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Synth Punks Yoni Yum Talk About Their Kinks

L-R: Wade Kapphahn, Jacob Laqua, Alex Pennaz, and Jessica Buns

L-R: Wade Kapphahn, Jacob Laqua, Alex Pennaz, and Jessica Buns

Yoni Yum with Aby Wolf, Alpha Consumer, Kitten Forever, and K. Raydio at Girl Germs: A Live Tribute to Women in Music | Turf Club | Saturday, January 10
It's late December and the Kitty Cat Klub is hopping with revelers. Nearby, Yoni Yum drummer Wade Kapphahn is slowly, but persistently, sliding his hand inside the back of bassist Alex Pennaz's pants. Kapphahn then makes a statement for the record.

"I'm not a Juggalo," he explains, while detailing a story from his group's most recent tour to New Orleans with a glassy-eyed grin. "I'm just a wicked clown ninja from the dark carnival."

His train of thought doesn't falter when Pennaz bemusedly points out the location of his digits.

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"This is a metaphor for our tour of the South," Kapphahn waxes, groping enthusiastically. "Basically it's wicked ninjas penetrating the pant line of the Midwest. We went down south of the pant line, and I'd like to think that we excited some people."

Singer and keyboardist Jessica Buns can't help but giggle at the continuation of the story, which eventually incorporates President Obama and a foot-long phallus made of rhubarb. To her credit, she looks only slightly mortified. As a songwriter, she's penned tunes with names like "Cum Scraper" and "Handcuff Me to Your NordicTrack," so she's no prude either.

When prompted about the latter, Yoni Yum admit that they don't have a lot of brain cells remaining with memories of recording the song, but say that it's one of their favorites from their debut album, GREATEST (CL)HITS.

"NordicTracks are not very sexy," Buns opines. "But I suppose if you add a handcuff to anything it could be sexy."

"NordicTracks are a very specific kind of worthless workout machine," Kapphahn adds. "If you have a NordicTrack, it's definitely for sex, and it means you're at somebody's parents' house or something. Nobody under the age of 40 has a fuckin' NordicTrack."

The song serves as a great primer for the band as a whole, beginning as a simmering, synth-driven nod to post-punk luminaries like Girls at Our Best and ending in a manic explosion of noise caused by an unnamed band member crashing headlong into the drumset. In the midst of all the taboo-tweaking debauchery, there's a deeply thoughtful statement on healthy sexual practice being made. It's a duality that Buns is happy to expand upon during a later phone interview in daylight hours.

"I've had so many conversations with women this year about rape and abuse, and it's absolutely ridiculous and overwhelming how many people I know who have had to deal with this stuff," she says. "I'm so sick of being quiet about it."

After a tough year in her personal life, Buns befriended Pennaz and Kapphahn while playing in a Dolly Parton cover band called Dolly Patrón, and quickly realized she needed to be writing for a project that allowed her to express her frustrations and victories within the local punk scene's sexual politics. "I think that 'callout culture' is having kind of a renaissance in a way," Buns says of the atmosphere of the DIY shows she frequents. "I'm starting to notice, if there is a predator around, women are starting to speak up and say, 'I don't want that asshole around. Get him out of here.'"

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On "Talk to Me About Your Kinks," the singer expresses a similar sentiment, chastising a partner for acting aggressively without consent. Over a darkly bubbling dance beat, hinting of menace, Buns sings, "Don't grab my neck without gaining permission. Talk to me about your kinks before you go ahead. This neck is attached to a body. It's mine, and baby you gotta ask me."

Buns says she's had an immensely positive response to the song from women in her community, who've shared similar experiences of violation and felt empowered by the song's push for open communication and negotiation of consent. Buns hopes the band's upcoming performance at the Girl Germs: A Live Tribute to Women in Music showcase will have a similar effect.

"I think it's a huge honor, I've never been invited to do something like this," says Buns. "I'm really excited to be a part of something that embraces femininity and feminism."

Along with other powerful women from the local music scene like Aby Wolf, K. Raydio, and their friends in Kitten Forever, Yoni Yum will perform a set of covers by a feminist rock icon. In their case, it's the legendary Marianne Faithfull. The Girl Germs showcase is a sign of a positive groundswell, in Buns's opinion.

"I'm seeing a change happen in Minneapolis, where every show isn't just a bunch of white dudes anymore," she explains. "There's people that are consciously trying to include women, genderqueer people, and people of color, and I think that's great, we're becoming more diverse in that way."

YONI YUM play with Aby Wolf, Alpha Consumer, Kitten Forever, and K. Raydio at Girl Germs: A Live Tribute to Women in Music on Saturday, January 10, at Turf Club; 651-647-0486

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