Waiting for the winter with Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder


Interview for The Skinny

Just over a year ago I spoke to Yeasayer singer Chris Keating, and, as well as stories of hanging out with Beck and crossing fingers for Barack, he had this to say about his band’s recording plans: “On the last record I feel like we made a lot of mistakes, but I’m happy with the way it came out… we don’t want to remake that record, but we don’t want to start from scratch either.”

Skip forward to September 2009, and guitarist Anand Wilder confirms that the band are putting the finishing touches to the long-awaited follow-up to All Hour Cymbals. “We’ve almost finished it. We had our last celebratory day of mixing yesterday and then we’re shooting a music video in LA in the next few days, and then we come back and then we’re doing recalls of the mixes and hopefully we’ll be able to finalise it by the end of this week.”

But how have the Baltimore-via-Brooklyn psych-funk scientists been occupying themselves for a whole year? Well, they contributed a new song for the Dark Was the Night charity compilation, Keating and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton worked on Bat For Lashes own second album, and Wilder started composing a suitably far-out sounding musical. From February, however, the three founding members of Yeasayer (drummer Luke Fasano has fallen by the wayside) finally turned their attention to their sophomore LP. “Um, well it took a long time because we basically had a lot more time to spare, and we had a little bit more money to play with,” Wilder says. “We weren’t working jobs or anything, so we pretty much just bunkered down in Woodstock, New York.”

The setting, aside from any obvious hippy connotations, had the facilities the band needed. “It was a house in the middle of nowhere, but it belonged to this guy who used to drum for all these big huge acts like Hall and Oates and Peter Gabriel,” Wilder recalls. “So he had tonnes of amazing microphones, all these different guitars, all these drums… It was the perfect environment for experimenting. All the songs went through many different stages, we’d scrap ‘em and start over again.”

After three months of no-pressure experimentation, the band gauged public reaction to the new songs at summer festivals like Bonnaroo and Pitchfork, before going back to hone the raw material. Again, they enjoyed a new-found freedom. “I think the last record was like a series of good ideas,” Wilder says. “I think people got it, they thought, oh they’re combining these different genres and playing with it, but I don’t know if necessarily it ever sounded that great. With this one we’re really focusing on each individual sound being perfect and stripping it down… We’re kinda getting over that whole ‘wall of sound’ thing, and trying to do something that’s lush but a little bit sparer, a little bit more pleasing to your ears.”

Despite the current trend for novel release methods, from pay-what-you-choose to coffee shop record deals, the band want to keep it old-fashioned. “I’m hoping it’s normal!” Wilder laughs. “With the last record we still don’t have vinyl to sell on our tour… So for me I’ll be impressed if, on the day our album comes out, we have vinyl, we have a CD to sell, it’s all up on iTunes, and we have a new website. I’ll be really happy to just think, oh we are a real band!”

As for a working title, Wilder stays tight-lipped. “We do have one but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about it. It’s something very different, it’s good… It won’t be a surprise let’s just put it that way.” So no album title, no details of a new record deal (although the US/European labels “will be revealed pretty soon”) and no due date more accurate than early 2010. What is relatively certain is that Yeasayer will support Bat For Lashes at a couple of shows in Scotland this month, and Wilder will have some words with Natasha Khan: “I didn’t do anything on her record so I’m gonna have to give her a hard time for not asking me!”

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