Although a Londoner by birth, Yvonne Hercules relocated to Cambridge, which she currently calls home when she was only eight years old. The daughter of a Jamaican/Sierra-Leonian mother and a Nigerian father, Yvonne grew up with an eclectic array of sounds from traditional Nigerian music through to Reggae and Motown, a mix that only became more varied as she discovered her own loves in the worlds of folk, blues and indie. After a string of singles that drew acclaim from the likes of Clash Magazine and Line Of Best Fit, Yvonne has recently teamed up with Trapped Animal Records for the release of her latest single, Nene.
Nene was born out of a 16-week residency supported by the Arts Council England and lifts its name from the Nene Park location where Yvonne was based. The track is something of an ode to the river that runs through Peterborough, and also the Turkish translation of Nene, meaning Grandmother. The track casts the river as a matriarchal figure, comparing the way humans treat nature with the way nature has looked after and provided for us. Musically, Yvonne has spoken of trying to capture the raw nature of the Blues, yet the production and instrumentation step away from the traditional sound as the addition of string flourishes and electronic elements recall the expansive sound of This Is The Kit or Midlake. With the promise of more new music on the way soon, Yvonne Hercules looks like an artist ready to make a real impression.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Yvonne Hercules?
I am an artist/singer-songwriter – born in London, raised in Cambridge, relocated back to London and now based in Cambridge again. I take inspiration when writing music from what’s happening in my own life, the wider world or the lives of those around me and I have a fondness for nostalgia, in particular music & fashion from the past. Before I started in music, I considered being a Journalist which quickly moved to wanting to become a dancer. I then started my own vintage fashion business before finally giving in and being honest that writing and sharing my songs was all I ever wanted to do. It’s funny in some sense because I feel all these tangents interlink in some way. My lyrical songwriting is something I really place a value on and I’m also inspired by movement, film & fashion in my visual concepts for my songs. I’m also 1 of 5 siblings.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I was so nervous but yet so excited! This is the main thing that sticks out in my mind and something that has stayed with me actually when playing live. It was in a venue in Cambridge which doesn’t exist anymore called CB2 and I put together a set of some original songs and a couple of covers. I remember it being so dark I could barely see the audience, which was a good thing because I probably would have been even more petrified than I was! I hadn’t been playing guitar for very long at this stage so I’m guessing I was also very out of tune. I was using my first guitar that I ever owned and for some reason it always sounded out of tune. I also remember coming out of that show feeling like it cemented in some way that music was what I wanted to do.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I feel like music is a form of therapy. It helps make sense of what’s happening or helps put into words things that are hard to explain or say in person. That’s what drew me to it in the first place. I grew up listening to such a varied group of artists & genres – people like Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday. I then got really into 1920’s Delta blues at some stage. I feel like with all of these artists & genres the thing that captivated me was the meaning behind the words of the song and how the music reflected that. The songs told a story and it didn’t always have to be something happy or expected but it did always feel genuine and real.
FTR: What can people expect from the Yvonne Hercules live show?
I think at my shows people can expect to go through a range of emotions, especially when I’m with my band. There will be quiet moments but there will also be moments where we’re having a lot of fun. I feel like live you can hear more of my varied influences so you’ll hear rock, soul, folk genres all blended together in one show. There will also be a lot of honesty and vulnerability which is something I really value. Just don’t expect any decent jokes!
FTR: What’s next for Yvonne Hercules?
Well I have my first headline show in my hometown on the 13th March at the Junction Cambridge where I’ll be with my band. I’ll also have Lily Lyons and Julia Meijer supporting me which is very exciting! I also have another single coming very soon so definitely keep an eye out for this.
They Listen To…
Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
Fela Kuti – Zombie
Moses Sumney – Doomed
Valerie June – The Front Door
Siv Disa – Whistle