Lost In A Sea Of Sound

music featureLocal musician Yoodoo Park crafts hazy, beach-inspired pop as GRMLN

At the moment, Yoodoo Park isn’t too fixated on the life of touring and recording that may await him. Despite the burst of recent and favorable coverage the 19-year-old UC Santa Cruz student has received in the indie rock blogosphere for his fledgling musical project, GRMLN, Park says his mind has been occupied by his studies.

“I’m connected to what’s happening, but I’m going to school so it’s not that stressful,” says Park. Due to his busy college schedule, Park hasn’t had much time to tour or promote his EP, Explore. In fact, as of press time, he didn’t even have a show booked in Santa Cruz, where he is currently living and working on a major in psychology.

Nonetheless, Park’s catchy brand of lo-fi beach pop has attracted the attention of a variety of respected music blogs, including Pitchfork, The 405, Fader and Prefix—where he was dubbed an “artist to watch” in an Oct. 16 article.

Some might find it interesting that an artist Park’s age would be playing the style of music he is. GRMLN’s hazy, washed-out tones and no-nonsense guitar, drum and bass arrangements would fit more neatly into the indie landscape circa 2010, when reverb-heavy strummers ruled the day.

While many of his college friends are filling their playlists with guitar-free electronic music, Park is listening to the Beach Boys, Elvis and Ben E. King, the man best remembered for penning “Stand By Me,” which Park recently covered.

“It was more real,” Park says of music from the 1950s and early 1960s. He admires the simple and dependable song structures from that era, when rock ’n’ roll was coming into its own. “It was a really influential time for music. Plus, I really like the vibe.”

Park was born in Japan, but moved to Southern California when he was very young. He picked up music from his guitar-playing older brother, who exposed him to a lot of old rock ’n’ roll and punk, which he enjoyed listening to on his summer surfing trips.

As a junior in high school, Park began getting more into surfing as well as music. He decided to make a highly customized playlist for the long drives he would take—often daily—from his Orange County home to the warm waves in San Diego. That’s when he started recording the “raw” sounds that would ultimately become GRMLN.

“I wanted to recreate those sounds—to make something that only I had,” Park says. “I wanted to make music that just sounded good to me for the drive.”

So, when he wasn’t surfing, Park would hunker down in his bedroom and record simple, jangling surf-rock tunes. His songs, like many early rock songs, are characterized by driving bass lines, which almost always synch up perfectly with the bass drum’s beat to support guitar chords and vocal melodies enveloped in reverb.

Unlike some songwriters who start the songwriting process with chord changes on a guitar, Park likes to begin with the bass and drums. This is in part due to the fact that Park’s first instrument was the bass, but also because it makes more sense to him to begin that way. “You’re starting with the song’s basic structure first,” he says, “instead of trying to put that structure in after the fact.”

Another benefit to this songwriting method is that it ensures that none of GRMLN’s songs ever suffer from too much embellishment. That would only serve as a distraction from the coastal scenery. After all, Explore is more than an album title. It is a call to get lost in the miles of sandy beaches and crashing waves, which inspired its creation. 

For more information about GRMLN, visit grmlnband.tumblr.com or find him on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Wiki Park

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