The Dreadful Yawns at Blind Bob’s
By Leo DeLuca
Photo: Ben Gmetro, Clayton Heuer and Rick Spitalsky of the Dreadful Yawns; photo: Kurt Curtis
Ben Gmetro’s calloused fingers rest atop a rickety table. The fingernails on his right-hand are carefully grown-out, long and lopsided with the left – it’s a utilitarian move; the Dreadful Yawns frontman uses them to pick his classical guitar.
“When it comes to music, I suppose I’ve always played the long game,” Gmetro said. “They say you have to practice around 30,000 hours in order to become a ‘master’ of the classical guitar. These are solid hours, where you’re utilizing the correct techniques. It will be quite a few years before I reach that point.”
Ben Gmetro hasn’t always been a classical guitarist, however. Since 1999, Cleveland, Ohio’s Dreadful Yawns have been steadily releasing records and playing shows – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly – but always progressing, in one form or another.
“I’ve watched the music industry change and fall apart around me, I’ve watched bands form and break-up; all the while, I’ve just continued to do what I do,” Gmetro said. “It’s kind of my M.O.”
It’s been an interesting journey for The Dreadful Yawns. The band released their debut full-length in the early aughts on Undertow, a record label associated with indie staples Pedro the Lion, Centro-matic and Wilco’s Jay Bennett.
Due to the strength of the debut, the band moved forward with Los Angeles’ legendary Bomp! imprint, home to records by Iggy Pop, The Flamin’ Groovies, Devo, Black Lips, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and more. The Yawns were the last band signed to Bomp! before founder and underground luminary Greg Shaw suddenly passed away in late 2004. Shaw’s Bomp fanzine, the companion piece to Bomp! Records, was an early inspiration for Rolling Stone, a publication for which Shaw also wrote.
“I still have emails from Greg Shaw, saved to an old address; it’s one of those email addresses that may just fade away with the progression of technology,” Gmetro said. “I suppose I should save those.”
Gmetro’s lackadaisical attitude toward preserving personal correspondences from a leading light in the music industry is a telling sign of where his heart rests: with the music. In other words, he’s not too concerned with the peripheral noise the music industry so often creates. Where many bands burn out and fade away when fame and money go undelivered, The Dreadful Yawns have always created music for the sake of creating music. It’s why they exist.
Following Shaw’s death, the band signed on with the Cleveland-based label Exit Stencil (now based in Brooklyn). They’ve changed their sound and their lineup, but The Dreadful Yawns have become an institution of sorts around Ohio, rearing their heads when the time is right.
The time is right for The Dreadful Yawns. Dayton’s own Motel Beds have brought them out of hibernation these latter days. The two bands have a series of shows together, all around Ohio.
Dayton City Paper had the opportunity to speak with Ben Gmetro about the past, present and future of The Dreadful Yawns in anticipation of their forthcoming show with Motel Beds on Saturday, July 26 at Blind Bob’s.
Picnic, your most recent album, was released in 2010. What has the band been up to the last four years?
I feel like I reached the top of what I could do with songwriting and production, at the time, with Picnic. It was time for me to find better ways to express myself.
I’ve taken up classical guitar, recorded and produced a bunch of different things for/with some people and basically practiced music this whole time. My standards have gone way up and I’m starting to feel like I have a lot more to offer whatever audience I may still have access to. – Ben Gmetro
Do you plan to release a new album soon? If so, where are you in that creative process?
We plan on recording an album soon. It’s been in my head since the last album, and the time is coming really soon to get these new songs recorded; by “new” I mean the songs I’ve had for the past five years or so. I’ve given myself the opportunity to let songs age a little to see if I get sick of them or not. When we were recording a new album every couple years, I let a bunch of songs go out I wish I wouldn’t have. This time, only songs I love will be released. – BG
How has your sound evolved since the last album? Will you be playing any of the new songs during your show at Blind Bob’s?
We’ll be playing almost all new songs and a couple re-arranged tracks from Picnic. There are less people in the band, so the sound is simple and less dense. The organ is the foundational instrument. The instrumentation is organ, guitar and drums, plus some magical guitar pedals. – BG
If someone reading this has never heard or experienced The Dreadful Yawns live, how would you describe your band, and what can they expect?
Just try to lose yourself in it. You might not know when the song is going to change or end abruptly, or whether we’re going to space-out for a period of time. We’ll guide you through the trip. Don’t worry. – BG
The Dreadful Yawns will perform on Saturday, July 26 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Motel Beds and Manray are also on the bill. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $7 for 21 & up. For more information, please visit Exitstencil.org/dreadfulyawns.
Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca@DaytonCityPaper.com.