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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, back in action

Peter Mongillo

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah performs at 7:25 p.m. Friday on the Orange Stage.

In 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah self-released a self-titled album that spread around the Internet at what seemed like the speed of lightning. The music was fresh and propulsive, an inspired mix of danceable hooks and frontman/songwriter Alec Ounsworth's nasally yelp. As those things tend to go, the follow-up record was fairly forgettable compared with the debut, and after that the band took a break. Now they're back with a new album, "Hysterical," and a different approach that has injected life back into the band.

This isn't the band's first appearance at Fun Fun Fun Fest; they were here back in 2008, nearly two years after the release of sophomore album "Some Loud Thunder." At that point, it already seemed that the band was losing steam. Reviews of the second album lacked the enthusiasm of the first, in part because it wasn't as accessible, with a darker, experimental approach replacing the well-crafted pop songs of the debut.

It was hard not to see the lukewarm response to the record as the reason the group went away a few months later (despite a show at the University of Texas Forty Acres Festival later that spring), although Ounsworth says that it was never the band's intention to quit for good.

"I don't know that we had ever planned to cancel the project altogether, I don't think that was ever discussed," he says.

Ounsworth has a reputation for taking the opposite route than people might expect. "Some Loud Thunder" could be evidence of this, a songwriter refusing to offer more of the elated rock that originally drew a large fan base. He also avoids the indie music hype machine that is the Internet, even though it was the very medium that helped launch his career.

"It's kind of odd, but I never even really went around reading reviews in magazine," Ounsworth says. "I'm introduced to music by friends, and it sort of picks up from there. To me it's a little bit more of a magical experience than me sitting alone in front of a screen."

During their time away from the band, Ounsworth and his bandmates pursued side projects. In 2009, Ounsworth released a solo album, "Mo Beauty," in which he collaborated with New Orleans musicians including Meters bassist George Porter Jr. He also was involved with Flashy Python, a group consisting of members of Philadelphia bands Dr. Dog and Man Man as well as a member of the Walkmen.

CYHSY was never completely out of the picture, though, with Ounsworth writing new material meant for the band. Earlier this year they announced the new album. "It seemed time, there is a certain style to that project that I can't necessarily do with others, and I was ready to do that again, and everybody else seemed to be as well," Ounsworth says.

"Hysterical" is more of a rock album than past efforts, seizing on bigger aspects of Ounsworth's writing style. The band enlisted producer John Congleton, who also produced St. Vincent's new album, "Strange Mercy," among others. It's their third producer in as many albums.

Another change for the band was a unified recording process. In the past, Ounsworth worked on his end from his home city of Philadelphia while the rest of the band worked from the indie rock hub of Brooklyn. This time, everyone was in the same place at the same time.

"Getting back to (the band) was a matter of making sure everyone was comfortable, so I stood back a little more, and let everyone duke it out," Ounsworth says. "I got to understand to a larger degree what everybody's likes and dislike are, you come to understand people's instincts a little bit better."

As the band preps for a tour that will take them west to Portland, Ore., and then on to Australia, Asia and Europe, Ounsworth seems happy with the way it turned out.

"At the end of the day with the first record and with the second, we arrived at something that was appealing to us and it kind of just led toward the third in a pretty natural way."

pmongillo@statesman.com

Also on the Orange Stage

FRIDAY

TV Torso, 12:30 p.m. Former members of Sound Team make stripped-down pop rock.

Canon Blue, 1:05 p.m. Hazy electronic folk from Daniel James is American music via Northern Europe; James has recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Iceland.

Jim Ward, 1:40 p.m. Solo acoustic material from former singer/guitarist for El Paso's Sparta and At the Drive-In.

Cloud Nothings, 2:20 p.m. Breezy indie rock from Cleveland-based Dylan Baldi; for fans of Real Estate and lo-fi inclined indie rockers.

Ocote Soul Sounds, 3:05 p.m. Latin electro funk from Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma) and Martín Perna (Antibalas).

Heartless Bastards, 3:55 p.m. Austin-based grit-rock led by Erica Wennerstrom, whose vocals recall Austin's newest resident, classic rock icon Robert Plant.

