’m working on my second one and I’m really loving it. The first one was made over the period of a few years and it was at times really torturous. I was coming up with nothing for months and it was just terrible. And then I made ‘Arc’ and that kind of set me on the right path again. As of the last two months, I’ve just had total creative inspiration and clarity of vision. I’ve been in my studio for hours and hours forgetting to eat. Just total flow state for hours and hours, really fun creative stuff, and smashed out six tracks which I really, really, like.”
I’m all for nuance, but there’s not enough nuance these days, and that’s a problem.
Elaborating on the second EP, Kurt is confident in his evolution “It’s definitely leaning a little bit more towards pop and I suppose alternative pop, but they’ll still sound like Yoste songs. They still have the textural, ambient elements and the kind of raw vocals,” he tells me. “The first EP is the starting point, because it’ll be comprised of the singles we talked about and then some new music. It’ll kind of be the first springboard, and I really like that because those are the songs that started it all. And then the second EP will be a lot more cohesive.”
Last of all, I ask Kurt if we can expect any touring. “I definitely am considering going further!” he says excitedly. “I’m almost certainly gonna be in the US for quite a bit of time this year and hopefully in the UK once or twice, and Europe, so definitely starting to turn my eye towards international shows.”