For our first Stage Presence video, we explore the art of stage presence with YATRA!
YATRA is a three-piece doom band from Maryland. Their debut album Death Ritual was released on Grimoire Records in January 2019. YATRA is Dana Helmuth (guitars, vocals), Maria Geisbert (bass), and Sean Lafferty (drums). Learn more about YATRA, follow them as they tour the U.S and Europe, and keep up-to-date with all of their exciting news on their Facebook page.
Our first live experience with YATRA was at Descendants of Crom II in September 2018. I was intrigued by their stage setup: They draped black material with painted white runes over their tall stacks and they lit incense in front of the kick drum. None of them moved outside a small radius in their respective parts of the stage, but they moved rhythmically and dramatically to the music. It seemed as if they, themselves, were hypnotized by the sound. This setup and their physical performance matched their music: dark, sparse, and ritualistic in theme.
Here’s what Dana said about their music and live performance in a press release from Earsplit PR: “We had moved back to the country, into a small cottage in the woods, with no plumbing for the first three months we were there… We had an outhouse and outdoor shower. It was primitive, and it was during that time that I started writing all the material for Death Ritual. The solitude and the darkness of the night put me in a space of prolific writing and I wrote all eight songs in a month… We were able to channel that same darkness in the writing, also into our live shows, and the positive response was tremendous and really pushed us harder on our journey.”
After their Crom set, I told Maria that I really liked their stage setup and performance. She explained that what we saw was the same setup that they used in their practice space. She pointed out that having the same environment for practice and shows helped to get them to – and keep them in – a certain mental space. I really liked that: regardless of the changing venue, city, or crowd important aspects of the environment stayed the same and induced the appropriate headspace. That stuck with me and was why we wanted to highlight them for this first installment of Stage Presence!
Live and interview footage for this video was filmed and edited by Trevor Richards and comes from a March 2019 show at Gooski’s in the Polish Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. By the way, the American flag is a mainstay at Gooski’s, and though it looks cool, it is not a part of YATRA’s setup.
YATRA’s stage setup was a bit different at this show than it was the first time we saw them. They kept the tall stacks but no longer cover them with rune flags. They kept the incense and added sage (or, maybe I missed the sage the first time). They have a new drummer, Sean, instead of original drummer, Mike Tull. And there are some extra elements on stage that we might not see from the crowd, but that are important to the overall vibe such as animal bones found by members of the band in their travels and snakeskin shed by Maria’s snake. Despite any changes, their performance stayed the same: rhythmic, loud, and intense.
We appreciate Dana, Maria, and Sean taking a few moments before a show we played together to talk with us about this topic. It was great to share a stage with them again, talk with them about performance, get a chance to study their stage presence, and to experience their excellent live show! If you haven’t heard or seen YATRA yet, hurry up and do it!