The words "South Florida" have conjured up a wide range of images over time. The area has been inhabited for over 14,000 years, and a tumultuous history of tribal settlements, colonization, theme parks, and cocaine soon followed.
But the state’s recent history has been more concerned with sunburnt retirees and electronic music festivals. That changed in the past decade, when the east side of South Florida started producing young music stars at an incredible rate. From Carol City to Pompano Beach, artists like Denzel Curry, Kodak Black, Ski Mask The Slump God, and XXXTENTACION have given rise to the industry-defying genre we used to call SoundCloud rap, and a new Florida identity was born.
But while Miami and the surrounding areas might be South Florida's current calling card, there's a new wave rising in the southwest. Fort Myers and its surrounding areas have some stars of their own: artists like Dominic Fike, the pop-rock phenom blowing up out of Naples, have provided an alternative sound, one steeped in alt-rock and songwriting instead of rap. Yeek is part of that new scene. He’s an artist born from that DIY SoundCloud culture who's been writing, producing, and mixing a unique collection of heartfelt indie-rock songs for years. Yeek met Fike through the former’s younger brother, and together, the two have started to put together the first strands of a counterpoint to Southeast Florida’s current soundscape.
Yeek’s songs are the best of both worlds, drawing on trip-hop and R&B in equal measure. He moved south after ten years in New Jersey and became one of the only Filipino-Americans in his area. But he adjusted, and thanks in part to his artistically-inclined siblings, the future is looking brighter than ever. A new EP arrives next month, and Yeek’s next NYC show is part of the return of No Ceilings. Get to know the L.A.-based, Florida-bred, Jersey-born musician below.
Where are you right now?
I’m at a session in Eagle Rock, we’re making some music. I used to live here, near Occidental College. I’m going to London tomorrow, and the show will be on the 30th. I’m going on tour with The Neighbourhood and HEALTH, that’ll be a 12-date run.
How do you prep for a tour like that?
I like to have my band, but when I can’t afford to bring the band I just run a track. I’m just bringing my tour manager Chris this time, but he knows how to DJ so he’ll be doing a bit of both. We’ve made it work before.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell me about growing up in Naples, Florida.
Well I grew up in Naples, but I was actually born in New Jersey. I consider Naples to be home because that’s where I spent all my developing stages—high school, middle school. But to answer your question, my band played music for a Catholic church group, and they had a drum set, all these instruments in the basement.
I think now’s the time—artists like me and Dominic Fike, we’re going to show a little bit of that southwest flavor. We still rep South Florida, but east and west are different.
Have you run into assumptions when you tell people you’re from South Florida?
I personally feel like there’s a lot of light being shone on the east coast of South Florida. When you say Naples or Fort Myers to anyone from South Florida, they think, “What the fuck? There’s shit over there?” I think now’s the time—artists like me and Dominic Fike, we’re going to show a little bit of that southwest flavor. We still rep South Florida, but east and west are different. A lot of people in Miami don’t even know who we are, but now they’re starting. Now we can play a role in representing South Florida.
How did you and Dominic Fike meet?
Dom was really good friends with my little brother Simon Sea, who plays guitar in my band and films some of my music videos. He had known Dom when I was living in L.A.—I had known about Dom’s rapping shit for a minute, because we have a lot of mutual homies. One of his producers is one of my closest friends from growing up in Naples. Just a lot of connections.
How is it working with your brother?
Family is super important to me—but he’s also really talented. I’d work with him even if we weren’t related.
What was it like growing up as a Filipino-American in Naples?
I was the only Filipino-American in my school. Anywhere I went in the whole town, I felt like I was the only Asian. It was crazy moving from Jersey where there were a lot, it was a big transition. I moved when I was nine or ten.
Did you ever make your own videos?
I would make skits without dialogue on those early Movie Maker and iMovie programs, MF DOOM playing in the background—I’d add electricity to my eyes, random stupid ideas from my imagination. I’ll still use iMovie sometimes today. It doesn’t matter what you’re using if the concept is great.
95% of the time I’m producing, recording, mixing, and mastering myself. I taught myself how to do those things over the past year, because I got tired of having to wait for people to give the product back.
When did you first land on Yeek as an artist name?
It’s just a name I made up a kid, a creative entity. I liked to create on all mediums, I just used the name like how a graffiti artist would use a tag. I’ve had Yeek since I was in middle school.
It’s a nice non-word, kind of a blank slate. Let’s talk about this EP that’s coming out next month.
It’s coming in March. These are songs that I’ve been working on since the summer, reflections of moments I’ve had. It’s all really in the music. I’ve been dropping these trailers in the form of songs on YouTube—we shot them in my room and in the parking garage on an iPhone.
We got an iPhone X specifically to record videos. We were trying to hire DPs and stuff, and they were giving us quotes for a Sony a7s or a RED. We’re just like, “Wait, the iPhone X shoots in 4K. We just need to get a stabilizer, and they make stabilizers for this shit, it’s some 2019 shit. If this is all available to us, why don’t we just make the same thing ourselves?” You’re saving a lot of money.
How much of those moments happened in London?
I went to London for the first time this summer, it was cool. I was working with Bakar over there, he’s one of my favorite artists out right now. We’re working on a few things right now, but no release dates, no deadlines. We’re just creating.
I feel like there are a lot of references to London in this EP, some are Florida inspired. I went to Europe, Tokyo, did a tour—this was the most I’ve ever traveled in a year. It’s like an exercise of its own.
You’ve worked with a lot of great artists, but is there anything you’re doing differently when making a Yeek song?
When I do my own stuff, 95% of the time I’m producing, recording, mixing, and mastering myself. I taught myself how to do those things over the past year, because I got tired of having to wait for people to give the product back. I didn’t want to be the guy to bug everyone all the time. Everything up until now, including this new EP—every sound except the features is made by me.
That’s not to say I don’t want to work with anybody, I just did it because that was the fastest way to do it. I’m down to be tedious to make it good, but it just feels better. I’m still learning a lot about singing. I just took my first vocal lessons recently. I’ve always looked at singing as just another instrument I knew how to play, I never thought of myself as a singer. I guess I’m okay at it.