Playing With Full Intention—An Interview With Samara York & YRT

By Emily Scherzinger

“You’re not gonna like this,” guitarist Jamie Cazes warns before he launches into a blaring hard rock warm-up with drummer Adam Thomas and bassist Tudor Gagea. These three men make up YRT, short for York Rhythm Trio, a play on the name of the infamous transit system in the town of Richmond Hill, where they are located. Samara York steps into the basement where they practice, calmly offering refreshments to her back-up band as they continue on a rampage. It is easy to see that this situation describes them perfectly: they are all clearly relaxed, comfortable, and enjoying the family-like atmosphere full of playful banter mixed with helpful criticism. Demo was lucky enough to sit down with Samara and her back-up band to peek inside the world of an emerging indie artist.

Demo: What are the biggest influences that have shaped your band’s sound?

Adam Thomas: That’s pretty much, like, a combination of all our individual interests.

Samara York: Well, I write all the music for the band –

AT: She writes the melodies on the piano and the singing – let’s get that straight! She doesn’t say that she wants a sixteenth-note drum line with, like, bass…


SY: Basically, yeah, I write the song and then I bring it to them…I pretty much trust them to put their own thing on it. They know what I’m going for and they know my style, so Adam gets the feel of what kind of drum thing I want…And Tudor’s always cool.


Tudor Gagea: I do my job.

SY: But music influences…I like The Beatles, personally, for the fact that their songs are really simple but relatable to all generations…We all have jazz influence, and classic rock. Do you guys wanna throw out some band names?

TG: I think you can hear a lot of 50 Cent in our music.


D: Do you guys have a favourite original song that you play?

SY: Yeah! Everyone has their own favourite. Tudor, you said “Skeletons”, right?

TG: Yeah.

Jamie Cazes: “Skeletons” is probably my favourite.

AT: [Mine is] “Blue Balls.”

SY: We can’t say “Blue Balls” because it doesn’t have a name!

AT: Should we tell the story of how we named it “Blue Balls”?

D: Oh yeah, you’re telling it!

AT: What happened was Samara came to us with a song and she was like, “I don’t know what to call this one but I have lyrics and piano down.” So it pretty much does this…[gestures with hands] The volume goes up, peaks, and then just drops straight off.

SY: The instruments build, build, build, and then they just stop.

TG: So then Adam just quietly looks at me and says, “You know what we should call this song? Blue Balls.”


JC: It’s the musical equivalent!

SY: Yeah, and then every time it goes to the drop-off part where it’s just singing, they all go, “Uhhhhh…”

[All the guys clutch their crotches and groan]

SY: My favourite is…“Space Between” and “Live Here.” Oh, and “Escapism”! When people listen to a set, or the demos or whatever, everyone likes “Escapism” the best, universally. So I guess I also like that one.

D: What is your favourite aspect of your music, as a band?

SY: Well, I’ve never had a band, right? I’m a solo artist. I’ve been writing songs for ever and ever and ever, like, since I can remember. I’ve only had the one instrument to work with, which was piano…I would always sit there and picture other instruments. And even now, I’ll picture strings, trumpet, random s***…But I never had the opportunity to actually have it there, and to actually play it with a band. So my favourite aspect of the music is the fact that I can give it to the audience with the full intention of the song. Music-speaking, lately we’ve been doing more of a rock type thing, and that’s been fun. I can’t really rock out with just vocals and a piano that well.

JC: Me and Adam were having this discussion earlier. Like, we said that…we all evolve as a group, and we all do different changes in our style, and we’ve influenced each other. 

D: This is a question for just the band: what do you guys think you bring to Samara’s music, because she was a solo artist before, right?

JC: We bring music!


AT: We also keep her on tempo.


JC: Because me, Adam, and Tudor have been, like, music-ed and theory-ed and whatever…we bring other knowledge of music, like more theoretical knowledge of music, and what would go well and what would blend well –

SY: Because I’m all self-taught.

JC: Yeah, she’s all self-taught…But then, like, we’ll all have different ideas and we don’t all have the same taste in music, obviously. As a band, that’s what we bring to Samara’s music. And…we make her change it up.

