This summer, Celtic and fiddle student band YONC hopped across the East Coast to promote its new album entitled “The Yalbum.” The band finished recording the project in July and promptly went on tour in the Bronx, N.Y., Providence, R.I., Boston and Portland.
The group partially credits Smith Union bathrooms with sparking the concept for the album.
“It was an inspirational place.… It was the bathroom across from the Delta Sigma rooms in Smith Union, where we recorded two of our songs,” guitarist Colin Vernet ’25 said. “It was very guerrilla.”
YONC—short for Ye Olde Neo Celtic—also routinely takes inspiration from other more mainstream music styles as well as local artists.
“Different members of the group bring in different influences. Sydney [Cox ’23], who graduated last year, brings in a sort of Cape Breton, French-Canadian style, and I bring more of the Irish stuff,” fiddler and vocalist Mia Schwartz ’25 said. “A lot of the tunes are influenced by sets that we’ve heard from artists like Caitlin Warbelow. Some of us go to live sessions in the area or near our hometowns, and we pick up a lot of tunes from there.”
The process of recording songs was also less traditional. Since the members of the band had different schedules, they had to record sporadically and finished “The Yalbum” in July.
“Because nobody has any time—it’s Bowdoin—we would have, like, 45 minutes to record a song. I would go into the Smith Union practice room, and we would set the equipment and basically just try and rip it,” Vernet said. “We hoped that whatever happened in the room hopefully gets in the recording.”
While touring this summer, the group recorded live performances of its songs in pubs and expects to release the live version of “The Yalbum” on October 6. Vernet and Schwartz added that the band’s songs reached a wide audience, ranging from older adults to kids.
“The little kids really love to get up and do a little jig as well as older people. People clap along with the songs,” Vernet said. “We have a lot of songs that people will recognize if they are paying attention, like ‘John Ryan’s Polka’ from Titanic, and people’s ears will perk up.”
The band revisited some pubs it had previously played in last year around Saint Patrick’s Day, and some people in the audience recognized the band. According to Schwartz, people were especially excited to hear Irish music.
“When you get people in an Irish pub, they get excited to see real Irish music,” Schwartz said. “You get people who grew up in Ireland singing along and just being really excited, and that is something that we were able to capture.”
Looking back, the band thinks its chemistry as a group is the foundation of its success.
“We hit it off just incredibly well. We can spend eight or ten days together and not have conflict, which I think is pretty special,” Schwartz said. “I also think the support from people here is important. It’s a fairly outdoorsy community, and the type of person here meshes well with the type of music we play.”
After four band members graduated last year, YONC expects challenges with continuing to perform together.
“Natsumi [Meyer ’23] is off in Chicago, Luke [Bartol ’23] is being a mountain man off the grid and [Cox] is somewhere in Alaska or Spain or the Czech Republic—so she’s an international fugitive,” Vernet joked. “But we have a plan in the works to all perform [together] in the [Freeport Fall Festival] on October 8.”
Vernet and Schwartz expect to study abroad in Ireland this spring, where they hope to organize a joint performance. Regardless of its members’ futures, the band intends to stay together.
“We’ll be wherever we can be together. Above all, we are friends and family, and that doesn’t disappear. We’re all committed to making it work even if it’s not going to get the level of practice that we usually got,” Schwartz said. “We’ll play together when we’re all together, and we’ll always stay together as a band.”