Yeasayer: TAS in Session
Those irreverent jesters Yeasayer are back with a trippy third album, Fragrant World, which pushes the trio — whose members dipped a bit into the indie rock "mainstream" with 2010's Odd Blood — back into a more experimental zone.
They're bringing that same shape-shifting aesthetic to their stage visuals and lighting on their current world tour and they play a special hometown gig, joined by Tanlines and Daedelus, at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield this Wednesday, September 12. The band had to cancel a handful of shows in Atlanta, Chapel Hill and Boston over the weekend but for good reason; Anand Wilder and his wife are now the parents of a baby daughter.
Recently, Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Wilder visited TAS's Studio A for a conversation with TAS' Russ Borris and a live session. Listen to Yeasayer's musings on Ikea's meatballs, Bruce Springsteen and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, plus a generous set of songs, this Friday, September 14 on TAS in Session on WNYE at 11 a.m. EDT and streaming on The Alternate Side.
Fragrant World is out now via Secretly Canadian (North America) and Mute (UK/EU).
Russ Borris: How did you approach [Fragrant World], any differently?
Ira Wolf Tuton: We stayed in New York this time to record it.
Chris Keating: In Brooklyn.
Ira: Different physical space. Different tools. All of that informs [it].
Chris: The slow corruption of being jaded from the road sets in so there’s a darker, more negative tone.
Russ: There is a darker element to it. I also read that it’s less pop, there’s something that feels different musically. There’s so much going on, but it’s the nature of how you guys construct song.
Ira: A little less going on.
Chris: One less track. A lot of layers. I think we were trying to work with different textures and different sounds. Maybe thematically it’s less of a love album.
Ira: Doesn’t mean we’re in any less love with anyone in the world.
Anand Wilder: We still like love.
Russ: Was that a conscious thing? Did you have any kind of clear picture of where you were going to go when you started out?
Chris: You have a vague idea, I think, but you can’t perfectly map it out. I had some songs conceptually that I wanted to talk about, like the song “Henrietta” and finding a world in which that song could live. I think that’s also a Paul McCartney line.
Russ: [“Longevity”] is a song [that has the line] “Live in the moment and never count on longevity.”
Chris: Probably the worst line in the song. This guy was interviewing me the other day, [and said] “this lyric is dumb.” And I was like, what about all the other smart things?
Ira: He said that to you?
Chris: No, but I said, “you’re dumb!”
Russ: So he hinted that the lyric was dumb.
Chris: I don’t know. Maybe.
Russ: Is this a completely embellished story?
Chris: No, it’s not.
Ira: It’s more of an anecdote. I was waiting for a bigger climax.
Chris: Then, he went over to Paul Ryan’s house and Paul Ryan went, “let me show you something in my basement ….”
Russ: And [we] thought we had Yeasayer in today. We were totally wrong. Back to the line about longevity. Later in the record there’s “No Bones” which says, “We’re older now than I’d like to admit.” I’m trying to put together the pieces — is there anything here about getting older or aging? Are you guys feeling that in any way?
Ira: I actually like to say that I’m older than I am. Therefore people think I look great.
Chris: I haven’t found that about you at all. Ira, I always think, damn you look old. Wow.
Ira: It’s because I smile so much. Crow’s feet. I have early onset crow’s feet.
Chris: I’m paranoid of getting old. Not dying so much, but getting old. I’m not talking old like my 40s or 50s, but 70s, 80s, 90s and today. The greatest hits. S**t in your pants, forgetting your family.
Russ: If you get to 100 do they call it "the aughts?"
Ira: You get to start over. You’re a centurion. [Ed. note: a centenarian, actually, although centurion is nice too]
Chris: I like older musicians who carry themselves well. I’d like to be that. But older musicians who embarrass themselves, not cool.
Ira: I think we’re there.
Russ: Do you have anybody in mind right now?
Chris: Older musicians who carry themselves well, sure. Like Nick Cave or Springsteen. I mean Springsteen! 62?
Russ: He’s in ridiculous shape.
Chris: Ridiculous. And just going hard. And making music that’s still interesting. It’s not him covering Christmas songs or something. Although maybe, Springsteen, if you’re listening, that might be a good idea.
Anand: Christmas collaboration record?
Russ: You guys have aspirations of Christmas music?
Ira: Totally. Who doesn’t in this business.
Chris: We’ve got a couple of Jews here, but we can make some Christmas music.
Ira: We can make it work. I think the best Christmas songs of all time were written by Jews.
Russ: You know, we’ve talked in the past how the songs come together and it sounds at times as if it’s assembling parts, like Ikea furniture. Part A goes into part B. Is that how it works? “I came up with this guitar part, I came up with this synth part and see how they all come together?”
Anand: It can.
Chris: Pretty much exactly like Ikea.
Ira: We were going to have our album come with a little Allen wrench.
Russ: What about the meatballs?
Chris: This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I’ve gone to Ikea just for lunch before.
Russ: Before the record came out, you did something a little different. Records leak now and it’s hard to keep the album under wraps, but you forcefully leaked it, piece by piece, with these scavanger hunt videos. Whose idea was that?
Chris: We had these collaborations we’d been doing with Yoshi Sodeoka who is an awesome video artist and we wanted to have him make visual elements precisely for the reason [that we] recognized that people were going to make their own YouTube videos for your songs unless you make them. We had all this great content and we thought this would be an interesting way to put it out there. We have an excited fan base and I think people like doing stuff like that. I think about stuff that we’d like to do. I’d rather do that than get a ripped, bad version.
Anand: Our fans our very demanding. They demand a lot of creativity from us. We always have to stay on our toes.
Chris: They’re like, "Can next time this album come with an Allen wrench?"
Russ: There’s so many synths, vibes and varying sounds through the record, but there’s one particular sound on the entire album that stands out to me because it’s nothing like anything else. There’s this guitar riff in “Folk Hero Schtick” that sounds like [you’re] goofing on the Byrds for ten second.
Anand: Very good! You got a good ear, man.
Ira: The magic of the 12-string guitar.