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NEWSLETTER

COMING SOON!

  • Nassima Alloueche

‘Future Soul’: Yakul on Creating Space in Between Structures



Brighton-based band Yakul puts mental health and clarity at the centre of their genre-bending sound, inspiring mindfulness and harmony through their music.


In a basement six or seven years ago, jazz and soul converged to give birth to a unique genre known as "future soul," creating a sound that captures the healing powers of music and mindful connections. This extraordinary genre is personified by the band Yakul. In a world where fast-paced creation, competitiveness, and the detrimental mindset of grind culture dominate, maintaining a healthy mind as a musician becomes a challenging endeavour. Striking a balance between the therapeutic aspects of creating and listening to music, while simultaneously pursuing achievements and success, is an ongoing journey for Yakul. Nevertheless, they strive to find a harmonious middle ground where mindful creation takes precedence.


Yakul's music deeply resonates with their listeners, who seek tranquillity and lightheartedness amid the chaotic lifestyle that many of us are desperately trying to escape. Lead singer James Berkeley recently discussed grind culture and mental health in the music industry with INJECTION magazine, shedding light on the band's personal experiences and coping mechanisms that enable them to maintain a steady and mindful approach to their craft. James emphasises the importance of avoiding comparisons with others and allowing music to serve as a unifying experience, rather than one defined by constant competition.


Introduce us to Yakul. Who are you? How did you start out as a band?


We’re James, Tom, Sam and Leo. We’re a four piece band from Brighton - we call it Future Soul but it’s hard to say at this point! We started out in a basement 6-7 years ago just jamming stuff out, being super inspired by the writing process of D’Angelo’s Voodoo - organically writing out of jam sessions. Luckily it was confined to a basement until it was ready for the world to hear. Creating is probably the most important thing to us, and connecting with other people over our music is a dream every time.


I recently came across James's reel about grind mentality for World Mental Health Day. In light of that, how do you navigate mental health in the music industry, particularly as men? Are there any specific challenges you face, and how do you address them?


I think communication is the most important focus when it comes to mental health issues. One benefit of our modern connected world is how easy it is to find other people who are having similar experiences to you, which can be super comforting and help you on a healthier path. In the grand scheme of things, we’re very small fish in the pond of artists, but even in our position we’ve tried our best to be as transparent as possible when it comes to our online presence. I’d hate to think that a piece of positive news or accolade that we’ve received would have a negative effect on someone who follows us, so I try to document the failures as well as the success.



Grind culture is often associated with the music industry. How does this culture impact your creativity and music, based on your own experiences? Does it inspire or hinder your artistic process?


I agree that within the music industry there seems to be quite a lot of grind mentality. I think social media is a huge part of that, though it’s such a vital part of being an artist in the modern age. It’s something we all need to approach in the healthiest way possible. I would say that the motivation that you get from feeling like other people are ahead of you won’t lead you in the best direction. Not to say that a negative motivator can’t lead to positive changes, but as a whole I would say that it’s more of a hindrance. We’ve worked hard over the last couple years to return to the roots of our artistic expression, as I am of the belief that this will always yield the most authentic and truthful creations.


Music has been known to have healing effects for both listeners and musicians. Do you believe in the therapeutic potential of music, even though the process of creating music can be challenging? How does it contribute to your personal well-being and the well-being of your audience?


I’ve found that over the years I’ve had ups and downs in terms of my relationship to listening. I think it’s something that a lot of musicians can relate to. Partly because it’s something that you’re doing everyday, so somehow listening to music outside of creating can sometimes have a less therapeutic effect. Then there’s the potential of comparing yourself to the artists and bands that you listen to, which can lead to a lot of self criticism. I’m currently in a much healthier place with listening, and try to keep a more mindful headspace and catch myself if I begin to make any comparisons. With all that said, throughout my life, music has played such an integral role in terms of my mental health, both in listening and creating. I think that music taps into a part of ourselves that transcends spoken language, so it can connect with people on a level which sometimes they don’t fully understand, or are able to articulate. Over the years we’ve been a band, we’ve had some truly incredible messages from people letting us know that our music helped them through very dark times. It’s an amazing feeling to know something you’ve created has impacted someone in such a positive way.



As band members, how do you support one another mentally, both as individuals and as a group? Are there any specific strategies or practices that you have found helpful in maintaining a healthy and supportive dynamic?


We try to have a focus on also doing activities together that have nothing to do with music. We play video games, enjoy food together, get out of the city. I think it’s really easy to have issues when all you ever do is centred around the band. Having time to hang out and not feel like you're ‘working’ is super important for maintaining a healthy relationship and a positive vibe.


You define your sound as 'Future Soul'. Judging by the name, it sounds like you are giving soul something new through 'introspective lyrics'. How do you go about making music in this way?


I wouldn’t say that there’s any one way that we tried to do it, and in terms of genre, we try our best to not box ourselves in while we’re creating. If you have too much of a preconception of what you sound like, it can stop you from growing and expanding into new territory. Recently, we’ve taken extended writing retreats in the countryside which has been a perfect environment for maintaining a clear headspace. Sometimes you don’t truly realise how easily the stress of day to day life permeates your mind until you completely separate yourself from your normal environment. We tried to always look forwards and not be defined by the music we’ve previously made.


Where do you think the future of music is heading in terms of mental health awareness and introspection? Do you see a growing emphasis on these aspects within the industry, and if so, how do you think it will impact the music being produced?


I do think that the music industry has a ways to go in terms of mental health awareness, however over the last couple of years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of artists who have been sharing more personal stories on social media. I think lockdown really helped people feel like they could open up more online, something about everyone being in the same position fostered a feeling of community. I think once artists, including ourselves, started being more open online we noticed how much people responded to it, so it’s carried on and continued to grow. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes over the next few years. I’m a positive guy so I’m hopeful, but ultimately I’d love to see the barriers of social media be broken down a bit, leading to a space where people don’t feel the need to only show the perfect version of themselves.



The lyrics and sound of your song 'Time to Lose' from your latest EP remind us of themes like mindfulness and healing through connections. Can you tell us more about the idea behind this song?


Yeah that’s spot on! I never like to be too on the nose with lyrics, and tend to write them as freely as they come out. This song came out of one of our countryside writing retreats and I remember thinking about all of the structures I set up in my day to day life to try and ‘maximise productivity’ and so on - and then suddenly having it completely turned upside down. From that I had the realisation that however good those routines and habits are, sometimes life can be about the space between those structures, and you don’t always have to know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Some of life can be free of any subjective ‘meaning’.


What do you hope your listeners will take away from your music? Is there a specific feeling, state of mind, or idea that you want them to experience when they engage with your songs?


The beautiful thing about art is that everyone experiences and interprets it differently, so I wouldn’t want to be too specific with how I think people should feel when they listen to our music. If the music we’ve written has had any kind of positive impact on anyone then we’ve achieved our goal!




Find Yakul on Spotify, Youtube and on their website here.

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