Live @ SXSW: Yeasayer, The Parish 3/13

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interview by Eric Mahollitz
photos by Chad Syme

Few bands have splashed onto the scene with the umph Yeasayer displays on their debut, All Hour Cymbals, the first release on the now heavily watched We Are Free label. The album gained quick notoriety for its apocalyptic themes and for having a truly original sound. At large are tight harmonies and a studied recognition of African rhythms as well as Celtic and Indian music. All four members of the Brooklyn band grew up singing in church choirs and other vocal ensembles, preparing themselves to one day woo lyrical fetishists and wall-clinging rockers to the dark side that is dance music. After a year and witnessing several performances, I can say with certainty that it has been a successful campaign. We’ve been fortunate to have these guys in Seattle several times recently and enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with them once again and ask a few questions.

KEXP: I had read something about the lyrics on your first album…

Chris: Lies, all lies.

Luke: The lyrics are lies too.

KEXP: People were paying more attention to the lyrics, and you guys seem to be more about the overall sound.

Chris: I think some people are more into the lyrics. That’s how some people listen, and for some people the lyrics are intertwined with the music and they support it. It’s never like, “Hmm, ‘I Am the Walrus’.” We had a thing about that for a long time.

Luke: You take it out of context of the sum and all of the sudden you have this other thing… Some people write that way and you can read [the lyrics] off and it sounds like fucking poetry.

Chris: I think that we’re trying to write poetic lyrics within the notes, but if you take away the melody from it, it doesn’t really mean anything.

KEXP: And the whole Armageddon theme…

Chris: That’s not really in there as much as people think.

Luke: I don’t look at “2080” as about that, maybe more about personal mortality. It’s not necessarily a global thing, kind of limiting your focus to take in the rest of the world.

Chris: Wait, what are the lyrics to that song? Print out “I was drunk.” You can print that! I dare you to print that!

KEXP: Is this where you guys kinda started last year at SXSW?

Chris: No, I’m gonna say no. It was big for us because it was the first time that we travelled this far. As a band, we played in front of people who had probably never seen us before. But it wasn’t like a big break. There weren’t many people at our shows. The first was basically all friends. It was our party. The other one… it didn’t seem like there were hardly any people there. We played plenty of shows after that but nobody came. It was good for us to get out there. It puts out your name. Defining point. Somewhere in the middle of this year, we started doing a lot better. October 23rd of this year, we started doing a lot better – when the album came out.

KEXP: People were living off that single for a while getting anxious.

KEXP: It seems like you guys are still on the road all the time and it’s still very much a bump and grind, but what has changed the most over the last year?

Chris: People at the shows

Luke: We had just had two really successful tours, one with MGMT that was great – lots of sold out crowds and a lot of great feedback.
Chris: And the fact that we don’t work jobs anymore. We don’t have any right now. It’s not that we’re making money, we’re just really, really busy.

Luke: I’ve had like two weeks off in the past four months.

Chris: And we’ve found a few outlets. With the music, it’s becoming like a career which is my only goal, as far as that side of it. I don’t mind the hustling so much…I mind the hustling and then still having to work and be broke. So lets cut out the middle man and just not work, tour all the time and be broke.

KEXP: Awesome. Thanks.

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