Show Coverage and Interview with Guitarist Frank Yanno
Article by Lisa “Sunshine” Svelnys
BLACK VALENTINE ruled the night at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, CA on November 30th, 2017. Having followed this band for a few years, it is always amazing to see growth explode on stage to a memorizing experience worth any concert goers’ drive and ticket charge.
Pounding excitement grew as the stage lights beamed in anticipation, Black Valentine known for their incredible riffs, and solid professional catchy heartfelt originals opened with their re-make of “Kashmir” by Led Zepplin. It was their first time performing this song with a live audience…but you would never know it. It was mindblowing… Earl Drummond’s vocals more than kept up with the original and proved to be a massive treat for all of those in attendance.
Performing with a mixture of songs from their 16 song CD, “Slingshot Rebels”, there are always songs that “stand out”… “Now More Than Ever” is one of those songs… This unparalled origional rock ballad is an example of what I don’t see much in live performances… Powerfully emotional and meaningful…. this song has it all. Guys, this is why you dreamed of becoming a rockstar 😉
Not only can they croon the women, it was time to completely ROCK the stage with “Be My Evil”… an unofficial Black Valentine anthem, the crowd responded the stage floor was completely packed, members of other LA bands in attendence that were not even playing came to support…smiles on every face and new friends being made…
Not only is this band diverse… they took it to a whole new and higher level with the best re-make I have ever heard of Genesis’s “Follow You Follow Me”…. the crowd, as well as myself all sang along feeling blessed to have been there to experience such a wonderful night.
After the show I caught up with the founding member of Black Valentine, the massively talented and driven guitarist, Frank Yanno.
Lisa: How long has the current lineup of Black Valentine been together? How did you all meet?
Frank Yanno: Black Valentine as it is now has been together for almost one year with the addition of our lead Singer Earl Drummond. We met him at a local Bar and he came to see us a couple times. I remember him telling me he was a Singer looking for a Band. So when our previous Singer Jeff Knemeyer left for personal reasons, I immediately thought of Earl. He came into his Audition like he owned the place and blew us away. As hard as it is to replace a Lead Singer, Earl has totally stepped up and made each Song his own. He’s an absolute pleasure to work with.
Lisa: How do you bill yourselves as a band? (your originals as well as your covers are equally unparalled)…
Frank Yanno: First and foremost we’re an Original Band who also does Remakes of other Artists’ Songs. We don’t look at these Remakes like they’re Covers because we have rearranged them to the point where they now feel like they’re ours. In most cases it’s become difficult to listen to the Original Versions.
Lisa: When writing, where do you “draw from”?
Frank Yanno: I can only speak for myself when it comes to Writing. I write in a couple different ways. Most of the time I will come up with a Guitar Riff or an idea and Demo it off. Then I will listen to it while Driving and start humming along until I find a Melody and Rhythm to the Syllables that works. Then those Syllables become words and phrases. Once it’s taken shape I’ll come up with what the Song is about and actually write the Lyrics. Sometimes I’ll come up with a Melody and Catch Phrase first and write the Music around that. And sometimes I will pick up a Guitar and write a complete Song with Music and Lyrics in 3 Minutes. It’s very rare for that to happen but for the most part those Songs remain almost exactly how they were written.
Lisa: In your opinion, when holding it together as a band, what is the biggest obstacle you must break through? How do you do it?
Frank Yanno:There’s no simple answer to that. Getting everyone’s head in the same direction is certainly a challenge. Getting everyone to really work towards a goal is another. Making sure everyone has a Voice and is heard, making sure everyone gets to contribute Ideas, making sure everyone agrees- these are all challenges.So to achieve this, Black Valentine is a Democracy where Majority Rules. If someone has an idea, we all decide on it and if 3 out of 4 people like it we do it. I don’t believe we’ve ever not come to a consensus. If it’s a Musical Idea in a Song, then we try it. There’s no way of knowing if it will work unless we play it and can hear it.When discussing things, it’s really easy to talk over people. I try to make sure everyone gets a chance to talk uninterrupted, or if they do get interrupted I try to make sure we come back to that person so they can speak. Not the easiest of things to do.
Lastly, we split everything 4 ways regardless of who wrote what. Even though at this point I’ve written the majority of our Originals, I feel that if everyone is paying ¼ in, then we all should be making ¼. There’s no need to be greedy. However, if someone decides to leave the Band, they no longer will get a share of what someone else wrote and the rest of the Band won’t get a Share of whet they wrote.
The 4 of us are Professionals. We’ve all been doing this a long time. We think what we have is special and all just want to see it thrive and grow. When that’s your motive, it’s pretty easy to get along.
Lisa: How do you decide what songs to cover?
Frank Yanno: My only criteria for Remakes are can we bring something that elevates the Original so that it’s different and better. Can we bring something to it to make it ours.
