Outthere :: An Interview with Ywn

Photograph by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective

Photograph by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective

By Patricia Rogers

I have known Ywn for four years. We met at Irownworks (formerly home to the ORNG Ink Emerging Artist Studio) when he was still in high school. I remember recognizing his energy, and genuine spirit. Over the years he has proved to be a loyal friend, skilled guitar player, and lover of all things art and nature.

From a small boy on a farm in Uruguay, to a band, to another band, to painting Disney characters phase, and onto another band. And now under the moniker YWN (pronounced yôn), Cesar has been mastering his beat machine. Recently performing a sold out New Years Eve bash at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn, he describes that his sound has “developed into a mix of experimental, dirty soul and hip hop vibes with instrumental guitar.” After an unexpected move from his creative home of Ironworks we see Ywn coming into his own with fellow artist friends as they formed Era Artist Collective.

The beauty of adversity and being misunderstood comes strength, determination and an unforeseen sense of power. I got the chance to sit down with my friend at his new studio space, and it was then I was able to get to know Ywn even better.

Photograph by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective

Photograph by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective

P.R.: Sup, punk.

Ywn: Yo!

Where are you from? Tell me about little Cesar, give me an idea of who he is.

I came to New Jersey when I was pretty young. I was pretty quiet, enjoyed music and spacing out and being outdoors as much as I do now. Little Cesar was not too different from me now, ha ha.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

My biggest musical influences range pretty widely. I take from different musicians and even instruments and apply them to my own music. Musicians that inspire me the most include Low Leaf, Nujabes, D’angelo, The Roots and Deftones. Though I could probably make a list the length of this article.

What are 5 songs on your playlist right now?

“Take it easy” by Joyce, “Fly on the Wall” by Jay Rock, “Juju” by Ras G, “MM” by Shakia Mondai and basically anything off of Channel Orange by Frank Ocean. Still waiting on that album too.

Walk us through your music journey and talk about some of your past creative endeavors.

Oh man, my journey, as a musician has been pretty interesting. I started playing guitar when I was around 12, 13-years-old and have basically absorbed as much flavor from every genre of music I have come across. I think that’s one thing that’s definitely important about my musicality. I am always a music fan first and foremost. Around the age of 19 I started incorporating electronic and analogue technology to my music. Since then whatever my sound has developed into -- a mix of experimental, dirty soul and hip hop vibes and instrumental guitar music. I have played many local bands since I was 16 and eventually laying guitar for a variety of artists in different genres such as hip hop with Soundbox Banditz for a short time, and I also played on and off with a jazz ensemble. In high school I was in a local band called, For My Sake, for about a year and some change. I am currently working with a vocalist and drummer in another group/band effort that is untitled as of now.

What inspired your stage name, Ywn?

Ywn was inspired by me showing a close friend of mine some new material about a year ago. He enjoyed what he heard but was worried that people would yawn and fall asleep if I ever played live. It thought that was pretty funny and just ran with it, minus the "a" (in “yawn”) of course.

What is a typical Ywn outfit?

Fitted jeans and a basic tee are always the go-to for me. A typical outfit usually consists of some thrift store find, usually some sort of sweater or jacket. My Doc Martens are a staple in my daily wardrobe. When it’s nice and warm out you can usually catch me in some jeans, some sort of oversized shirt.

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as the friendliest introvert ever. Music lover, nature appreciator, coffee drinker and cat lover also describe me pretty well.

Photograph by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective

Photograph by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective

How is Ywn different from Cesar?

I think Ywn talks a little bit less than Cesar. He’s got all the genius ideas about making songs sound all vibey and spaced out and plays like four different instruments. Ywn also only works with vocalists. Whenever I play in a group setting with other instrumentalists I make sure to tuck Ywn away as I am usually not having to play more than one instrument.

How does your sound represent the complexities of music production?

I incorporate many different musical styles in what I do. Hip hop drum, jazz keyboards, progressive guitar stuff and atmospheric background sounds all found a home in my tracks. I guess my music just shows how combining different aspects from different genres can be easily accomplished if you approach it from unorthodox angles. Boxing yourself in to one genre and not expanding your horizons is essentially the death of an artist in my opinion.

What/where does your music connect?

I feel my music connects to nature the most. I love the idea of music being a soundtrack to life and people going on about their day. Whenever I go hiking or out for a walk I will see different moods mother nature can have even in one day and I feel like my music reflects that, even if it is not immediately apparent.

Cesar Presa is one of my favorite people to photograph. Not only for being photogenic but because he is very versatile and forever changing his appearance but still manages to maintain the same aura with maturing in between. The edgy musician that gives off emotion and loves everything about nature, people, and music. The love for people, nature, and music is what we have in common, so it makes our one-on-one photo journeys a lot easier, fun and seem like two friends just hanging out and making art. Nature is one of our favorite backgrounds because it is one of the elements where we both feel most comfortable.
— Photographer Briana Heart on photographing Ywn

What was ORNG Ink?

