Ryan Kaiser, who creates music as Yot Club, catapulted from making Soundcloud demos in the corner of his bedroom in small town Mississippi to a viral sensation with major labels knocking down the door. It’s the dream-scheme every young American musician is sold: get that one hit song, get noticed, and ascend to fame and riches.
But Kaiser wasn’t overjoyed; he was overwhelmed. His song “YKWIM?” had racked up hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify, but he was still in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he had just finished college and was running out his lease. Without school to occupy his time, Kaiser devoted full attention to music, while friendly A&Rs were offering him luxe deals based off of one track’s social media traction.
Kaiser didn’t buy it. He broke out of his lease and moved to Nashville, where he rented an apartment with room for his minimal home studio setup. He signed with independent label and digital distribution service Amuse, which lets artists keep 100% ownership rights over their work. And he got back to making music.
These are the conditions during which Kaiser put together Yot Club’s debut LP off the grid. It follows last year’s exquisite EP Santolina, and expands on Yot Club’s signature sound: a charming, mischievous, and carefully-curated mix of watery bedroom guitar pop, hyper, lo-fi indie rock, wonky power pop, and trippy, bleached surf rock.
Half of off the grid was written in Mississippi, and the remainder was finished in Nashville. During this period, Kaiser was exhausted and hardly slept, stretched thin from equal parts excitement, anxiety, and—before the move—a desire to get away. He was listening to a mash of music: garage heroes Jay Reatard and The Spits; lo-fi icons JJ Cale and Peter Greene; and ‘70s funk and disco records from Delegation, The Meters, and Funkadelic. The result is a record that conveys intense unease and uncertainty alongside the thrills of excitement, transformation, and possibility.
“It was a time when I was excited but also not really sure what to think of anything,” says Kaiser. “I was happy but also wary and trying not to be naive and dumb and celebrate too early. It was too much for me to handle on my own, but at the same time it’s like the best thing to ever happen to me. It’s a weird juxtaposition.”
Kaiser recorded, mixed, and mastered off the grid the same way he records all Yot Club music: alone in a cramped bedroom. Kaiser tracked on Logic on his computer, usually starting with guitar then layering on bass, drums, synth, and keyboard. (“I don’t consider myself a bassist, drummer, or keyboard player, but I can fake them,” he adds.) Kaiser works with a palette of his favorite sounds to ensure a uniform overall aesthetic, giving Yot Club its singular musical identity. At the moment, the only person Kaiser has trusted to work on Yot Club is himself. It makes sense for an artist whose first hit work spiraled out of his control very quickly. “I’ve grown to be pretty possessive of the project I guess,” says Kaiser. “I love working with other musicians but for this project it’s almost like a personal journal – the ideas come straight from the brain to people’s ears.”
The record opens with the summery new wave riffing of lead single “u dont kno me,” a jangle-pop gem with nimble guitars and Kaiser’s voice, modulated and droll, calling: “No, you don’t know me! No, you can’t see!”
It bleeds into the slinking, keys-led R&B of “welcome” before the DIY-surf guitar strut of title track “off the grid,” with Kaiser’s doubled vocals crying, “Things I used to love feel like a chore/Cause I don’t even wanna be here no more!” The track builds to an outro with earworm guitar leads and a chorus of beachy “oooh’s” calling in the background.
“down bad” is a punkish sprint, over which a synth whines and Kaiser’s voice is dulled and dissociated: “I jumped in too deep, now everything feels like a dream/How I try to catch up, I’m running laps in my sleep.” Follow-up “idek,” a callback to the shortened handle of “YKWIM?”, returns to spritely, major-key territory with bright guitars and a playful synth patch, stripping it all down to drums, bass, and far-away keys before Kaiser’s soloing carries the track to its close.
“priorities” follows, a stoned indie slow-dance, and later comes “out of bed,” a CSNY-ish western epic built for late night desert drives. “It’s All Good” closes the collection with a feel-good, lo-fi ‘80s guitar pop charmer.
off the grid establishes Yot Club as an artist to watch: a musician that isn’t sprinting toward easy fame nor hiding from it entirely. Kaiser isn’t interested in fame at all. He just wants to stay in his room and make good music that captures the surreal experience of being a young person in America.