February 2024

Ye Don’t Say

Yeasayer Yeasayer Yeasayer Text: Gabriel Knowles Images: Yeasayer

Yeasayer are a band that hold an enviable position of being as revered by the traditional, printed matter critics as they are by a new wave of numerous, vociferous and exclusively digital critics. The release of their first album All Hour Cymbals, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink effort pegged into the world music category that actually sounded good, was lauded far and wide as fantastically progressive record. But with success comes expectations and with their second record Odd Blood days away from release there’s a good chance die-hard fans are in for a shock, least of all because Yeasayer scraped together the money and time to get some decent production this time around.

“I felt like some people wanted us to recreate the first album and we could have done that and made it for $1000 and taken the money that the label gave us. But we really wanted to take that money and say OK let’s pour it into this album and make a step up that shows that we care and produce the hell out of it.” Anand Wilder explains from the bands base in Brooklyn. “I don’t value some lo-fi, cheap sounding aesthetic. If you’re going to do that just use a four track.” Despite their penchant for traditional instruments from the world over Yeasayer are far from purists, admitting that most of their music is composed on a computer and if they can achieve the same result digitally then that’s their preferred technique.

Pockets lined with money the band headed to upstate New York and decamped in Woodstock to set about recording an album in the very same house they were living in, thanks in part to a conveniently located basement studio. “It was great, it was a lot more luxurious than the last one which we were doing all ourselves and then at the last minute we had five days to mix the entire record. This one was four months were we didn’t have to work day jobs so we could get perspective. And then we spent some time touring where we were able to test out some of the new songs live and figure out if songs needed a bass line here or some live drums there.” And with songs in the bag they headed back to Manhattan and got Odd Blood properly mixed. The result is a more polished and cleaner sounding album that Wilder is bullishly standing by.

“We didn’t really care what people thought. If you think about it too much then you might start pandering too much. We thought how can we screw with people expectations? So we thought people are probably expecting another psychedelic, acoustic, folksy kind of camp fire song album. So how can we flip that on people and say this is the same band but maybe we’re playing this guitar part with a synth now and maybe the drums are a lot louder and more rhythmic and maybe the vocals are a little louder. We were playing with expectations and trying to come with something that was aesthetically very different than the last album. We would rather do something very different and completely fail have people think we’re hacks than repeat ourselves and have people pat us on the back for making All Hour Cymbals Part Two.” With early reviews alerting fans that they have indeed taken a different tack do they still not care what people think? “I read some things, I feel like it might be a love/hate record which is fine with me.” Wilder admits.

Prior to recording Odd Blood there was noise from the Yeasayer camp that the new album wouldn’t contain any songs longer than three and a half minutes in a concerted effort to move away from the sprawling sound that marked their debut offering. In the end though, only three of the ten songs on the new album made it under the mark.

“I think rules are meant to be broken, that was one of the things we set out to do. Write shorter songs and produce songs in a sparer way and not go overboard with layering. We have a few songs under 3.30 which is exciting for me. It was really trying to pick a style and stick with it or break the rules entirely.” Wilder responds before explaining further.

“I think we retained the multi-layers but I think on this one you can perceive the layers a little bit better. It’s a little more audible, there’s more clarity to the sounds whereas the last one you had this idea that there was a lot of things there but maybe you couldn’t hear them in the hazy mush of reverb. We wanted to make a much drier sounding record, something that was more along the lines of our live show, that would have more live energy and the prominence of the subby bass and the percussion coming to the fore and also the lead vocal being more defined and not covered by harmonies.”

So with their endevours to delve into a poppier sound complete, it doesn’t seem too far fetched that they’ve got something planned for next time around. Which Wilder confirms.

“I’d like the next album to have zero repetition whatsoever and really only have three or four elements going on at one time. Or maybe just have one element that’s replaced by another element. Or maybe just abandon song structure all together and put out an ambient record. I feel like we’ve left ourselves open to do whatever we want, I think if we put out an album of folky protest songs I don’t think people would be completely surprised.”

Odd Blood is out on February 9, 2010 through Spunk


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