YONAKA | Behind The Lyrics

Centered on boundless creativity and a drive for open conversation, YONAKA are a band focused on feeling.

Photo: Brian Ziff

Rising through the ranks of the scene over the last six years, their innovative blend of pop, punk, hip-hop, and alternative has seen the Brighton trio reach remarkable heights. From collaborating with Bring Me The Horizon and FEVER 333 to dominating festival stages across the UK, their frenzied sonic vision has proved impossible to categorise or label, guided by vocalist Theresa Jarvis’ deeply confessional songwriting.

Delving into themes of mental health, empowerment, and the realities of our existence, YONAKA have become defined by Theresa’s heart-on-sleeve approach to penning lyrics. Using music as a means to make sense of her own personal experiences, it’s a sentiment that shines on the band’s latest EP, ‘Welcome To My House’. To celebrate its release, Theresa talks Rock Sound through ten YONAKA lyrics that sit especially close to her heart.

“Let hell rain down on my life and allow me to grow”, ‘Give Me My Halo’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“This lyric is about going through hard times to get to the other side. If I will come out the other side grown and with a better understanding, then I’m willing to be put through anything. Through pain, we find the light. It’s in those moments that we find the strength we didn’t even know we had. 

At the time I wrote this I was struggling, and I was like, ‘What do I have to do to feel good?’ I think that’s a question a lot of people ask themselves, and that lyric just came out. I didn’t really have to think about it. I need to experience something that’s going to change my mind, how I react to things, and how I feel about things. It might need to be a massive life change or a load of smaller changes, but if that’s what I have to do, then let that be.”

“Got me a bitch with a gun for a mouth, but I get bruised when it all goes south”, ‘Hands Off My Money’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“In the music industry you pay people to protect you, like lawyers and stuff. You have all these people, but if things don’t go right, or the things you’ve asked for don’t happen, it’s actually only you that has to suffer. 

As a band, you have a lot of people working for you, but they also have a lot of other people who they’re working for. You really need to focus on yourself and trust your intuition on a lot of things because if it doesn’t work, it’s only going to be fucked up for you. Everyone else has other stuff going on, but this is my whole life, my whole dream, and my career. 

We’ve been doing this for a long time now, and we’ve been working with different labels for about seven years. There are certain things that you ask for, like your rights in relation to keeping music, and sometimes they don’t get met. When that happens, you’ve ended up paying £10,000 to have something written up, and it never happens. Everyone wants to take, take, take, and that’s not cool.”

“Take off your mask and show me your heart // I want to rip it to pieces // I know it will hurt but I promise you that you will always remember this feeling”, ‘By The Time You’re Reading This’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“You have this mask that you put on to show the world who you are and what your life is, especially on social media. Everything is always perfect on social media, and people also change the way they act in front of different groups of people. They tailor their personality and the things they like around the people they’re with, and it’s so fucked. 

The coolest thing you can be is yourself. If you were yourself all of the time, you’d experience everything in the present moment. You could feel pain and love in the most intense ways, and that is beautiful. That’s how you’re supposed to live, and that’s how you’re supposed to feel those things. 

This lyric is saying that if you show me who you are, I probably will break your heart, but you’ll always remember it. You won’t remember a lot of things, but you’ll remember the way you were in love and the way you had your heart ripped out of your chest. I think we need to enjoy our feelings and really be in the moment.”

“I reflect just like a mirror // You need help, but I can’t hear ya”, ‘Welcome To My House’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“I give a lot of my time and patience to people in my life. I feel like I’m a good listener, and I feel like I give good advice. However, I found that if I wanted to talk or express my feelings it would often get masked by the feelings of whoever I was talking to. It would always be about them, so I was never getting the time and space to talk about how I felt. 

There was also a certain person in my life who would switch off and look away every time I would start talking. I was like, ‘Are you fucking joking?’, and I started giving that energy back. I realised that not everyone actually deserves your time and energy. Knowing that gives you so much more self-worth. I cut off my emotions to certain people, and it was a good thing to do.

When you’re younger you always hear people say things like, ‘Oh, you won’t care about that when you’re older’. There’s a lot of truth to that and growing up is a beautiful thing. When you’re older, you realise there are some things that you actually don’t want to do and some people who you don’t really want to talk to. You feel confident cutting those things out if they aren’t going to benefit your life. Some people just want to suck every ounce of energy out of you, and it takes you a second to realise that.”

“Scribble out and start again, designer // Paint a picture for my friends, I’m a liar”, ‘I Don’t Care’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“You could make up anything about yourself, you could move to a different place and become this whole different person. I think that’s incredible, but at the same time it doesn’t change anything because you’re still who you are. Everything still follows you, so whatever you say will always be a lie. I like the idea of running away and becoming someone different. You could do anything, and no one would know the real you. Then you could move on to the next place and make a new identity. There are all these possibilities, but no matter how far I run away from it, I still have these problems.

