“Sheffield is forever in transition” – Yarni on the importance of evolving musically, not fitting in and Japanese textiles

Ben Harris, aka Yarni, is a Sheffield-born and bred musician. Now residing in the leafy surroundings of Meersbrook, he feels the area, as well as its surroundings help to fuel his creativity.

By Christopher Hallam
Monday, 28th June 2021, 12:04 pm
Yarni in the studio
Yarni in the studio

“It’s just great to be able to walk to nice things, rather than having to get in the car and drive everywhere,” he says.

So far he’s experienced some success in his career but notably much of this hasn’t occurred in Sheffield yet.

Sometimes we just don’t realise how good something is until it’s pointed out to us. Case in point being his latest project, a culmination of seven years experimentation, perhaps a sign of what to expect from this eclectic Yorkshireman.

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Ben is not one to to rest on his laurels, he’s been privy to what’s going on musically across the city and beyond for quite some time, and it shows. He’s incredibly observant about musical trends, but also the importance of establishing an identity – alongside a continual desire to keep on reinventing himself as a means of artistic growth, not out of desire to hop aboard popularist bandwagons.

“As a musician, normally the first album or two that you write are really good and then it’s where you go from there,” he says.

He’s aligned to the idea of how pivotal your start is to where you go next.

“I’m like a sponge for music, whether it’s old, new, and see how I can refashion that and see how I can influenced by it and see what I can do for my output.

Boro by Yarni - Album Cover

“I was drumming in a rock band but I’ve always had this electronic itch to scratch, so then I started DJing, for a short while it filled the void of the electronic side. The band kind of fizzled out and I wondered ‘how can I fit these two together?’, so I taught myself the electronic music side of things, starting out with dance floor stuff and I’ve managed to get a bit of success from that.”

One thing that’s evident is that Ben is pretty humble about how popular he actually is. If you were just to focus on his dance floor efforts alone he’s surpassed a million streams. And although he doesn’t equate his progress or perceived success to Spotify streams, his music has clearly done alright.

“You’ve got to move with the times, otherwise you’ll end up like Woolworths or Debenhams,” he says with a wry chuckle – it’s telling that his musical output is shaped by his refusal to stay in his lane or by playing it safe.

“This Yarni project, I think it’s coming up to around seven years now. I think the first release was in around 2015,” he says.

Not playing to type.

Ben recently released a new LP, called Boro, a journey through a fusion of electronic, jazz and Japanese influences. Taken from the term used for Japanese textiles that have been patched together, it’s a perfectly chosen moniker for the LP as though the differing strands of musical influences have been seamlessly interwoven.

“The turning point for me was Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack, it has got such a broad palette of sounds but… it’s good music and it just ties everything together,” he says.

Yarni’s musical interests and tastes are as broad as the wildly diverse spectrum of the ever-present musical influences throughout Boro. Aurally, the cinematographical overtures present within the likes of Kako, incorporate a fusion of wildly disparate instrumental loops. These segue elements of pan pipes, synthesisers, xylophones, all while a driving guitar riff and eerily haunting - but never intrusive - vocals take you to a wholly different space.

“Yarni started off as me trying out the electronic side with a lot of melody in there,” he says, which could be perceived as being designed in antithesis to what you’d associate with Sheffield’s musical output in recent years.

Made in Sheffield - by Yarni

“Sheffield is forever transitioning between things. There’s a lot of influence from people coming to Sheffield. I’ve never really found a place to fit in because [for] the more melodic side of things there just wasn’t a market for it.”

It’s intriguing to hear such a take, like his stern insistence that he doesn’t feel he fits in. Perhaps simply by not fitting within the common denominator he’s exactly where he belongs… and that’s in continual artistic transition, just like the city where he was born.

You’ll be able to listen to Yarni on July 22 at Factory Floor, Sheffield, from 8pm until midnight.

Boro is out now on Amazon, Apple Music, Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.

You can follow Yarni at www.yarni.co, soundcloud.com/itsyarni, facebook.com/itsYarni1 and instagram.com/itsyarni

Pressing keys