A YouTuber gave Yung Heazy a big boost
Jordan Heaney might be the most famous local indie rocker you’ve never heard of. The 23-year-old musician, who releases music under the name Yung Heazy, may have a fairly low profile at home, but online he’s something of a viral sensation—a status he owes almost entirely to Alona Chemerys.
“Who the hell is Alona Chemerys?” is a perfectly reasonable reaction to that last statement, and the short answer is that she’s a YouTube tastemaker who regularly posts videos that consist of nothing more than a still image soundtracked by a song she likes. Chemerys’s channel has around 208,000 subscribers, which is not a huge number by YouTube standards, but her musical selections evidently resonate with those who happen upon them. Her most popular video—which features “My Jinji” by Taiwan-based popsters Sunset Rollercoaster—has over 5.6 million views.
Last July, Chemerys uploaded a video that included a Yung Heazy song called “Cuz You’re My Girl”; that video has accrued almost three million views to date.
“She’s a girl from the Ukraine,” Heaney says during an interview with the Straight at West Broadway’s Storm Crow Alehouse on a recent Friday afternoon. “I have no idea how she found the song. I just put it up on SoundCloud, and it had, like, 100 plays or something. She somehow found the song through the depths of the Internet and decided to put it on her channel. And it just happened organically. People started sharing and listening to it. I didn’t even know it was up there for, like, a good two weeks. No one contacted me about it. It’s a weird story. I didn’t have any control over it.”
Indeed, the song—a mini masterpiece of bedroom indie pop that conjures visions of Mac DeMarco jamming to the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down”—has taken on a life of its own. Fans have uploaded their own cover versions to YouTube, someone put the lyrics on Genius.com (with annotations), and if you’re itching to learn it yourself, you can find the chords to “Cuz You’re My Girl” on Ultimate-Guitar.com. Not bad for something that started life as a Valentine’s Day gift for Heaney’s girlfriend.
In other words, the song has become a hit without the benefit of airplay or even a release on a physical format.
The latter will be rectified on June 1, when Yung Heazy releases its first album, Whenever You’re Around I Hate Everything Less. It’s essentially a one-man project, as Heaney explains. “Yung Heazy is me, Jordan—I record everything, I produce it, I wrote all the songs.”
On-stage, Heaney is joined by guitarist Cole Frizell, bassist Ken Clarke, and drummer Christopher Marriott. In the studio—or, more precisely, in his parents’ North Vancouver basement—he prefers to go it alone. “I like kind of being the dictator of everything with the music,” Heaney notes. “Being the only person to record and produce and do all those things, I find it’s a lot quicker for me. I like collaborating, and I like working with other people. I just find that with this process, I can output the most music in the quickest amount of time.”
Heaney is refreshingly forthcoming about his influences, which include not only the aforementioned Beatles and DeMarco, but also Arctic Monkeys and Father John Misty, and especially the artist known to his parents as Ariel Marcus Rosenberg.
“For a lot of these songs I was trying to write from the mindset of Ariel Pink,” Heaney says. “I just see him as getting as many hooks as he possibly can into one song. I love that, and I love how he can do weird musical timing and stuff like that, and it still gets away with authentic catchiness.”
Heaney is no slouch in the catchiness department himself, spiking numbers like “Comfort Mix” and “Baby Don Chu Worry” with hooks as potent as his playing is loose and slippery. These qualities should serve him well when Yung Heazy sets off on a tour that, from the middle of this month to the end of next, will take him and his band all over Canada and the U.S., hitting cities that include Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Austin. Oh, and also Revelstoke, Guelph, and a few other places that might not seem like live-music hot spots.
“I think it’s sweet,” says Heaney. “I’d love to play for people in Revelstoke and Guelph and smaller places, or maybe venues that don’t usually get bands. I have no idea. I’ve never actually been to either of those places. But I’m just down to tour, man. I’m down to play as many shows as possible for whoever wants to come out.”
Yung Heazy plays 333 on Saturday (May 12).