Interview Yeasayer: ‘How Do You Release A Record In 2012?’

Few bands are making the strides that Yeasayer achieve with each release. Danny Wright investigates.

I’m chatting to Ira Wolf Tuton, bass player and one third of Yeasayer, when I mention that singer Chris has cited David Bowie’s album ‘Lodger’ as a big influence on their new full-length, ‘Fragrant World’. “I feel like that’s a longstanding influence,” he begins. “Bowie is one of those artists who over his career has successfully redefined himself with every album. He’s never pigeonholed himself. As a career it’s a pretty honourable one to emulate.” It seems like a philosophy that informs Yeasayer’s every move. Three records in and their ever shifting sonic experiments have seen them progress in a constantly forward trajectory.

ira is somewhat stoical and understated when describing how happy he is with their third full-length - the bulk of which was “finished by last July” - however, seeing it as “a vehicle to move on to the next thing.” “I’m really happy with the way that it came out and the experimentation we did. It feels like a valuable testament to a moment in time. It’s a move forward from [second effort] ‘Odd Blood’ and it definitely feels like a different album. That’s natural because it’s a different time in our lives and we’re dealing with different issues. We’re just different people.”

We’re speaking as they prepare for the release, and on the day they embark upon the first gig of their tour to promote it, in Richmond, Virginia. It shouldn’t be hard - ‘Fragrant World’ is brilliant. Something different to their previous material, it’s a dense, throbbing and genre spanning frazzled pop record, which wears its influences on its stylish, colourful sleeve. “It’s definitely a lot more R&B focused,” Ira tells us. “That’s always been a pretty strong influence for everybody in the band, but there are only so many things you can squeeze into a record and still maintain a cohesiveness. It was certainly a part of all the songs in a deeper sense than on the previous two records.”

it’s this attitude to making music and always thinking about what’s coming next that demonstrates the band’s unwillingness to stay still. As with the previous two albums, this is a record full of fascinating sounds and experimentation, with the band taking technology and using it to sculpt pop shapes. “I think that’s the really exciting thing about making music. We’re in a pretty creative time, particularly on a personal level, and we want to take advantage of that. There’s so much technology and you don’t need to have an engineering degree to understand it. Even from recording our last record to this one we’re able to use technology that didn’t even exist back then.”

“it really feels like a new electronic movement. You know, there’s people like Gold Panda and others doing very exciting things. I think when our last record came out a lot of people were into the 80s but now people are making the type of music that’s looking forward and creating genres – and a lot of that’s coming out of England. I feel you guys have a really strong, valuable powerful movement that’s going on now.”

with the record finished, Ira can’t wait to get back to playing live. It’s the place where the band believe they will discover the record’s real worth. “I think we’re all about the energy. I like playing the album in front of people. It doesn’t have to be a fake thing, like I’m trying to hawk my wares in front of the crowd. I don’t like going to shows when people are just standing there staring at their shoes. A live show is about so much more than that. I’m looking forward to getting that energy and feedback again. You can only talk to your friends and people who are in your inner circle for so long.”

indeed, the release of this record has been very focused on the fans. ‘Henrietta’ was shared with them first and spread virally while the whole build up to the release has been directed almost solely at them. Ira explains: “In some ways it’s kind of an experiment. You send it to a small group of people who’ve really been loyal and are creative. We’ve been sustained to this point by these people and this is an acknowledgement of that. There’s also the idea of how do you release a record in 2012? There really is no way. How do you get music out? It’s interesting that this is as valuable a way as anything else. And it will get as far and wide as a massive release.”

whilst this is undoubtedly a new and exciting chapter for Yeasayer, it’s also these fans who will ultimately define what this record means. When I ask if there’s an overarching theme to the album, he says: “That’s one of those ‘talk about art’ questions, isn’t it? We try to produce a cohesive record that represents a time and point in our lives; people interpret it how they want to interpret it. We’ve done our end of the deal and now we’ll see how that question will be answered.”

Yeasayer’s new album ‘Fragrant World’ will be released on 20th August via Mute.

Taken from the August 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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