Progress Report

Progress Report: Yeasayer

NAME: Yeasayer
PROGRESS REPORT: Recording their followup to 2007’s All Hour Cymbals in Woodstock, New York.

“There’s some music that can make you feel happy and good, and there’s some that can make you feel inadequate, like you’re not cool enough to be listening to that music. I want to go for that,” says Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder. And that’s just one way Yeasayer is completely different from nearly every other band I’ve talked to about recording. Some of the others ways: they don’t want to recreate their live sound. They don’t plan on using some of the elements that were the best parts of their debut album, and Wilder is eating a peanut butter, jelly, and cheddar sandwich. But once he explains the band’s ideas on writing and recording, they all make sense. Except for the cheddar.

Yeasayer have a lot of time to think about their second album. They are a couple weeks into a three-month recording block at their rented studio home in Woodstock, NY. Like John Vanderslice, the band found their nonstop touring awful for writing new songs. Back home they had too many distractions. “We wanted to be in a place where you couldn’t go home every night, but close enough so that a trip up there wouldn’t kill you,” Wilder says. The band stumbled on an amazing find: a musically-stocked, modern-but-rustic home for rent two hours north of the city. The house, which is owned by a former session drummer for Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, and Hall and Oats, has a wood stove, enough bedrooms for the band, and a complete recording studio full of instruments like a Hammond organ, “drawers full of pedals,” gamelans, and koto drums. It’s easy to walk to, but semi-isolated (bassist Ira Wolf Tuton had to sleep with the lights on when he was alone). “We really lucked out,” Wilder says. “We can’t make excuses anymore.”

They’ve already used some of the instruments, though Wilder insists that they won’t use analog sounds just for the sake of using analog. ‘We’re very computer-based. We’re not purists in any way. If a Protools plug-in can achieve the same kind of sound as an analog effect, then we’ll use it,” he explains. “People say Yeasayer is much better live and has more energy. But for us it’s about getting a recording we’re happy with and then replicating that in a live setting, but making the two things very distinct.” In fact, the two new songs they’ve been playing live, “Ambling Alp” and “Lovely Girl,” will undergo major changes. Even the band’s beautifully layered vocals are under review, because they’re eager to try doing just one, polished vocal track on a song.

As for out-cooling their listeners, the goal is really to take them out of their niche. Wilder compares it to how he felt listening to rap when he was a kid, realizing that he was listening to something totally removed from his experience. But so much of indie rock is based on how well you can relate to the band. “I think when you work in that context you’re in a bubble of nerdiness,” he says. “If you were to play some of your songs to someone who was a normal, middle-American person, they would say ‘What is this garbage? Gimme some Coldplay.’ So I want to make songs that don’t just appeal to a certain niche, but that actually can appeal to that niche or alienate that niche and appeal to something much greater than that.” How great? “There’s always some songs that we think, ‘We’ll save it for our fourth record, when we really just want to get on the radio. That’s just a little too sugary.’ Then we’ll turn on the radio and be like, ‘What are we talking about? We’ll never be this cheesy.'”

You can keep track of Yeasayer at their studio blog odd-blood.blogspot.com. They also gave us some photos and this short, freaky video to share with you. It was titled valkimer.mov.

Yeasayer – “2080” (MP3)

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