Q&A: Yeasayer On Fragrant World, Not Being A New Band, And Casting The "Brooklyn Band" Movie

Yeasayer, "Henrietta"

This record doesn't seem as poppy or hook-driven as Odd Blood. Is that a purposeful decision you made going into this Fragrant World?

Tuton: I think there is actually a lot more hooks, but they just might be a little more subverted, as opposed to it being the singular hook of the song. I think there's a lot more parts that transition into focal points of different sections. That's just the way I hear it. Either way, it's a different approach, certainly, either way that you hear it while you listen to it.

What does that approach allow you to do sonically with the record?

Wilder: I think a lot of the last album was a lot of direct messages. You could really say that, OK, this is the grand statement for that one song. Whereas this one we were trying to go for something a little bit more intangible. I think that was just exciting for us, to not be obsessing over this one phrase to make it the most catchy thing. I think it's just something that's a bit more open to interpretation.

Tuton: I also think it's something that's a bit more lasting for a listener, because you continually discover different parts to it and facets of a recording of a piece that aren't immediate upon a first, second, third listen. I think that's the exciting thing about a lot of the music I love, and why I continue to like it. Certainly, there's music I love that I love for a week and then I've got the point. But the lasting stuff is stuff that I can continually discover certain parts, or re-discover parts that I forgot, that one point was a focal point of mine that I was drawn to.

Is making less accessible music a way of combating our fast consumer culture?

Tuton: I'd certainly rather make this kind of music than that. We're in a game where we're trying to have a lasting existence, you know. We have three albums now; I'd like to think that they are testaments to a time and place, and for us, each one of them is an artistic testament. Certainly you want those to be more lasting than immediately bubble-gummy and one and done. That's just an approach. I mean, to each his own. Next record, it's all going to be super immediate, one and done, *snaps fingers*, be super successful, then we retire.

Wilder: I mean, it's not like we're trying to be completely obtuse. There's still a big goal to make songs memorable and distinct. Each song should have its own character and personality.

Your music falls on these ears as a bit chaotic. How does a sound like that affect the listener?

Wilder: I don't know. With a chaotic sound, you're challenging the listener but you're also trying to give them something that they hadn't heard before. Everybody's heard a guitar playing a riff, but if it's a weird backwards flute playing a riff, that's just a little bit more interesting--especially if it's, you know, in a different context than you'd hear a backwards flute.

Tuton: I don't really hear chaos. It's heavy arrangements. I think it's more just trying to approach that in a creative, non-traditional way that could be more engaging than the expected, comfortable way that you're used to hearing, like, well, here's the guitar solo section. Here's the vamp. I think we can play with so many layers and switches and all those dynamics are fun.

Wilder: I always think that we could be way more chaotic.

Tuton: I actually think we're pretty heavily arranged. Pretty tight.

How do you define that line of arrangement?

Wilder: Sometimes you get too carried away with the technology and getting the sounds to sound so crazy and ridiculous that you realize that, accidentally, let's say you're mixing a few elements, you might realize that the song is served much better if it's stripped down and simplified. It comes back to trusting your ears and saying, "Oh, we worked so hard at making this one sound crazy, but really, all you need to hear is the vocal and the bass and the drumbeat and it's fine." And it actually makes the song as a whole much more dynamic. Sometimes it helps if you step back and listen to the whole song, maybe listen to a couple songs in a row, and give yourself some perspective on where you've gone a little overboard.

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