Odd Squad - Yeasayer interview
In between shows at Coachella, Lovebox and Reading, Yeasayer will be bringing the party to T in the Park. Anand Wilder chats with Nicola Meighan about their new New Age sound, and why they love a Scottish crowd
‘Everything we do is a conscious decision,’ states Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder, smiling. ‘I mean, it’s not like we just stumbled upon the greatest pop songs of all time.’ He’s referring, of course, to their current album, Odd Blood – which has seen the Brooklyn trio leap from exotic fuzz-rock subterranea into the gleaming electro-pop mainstream.
This progression was, we now know, no accident. But nor was it totally out of the blue: while Yeasayer’s 2007 debut album, All Hour Cymbals, was hailed for its dreamy indie globalism, so too did it indicate the voracious melodies and percussive mantras that illuminate their second album.
Emerging from the same high school as experimental elders Animal Collective, Wilder (vocals, keys, guitars), Chris Keating (vocals, keys) and Ira Wolf Tuton (vocals, bass) have come to exemplify a vivid psych-pop movement, whose other big names include Dirty Projectors and MGMT – and they’ve collaborated with the likes of Simian Mobile Disco and Bat for Lashes. We speak during the soundcheck for the band’s second appearance on Later with Jools Holland (they premiered in 2008). Come show-time, their tropical riffage, falsetto harmonies and hypnotic two-strong drum-unit will outshine chart superstars Macy Gray and Alicia Keys.
Did the band strive to make Odd Blood more accessible than its predecessor? ‘Yeah, I think so,’ Wilder nods. ‘I mean, I don’t know if we necessarily meant our first album to be, like, not accessible – but it was a different aesthetic, which I think had a lot to do with the production, and our lack of resources. With this album we had much more time to work on these songs,’ he enthuses. ‘And we wanted to have the vocals a lot louder: I think that’s a big part of what makes a pop song.’
Their first LP was issued via micro-indie label We Are Free, but Odd Blood comes courtesy of electronic powerhouse Mute. It’s hard not to align the album’s unearthly swathes of industrial grind, warm machine music and glorious, 80s-refracting synth-pop with the label’s long-standing cultural legacy – from Fat Gadget and Depeche Mode to Erasure, Yazoo and even Goldfrapp. Did Mute’s artistic identity influence the sound of Yeasayer mark II?
‘Well, obviously we were turned on by the roster – I mean, I don’t think you can find another label that has put out better stuff, consistently, over the last 30 years,’ says Wilder. ‘Mute actually wanted to put out the first album though – they were on board really early – but we wanted to see how much we could do on our own first, have a grassroots thing, and build a really solid foundation.’
So it’s just a happy coincidence that, while innovative and forward-looking, Odd Blood also typifies the record label on which it’s released? ‘Sure yeah – I wish I could tell you that [Mute boss] Daniel Miller remixed it – or, you know, let us use his synths,’ he laughs, ‘but we knew we wanted to go in that direction anyway, and we were already going in that direction with our live show.
‘We were also kind of fed up with being pigeonholed as this like hippy dippy, retro, prog band,’ Wilder continues. ‘So this time we wanted to see if we could get away with being a very different band, while also retaining many of the elements that made the first album good.’
Yeasayer are playing festivals through the summer – how much does performing alter their music? ‘Well, these songs are basically just inside of a can until they’re brought to life when we play them live,’ muses Wilder. ‘Then they’re allowed to breathe a lot more, and they’re pared down to only the necessary elements, and you sing vocals with a lot more life than when you’re in a little studio, you know?’
Their travels will see them play T in the Park ‘Oh, I love Scotland,’ Wilder raves. ‘I wish I was there right now. When we played our early shows in Glasgow, people went apeshit! Our Scottish crowds have always been very lively. I mean, when we played at Oran Mor [in February] - did you see that show? That kid who just got up on stage and started dancing a jig? That was amazing, we loved that!’
So Yeasayer will welcome us onto their stages, as long as we dance the Highland fling? Wilder grins, wide-eyed: ‘Jigs are encouraged.’
Yeasayer play the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Futures Stage at T in the Park, Sun 11 Jul.