Yankee Blood is based on the south side of the Mason-Dixon, so at first glance the name might sound like a call for Northerners’ heads. Take a look and a listen, though, and it’s evident the trio of northeastern transplants have adopted the word that’s been thrown around to describe their northern ticks with pride. This indie-pop band based in Nashville isn’t from the South and they don’t play southern music.
For front-woman, bassist and songwriter Kelly Ruth, Yankee Blood is a sort of liberation. From southern music, from a solo folk-pop career, from being the green-eyed girl stuck behind a stand-up bass in the Americana acts she has played with. Ruth had been playing for years as a solo artist and before that in the Philly-based folk-pop act Kelly and the Ruths, but the Philadelphia native was looking for a change. “Standing behind my upright bass, wearing a nice dress, singing pretty harmonies; that annoys me. And it doesn’t annoy everyone, but it wasn’t resonating,” she says, and it’s hard to imagine this brutally frank and opinionated woman taking a passive role in her art. Yankee Blood came together when the most loyal members of Ruth’s backing band, drummer Adam Verone (a New Yorker) and guitarist James Karp (from New Jersey), were incorporated to make a complete unit of Yankees. Ruth sold her upright bass, added some synth pedals, and changed her sound completely to fit this new identity.
The group’s debut EP entitled Honey was inspired by pop and rock ‘n’ roll from Hall and Oates to Broken Social Scene, Feist, and Father John Misty. With help from producer David Brubaker, the group spent ample time in the studio playing with technology –layering synthesizers, building jazz guitarist Karp’s pedal board, and creating samples for Verone, who has prior drummed with rock and blues acts, to trigger on a drum pad. The resulting four synth-driven songs have earned comparisons to Jenny Lewis, Tennis, Sylvan Esso and Natalie Prass. Comparisons, of course, are never satisfactory, especially to those directly involved, but it’s easy to see why the power of Ruth finding her voice might remind one of other fiercely independent female indie pop songwriters.
So, the name Yankee Blood is about owning one’s’ truth and origins, and embracing that fire and strength running through your veins, even if it makes you a bit of a misfit. Ruth says, “I feel like an outsider a lot of the time in Nashville, but it’s that tension, feeling slightly uncomfortable in my environment that helps me grow as an artist, human being and truthfully find my own voice.”