Bloomington singer-songwriter Kyle Yap said his father raised him on a steady diet of his classic rock LPs. You can hear the influences during a live Yap show.
“Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Pure Prairie League are probably the biggest bands I listened to a lot,” said Yap.
He also fell hard for The Eagles.
“I was always a big fan of all their guitar players and their harmonized solos,” said Yap. “The epic and pop-rock songs like ‘Take It Easy.' I play a lot of those songs in my regular sets.”
When he picked up a guitar at age 13, punk and some metal are what caught his fancy. Right in a young teen's wheelhouse. That fancy was noticed by his Central Catholic High School jazz band director.
“Randy Huberman got me out of my comfort shell. If I was playing distorted rock, three-chord punk songs, I would have to show up for jazz band at 7:10 in the morning and start playing in an eight minor seven flat nine and other dense chordings,” said Yap.
Though he still itches to riff on some Metallica and Pantera during live shows, he said it doesn't fit anymore, though he occasionally throws in some of those dense jazz chordings.
“What I typically do when I enter a venue is look at the average age of the crowd and kind of play music they probably grew up with,” said Yap. “So if I walk into Dr. McKay’s on Bloomington’s east side, a lot of working folk that will come in to unwind, most of them will be their 40s or 50s, so I’ll try to focus on the 1990s with a few outliers.”
Many in the Twin Cities remember Yap from his time with Dan Hubbard and the Humadors. Yap said he loved playing with Hubbard, and recalled the “liquid courage” that propelled him into the band.
“I went to a show and loved the Americana sound. At another show, his guitar player walked off stage in the middle of the set. I think he was a little inebriated. His wife knew I was a guitar player and pretty much told me to get up there and play a few songs. It went well and a few weeks I was in the band,” said Yap.
When Hubbard disbanded the Humadors, it was a natural for Yap to segue into more solo gigs.
“I probably now play an average of 120 shows a year, and last year was one of my best. I played close to 150,” said Yap.
Even though he said a cache of up to 1,000 classic songs he's able to draw from memory during live shows, he’s also a talented songwriter with a keen ear for melody. He said some of that comes to him naturally, but listening habits helped sharpen that songwriting.
“I listen to so many different styles of music—country, pop-rock, jazz, funk. I try to incorporate as much of those little vocal melodies as I can, especially the ones that are super catchy. Growing up in the 90s, all those alternative rock songs had really good melodies and lyrical content,” said Yap.
He recalled a producer who said every song needs three hooks in it, and used the Jackson 5 song “ABC” as an example.
“Mama’s gonna teach you how to hit an ‘A,’” Yap sang. It’s one of the lines leading up to the main melody “ABC, it’s easy as 1-2-3 …”
Yap is one of the 70+ performers that will play the Make Music Normal festival in uptown Saturday, June 23. It’s the Town of Normal’s effort to promote live music in town. One of the criticisms of the otherwise festive atmosphere is that many bands play for free. Yap downplayed that aspect.
“It’s definitely a way for younger performers if they haven’t already paid gigs to get their name out there in front of a large audience,” said Yap. “You can only play for exposure for so long, but if you’re doing it for the right reasons and supporting great causes, it pays itself off in the end.”
Yap plays the uptown Normal roundabout during Make Music Normal on June 23. He starts at 6 p.m.
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