Brooklyn’s Yeasayer returns this week with Fragrant World, the band’s third studio album and follow-up to 2010’s Odd Blood. Recently, Consequence of Sound’s Len Comaratta caught up with guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Anand Wilder to discuss the latest album, the online blogosphere, a hypothetical alley way fight with Animal Collective, and more.
You said, “On the first album, we were picking these grand themes, and on Odd Blood, we weren’t afraid to talk about feelings and what makes us sad.” So, what’s going on with your latest album?
Oh, I think it’s kind of all over the place; there’s some grand themes, there’s political songs, story songs, there’s some personal songs, love songs, some anxiety songs. It’s kind of just a mixed bag, I would say. I don’t know if there’s any kind of cohesion to the lyrical content. It’s all reflective of being at similar places in our lives.
Odd Blood was described as beginning almost as a jump-off from where All Hour Cymbals left off. There could be an argument that “Grizelda” [final track on Odd Blood] could work as an interesting intro to the opener, “Fingers Never Bleed” on Fragrant World. Is there a conscious link between albums two and three the way there was for albums 1 and 2?
You always think about your albums in terms of the start and the finish and then the next one, so yeah, I think it would be fair to say that. It’s not like one song was written after the other or anything like that. But I think maybe they’re kind of… the percussive elements are kind of similar in the final song of Odd Blood and “Fingers Never Bleed”.
Do you think that you keep that in mind when sequencing the album?
No, I think you want to keep each album a distinct thing and make sure that it works as a sequence when you’re listening to it, but those kind of links between the last album and the next are always convenient and nice to think about.
When reading about who the song “Grizelda” was actually written about, for some reason, probably because of that Oliver Stone movie, I kept picturing Selma Hayek.
I haven’t seen it. Is Savages based on a real story?
I don’t think it’s based on a real story, but the Selma Hayek character is obviously some really vicious drug lord, and so when I was reading about Grizelda and how there was no violence really in the Miami drug trade until she showed up, I thought to myself that it’d be interesting to see if Oliver Stone would call up Yeasayer to use your music.
I know. I’m still waiting for my call from him.
Some of the songs on this new album you’ve been playing for over a year. Why so long for the actual album?
The album’s been finished for about four or five, six months now, and it’s just the bureaucracy of a record label. If it was just up to the band, we’d probably just record a song and put it out, but there’s definitely an apparatus in place that says you have to give this much lead time and you need to give singles to radio stations within this much time. I wish I could say it was completely my decision, but it’s definitely a team effort.
I understand the hurdles and obstacles that groups have to go through in order to get their music out, but sometimes it just seems to be counterproductive.
Yeah, I mean, you never know because if the album came out three months ago versus now, we never have that kind of data to compare it. It’s not too long. Obviously, I wish that the album had been out before we were touring the last few weeks, because it’s always better to play songs to people that know the songs. It’s also interesting to be able to play songs for people that have never heard them before to see how they react and to see how immediate the songs are.
Do you think when you play the songs earlier like that, testing the audience’s reaction, that it causes you to rearrange the songs possibly for later performances?
Definitely, and you can often just feel the energy of the crowd, and you can say, “Ok, we need to rework this song; it’s not exactly working.” And sometimes you can use people’s knowledge of the album as kind of a crutch.
With each album, the global sounds so often mentioned when discussing your first record have seemed to take a lesser role in the overall architecture of your music. Is that the case, or are you just getting more creative with how you incorporate the sounds?
Yeah, I think we’re just getting more creative. The first album we were very consciously trying to take a lot of influences from West African music and Indian music, and then we wanted to get away from that, but we still use a lot of interesting scale modes to create riffs. That always lends a bit of an exotic flavor to some of the sounds. So, I don’t think we’re completely away from it because we’re not just making bar band music, or we’re not trying to ape the Ramones or some kind of Americana. There’s always, whenever you try to do something that’s not blues-based… it’s always going to have a bit of a foreign flavor to it.
You and Chris [Keating] are the principle lyricists of the band, but do all of you write the music?
Yeah, pretty much. Really, on whatever song, whoever is singing, it’s generally that person’s writing and composition as well, and the band produces the whole thing, a lot of replacement of sounds.
So, you guys are hands-on in the studio for the production of the album? Would you consider yourselves producers of the album?
Definitely. That’s what we’re doing. You write the songs, but you’re also producing them from the very beginning. An exciting aspect of making music is making all the sounds.