Yeasayer – At O.N.E. with the Mystics

Yeasayer’s Chris Keating introduces the tripped out video for O.N.E. from their stellar sophomore album, Odd Blood

Music Incoming
Photos by Jason Nocito
Hooded horseback riders, homoerotic boxers, lead singer Chris Keating getting a particularly intense face massage and naked bodies worshipping a giant metallic fist;  these are just a few elements from the video accompanying Ambling Alp that announced Brooklyn band Yeasayer’s return to the music scene earlier this year. The song may take inspiration from the obscure Italian boxer, Primo Carnera but with its euphoric chorus of “Stick up for yourself, son, never mind what anyone else does” is destined to rule the summer festivals this year.

If their widely admired debut album All Hour Cymbals came from a place of anxiety about the impending apocalypse (on songs like ‘2080’ and ‘Sunrise’), Odd Blood finds the band looking inwardly, examining personal relationships. The music however is anything but introspective; joyously mashing rave, cascading 80’s synths, Middle Eastern harmonies and otherworldly textures into exciting new forms of pop music. Dazed Digital caught up with Chris Keating as he introduces the video for their triumphant disco belter ‘O.N.E.’ directed by hotly tipped video directing duo, Radical Friend.

Dazed Digital: The title is very evocative – where did that come from?
Chris Keating: I just liked the way they sounded. The first album was heady, intellectual and ethereal.  With this one, I   wanted the rhythms of heartbeats and the title reflects that. It’s not necessarily dance music but it’s inspired by those rhythms. And then I liked that it sort of sounds like future slang.

DD: You holed up in upstate New York to record the album – how did the surroundings filter into the making of the record
Chris Keating: Yeah, we moved out of New York into this place upstate for three months while we made the album. It was like we had to move to the city to make our nature sounding record and we had to move away to make our city record! But it was great to be isolated. We recorded it in the home of Jerry Marotta who was in Peter Gabriel’s band – there were gold records on the floor and  vintage synthesizers everywhere. We were like kids in a candy store.

DD: Your approach is experimental. What are some of the mistakes you made which you kept on this record?
Chris Keating: Good mistakes are the best thing you can do in terms of art. All the beautiful abstract things you get in art you can get in music. When you’re running things through different effects and filters and pitching things around, you’ll start hearing weird things and we’d say, “That’s where we should go.”

DD: How did you find you made a leap from the last album?
Chris Keating: We charted out the defining elements of our last album and stripped those away, to see what was at the core and fill it back in, fill those holes with new sounds. I’m a huge fan of dance music, that’s a production style I like a lot. People like J Blaze, DJ Premier, Mobb Deep. So that’s in the mix. But then also trying to incorporate Chaka Khan and Madonna, the more pop stuff.

DD: Do you get frustrated with tags like “new age”, “psychedelic” and “mystical”?
Chris Keating: I don’t mind that. It was at least something different. At least it wasn’t hippie – such a broad stupid term. I never begrudged people giving us a title. I’ve heard people compare us to Enya! We didn’t set out to sound like a specific thing, but we knew what we didn’t want to sound like. In the end, we were open to everything.
The first album and tracks like ‘2080’ were about the apocalypse. But here the songs sound a lot more personal.
That was one of things we wanted to write about, because we were working from a pop context, one of the strongest defining elements of that genre is the love song. From a personal point of view, we’re all in relationships now and writing in a starry-eyed, romantic way came more easily. It was a reaction against the more electronic sound of the record.

DD: Are you more optimistic then?
Chris Keating: I’m still a cynical prick! Optimism and pessimism go hand in hand.

DD: One of the weirdest places you’ve played must have been at Erin Wasson’s show during New York Fashion Week – how did that come about?
Chris Keating: She’s a pretty rad girl. She got in touch with us. I was psyched to do it. Well, she had Gang Gang Dance play last year. We played in a carpet shop ten times the size of most other venues we’ve played – it was filled with every sort of rug imaginable and all these fancy fashion people were sitting on it.
 
DD: Please tell us what videomakers Radical Friend were smoking when they made your videos
Chris Keating: You should meet them – Kirby (Maclure, one half of the duo) is one tripped-out cat! We are interested in pushing the boundaries of aesthetics in different directions. Lots of time they get interpreted as psychedelic ‘cos that’s a broad term. We didn’t want it to look like anything else.  Personally I’d like a video that would never end, and just play on a continuous loop.

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