Yeasayer Will Make You Yearn for the Vinyl Eras of the Past
Eliot Lee Hazel
"Reward the listener."
When was the last time you heard any artist say that and not have it not mean including a discount coupon for their fragrance tucked away in a CD? Okay, so Brooklyn neo-psychedelic pop band Yeasayer never actually say anything about rewarding the listener either, but Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton, and Anand Wilder don't have to. Every album they have crafted up until now has exotic worldbeat instrumentation and counterpoint harmonies buried in the grooves, things that lucky listeners might not catch the first time around. While most dance pop is streamlined to allow for instant gratification, it doesn't make for interesting albums that stand up to repeated listens.
"Maybe that's why we're not a bigger band," laughs Ira Wolf Tuton, on the phone from Brooklyn. "I'm joking, of course."
With their most recent long player, Amen and Goodbye, they have wrapped their sonic feast for the ears with artwork that is so elaborate and exciting it practically forces the listener to go out and buy the vinyl edition, if only to relive the days where fans spent hours puzzling over the symbolism of a Hipgnosis album cover. There's too much going on in the rectangular landscape that is Amen and Goodbye's cover to take in at one viewing, a combination of real-life models, artificial cutouts, and sculpture the band describes as "Sgt. Pepper meets Hieronymus Bosch meets Dali meets PeeWee's Playhouse." Like the Beatles classic, the cover juxtaposes famous luminaries, from Caitlyn Jenner metamorphosing into a butterfly to Julian Assange's decapitated head sitting near a pool of blood to Donald Trump blasting out orange slices. And it includes live and fake representations of the band themselves, including a poster of the band if they were metal ("
"The vinyl edition is the jam," agrees Tuton. "That's where you get all the liner notes. We have all the chord structures of all the songs. It's definitely an enlarged package."
The first single from the album, "I Am Chemistry," seems to sonically mirror the collage aesthetic, moving from one disparate section to the next.
"Chris brought that song in originally but when we went about recording it, we definitely expanded all the parts," says Tuton. "We made things sound like a hard tape cut, the way a lot of Zeppelin and Beatles records were made. We also got Suzzy Roche, who was a hero of all of ours, to sing backup vocals and take it to somewhere the three of us could never reach by ourselves."
Tuton describes Yeasayer as a harmony-driven band that is structured to encourage experimentation.
"There's a dynamic where the three of us just bounce around on any instrument," Tuton says. "It could be an instrument that one of us might have some expertise on or one of us is bouncing to an instrument because of our lack of expertise."
Also in the mix for experimentation was drummer/producer Joey Waronker of Atoms for Peace, who came into the project after a flood had destroyed the band's original demos and direct-to-tape recordings.
"It was a forced do-over, which can be a good thing; it forces you out of complacency," says Tuton.
That could lead to something as stunning as the
"Whatever needs to happen, that's the direction we'll go," he says. "That great bass line that the demo was built around, now it's an entirely different direction and there's no bass on it. That's just the way it is. You always have to be willing to kill your darlings. That's our credo."
Yeasayer is scheduled to appear at Crescent Ballroom on Sunday, October 30.
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