Interview

Two shows into their cross-country tour, Yndian Mynah’s James Acker talks musical milestones, instrumental music, and the ultimate band bromance.

On one of the hottest days of February, I’m sat across James Acker, at Yours Truly on Kloof Street, both of us feeling slightly worse for wear post-weekend, but both very excited to chat about Yndian Mynah’s debut album, their vinyl press, and their cross-country tour. 

Yndian Mynah is a four-piece instrumental band based in Cape Town, made up of James Acker (guitar), Matthew Dickinson (guitar), Jonathan Ueckerman (bass) and Kenan Tatt (drummer) – a group of besties who’d grown up together, most of them hailing from Somerset West, and one lone Joburg boy to shake things up. 

They’d all been involved in their own individual projects but it wasn’t until they formed Yndian Mynah that any of them had explored creating ambient music, “We just gel as musicians. It felt so cool to do an instrumental band that none of us had done before and it became this challenge — making it interesting enough for people to actually enjoy watching live ambient music,” explains Acker.  

We agree that instrumental ambient bands are few and far between on the local scene. 

Much like with most other bands, the first two years was them figuring out their sound and image, playing as many shows as possible to get the name out there. Their drummer at the time took some time off abroad, causing the band to come to a halt. 

As soon as their drummer returned from a two-year stint abroad, the band dusted off their instruments and picked up right where they left off, but when he left for a second time, they realized that replacing him was the best thing for the future of Yndian Mynah. 

In steps Kenan Tatt (drummer, who also plays for Honeymoan) and everything changes for the better. Acker speaks very fondly of his bandmate, “As soon as Kenan came in, things just elevated. [He] took it to a whole new level. Kenan’s this incredible person and also musician.” 

The camaraderie in the band is extremely evident as Acker explains, “The most important part is that we are best friends. If we can be in a room together and just love making music together and love looking at each other and just being in each other’s presence, that’s already really special.” 

Two years into Tatt joining the band, Yndian Mynah have already ticked off a good few items off the bucket-list, “We played Endless Daze, we went on tour, we wrote a lot of new material, and now we’ve released our first album, pressed it to vinyl, and we even have a tour to promote it too… crazy stuff which we’re so proud about.” 

I was at Endless Daze 2019 but I didn’t make it until 2:30am, which was when they took to the Main Stage. Acker absolutely melts my heart as he recalls a special moment during their set, “We were playing one of the songs and I walk up to Matt just to play closer to him, and then out of nowhere, and this wasn’t even planned, he just gives me this kiss on the cheek, and it was just like a moment that I will never, ever forget. Special moments like that make this whole thing worth it.” Bromance goals, honestly!  

We talk about their debut album, Velvet Youth, an 11-track album. From the 8-minute intro to the very last note on the very last track, the album is a journey back in time, an album that boasts the most meticulous attention to detail. As the name suggests, it’s an ode to nostalgia. 

He talks me through the two-year writing process, tells me about everyone’s creative contribution, and tells me how, after everything was complete, they spent two months listening and re-listening to it, and getting input from trusted friends. 

Acker mentions how the tracklisting was a lengthy process in itself. The idea was always to release the album on vinyl, “We love vinyl and when you listen to vinyl, you listen to the whole thing. You don’t skip or swap over songs, so it was important to get the running order right. The thing about the album is that it doesn’t have any fillers, like every song contributes to the complete work. This is an “All killer, no filler” album.” I burst out in laughter before Acker confesses, “I can’t claim that though. All Killer, No Filler is a Sum 41 album.” 

They kicked off their tour promoting the vinyl press of Velvet Youth on the 27th of February at Bohemia and Stellenbosch, and he tells me about their upcoming shows, “We’re playing on Wednesday [4th of March, the Raptor Room] and we’re doing an acoustic set, which will be our first acoustic show we’ve ever done in Cape Town.” 

After that, they’ll be playing four more shows, four particularly special shows, Acker says and concludes, “Interesting fact is that we’re pretty much touring with Retro Dizzy, who have a new album out now as well. We’ve never played with them before but with the four shows lined up, we’ll be getting to know those boys really well — I’m worried. And I have some naughty band mates as well. Both bands together, it’s gonna be bloody havoc.” 

Check out tour dates below.