Ulladulla is a quiet little town on the south coast of NSW – the scenery is beautiful, the people all know one another, and the lifestyle is relaxed, to say the least.
19-year-old Max Amrata, who now makes sweet electronic sounds as Yahtzel, reckons that there is no finer place to grow up. Amrata spent his formative years chilling on deserted beaches and making sweet electronic sounds in his bedroom. “There’s a lot of talent in Ulladulla,” he says, “so I was always in good hands, jamming with mates and other musicians. I learned a lot from them.”
The young Amrata started recording music in his garage in his early teens – he started out making punk, before trading his eight-track recorder in for a computer. “I started experimenting with drum machines, synths and effects,” he says. “Over two years, my music slowly became more and more electronic. I used to take a lot of inspiration from Justice, and had a strong 707 drum and distorted synth sound.” By 16, he was listening to house artists like Trentemøller and Booka Shade, who opened his eyes to the more in-depth, melodic possibilities of dance music. “The thought of adding a slow drawn out hip hop beat to these sounds inspired the kind of music I make today,” he says.
Small towns, of course, have their limitations. Much as he loves Ulladulla, there are very few places for Amrata to play there, and in recent times, he has felt the pressure to pack up, like so many young musicians, and make the move north to Sydney.
“I’ve been driving up and back pretty much every weekend for the last couple of months,” he says, “and that’s on top of flights as well as shows. It can get pretty draining at times. Sites like Soundcloud and triple j’s Unearthed are doing amazing things for musicians and helping people to obtain widespread exposure, but I’m planning on moving to Sydney within the next few months.”
Yahtzel’s music has quite a following on Unearthed, with many fans commenting on the dreamy and chilled-out quality of tracks like ‘Girls’. I ask Amrata if he needs to be in a particular place, or a particular state of mind, in order to make it. “I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio lately,” he says, “so I’ve learnt to get into it rain, hail or shine. I don’t really need to be in any particular mind frame to sit down and get cracking, although it definitely helps if I’m happy and excited about the track I’m working on. It may seem a bit odd but a lot of inspiration strikes me in the morning and I am often up and in the studio quite early.”
Sydney fans can catch Amrata when he plays at Chinese Laundry on July 12, and I ask what exactly people can expect. “I’m really pumped,” he says. “It’ll be good to play a crowd so close to home and see a few familiar faces. You can also expect to hear an unreleased track or two!”
As for what the future holds, Amrata assures me that there is definitely new Yahtzel music on the horizon. “I have a new track called ‘High With Me’ that will be released on its own within the next couple months,” he says. “After that, I have an EP planned for late this year, or possibly early next year, to be released with the kick-off of the live show and tour.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN
Yahtzel plays Chinese Laundry on Friday July 12.