Yon (from Tripod) has a solo cabaret show called Mandaddy that opens at Chapel Off Chapel later this month. As he says, he's not leaving Tripod, he just wants to speak by himself for five freakin' minutes!
The show is largely a personal project for Yon. "I'd had all this material I'd built up over the last 10 years that just didn't seem like a good fit for Tripod, but I wanted to do something with it", he says. So while Tripod fans shouldn't come expecting the witty banter and withering put-downs that animate the band's shows, or Tripod's trademark harmonies for that matter, audiences will be treated to a more intimate experience with Tripod's most diminutive member.
"It's really a journey through my years of marriage for the first half and then my life as a father for the second half. Sex is definitely a theme running throughout, but there's usually other stuff going on as well." I ask Yon what he had to offer in this well-trodden territory, and, glancing at the show's poster, what his thoughts were on sexiness and whether he considers himself sexy. "I'm definitely playing against people's expectations", he says, "I'm no Brad Pitt." But Yon says what he really wanted to do was perform songs he hadn't heard before.
A good example is 'See That Girl Over There?' In one sense it plays as a simple fantasy of a guy who gets to have lots of sex with a hot girl who likes to play video games – an internal monologue of that peculiar mix of swearing and sentiment that characterises Aussie bloke-speak. It's brash and more than a little sexist on outward appearances, but I ask Yon if there is a certain innocence and vulnerability lurking behind it too. "I hope people see that", he says, "Normally in real-life you'd get crushed, but there's something nice here about letting the fantasy run its course."
It's hard to know how much of Yon's tentative manner is simply his personality and how much reflects his trepidations about some of the show's content. Some of the material tracks deeply personal moments in his life, such as the song 'Anti-Depressants'. "There's a lot that goes on when you make the decision to say 'I'm sick'", he says, "At the same time, you don't want someone to think you're crazy just because you're taking these pills."
The song is less about depression as it is about love and what it means to be normal. 'There's something sad about taking happy pills alone', one lyric goes. 'I don't wanna be the only one who needs to have 'em'. Then the song's refrain, 'I'll go back on the anti-depressants if you do'.
The songs are often personal, but always relatable. "I wanted to put that really personal side out there, but also keep back the specific moment it refers to. There's something nice about leaving it open for people to guess."
The subject matter is a little darker and more introspective than traditional Tripod fare, which Yon has elected to play against an upbeat, almost poppy musical score. I asked him about the absence of his signature trumpet, to which he replied, "I kept wanting to put trumpet in there somehow, but it just didn't fit". Which underscores an important point about Yon, I think. Like Tripod, Yon contrives to give his work a self-effacing, thrown-together feel, but he's really much more meticulous than that.
Yon is visibly proud of a duet in the show called 'But I Love You', which is about sexual role-playing, respect and tenderness. "It took me nearly 10 years to get the lyrics right on that one", he says, "in the end I had some help from Fiona-Scott Norman (the show's director) and now it really captures the emotional sense behind it."
Of course, it's not all so serious. In 'If My Kids Were My Girlfriend', a song about wishing children were returnable, all the elements come into the mix - the wit, the deliberate provocation, the dark and slightly twisted sentiment, the musical uplift and the personal touch. It's a master stroke.
Mandaddy is definitely something to look forward to, and we may not see Yon's solo side again for a while. This is not just because Tripod is still his main gig, but also "given how personal it is and how long it took to write, I can't see myself doing something like this again easily, as enjoyable as it's been to do." So see it while you can!
YON (from Tripod) IN MANDADDY
Co-written and directed by Fiona Scott-Norman
Chapel off Chapel, Prahran
29 August – 16 September , 2012
Wed-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:30pm
$35 Full, $30 Conc. $30 Wednesdays (+ Transaction Fee)
Suitable for ages 16+
Photo by Lynton Crabb (crabb.com.au)