I dream of a long-lost land of sun and rain, a hearth of warm beauty blanketed by the breeze of summer. This place has many names; all are true and all are beautiful. It is here I long to find my home, tucked safely away behind the shades of murky shadow and the cold bite of winter. Both I know well. Both we all are. Both you shall find here, wrapped in word and song.
So reads the description of Yonas Campbell’s Bandcamp page. Who might this budding young poet/songwriter/singer be?
Growing up in the Hampshire countryside, from an early age Yonas felt a deep connection to the natural world around him. Often playing with a myriad of Star Wars and Indiana Jones action figures in the front garden of his family home he was no stranger to birdsong and the medicinal effects of the great outdoors. His mother bought him his first guitar when he was just 7, and despite taking a liking to his junior school guitar teacher, scales and practice books failed to reach Yonas’s young heart. However, upon moving to a preparatory school at the age of 9, his new guitar teacher recognised an untapped talent within his shy pupil and knew exactly how to draw it out. Out went the grade books and notated sheet music; in came tabs and rock riffs. By the end of his time at this school, Yonas had played bass and lead guitar in the school rock band and enjoyed many gigs alongside his peers, playing some of his favourite songs to large crowds.
As he entered his teenage years, Yonas’s spirituality became an increasingly important aspect of his sense of self. Ever a deep thinker, he had always asked questions of an existential kind; even as a young child, he endlessly pondered the ways of the world, wondering where exactly he might find an artistic or spiritual place to call home. During his teenage years,Yonas’s ear gravitated towards the mercurial sounds of Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and The 1975’s sophomore record, “I Like It When You Sleep…”
However, it was listening to U2’s iconic 1987 album “The Joshua Tree”’ which began to fill Yonas’s heart with a deeper, more spiritual connection to the arts. The Edge’s soulful guitar parts combined with Bono’s soaring vocals and beautiful lyricism, held together by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr’s tight rhythm playing, ensured that this collection of songs left an eternal mark on Yonas’s musical psyche. Music had shown that it could be a deeply spiritual medium.
During his time studying English Literature at Godalming College, Yonas discovered a profound connection to the Romantic poets of the early 19th century. In the work of William Blake, William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Yonas found kindred spirits. The Romantic longing for pure human experience, natural beauty and freedom struck a chord with him; and analysis of their poetic techniques would prove instrumentally useful for Yonas in the years to follow. To this day, John Keats remains the foremost Romantic inspiration for Yonas’s writing.
Towards the end of his time at college, Yonas discovered and quickly became obsessed with Oasis, as millions of music fans worldwide have been since the early ‘90s. One of the many CDs on rotation in his car stereo was “Definitely Maybe”, the Mancunian band’s melodically bruising 1994 debut LP release. Such love of Oasis inspired Yonas to investigate both the music which had inspired their Britpop/punk energy, but also the legacy of such sounds on early 2000s British bands. This led Yonas to purchase a copy of The Libertines’s 2002 debut album, “Up The Bracket”.
Put simply this changed Yonas’s life.
Listening to the album severally in his car, he noticed that beneath the ramshackle attraction and chaos of the raw garage rock lay a remarkably witty and well-balanced literary lyricism, alongside a (criminally underappreciated) talent for jaunty and maverick melody. Delving into their catalogue he discovered the hidden gems of Peter Doherty’s work, from his time with Babyshambles to his beautiful solo projects. Doherty’s poetic spirit infused Yonas with a burgeoning desire to begin writing for himself, and reintroduced the budding poet to a more updated form of Romanticism. Visions of William Blake’s “Albion” became real world musical aspirations; and dreamlike impressions of Arcadia a tangible part of present human experience.
The guitar became central to the manifestation of Yonas’s creative outpouring and the primary vessel for the melodic expressions of his inner life. Poems and songs began to flow through him as his obsession with verse, metre, rhythm and rhyme soon transitioned into a talent for chords, lyrics and melody. Drawing from his sense of what it means to have faith and hope, and his own experience of romantic love and loss, Yonas’s songs have an undercurrent of spirituality alongside the more obvious Romanticism. Romance as not merely a fleeting human experience, but an existential path to higher human truths and values. Through real love we become one with “God”, liberated (albeit it momentarily) from the chains spoken of by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the “mind-forg’d manacles” of William Blake.
After releasing a string of lo-fi folk demos throughout 2020, Yonas began working with up-and-coming producer Jack O’Hea to record his debut EP release, titled “Another Side of Paradise” (a play on “This Side of Paradise”, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel). Recording the EP across 2021-22, the final result is a beautifully soulful and honest 4-track release, displaying the range of Yonas’s creative influences. While looking to progress his sound in future releases, Yonas hopes his music will always have a spiritual foundation.
Come aboard the Albion
and sail away with me.
We’ll find our home amidst the waves
of blushing melody.
It takes some time to sail the seas
of ancient sound and song.
But rest assured, and hear the word
of Arcady anon.
Album cover art painted by Elaoise Benson.