We just debuted our version of “Turn the Page.”
The idea to do that Song came from someone in the Audience at a Show who asked us to Play it and later asked us again via Facebook. Merle (our Bass Player) brought it up to the Band and we decided to move forward with it. My only concern was that Metallica already did a killer version of it so when I put the Demo together I tried to really change the Instrumentation and so that it wasn’t like either the Original version or the Metallica version. I think once it was worked up in Rehearsal we were really successful with it.
Another example, Earl started playing Sober by Pink at Rehearsal and said we should work it up. So we did. Again, while it’s fairly close to the Original, we definitely put our stamp on it and made it our own.
Most of the other Remakes were versions I demo’ed off and brought to the Band with the exception of The Zoo and When Doves Cry which were our Drummer Jesse’s Ideas.
Lisa: What was it like touring The East Coast this year? What was your fondest memory?
Frank Yanno: The East Coast was a blast!! We got to play with some friends of ours who came out to LA last year and the year before- East End Band and Shrouded in Neglect. Both are killer Bands and awesome people.Everything about the Tour went off better than we could have hoped. From playing all around Pittsburgh, to getting our Rental Car, to playing Jitz Tavern in Auburn, NY, the American Warrior Festival in Leroy both Days, and the world famous House of Guitars in Rochester, NY. Getting to share the Stage with my longtime friend John Gillette who sat in with us on a couple Songs at those last 3 Shows was so awesome for me because if it weren’t for him I would never have become a Musician.
And we’d like to give a big Shout Out to everyone who opened their homes up to us including Ash Kleer in Pittsburgh, PA, Cedric in NYC, Mark Muhleisen in Auburn, NY, John and Amy in Dalton, NY, and my sister Francis in Rochester, NY.
But I would have to say my most memorable experience was riding the Subway and walking around Times Square in NYC. Even though I grew up in Upstate New York, I had never been to NYC until then. I loved it! – Thanx to Earl for giving us the best experience.
Lisa: What “moves you” as an artist?
Frank Yanno: Above all I love Songs. Songwriting is what is most important to me. I think that’s been lost with Bands today. They grew up listening to Bands who were inspired by Bands that really knew how to write great Songs.
Instead of going to the source to learn how to write a great Hook and arrange a great Song, they’ve emulated this second wave of bands and the Art of Songwriting gets diluted. So instead of being inspired by bands like Nirvana, Pantera, Metallica, Alice in Chains, etc. why not go to their source of inspiration like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Foreigner, Journey, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, etc.
Those bands have written Songs that get played on the Radio every day and will last forever. That’s my goal as a Musician- to write Songs that will stand the test of time.
Lisa: What song have you recorded that you are most proud of as a band?
Frank Yanno: To be honest, I feel every Album Black Valentine has released has been better than the previous.
I really love our first album World Gone Wrong. As a debut Album it is the perfect transition from what I was doing in previous bands to where Black Valentine is going.However, I love our second Album Slingshot Rebels even more. Every Song on that Record is really good and I made huge strides in Recording Quality and Production Values. Now we’re on the eve of releasing out latest Album of Remakes and this one is even better. It’s our first Album with Earl and it just sounds outstanding!! And every Song was originally a big Hit so there’s just so much to like on it.
Lisa: What does Black Valentine have in store for 2018?
Frank Yanno: With the Release of our new Record, we plan on supporting it everywhere we can so people can see the Band and hear Our Music. We’ll also be releasing our first Music Video from the Record very soon. …and hot on the heels of this Release, we plan to go immediately back into the Studio to Record the new Remakes and Originals we’ve worked up. Earl and Merle wrote most of the Originals. It’ll be a nice progression from where we are to where we’re going.
Lisa: What advice do you have for that 15 year old kid with a guitar and a dream?
Frank Yanno: I Write, Record, and Play Music because I have to. It’s what gets me out of Bed every morning. So my advice to musicians starting out is unless you absolutely are in love with writing and playing Music, become a Lawyer or a Doctor or something that will earn you a living. Because if you dream of wealth and fame you’ll end up heartbroken.
The cold reality is most people would rather spend $5 on a cup of Coffee that took 2 minutes to make and cost pennies and is gone in 10 minutes than 99 cents on a Song that took hundreds of hours to write, rehearse, and hundreds of Dollars to Record that you get to keep forever. It is far easier to win the Lottery than to become a Rock Star. So you better do it cuz you LOVE it.
Otherwise, you are just making it harder for the Musicians who do.
Black Valentine is:
- Vocals- Earl Drummond
- Lead Guitar- Frank Yanno
- Bass- Merle Gregory
- Drums- Jesse Wolff
You can find us at:
Frank Yanno and Black Valentine are endorsed by the following:
- GHS Strings
- Rocktron Electronics
- Baker Guitars
- Zemaitis Guitars
- Screaming Images