Music Q&A: Yaris Knows Music

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Uncle Yaris is memorable. But the lanky mascot for Toyota's newest car isn't the most recognizable element of the popular TV spots. That honor goes to "Graveyard Shake," the catchy high-energy track from indie band the Deadly Snakes that punctuates each spot in the campaign. Creative director Roger Harris, music supervisor David Hayman and music director Jerry Mosby of Toronto audio house Vapor go behind the music to reveal the origin of Yaris' musical signature.

What was the tone you set out to capture?

Harris: The brief given to us was to keep it quirky, cool and real short. The agency wanted something that reflected this character, and they wanted a song that if you heard it in your kitchen, you'd know exactly what it's for. But at the same time, they didn't want gimmicky-the character himself is so odd that if we went too far, everything would be soaked in that quirkiness.

Hayman: I believe their first reference was Fatboy Slim, which in my eyes was a bit over the top as far as quirkiness. So we tried to pare it down and look for something smarter, cooler and hipper-something more iconic that a young audience would definitely relate to. We went to the indie bands that we're working very closely with, and the Deadly Snakes just hit us with the energy of their music. We felt it was a beautiful match for this spunky, young, energetic new car.

Did you ever think about leaving the lyrics in the final cut?

Mosby: Absolutely. Once we settled on "Graveyard Shake," we tried a number of different versions-probably no fewer than 60. We were given the original audition tape of the fellow who became Yaris, so we were able to lay that up to our computers as reference. We did versions with lyrics, versions that were purely instrumental and versions with guitar solos. There's a cinema version that features a lot of guitar interplay. Of course, since these spots are airing in Canada, lyrics became an issue because we would need both English and French.

Hayman: The main lyric is, "Gotta cut across town boy, gotta keep your head down boy," which sort of spoke to those young guys driving around. The full song with all the lyrics is available on the website. Our whole theory is that we've got to do the best fit-whatever works for a particular product or commercial. For the TV spots, it fit best without lyrics. For the internet, it worked to stream the full song.

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