D: So, Samara, based on what they’re saying, is that why you opted to use a back-up band instead of, like, drum machines and keyboards and stuff like that?

SY: Yeah, I would never do that. You know, I always thought I was gonna be kind of stuck by myself and I would never find people, but I’ve always wanted people. So, as soon as that option became available to me, when us three [points to Jamie and Adam] were in Vocal Fusion [the show choir at Richmond Hill High School, the band’s alma mater], and he [Adam] was the drummer…and he –

AT: I was asked to be the drummer and I was like, “Eh, it’s show choir.” So I did it anyways, and then we needed a guitarist for this one song. And I was like, “I know a guitarist!” And then I chose Jamie.

SY: Yeah, and then Ms. Christopolous [the show choir director] came over to me and was like, “I’m gonna hire Jamie Cazes, do you know who he is?” And then he came in and I had a huge crush on him right away, but anyways…[Laughs] We basically fell in love.

JC: I had a girlfriend at the time…

SY: And I had a boyfriend too…Anyway, I kind of fell in love with Jamie and as an excuse to spend more time with Jamie a little bit, I asked these two guys [gestures to Adam and Jamie] if they would do “Skeletons” with me, one of the songs, at a talent showcase. I could’ve done it by myself –

AT: It was all a ploy!

D: When did Tudor join?

TG: I came along in about July 2012…I got up to speed with their stuff pretty quick.

D: One thing that Demo has noted is that Toronto is establishing itself as a strong musical centre in the world in the last decade, with bands emerging such as Broken Social Scene and Metric. Presently, Toronto is a major city that bands want to hit on their world tours. How do you guys feel, playing in a city as musical as Toronto?

SY: I love Toronto, I love the city, I love the whole vibe. I would really love to do more music related things there. We’ve played a few venues downtown – it’s been pretty good to us.

TG: In terms of music, it’s great. You have, like, Crystal Castles, Trust, Death From Above 1979, all those bands…they all came from Toronto.

SY: A lot of great music comes out of Canada.

D: Do you feel overwhelmed by that? Because Canada has such an incredible indie scene…Like, we’ve got Arcade Fire in Montreal, Japandroids from Vancouver, and much more.

SY: I don’t feel overwhelmed. I just want to be a part of it…I don’t really see myself as really competing with anyone else because it’s such a weird genre of music…that isn’t really that popular right now. But, as far, as popular music goes, nothing out there sounds like this.

JC: Honestly, it’s not like we’re competing. We’re in it to play music.

D: So what is something that your fans can look forward to within the next year? Do you have huge plans?

SY: Well, my first music video is coming out, for the song “Intro”, in early February. The single for “Space Between” is gonna come out in mid-February. We are doing a demo, another EP, called Insides. It’s gonna have seven or eight songs and that is gonna be finished and done this year.

D: And what are your big future goals for your band?

JC: [Points to Adam] Engineer!


D: So, wait, you guys are students first, musicians second?

SY: Yeah, they are. I’m not. 

D: So how does it differ for you? 

SY: Music is my career, and it’s my long-term goal to have music as my career forever. I wanna be a performer, a singer/songwriter, and make a living off that. [Jamie] wants to be a cardiologist. He’s at York University. [Tudor] is going into – you’re in business at York University, and then law. And [Adam] is in engineering at U of T.

JC: [Tudor] is gonna handle the legal, I’ll be your health, and [Adam] is gonna fix everything.


SY: I mean, I think that, if given the opportunity, and I don’t mean to speak for you guys, but if given the opportunity, there’s a fifty percent chance they would drop their stuff to be my actual touring band…But for me, it is my career. Bottom line. I don’t go to school, I don’t do anything else. That’s what I’m doing: music. And I’m very fortunate that I have people to help me out, and play songs with me, and write with me, and record with me.

You can catch Samara York and YRT at The Supermarket this Thursday.

One Response to “Playing With Full Intention—An Interview With Samara York & YRT”
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  1. […] else in between” (via Reel Music Media). This company also boasts Samara York, a singer featured in Demo a few months back. Just as Samara had impressed me with her talent, I was prepared for Chris to do […]

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