The Thermals, 4:45 p.m. Portland-based indie rock/punk trio have cleaned up their sound a bit in recent years but still make driving, punk-influenced rock.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, 5:35 p.m. This funk/soul/R&B outfit is one of Austin's most successful recent exports, with Lewis' James Brown-style howl matched by hard to deny horn hooks.

Okkervil River, 6:30 p.m. Formerly Austin-based singer-songwriter Will Sheff writes clever, if wordy, rock songs that have way getting stuck in your head.

Passion Pit, 8:30 p.m. Boston indie pop group first showed up in Austin during SXSW with a bedroom EP and quickly blew up after that with high-flying synth anthems.

SATURDAY

Maneja Beto, 12:10 p.m. Self-described "Indie En Español" from Austin combines elements of Latin music with contemporary indie rock sounds.

Keep Shelly in Athens, 12:45 p.m. Electronica from Greece that can be both languid and dramatic

Future Islands, 1:20 p.m. Baltimore synth-pop group combines gritty vocals with sweeter-sounding electronic music; imagine Tom Waits covering David Bowie.

Joe Lally, 1:55 p.m. Solo material from one half of Fugazi's rhythm section.

Tinariwen, 2:30 p.m. Malian band formed in the late '70s has moved toward powerfully restrained acoustic music on their latest albums, which include collaborations with members of TV on the Radio and Wilco's Nels Cline.

The Joy Formidable, 3:15 p.m. British rockers with a penchant for soaring, epic songs and shoegazey distortion.

Tune-Yards, 4 p.m. San Francisco indie pop group draws from Afro-pop and David Byrne to create music packed with strange rhythms that erupt into fits of frenzy.

Ra Ra Riot, 4:45 p.m. Like Vampire Weekend, this indie rock band formed in 2006 at Syracuse University makes sunny, upbeat pop influenced by club-friendly new wave.

M83, 5:35 p.m. Spearheaded by French indie pop musician Anthony Gonzales, M83 is spacey electronic rock, much of which would be at home in the work of John Hughes, who Gonzales has said is an influence.

Girls, 6:30 p.m. San Francisco indie rock band followed their strong 2009 debut with this year's "Father, Son, Holy Ghost," an album that pulsates with the energy of its '70s rock forebears.

Lykke Li, 7:25 p.m. Swedish pop phenom combines experimental beats, elements of '60s psych rock and electronic music to make always-catchy, sometimes-sad dance music.

Spoon, 8:30 p.m. Hometown favorites with a sound that ranges from Krautrock to R&B haven't played a single North American show in 2011, so this will be big for fans looking for a fix.

Sunday

Crooks, 12:15 p.m. Austin-based country band hearkens back to Hank and other more traditional fare.

Lemuria, 12:45 p.m. Punk-influenced duo from Buffalo, N.Y., that counts bands like the Lemonheads and Hüsker Dü among their influences.

Le Butcherettes, 1:20 p.m. Garage punk trio fronted by Guadalajara native Teri Gender Bender, who have earned praise from Karen-O of the Yeah Yeahs and elsewhere.

Asobi Seksu, 1:55 p.m. Brooklyn-based indie rock band has moved past early shoe-gaze influences like My Bloody Valentine, but the textured soundscapes remain.

We Were Promised Jetpacks, 2:30 p.m. Part of the Scottish invasion of recent years led by bands including Frightened Rabbit, Jetpacks play stripped down rock songs, which, like their contemporaries, often move from restraint to moments of intensity.

Mates of State, 3:20 p.m. Keys and drums duo of husband and wife Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner make elated pop.

The Budos Band, 4:10 p.m. Staten Island instrumental band drawing from Afro-pop, funk and soul.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, 5 p.m. D.C./Jersey punk veteran has released consistently good, politically charged solo material that stretches out into the worlds of power pop, folk, reggae, noise and beyond.

Architecture in Helsinki, 5:50 p.m. Australian pop group channels George Michael with plenty of feel-good synth and danceable beats.

Hum, 6:45 p.m. Illinois indie rockers, who got their start in the early '90s and had a hit with "Stars," make music that is droning and explosive.

Slayer, 8:15 p.m. "Big Four" metal gods bring the festival to a new level this year.