Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
CHRI865 138

On the Rise
Yot Club

28 March 2024, 15:00

Releasing second album Rufus, singer-songwriter Ryan Kaiser is following an independent path, prioritising his creative freedom.

After one of his tracks went viral on TikTok, Ryan Kaiser, who releases Polaroid-pop jams under the alias Yot Club, was determined to retain his independence in the face of an industry whirlwind. This month, he shares his dazzling second album Rufus, a collection of songs that further bolsters his own idiosyncratic sound and style.

Over the past three years as Yot Club, Ryan Kaiser has gained over a billion streams with his sun-kissed slacker sighs and is now gearing up to share his second album of warmly nostalgic gems, Rufus. “I can't comprehend what a billion even is,” laughs Kaiser from his New York bedroom. “I know what a million is. That number makes sense. But then once you get into a billion, that's too big of a number for my brain to understand.”

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, Kaiser discovered music from an early age. Through his parents’ CD collection he fell in love with a diverse array of artists from Grandaddy and Green Day to Audioslave and They Might Be Giants. He started guitar lessons when he was eight, his teacher further expanding his influences with the likes of Steely Dan and Dire Straits. “Cool guitar music that an eight year old really had no business knowing about or listening to,” he jokes. “That was definitely helpful, having people showing me cool old stuff when I was young.”


Kaiser continued to explore his musicality, learning bass, drums and piano. By his mid-teens he was experimenting with home recording, albeit in the privacy of his own bedroom. “I would just record when no one was home and then post to SoundCloud and not tell any of my friends or anyone about it,” he says. “It wasn't the most encouraging vibe. People weren’t gonna be like, ‘Oh, you sing and record it. That's so cool, dude.’”

Starting college, Kaiser continued to upload his creations under various profiles, deleting his work in bouts of insecurity before trying something new. It wasn’t until he landed on the sound of Yot Club that, with a little help from the platform’s community, he felt confident enough to graduate to other streaming services. “A lot of people on Soundcloud were like, ‘You should put this on Spotify.’ I was like, I'm not trying to make money off of it, but maybe it'll get more attention there than it does here,” he shrugged. “That's really how the project started.”

CHRI865 126

Alongside his studying, Kaiser worked three jobs. Yot Club was the one thing in his life where he felt he had full control. He began releasing music in early 2019, and with every track he’d see a slight bump in his streaming numbers. “It kind of just gamified it to me,” he smiles.

One of his tracks, the driving lo-fi haunt “Japan,” caught the attention of a small label under the Universal umbrella who offered to licence the song. At the time, it seemed too good to be true. “I was in college and I was paycheck to paycheck and they were offering $2,000, and I was like, this is six months of rent from me, this would really take a load off,” he says. “The song was doing all right at the time, but I didn't know how good it was about to start doing. It got thirty-million streams in those two years. A million streams is like $2,000, so it made a lot of money for this company.”

It was an experience that informs Kaiser’s approach to partnerships as he continues to release music. “It's exploitative. These labels do this to people all the time,” he says. “I didn't have a lot of financial literacy. Hanging two thousand dollars in front of me, it's like, of course I’m gonna bite. That was like getting fucked over in a really miniature way. People get fucked over way hard. That was one song for two years, so it was just like a spanking. It was just, ‘I learned my fucking lesson, this is not gonna happen again.’ I learned it on a small level so now I can be a little bit more wary going into future things.”

After releasing music for a couple of years, Kaiser’s monthly listeners began to blow up. One of his tracks had found a life of its own on TikTok. “I didn't really know what was happening for months,” he laughs. “I didn't have TikTok on my phone or anything and then someone sent me a TikTok like, ‘Isn't this your song?’ I clicked the song on TikTok and it had like, thirty-thousand other videos and I was like, oh, that's what's going on.”

Released in the middle of 2019, the soulful and tenderly timeless “YKWIM?” began to blow up in 2021. Before the end of 2022 it was certified platinum in the US. For Kaiser, the track’s virality meant a wave of industry attention and more exploitative label offers. “It was terrifying. I had Atlantic, Interscope, Universal, Capitol, Arista, Elektra, every label that Warner, Universal and Sony owns was all hitting me up at once,” he says. “These contracts are basically written in another language. They’re intentionally misleading and hard to understand and so I had to get an attorney help me through this situation. Most of them were for twenty-five-years. I was twenty-four-years-old at the time. So it's like, I'm gonna be fifty when I'm getting out of this deal.That sounds horrible.”

Kaiser decided to walk away and retain his independence, instead partnering with Swedish label Amuse. Having grown from distributor roots, they offered Kaiser the support and flexibility to build Yot Club in the direction he wanted. “I feel like I'm definitely in charge and in control with them,” he says. “I've really benefited a lot in terms of just money and freedom.”

Moving to New York from Nashville after the pandemic, Kaiser brought with him an openness to collaboration. “When I was in Mississippi, I just did everything alone. It changed when I moved and was around more musicians,” he says. “These people have a lot of good advice to give, a lot of them are way better producers and musicians than me. I was like, even though I built this project alone, I think it's time to start working with other people just for the experience and just for the fun of it.”

Releasing his new record Rufus this week, it’s a bright, nostalgic trip that balances summer-ready guitar lines with sepia-tinged sentiment. Tracks like recent single “Pixel” mix big ideas with introspection mirrored by minimalist delivery and capacious production, while album opener “Stuntman” is a romanticised rush of euphoric guitars and playful delivery. Throughout the album meaning and ambivalence intertwine to create something that’s as accessible, indulgent or affecting as you need it to be.

CHRI865 110

Fresh from his collaboration with French-Korean singer-songwriter spill tab, Kaiser worked with a select group of friends and artists on Rufus, including singer-songwriter Charli Adams, producer Tommy English and artist Harrison Lipton. To mix the record, Kaiser worked with Patrick Wimberly, formerly of duo Chairlift. “He made everything just bigger and more bold and thicker. He retained all the DIY quality whilst still making it a more full experience to listen to,” he says.

Even as he continues to release new music and his profile grows, Kaiser is still focused on approaching Yot Club in a holistic manner. Gearing up for a US tour this spring before visiting Europe and the UK in the autumn, he’s shifting his focus away from the streaming data. While a billion may seem unfathomable, a sold-out crowd is something tangible, a clear indication of real human life. “The whole thing blew up on the internet and the internet's not really real,” he laughs. “Just because you have a ton of clicks on TikTok doesn't mean these people are gonna buy tickets and they're gonna come to your show. I'm playing shows. I'm on tour. I want to legitimise the project.”

Rufus is released on 29 March via Amuse. Yot Club tours the UK and Europe from 15 September

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next