Slow but surely, fans say 'Yea!' Brooklyn's Yeasayers steadily find favor with more and more music fans
Last November during a nighttime set at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Waterloo Park, Chris Keating, lead singer for Brooklyn-based psychedelic pop band Yeasayer, asked the audience for patience as they worked their way through new material. The band was already off to a rocky start on account of delays from the previous act, Detroit punk pioneers Death, and the crowd, many of who were probably expecting to hear '2080' or 'Sunrise,' from the band's 2008 release 'All Hour Cymbals,' seemed impatient, or maybe just confused.
'What band is this?' someone asked.
'This is Yeasayer?'
It was a fair question. 'All Hour Cymbals' was a strange, compelling experiment in merging psychedelic pop, prog rock and a style that might characterized as 'world beat,' for lack of a better term. Core members Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton combined freewheeling vocals with mysterious synth lines and percussion to create a dystopian pop sound that recalled everything from Genesis to the darker side of Brian Eno/David Byrne collaborations. Critics and fans praised the debut, and the band spent the following two years on tour, where they developed the songs even more and became a not-to-miss live act for fans.
The lighter, poppier 'Odd Blood' is definitely not a rehashing of 'Cymbals.' The band's layered sound remains, as do the well-crafted songs, but listeners are more likely to want to dance this time around. On the album's first single, the upbeat, feel-good 'Ambling Alp,' the band merges an '80s dance-pop sensibility with their contemporary psychedelia to create something that is at once catchy and original. They took a similar approach with 'Love Me Girl,' incorporating elements of house music.
'We played the material from the first record for about a year or two, and pretty naturally we came to see that it made sense to make a lot of the songs more upbeat, more danceable,' bassist Tuton said by phone from his home in New York. 'We got to the second recording, and we really wanted to touch on what we thought were the classic forms of pop music and how we could engage that, going back to a lot of early '90s dance music in the way the rhythm section and the bass is produced.'
The fact that Yeasayer's two shows this weekend were rescheduled from the Parish to the larger space at La Zona Rosa are indicative of a growing fan base, but they did not enjoy the meteoric rise of fellow New York hipster posterboys Vampire Weekend (who happen to be playing Stubb's on Saturday). Instead, the band has made a name for itself more gradually, heading into their sophomore effort with a good deal of promise but not the overwhelming level of expectation that Vampire Weekend experienced.
The band recorded the album in Woodstock, N.Y., where they rented a house owned by Jerry Moratta, who made a name for himself playing drums for Peter Gabriel and others. They were looking for a space with a studio away from the distractions of the city; Moratta's collection of microphones and other recording tools were a bonus.
They also made the jump to a bigger label, Secretly Canadian, for their second release, something that Tuton says gave them access to resources that would help the band grow.
'I want to make sure that we're going to keep growing artistically, and that we are never making any compromises for anybody else, and that we are continually holding the reigns,' Tuton said. 'That's one of the reasons we went with the label we did - it's our decision, it's our career, and I want to hold on to that. If that means we grow a lot more slowly, than so be it. It's an exciting and a daunting process.'
Yeasayer with Javelin
When: Saturday and Sunday (doors at 8 p.m.)
Where: La Zona Rosa, 612 W. Fourth St.
Cost: $15 (tickets purchased when the show was at the Parish will be honored)