Yukon Blonde anchor Jeff Innes sometimes looks back wistfully on his youth in the isolated British Columbia hamlet of Peachland, just outside of Kelowna. Other times, he feels conflicted, as on the Human League-bubbly “Confused,” which opens the band’s latest fifth effort, “On Blonde.” He sings, “When you get home you just lay in your bed/ Nobody seems to want you/ The conversation’s in your head.” Likewise, in the New Wave-ish “You Broke the Law,” he witnesses his neighbor steal a farmer’s gasoline, just to light it up out of sheer ennui.
Things were truly that dull there.
Other kids in larger Canadian cities would go clubbing on weekends, says Innes, who brings Yukon Blonde to San Francisco next week.
“But for us, it was pretty boring. On an average Saturday night, you’d just sit by the lake and drink,” he says. “And that’s pretty much why we all play music. There was such a lack of things to do in Kelowna that we just ended up playing music to keep ourselves occupied. Quite a few other bands came from Kelowna, too, probably for that very reason – there’s just nothing to do there.”
Yet Innes is definitely a product of his Peachland environment, which was renowned for its cherries, not peaches.
“In the summer we’d get a lot of backpackers from Quebec who would come all the way across the country to pick fruit,” he says. “So I would hang out at these fruit pickers’ trailers and RVs, and I heard some amazing music there, some really cool ’70s prog stuff that I never would have heard otherwise, like The Soft Machine. I got into some really cool bands, just through those fruit pickers.”
When the singer started booking Kelowna concerts – first with Alphababy in 2005, then as Yukon Blonde three years later – there were no proper venues. So they rented town halls, lodges and churches.
“We’d scrape together 500 bucks and throw a show for all our friends, and no alcohol was sold there – everybody brought their own booze,” he says. “So when we started actually touring, we didn’t understand how to play proper shows. We didn’t know that there was such a thing as a bar, that had a stage and P.A. already set up.”
Innes now resides in more cosmopolitan Vancouver, and his musical tastes have expanded accordingly. “On Blonde” was influenced by power pop, plus early Prince albums and post-punk outfit The Nerves.
He rarely returns home. “Kelowna is quite beautiful, geographically. But the development has gotten so bad there, it’s now like the largest strip mall in Canada. And there’s even less to do.”
IF YOU GO
Chappo, with Yukon Blonde
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. July 14
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.ticketfly.com
AlphabyBritish ColumbiaConfusedJeff InnesOnBlondePeachlandYou Broke the LawYukon Blonde