Yoni Yum: sex-positive punk

Yoni Yum combines attacking garage-punk synths and angular guitar with feminist leanings and sexual silliness.

Jared Hemming

Minneapolis psych-punk quartet Yoni Yum is probably the first band to sing in defense of sanitation workers carrying the loaded task of cleaning up after sexcapades.

On the group’s November self-released debut, “Greatest (CL)Hits” (yes, you’re reading that correctly), singer/keyboardist Jess Buns yelps the story of a “Cum Scraper,” a job at Sex World’s Dollhouse peep show.

“[Workers] do literally have to go in there with a squeegee and cleaning supplies and scrape the cum off the glass,” Buns said.

Buns said she’s known people who’ve held the job with pride.

“Everybody has orgasms,” Buns said. “Sometimes people have them in public places, and we need to clean up after them.”

Along with Yoni Yum’s pscyho-sexual silly side, Buns, guitarist Jacob Laqua, drummer Wade Kapphahn and former bassist Alex Pennaz deliver sharp, sex-positive hits on “(CL)Hits,” messages the whole band agrees with.

“We’re not traditional in the sense of how our relationships need to be, especially sexually,” Kapphahn said. “Pretty much everything’s cool as long as it’s consensual and fun for all parties involved.”

For “Cum Scraper,” Laqua’s punishing, dissonant guitar leads squeal without ever sounding dark or downtrodden. The tone mirrors his perspective on sex —  that there’s a sometimes-forgotten bright side.

“It’s not necessarily this dark and awful thing — cum itself can be silly and lighthearted,” Laqua said. “It just depends on the context.”

By shedding light on Minneapolis’ perceived seedy underbelly, Buns fulfills her personal sexual journey, which includes an oppressive adolescence.

“I was silenced as a young person who was a victim of rape, by a person I was dating,” Buns said. “Another theme of this band is to not be quiet anymore.”

Buns said that from the start, Yoni Yum’s writing gravitated toward feminist liberation and against sexual violence and non-consent.

In the band’s first jam, Buns, Kapphahn and Pennaz wrote “Jolly Green Jerk” together, a “(CL)Hits” track on which Buns released her frustration with unwanted sexual aggression.

“The main message is, ‘it’s my body, don’t touch it without permission,’” Buns said. “It took me so long to internalize what had happened to me. … It took me a long time to come into my own and enjoy sex.”

For Laqua and Kapphahn, the band’s upfront sexual advocacy is a welcome freedom.

Laqua said his interest in gender politics stems from his childhood, when his single mother would take him to volunteer in battered women’s shelters.

His experience differs with that of Laqua’s, who grew up in small-town Buffalo, Minn.

“It’s a conservative town,” Laqua said. “Making a conscious decision to become a feminist at such a young age and living in that town — that solidified the art I wanted to make.”

While gender is at the forefront of Yoni Yum’s work, Laqua yields to Buns’ leadership. He said he struggles with reconciling feminist ideologies with his male identity.

“I would say being in this band is a form of reconciliation, supporting females in music,” Laqua said.

After Yoni Yum performed at Radio K’s Off The Record show late last year, host Aaron Bolton, a University journalism junior, said the band’s Riot Grrrl sound reflects its members’ mutual respect.

“When you have a feminist punk band, it tends to be all-girl,” Bolton said. “It was interesting to see a girl leading the rest of the guys.”

For Kapphahn, letting the group’s sexual empowerment lead Yoni Yum’s direction is a reflection of Buns’ balance of sexual politics and silliness.

 At a recent show at 7th Street Entry, Buns followed the debut of a new song, “Clam Glam,” by displaying to the crowd a tattoo of the euphemistic clam she acquired that day.

“We’re all freaks; we’re all sexually open people,” Kapphahn said. “Jess is good at being dirty without being gross.”

 

What: Yoni Yum with Hack

When: Feb. 13

Where: The Foundry Pub, 1201 Jackson St., St. Paul

Cost: Free