Oakland DNA Shines Through in Hello Yello’s Music

The trio — songwriter and lead guitarist Dylan, bass player and harmony vocalist Jaden, and drummer / percussionist Martin — plays music without limitations.


Hello Yello includes Dylan, Jaden, and Martin, who have been playing together since grammar school.

Photo by Julian Burgueño

Hello Yello has Oakland in its musical DNA. The trio — songwriter and lead guitarist Dylan; bass player and harmony vocalist Jaden and drummer / percussionist Martin — started playing together in grammar school. After moving on to the Oakland School for the Arts, they formalized their collaboration and began planning seriously for a musical career.

“We all studied jazz, music theory and performance,” Martin said. (The band members prefer to go by their first names.) “A lot of the teachers were Berklee School of Music alumni, so we got a great education.”

Oakland’s School for the Arts is housed in the same building as the Fox Theater. “We were able to have our first concert events on stage at the Fox,” Jaden says. “There are a lot of clubs around Oakland. As soon as we were good enough, we were out playing.”

The trio gigged at church fundraisers, art galleries, cafes, and parties and began backing up other artists in bars and clubs, even though they were still too young to drink. “We’d get there early and bring our equipment in through the back door,” Jaden recalled. “We’d hang around outside the club, until it was time for us to go on. Then we’d run on stage, play some music, and run back out to the street, so the clubs wouldn’t get fined.”

Playing live and producing other artists honed the trio’s sound to a fine edge. Dylan’s an inventive guitarist, with a style that blends R&B with jazz, grunge, punk, and math-core. Jaden and Martin lay down bedrock rhythms that follow Dylan’s adventurous twists and turns. “We started jamming and making up tunes,” the guitarist said. “Once we had a solid amount of songs, we decided to make a project out of it and became Hello Yello.”

The band’s debut EP is called Love Wins. It was produced by the band and showcases its eclectic approach. “We don’t put a label on what we do,” Martin said. “The music speaks for itself, so you can call it whatever you want.” The trio cut the album live in the studio, with minimal overdubs, in five days.

“I Wanna Feel That Again” is given a warm, open touch by Dylan’s chiming guitar and an affectionate vocal. Jaden’s subterranean bass and Martin’s snapping snare support Dylan’s swirling, effects drenched guitar on “I Don’t Care,” a dark ode that could be signaling the end of a relationship, or the anger generated by the current political situation. “Without Me” is a thumping, funky confession of infidelity. Martin’s brittle rhythm and Jaden’s phat back bass lead into Dylan’s blistering guitar pyrotechnics and his passionate, screaming vocal.

The music’s wide musical and emotional range is intensified by the trio’s solid production values. “We’re all producers, as well as musicians,” Martin said. “We’re working toward an album now and having an outside producer could be cool, but it would have to be someone we really vibed with. Right now, we’re just happy to let things happen on their own.”

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