Q&A: Yeasayer's Chris Keating On USB-Stick Mixes, Bonding Over Weezer, And Why He Loves 'YMCA'
The past two years have been good to Brooklyn-based band Yeasayer. While they released their second album Odd Blood a little over a year ago, "Ambling Alp" and "O.N.E." shot them to stardom in the blogosphere and mainstream music circles in the fall of 2009. Their popularity was, in large part, thanks to the band turning their weirdly experimental tracks into more tightly configured, concise, uptempo pop songs with anthemic hooks. Yeasayer has been touring to support the album ever since and, just a few weeks ago, announced that they'd be heading back into the studio to record a third album. They premiered the new track "Devil and the Deed" on Conan soon after, giving a peek into what seems to be a similarly sampler-driven album with tambourine-accented hooks.
We caught up with Chris Keating to talk about Yeasayer's new album, the idea of subversive lyrics, and the new era of music consumption.
Where are you now?
We just came down from Sasquatch festival. Kind of cutting through the middle of the country before we head east. We're playing some really weird places, like Lawrence, Kansas. That will be interestingwe've never been there before. Right now we're in Denver. This place Denver is really shitty though, I know that. There are a lot of random crazy people wandering around.
You know those are the guys that will be at your show.
Hopefully. Actually, I don't know if any of these people will. There's also this really awesome independent record store called Independent Records here. But it's all stuff that is, like, not quite Pitbull. You know that rapper guy? They sell all independent stuff that wants to be Pitbull. There are all these big advertisements for things I've never heard of. Like "Bobby Peck" and "Brass Knuckle Chain." It's all really grimy, gnarly Spanish hip-hop stuff. There's a big Kid Rock poster too. It's a weird store. Like it doesn't have any Sonic Youth records is what I was trying to say. It's interesting for a place called Independent Records. I like it.
Speaking ofyour "End Blood" 7-inch came out for Record Store Day. Were the two tracks ones that were cut from Odd Blood?
Basically yeah. Well, one of them was cut but the other one was just made after. We were in the studio and we had already finished the album. Anand [Wilder] was messing around in the studio in one of those interim periods and he just came up with a song. I don't know, sometimes an album is just finished and we knew that. It's always weird cramming an album full of too much "stuff." You never want it to be like Method Man's second album where there's like 29 tracks on it or something. I guess that was including skits. But yeah, we had them sitting around and thought it would be cool to put them on a 7." Even though I don't think that 7-inchs are very cool to be honest.
Why is that?
They're just too small. I like the old ones but I don't think that new bands making 7-inches is that cool. I think new bands making 12-inches is cool. Something about them is very small and very punk rock, and that's not very cool to me. Well, being independent minded and spirited is cool to me but ascribing to dumb traditional things that punk rock bands do to be cool is not cool. Does that make sense?
Sure. And then you did it anyway.
And then we did it anyways!
I've noticed that you've been DJing lately, and your production has obvious influences from international dance music. What are you listening to and playing out?
I'm all over the place. It really depends from month to month or year to year. When we were making our last album I was listening to some dancehall stuff like Vybz Kartel and shit like that. And then also I was listening to '80s industrial stuff. I'm interested in both sides of that programmed drum aesthetic. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Indian music. There's a lot of stuff going on in the UK production wise too. It's cool to say there's a lot of exciting stuff coming out of the UK because there hasn't been for a while. You know, like Kode9 or the Burial production aesthetic. I think that's interesting. Like that dude Ramadanaman.
My listening habits have been skewed by the way that people are listening to music these days. You know, you get mp3s from friends or mixtapes from friends without the names of the songs on them. You could be really interested in something you hear and have no idea who it is. It's cool but it's also like, people passing around fucking USB sticks with different shit on it.
Is that new, though? As opposed to how you consumed music via mixtapes in the '90s, let's say?
In the '90s you'd write the shit down on a piece of paper and then you'd look at it a lot. There would be probably eight songs on a side and now it's like, "Hey, here's a hundred-song mix!" I always liked that mixtape culture. But back then it was likeI don't even remember what I was listening to in the '90sbut it was probably like "Listen to this Veruca Salt single!" or something.
It's also the nature of having something scribed onto a thing that you can only see when you're looking at a specific digital device. You have to go over to the iPod and push on the thing and look at it. There's no piece of paper for you to look at as you're digesting music. People should be writing tracks on a piece of paper and then wrapping it around a USB stick before they give them out. In a way, it's making it harder for people to know what they're listening to these days. There's also so much access to all this crazy music these days which is awesome.
I was listening to some songs that I was really into the other day by this band that doesn't even have a record out. They're called Purity Ringthey're kind of this new band. They sound like this high-quality, intensely weird, dancey project with this saccharine female vocals on it.
Where are they from?
I don't know. The internet! They came from the sky! That's the problemI don't remember how I got it. I think there was some unreleased 7-inch converted to mp3s but I could be making this up.
All that matters is that you're listening to them. Right?
Yeah, at least I'm listening to them. Well, I don't think that music listening will ever stop. Just the music buying. That will end in the year 2013.
That's why there's a holiday devoted to people buying records on one day out of the year.
Oh yeah, that's what Record Store Day is. Or is that Hanukkah? I guess Record Store Day is Hanukkah for indie rockers. It should be seven days long is what I think. It should be a week where you have to buy music and there should be a whole mythology behind it. That would be cool.