This lyric explores that, and also how I have certain friends who will change around different people. I like them when I see them on their own, but around other groups of friends they act differently. I don’t like it when they’re trying to be someone else or acting up, because it’s not the real version of them.”

“Grave shift worker, now I’m my own boss // Oh, it was never enough // My night paralysis screams but nobody wakes up”, ‘PANIC’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“That whole song is about having a panic attack and being super anxious. Even though I’m moving up in my work life and holding more power, I’m actually still the same person experiencing the same shitty things. I have the same panic attacks and the same night paralysis, and whilst things might change on the outside, on the inside it’s still the same. 

Just because you can’t see it from the outside doesn’t mean it’s not there. Someone messaged me recently and said, ‘How can you go through this and then get on stage?’ I’m on stage for 30 minutes, but I have the rest of each day to go through all that. 

After I wrote the song, I put a video out where I walked a little bit about my journey, and someone actually questioned me on it. They were like, ‘This is not anxiety or a panic attack, you’ve never experienced that’. I thought, ‘How dare you tell me what I’ve experienced?’ People really have no idea, and I imagine they were probably in a crappy place to have written something like that, so I left it. Just because it’s not visible to everyone else, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Things may be going well in some aspects of your life, but that doesn’t mean that everything else is fine.”

“Security just ain’t for me if it runs dry”, ‘I Want More’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“I don’t want to work a nine to five job just because it means I’ve got a salary coming at the end of it. I don’t want to work myself into the ground just to pay my rent and go on one holiday every year. If that means I can’t do those things, then that’s fine, I’d rather be happy.

I meet people all the time, especially people in their fifties and sixties, and they’ve always worked a job that’s made them miserable. It makes me sad because your happiness is surely the key to life. If you’re not happy and you’re just trudging along to try and make things work, it doesn’t make sense. 

We all have to work, and I wouldn’t be able to live in a house if I didn’t work. I had 14 jobs before I started doing music, so I know you have to do it. I just think we need to find a middle ground where you can still live and be happy, rather than dedicating your life to working for the man.”

I swear I can be good // And pretty like a storm // Calm like the ocean, soft like the air // And warm like summer rain”, ‘Welcome To My House’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“This is the first time that I have talked about myself in a gentle way, and it feels like a poem. I think it’s one of the prettiest things I’ve ever written, and when I sing it, I have this little sparkle in me.

Nature is the most wonderful thing in the world, and I think it’s really easy to forget how beautiful everything is when you’re outside. These words touch on that, and how I actually forgot who I was. I forgot the nice things about myself, and through the whole of that song I’m talking about myself in quite a negative manner. I’m picking out all the things that are wrong with me and all the things I don’t like about myself, but then here I talk about myself in a really beautiful way. When you’re feeling low those moments of self-love are fleeting, but when that moment of clarity comes around it’s like, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t felt like this in ages’. I do have all these good qualities, but I just forget about them.” 

“They’re not brave like you // They’re too scared to do anything that’s different // Anything that’s new”, ‘Seize The Power’ – ‘Seize The Power’ (2021)

“I feel like I only started becoming my own person after I finished school. There’s so much pressure when you’re younger and you walk into town because everyone’s wearing the same thing, and everyone looks the same. You become scared to be any different, but when you finally get that courage to be yourself it’s beautiful. You realise that the leggings that everyone else wears just aren’t for you, you start wearing what you want to wear, and you find your own vibe.

I’m from a small town, and people would stare at you and comment on how you look because they’re scared to act differently and dress differently. I think it’s really beautiful when you find the courage to do that and be who you are. I think everyone’s scared to take that step, and maybe that’s why people don’t get their own identity until later on in life, but it’s so incredible.” 

“I can’t get just what I want unless I do it all myself”, ‘Hands Off My Money’ – ‘Welcome To My House’ (2023)

“You’re on your own, and you’re always going to do the best job when it comes to anything that you want. No one else cares as much as you, no one else is gonna work around the clock for your dreams, and no one can see inside your brain. You can try and describe it, but no one can see it. Unless you do it yourself, it’s not going to be perfect. 

I get angry because people can’t see exactly what I want. I think collaborating is really important, but there are so many small things where I have to go through three different people to explain something. Each one has to pass on the message, and it’s always gonna get lost in translation. You waste all this time talking to all of these people to get the wrong answer, and you just want to do it all yourself. Everything takes enough time as it is, so let’s just cut out the middle man.” 

‘Welcome To My House’ is out on July 28 via Republic Records.

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