Meet Jonah Yano, the Toronto based singer, songwriter, whose journey into music began with recording music using his cellphone in 2016. Having played piano and guitar as a child, it wasn’t until Yano moved from Vancouver to Toronto in 2016 that he began putting his songs online, catching the eyes of Toronto’s thriving local music scene. Spending the next couple of years obsessively songwriting and practicing vocals, and learning technical skills, he collaborated with Toronto duo MONEYPHONE on the 2018 song “On Lock” which became an underground success. Shortly after, Yano released his first solo single “Rolex, the Ocean” with producer Joseph L’etranger. Once he began writing his full EP, he was introduced to frequent collaborators BADBADNOTGOOD, who are featured on the EP’s title track, “nervous.” Yano’s work has garnered praise in major music publications like The Fader, Billboard, Complex, and Exclaim and the attention of Virgil Abloh and Gilles Peterson along with millions of streams on Spotify and AppleMusic. Most recently, Yano released a highly praised cover of the Majestic’s “Key to Love (Is Understanding)” also with BADBADNOTGOOD, finding himself in the natural position of writing the feature length album, 2020’s souvenir.
Following a highly acclaimed 2019 which included the release of an EP nervous, collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD, MONEYPHONE, and Nono; industry praise from The Fader, Billboard, High Snobiety, NME, KCRW and Exclaim — it’s not a stretch to say Jonah Yano’s highly anticipated debut feature album souvenir took a lifetime to make.
Yano’s souvenir mixes his soulful, genre blurring vocals with searing, personal lyrics. With collaborations from talents like BADBADNOTGOOD, Monsune and Jacques Greene, souvenir touches on themes of family separation, healing, and reconciling with the past.
With each track delving intoYano’s personal history, the album tells the story of his parents separation and absence of his father from his life through the perspective of each of his family members. Following the separation of his parents in 1998 in Hiroshima and subsequent move to Vancouver, Yano spent years with very little connection to his father beyond occasional calls and birthday presents. Having not seen each other in 15 years, Yano visited his father in Nagato in the fall of 2019 with the goal of making sense of their complicated relationship through music. Both being avid musicians, Yano then incorporated some of his father’s earlier recordings into his own, while making peace with their past. The result — the album’s final track, “shoes,” featuring his father Tatsuya Muraoka and written by him about a pair of shoes he purchased for Yano as a child. Most of the track was recorded live at some point in the 1990’s in Hiroshima, with Yano’s own vocals filling gaps between his father’s vocals.
Recording the album in Tokyo’s Red Bull studios, a log cabin in Nagato, Toronto’s Studio 69, and his own home — the intensely personal album incorporates Yano’s unique sound with a deeply relatable concept, making it the natural follow-up to an already impressive catalogue.