ORNG Ink was the place where I first met all the artists (and now amazing friends) who I frequently collaborate with now. There was undeniable vibe and energy being pushed into the universe by everybody in that building that was extremely inspiring. 

After an unexpected move from your creative home at Ironworks, you and your friends started Era Artist Collective. What is that?

Era is the artist collective that is made up of the core group of young artists coming out of ORNG Ink and the surrounding Valley Arts District area. I take part in the decision making process and brainstorming of ideas in putting events together to throw for and in the space. I am a part of it because I enjoy being surrounded by like-minded individuals and collaborating with what, in my honest opinion, are the best artists and musicians in the area, Orange, Newark and wherever else included. Ain’t nobody fucking with Era.

Where do you see Era going?

I absolutely see Era doing a takeover of the surrounding area we live in. There seems to be a lot of older artists dominating the art scene in Orange and locally. I think we are on our way to making sure young artists take precedence […]

Outthere   album cover

Outthere album cover

Talk about Outthere.

I just put out a project called Outthere. I spent a decent amount of time working on it. Probably the most time I ever spent working on a project actually. A lot of those tune back a year and a half! It means a lot to me to have put it out. It definitely represents what I was going through at the time from the first song I worked on from it, ‘til putting it out. I am happy it is out there in the world for people to vibe out to and absorb.

The idea for the cover art unfolded overtime, really. It was sort of back and forth between Ywn and myself. I originally had a very different connect in mind that based around his “backroom tapes” project. Overtime he continued producing more tracks with atmospheric vibes, each had its own town and feel. I wanted to visually complement that in some way by contrasting familiar elements in a very strange way.

I needed some reference material of Ywn, so we setup a photo shoot with fellow Era artist, Briana Heart. I wanted him to be in the void of space, because it felt like good representation of how the music took you to places in your mind. He then came up with the idea that he should be made of moon rock, which ended up being the strange aesthetic I needed to complete the imagery.
— Visual artist, Vlad Jean on the Outthere cover art
I was very impressed by this project. It starts off slowly with an ambience and swirling guitars that bring back memories of RPG games. The second rack represents the other more aggressive portions of the project that still retain the pads and synths but bring harder drums. The filters dampen portions of the beats and bring them back with correct timing. My two favorites were Send Off and April. The former brings me back to playing Sega Genesis in the projects while the later has the most emotional breakdown of all time. Overall I was highly impressed and sonically it was very consistent.
— Emcee, Sykez on Outthere, the music.

Being a self-taught musician and artist, how has it been adjusting to being a student of music?

Being a student immersed in music is interesting. Being self taught I feel like I missed some of the fundamental aspects of playing guitar that I kind of improvised instead of learning the legit method of playing. It is interesting to see music from a more academic point of view after so many years of looking at it through my own biased eyes.

Talk about your dreams, biggest aspirations… where the hell do you see Ywn in 10 years?

Hopefully I get to a place where I can be playing shows fairly often in different parts of the country and eventually the world. I hope to collaborate with as many great artists as possible. I feel like I am headed that way anyways. I just have to make sure I do everything exactly the way I want and feel comfortable with. Hopefully in ten years Ywn will be able to support a small family of music, if not Ywn will be able to support a young family of music lovers from music, if not Ywn will probably be playing upright bass in a jazz band on weekends while he strives to be the best music teacher he can be. Oh I also definitely want to play in Erykah Badu’s band at least for a tour. That’d be pretty tight.

I think another one of my biggest aspirations is to make sure music permeates every aspect of my life. Making sure it’s never something I want to lose. I really want to have a family at some point. I have a great person now who I am interested in experiencing that with. I also want to eventually live in or by the woods, probably once I am older and my kids have left the proverbial nest.

What is the most important aspect of being an artist?

I feel like the most important part of being an artist is to be passionate as possible with it. I cannot respect anybody who just does music simply for money, especially since there is not much of it in the music industry at the moment for independent artists. Making art a lifestyle rather than a moneymaker or a hobby is definitely important.

How is your music/sound making an imprint on the world?

I feel like the last five years up ‘til now the scene of experimental music has definitely grown. A lot more people are starting to make music by themselves with multiple instruments or various production techniques. A lot of old school gear is also making a comeback. I feel like I'm definitely a product of all that so hopefully one day I can be looked at as making some kind of mark in that genre of music.

What else do you want to add to this interview?

I just want to thank anyone and everyone who has checked me out and allowed my music to live and breathe outside of my mind and vibrate through the universe. The support is always appreciated. People from all over the country and a few parts of the world dig what I do with some old sampler, a guitar and a keyboard so I am definitely grateful for where I am now and where I am eventually headed. Also stay healthy; we got a lot of things out there trying to mess with your well-being, kept that in check.

Listen to Outthere and other music by Ywn on www.Soundcloud.com/ywn-1

Follow Cesar on Instagram www.instagram.com/presaboyywn

Photographs by Briana Heart of Era Artist Collective.

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012 she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more. She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna StageHat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services. Visit her blogwww.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on her social media @zine_editor (Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat).