If you were eagerly anticipating the arrival of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and find yourself with an insatiable appetite for all things Star Wars since your last viewing of it, perhaps you should consider turning to the Dark Side of the Force and give a quick listen to The Yavin 4. Formed in December 2014, The Yavin 4 is an Indianapolis-based punk band with rebel-rousing lyrics based on the popular franchise (however, they’re in no way associated or affiliated with Lucasfilm or Disney). Just don’t call them a tribute band. That would be far too dismissive of the band’s unique edge and raw, undeniable talent.
While other Star Wars themed bands have come and gone over the years, the secret to The Yavin 4’s success is their concept of forming a kickass rock ‘n’ roll band first and foremost that just happened to be about Star Wars. This approach laid the foundation for what they quickly emerged into and the band now has two albums to their credit: “Intergalactic Rock ‘n’ Roll” (2015) and “Imperial Entanglements” (2017). The Yavin 4 consists of four members: Benny NoGood (vocals/guitar), Travis Harmon (vocals/bass), Jason Bambery (vocals/guitar) and Chad Prifogle (vocals/drums). Each member of the band dresses up as a Star Wars character while performing. Usually, you can find Benny dressed in Luke’s Return of the Jedi outfit (the Tattooine version without the weapons belt), Jason dressed as Han Solo, Travis dressed as a Jedi in full robes and Chad dressed as an X-wing pilot (although he’s admitted it’s too hot to play the drums in and he’s currently looking around for another costume).
As any Star Wars nerd worth their grain in salt can attest, Yavin 4 is of course the location of one of the Rebellion’s earliest bases and the site that actually launched the attack that destroyed the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin. When kicking around ideas for their band name, the members of The Yavin 4 settled upon this one because they’re a four-piece band and they liked the idea of using a name with a dual meaning, along the same lines as The Dave Clark Five. All four members are lifelong Star Wars fans, so the early days were “a hurricane of enthusiasm” with their name being decided in just one day and their first album being written in a mere three weeks. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What I enjoy most about The Yavin 4 is the diversity of their music and the characters represented on their albums. Sure, they go for some rather obvious choices such as their poignant tribute to many a young man’s first major crush – Princess Leia – in “Leia” or within their crooning about how Han Solo shot first and “Greedo never had a chance” in the aptly named “Han Shot First”. But they also have songs about some of the most obscure characters in the canon, including “Amanaman”, “Arfive Defour” and “Zuckuss”. Each song performed by the band is written by the individual member who sings it, with some exceptions being made when more than one member turns up in a song. The members also regularly add instrumental textures to each other’s songs to make them uniquely that of The Yavin 4.
All of the members are also avid Star Wars collectors, but one would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive collection than that of drummer Chad, who has devoted a 1,000-square-foot room in his basement to his collection of vintage and modern Star Wars toys. Amanaman is actually one of the rarest pieces from the original toy line, which was part of the allure for writing a song about him. Chad said he was curious about his backstory and decided to write a song about it, expressing a keen interest in wanting to write other stories about the colorful characters found in Jabba’s Palace. One of the best perks about being in a band with such rich source material is the inspiration for new song opportunities is about as vast as that of space itself.
With a band offering so much versatility in their signature sound, it’s no surprise that their musical influences are also pretty diverse. Everyone from notable punk bands such as The Lillingtons and The Clash to rock and pop greats like The Beatles, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, KISS and Ween have inspired the members throughout their musical careers. Certain members are also involved with other bands, including The Enders, Devil To Pay, 9th Circle Symphony, Lockstep, The Hardees, Labyrinth Bowie and GnFnR. Already being well-known at the local/regional level allowed them to carry over fans from their other projects and they’ve developed a “frenemy” rivalry with another well-known band in the area – Five Year Mission, a Star Trek-based band that plays comic cons across the country. The Yavin 4 has been happy to find their creative niche and can even count Mark Austin, the actor who played Boba Fett in the Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope, among their legion of devoted fans.
When asked about their favorite characters and movies from the franchise, their responses were also as diverse as the individual members themselves: Benny’s favorite is The Empire Strikes Back, although he said Rogue One very nearly unseated it, and his favorite character is Boba Fett. Jason prefers A New Hope because of the sentimentality associated with it, and Han Solo will always be his favorite because he taught him that the way to a woman’s heart is to get her blood going. Travis’ favorite character is Ahsoka Tano because of her amazing story arc from The Clone Wars to Star Wars Rebels, while Chad prefers The Empire Strikes Back for its overall darkness. When asked about light sabers, Benny’s favorites come from Asajj Ventress because she’s his cartoon crush, while Jason loves Darth Vader’s light saber because of its unmatched ability to instantaneously strike fear upon its ignition.
When asked about their favorite songs to play live, Benny chose “3,720:1” and “Kenobi”, Jason chose “Tie Fighter” and “Arfive Defour” and Travis chose “Red 5”. The band always closes their show with “Goodbye Alderaan” which has become another fan favorite, along with “R2-D2” because the shout-along chorus is so contagious you can’t help but get swept up in it (R2-D2 is my favorite character, so I always especially enjoy this one!). I don’t throw the term “badass” around lightly, but that’s definitely the word of choice I would use to describe The Yavin 4.
The Yavin 4 is currently recording early demos for their much-anticipated third album, but they don’t have an exact release date yet. They’re also currently working on a split 7” vinyl release with Landspeeder, a popular Star Wars band based in Chicago, which is due in Spring 2018. In addition to regular gigs in the Indianapolis area, The Yavin 4 has also played comic cons in Illinois and recently did a short run of gigs throughout New York and Pennsylvania. The group hopes to play more gigs at more venues in the new year. If you’re curious about checking them out, their music and merchandise can be found at TheYavin4.bandcamp.com and fans can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter @theyavin4 for future updates and announcements. May the force be with them for many years to come!