Live at CMJ: Yeasayer

photo by Doron Gild

review by Miriam Lamey
interview by Shannon Sauter
photos by Doron Gild

Mixing together both psychedelic rock and electronic beats and loops, Yeasayer are a truly compelling band. Members Anand Wilder (guitars), Chris Keating (vocals), Ira Wolf Tuton (bass), Luke Fasano (drums) reside in Brooklyn, and the group is about to release their anticipated debut album. To call Yeasayer eclectic is pretty much a massive understatement. From the anthemic, swooping single, “2080” to the funkily orchestral”No Need to Worry” Yeasayer know how sonically bend music and sounds to dizzying heights. However, this certainly makes for a highly addictive sound and they’re more than fascinating to watch live. Yeasayer have their official CD release party in Brooklyn later this month, playing a few US dates before taking off for Europe to great interest. The band also plays two CMJ showcases this year.

Before they head off, DJ Shannon grabbed Luke, Ira, Anand, and Chris for a few questions:

Shannon: Where do you get your inspiration for your songs?

Anand: Each other. A lot of times we take a theme and just say “Hey, let’s make a song about the apocalypse. Let’s make this song about Icharus and Atlas.

Chris: We try to be conscious about songs that have been written. Maybe it would be cool to write a song, I don’t know, about an ant hill. Sometimes you disguise it and it takes on another shape. It’s fun to try to make a song that hasn’t been covered. Well, they’ve probably all been covered.

Anand: as far as our songwriting process goes. The music definitely comes first. We come up with interesting sounds. The rhythms. Try to come up with all the words.

Chris: I find the textures of the instruments dictates what the mood and song will be about.

Anand: For example we were kind of just like jamming out this guitar riff that Ira had and a bass line I was doing. And I said, ‘Wow this sounds like rebirth. Renewal.’ And we listened to it over and over and over again. Came up with a melody lines.


Shannon: Have you been in any bands with similar sound? How has it evolved in this band?

Chris: We weren’t in bands before.

Ira: They grew up together.

Chris: Anand and I grew up together in Baltimore.

Ira: And we’re family (pointing to Anand). He was doing something by himself and I was doing something by myself and we got together again after playing when we were in high school. Got together at 22 again to play.

Anand: We’ve always been really interested in pop music though. Pop music formulas. And pursuing that in a weird way.

Chris: Other than that Ira is Anand’s cousin. Hey wanna come play bass for us? Wanna play drums. Then the band really came together. Started slowly.

Shannon: Who writes the songs that make the whole world sing (incorrect lyrics or not)?

Ira: That’s cute.

Shannon: You know how Cheryl said in the live interview that she doesn’t know the correct lyrics. I always do that and sing along then find out “oh that’s what they’re saying.”

Luke: I’m always cool when suddenly it’s very clear and then I’m like oh that’s not as cool as I thought. It’s definitely better to have some element of mystery.

Anand: It’s different a little varied in the recording but I think live they’re more clear.

Chris: Yeah yeah bobbadi bobbadi.

Anand: Ira knew there’s one guy who knew every lyric except for that.

Ira: No one’s going to get that.

Chris: That was Ira’s reformed rambling insanity that fit well with my lyrics and we joined the two. So it became an extra counterpoint of lyrical flow.

Shannon: So it’s always a collaboration on lyrics?

Anand: Yes.

Shannon: Why the fretless bass?

Ira: Cause it’s easy.

Shannon: Easy and it looks good?

Ira: yeah it’s awesome.


Shannon: It goes with the whole side ponytail.

Ira: It goes with my whole thing. Oh I’m a loose, free dude. I can’t be fretted down.

Luke: It has a good tone too. It sounds like some bass playing you hear on good recordings that transcended normal sonic limitations.

Anand: Kate Bush. Peter Gabriel.

Luke: You hear that and it actually sounds good and then you hear 9 million other people playing fretless and it sounds terrible. Ira happens to be someone who makes it sound good. It’s getting banned on the next album.

Shannon: What was your experience going overseas for the first time to play?

Luke: We were there for 10 days. Played 8 shows and it just got better every night.

Anand: Seemed a bit culturally deprived out there. Must have been.

Chris: It was cool because everything here is 18+ and there it’s 14+. So I was like a lot more kids were there. It’s great because there are more people who will come out and shake things up.

Shannon: I find shows are better when they’re all ages.

Chris: Yeah we do too. We like young drunks. 15-year-old drunks. We were on tour out best shows were at colleges because they don’t care. And they dance.

Ira: They don’t care about freaking out.

Shannon: What cities are you looking forward to playing in November?

Anand: I’m excited to be going to the UK. Looking forward to the mainland. Excited to play Glasgow, Edinburgh. Leeds. Liverpool. Brighton.

Shannon: I’ve always wanted to ask a band this question since it’s such a corporate interview question but where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Chris: Top of the Pops.

Anand: Rich and famous. Pursuing solo career.

Chris: It would be nice to get music out there to as many people and still maintain integrity. I think that’s what everybody wants. Right? I don’t want to work my day job anymore. So that is an immediate goal. If this could be a full-time thing then that’s great. It’s getting closer.

Shannon: So do you really think at the moment you’re about to take off?

Chris: I don’t know.

Anand: No, I think it’s good to think big. We’re optimistic. It’s good to be optimistic. We’re ready for anything.


Shannon: Do you think it’s selling out to feature one of your songs in a commercial?

Chris: That could be the formative experience for some people to hear your music.

Anand: You hear Of Montreal in Outback Steakhouse. I’m sure they didn’t make a lot of money for that to make me annoyed with that band. Unless they did but it’s not what I heard. That’s annoying me if they got a big check for it but if they can feed their family then that’s great. I saw Animal Collective on a Crayola commercial and it wasn’t offending. Just a little piece. It was already known. But if it’s like “this is our big break”.

Ira: Apples in Stereo sold that one song.

Chris: You start getting that stuff out there and people like that sound and then you get pigeonholed in that sound. I would like to have a song that every 14-year-old kid really wants to have the one hit. I want to be that one-hit wonder. I want to have my “Macarena.” But on the next record have it be “Woa, man, this is so weird.” Like David Bowie came out with “Low” that “Berlin” song. It was a point where you keep switching it up. People get a little mad. Shake things up.

Anand: Gain some respect.

Shannon: Thanks for coming in and playing for us and I’m sure I’ll see you again this week. You were awesome. I expect great things.


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One Comment

  1. Daniel E. Friedman
    Posted November 4, 2007 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Candid interview. I’m glad I had a chance to get to know this band a bit better and I’ll spread the word.

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