“If people read this interview and say, ‘Will seems pretty fucking cool, maybe we should reach out to him’, that’s what makes me want to work on their record,” Will Yip tells us over the phone on a Sunday night. “It’s like my get out of work time,” he jokes, after a question about why he would agree to do an interview at 8pm on a weekend. “Thanks for taking the time.”
Having that humility, combined with his work ethic, has defined Yip’s brand throughout his career, but it hasn’t defined his output. The records that he’s produced, engineered, mixed and co-written are a product of his process with the band that he’s in the studio with. Those albums reach across the crème de la crème of alternative royalty, from La Dispute to Code Orange and around the world again.
“My goal is to get creative with the band and join the band,” he comments. “I like to be as invested as I possibly can with a band’s record, from the beginning, as far as the writing as the band wants me to be, to delivery of the record, to it coming out. I spent the last 16 years collecting resources, whether they’re video people, record label friends, managers.”
While Yip has replicated that experience across his profession with different artists, he does try to bring something new to the process each time. Though he’s worked with Circa Survive for nine years, each time is different. “They were kicking my butt to do new things,” Yip laughs, including moving from his famed Studio 4 location to the garage of drummer Steve Clifford. “It’s hard while we’re doing it, because it’s so new, but that’s what I live for.”
Having said that, where creative and personal interests are at the centre of the decisions that are made in working on a record, tension is a natural chaser in the cycle. Conflict is an unavoidable component of the human experience, but productive in what it brings to the table. “I think those are always the toughest conversations to have with the band, because I respect their songs so much.
“At the end of the day, I really don’t care. I can sleep at night, because I know that we did the best we can.”
“I respect their time, I respect their effort. It’s whack to hear someone, after you’ve been working on a song for a year, say, ‘it’s not good.’ I’m not saying that it’s not good. I’m just saying that it could be better. How can we make it better? But I know, if it’s people that I trust, it’s coming from a place that’s going to be constructive. I like to think that these artists trust me. They know that we’re going to build it, force it to be better.”
It works both ways. In the construction of metalcore outfit Code Orange’s 2020 opus Underneath, frontman Jami Morgan and Yip had an intense working relationship. “He gets something out of me,” Yip jests. “He works me a lot. I push back. We push each other.” The album went on to become one of the most consistently acclaimed records of 2020, though that doesn’t matter to Yip either.
“I get it, people are passionate about their favourite bands, and they expect certain things. At the end of the day, I really don’t care. I can sleep at night, because I know that we did the best we can.” He listens, he pays attention, but “as long as the artist and me are happy with the art that we created, that’s all that really matters to me.”
Yip recalls a fan messaging him seven years ago, accusing him of ruining their favourite band and stating that he should never be allowed to work with artists ever again. A few years later, the same person apologised, noting that the record had become a life-changing influence for them.
“That’s what it’s about”, Yip concludes. “It’s about art. We want to connect with people, but if it’s not coming from an honest place, then it’s bullshit, and I have no interest in being a part of music like that. I want to be a part of music that’s honest and true to the artist and me, and everything that we put out is absolutely true in the purest form. We want people to love it, but if some people don’t, cool. I’m confident they’ll grow into it.”