Interview

Yeasayer

Yeasayer

Wednesday 5th January, 2011 12:41PM

Chris Keating, singer of Laneway Festival headliners Yeasayer, is currently taking a break at home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn after a year of touring their 2010 breakthrough album Odd Blood. UTR caught up with him on a dubious connection while he took a break from building the new Yeasayer studio,, to talk Christmas decorations, a whirlwind year and writing a party album about girls.

So, you're back in Brooklyn after a year of pretty solid touring?

Yep, we're just in the middle of building a studio and fitting it out with seasonally-appropriate decorations. It's getting there and it's really exciting to have our own space!

Because Yeasayer have always recorded their own music, yes?

Yeah. I mean, don't know if we're that good at it, but we record our own music and then we get outside people like engineers and stuff to make it better and finish it off. The studio won't be perfect in any sense, but it's kind of like a club house, you know. A little boys club house that's fun and not professional in any way.

It must be nice to be at a point with Yeasayer where you can invent in a studio of your own?

It's good. I feel really fortunate to be able to come here and record in our own space.

Because Yeasayer has had a pretty massive couple of years. Last time your toured New Zealand you were a relatively small, alternative band, and now you are returning to headline one of our biggest festivals. How does it feel?

I guess I still feel like we're pretty small band. We just take it one step at a time and do our own thing. You know I don't really see us as that 'big' band. Maybe I don't see it from a realistic perspective but I don't see it as changing all that much. On the flipside I can recognise that it has a little bit. I guess it's kind of cool to think about it that way, it's very humbling to think we've become that successful. We're just still trying to work hard and do our own thing and try not to sell out!

And you don't feel any press to sell out?

There's no label pressure to do anything it's awesome! We're on pretty supportive labels - we put ourselves in a pretty supportive family, independent label situation - so they're kind of down for whatever. We've been touring all year straight so we'll see what happens when we get the new songs sorted and start trying to record them.

You have been touring for most of 2010, how has it gone?

It's been great yeah. We've been a lot of places I never thought I would go like Serbia and Poland and Argentina. That to me is one of the perks of the job and it's also one of the hard things, but it's really cool to go meet people from the world and have different experiences.

It must be pretty amazing to know that your music is getting to these far flung places and resonating with people there?

Yeah it's pretty cool. I would be surprised if in Serbia even like four people had heard our songs so when there was 1000 people there it was crazy. In Tokyo we played a festival on a mountain and it was insane. It's awesome fun and totally humbling to know that you've made something that can reach all these people in different places.

In terms of communicating something to these people, what does Odd Blood say?

I donno, I think that's probably too heavy of a question. It totally depends on the song, or from idea to idea, but I feel like a lot of what we were doing was a reaction against what we did on the first album, which was very bleak and revolved around a lot of apocalyptic themes. On the new album we tried our hand at trying to write alternative versions of pop or love songs or big ballady dance music. Stuff that we enjoy and I feel has universal themes. We just want to to keep pushing in different directions and not get stuck in a cyclical writing pattern.

Because your first album, All Hour Cymbals was quite nihilistic in theme. What was going on to make you change thematic direction so radically?

The new one is a reaction to all the positivity that was going on with Obama at the time and the promise of an Obama presidency. Also, we were all in new interpersonal romantic relationships, and you start to think about what's going on in your life and using that. In the first album we were trying to reference these grand ideas rather than drawing from personal stuff.

The uplifting musical tones reflect that - Odd Blood is a party album. Tell us about the musicality of the tracks:

Good! I'm really glad to hear that. We wanted to do that - to do a dance song or something you can party to, but that wasn't too generic. To still retain integrity with the writing style that we like, with multiple textures etc. I'm a big fan of dance music and I'm a big fan of anything that gets played that can make people universally gyrate their hips - that's a very powerful thing. At the moment I'm totally preferring that as opposed to something that, for example, lyrically is very deep.

Odd Blood is such a fun album, it must be exciting to play it live?

It is fun. It's challenging because when we record we get really excited about layering and putting a lot of texture in there so it can be hard to recreate live but that's been a fun challenge.

How do you approach your live shows - what can we expect when you come over here?

We're quite energetic and we try to make our show unique and special. We'll change around the songs depending on what the mood is. We had such a good time in New Zealand last time. Those shows we played two years ago were some of our favourites so we're really excited! The lineup at Laneway is great too - we've got a lot of friends playing so it's going to be awesome. It's going to be like a night out with friends but over two weeks in a different place every night.

Are you going to play new stuff for us when you come over?

I would like to, but it depends on how ready we are. Festivals are not the best time to play new songs. You can play new songs in a club because you have more time but at a festival you only have 45 minutes and every minute is a little bit more precious, so we'll wait and see.

After Laneway Festival what is Yeasayer up to?

We'll come home from the Laneway tour and we'll spend the next three months working in our studio which will hopefully be up and running by then, and then we'll hopefully have a semblance of an album. I'd love to get it out next year!

Courtney Sanders




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