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Interview: Anand Wilder of Yeasayer

By ; September 17, 2012 at 7:07 PM 

Beats Per Minute (Chase McMullen): I know none of you are fond of having to describe your sound in simplified terms, but inevitably Fragrant World is a growth from prior sounds, how would you describe the departure of this LP for fans new and old?

Anand Wilder: Kind of abstract dance music.

BPM: You’ve discussed a desire to reach different areas and build a different sound with each LP, so how, if at all, would you say your past records influenced Fragrant World? Or was this a conscious effort to craft something completely different?

AW: I think it’s a conscious effort to craft something completely different, and not try and repeat the successes – or failures – of the past.

BPM: I know in 9/10 interviews you’ll be forced to pick apart your influences, so I’ll try and skip over the duller areas of the question, but obviously you’ve all discussed R&B as a major facet of this record, did any particular artists or albums from that world inform the recording sessions?

AW: More of a general, kind of vibe of R&B, but you know, we’re all big R. Kelly fans, Boyz II Men fans. I had always thought that R. Kelly was just awesome, almost crossing different dimensions…but I think without trying to imitate his overtly sexual lyrics, but trying to emulate some of those mid-temp come-ons. We’ve always been real influenced by hip hop and R&B, the ways in which producers make sounds for rap music, I think it’s similar to the way that we make a bed of sound for a song we’re writing…so we’ve always been really influenced by, you know, RZA and Wu-Tang and The Neptunes. I like dance hall a lot, too. We try to get some of the like very minimal stuff, but we’re kind of a very maximalist band, so it can be difficult for us.

BPM: Marry, fuck, kill: Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and The-Dream.

AW: Did you say Marry, fuck, kill? Wait, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and The-Dream, marry, fuck, kill. Aw man, this is so weird. I mean, I like, out of all those, I like Frank Ocean, and I like The Weekend about evenly… actually no, I like Frank more. So the person you like the most is marry? I guess The Weeknd, fuck, cuz that would be really… seems… weird. (breaks down laughing) It could more of interesting kind of… one time thing. And then I guess The-Dream… kill. (laughs again) I don’t know. Is that the correct answer?


All live photos by Nick Pereslugoff

BPM: In the early press rounds last year for this LP, Chris talked about despising ‘David Guetta bullshit and recent techno’, I’ve always felt your music aims at getting people moving, and this LP seems all the more a dance record, would you say the album is consciously a direct alternative to that brand of dance music?

AW: Yeah, I think so. We were just at a festival in Germany, and there was this guy, The Gaslamp Killer, and he was DJ’ing some really interesting stuff, mixing things up with some really cool sounds – and then right before there was this other guy with really just…boring, one-dimensional sounds, and I think that a lot of that David Guetta type music is just very unimaginative.

BPM: I’m right there with you, I can’t stand Skrillex and people in that vein.

AW:Yeah, I mean Skrillex I feel like, at least, the first time I heard a Skrillex song I was like, ‘woah, this is kind of insane and all over the place’, and I think he took something that was maybe a little more nuanced and made it appealing for a broader audience. I don’t know, the Skrillex stuff I ultimately find to just be a little bit irritating, David Guetta and music like his, though, is just so derivative…boring, and simplistic. Simplistic in a really boring way. (I make a comment about recycling becoming more prominent in the rapid distribution and consumption process of online music) Yeah, it’s weird, it’s like people recycle…you know what it is, it’s kind of like the merging of commercial music and popular music, where there’s a real blurring of the line, you watch an advertisement, ‘Wait, what is this song? Is this a Black Keys song or a blues song or is it some guy in a commercial music house writing it to sound like a Black Keys song? (I mention finding it odd to constantly hear Modest Mouse in ads) “Yeah, Modest Mouse. I mean, I’m not mad at artists for being on commercials at all, it’s just this very weird era where like you know there’s this Modest Mouse song where Wiz Khalifa… No wait, I think it was Lupe Fiasco, I think.

BPM: Yep, he sampled “Float On.”

AW: Yeah, he samples it, and I thought, ‘Does he know about…’, I don’t know, it seems too recent to be sampling a song from 2006. It’s all very strange…but then, the David Guetta thing; it’s weird because he’s just sort of standing there, and it doesn’t seem like he’s even putting in much effort…it really just kind of plays to your most primitive receptors in your brain…you know, ‘filter sweep and floor-to-the-floor kick drum,’ and really compressed, and squashed to sound like it’s coming from a small radio, but it’s just music you’re supposed to dance to like an idiot when you’re really drunk.

BPM: If Fragrant World were a friend of yours, how would you introduce or describe them?

AW: I would say that she’s a little bit unhinged, a little schizophrenic, could be really nice one second and really angry the next moment, a very creative dancer… maybe a little bipolar, but probably more schizophrenic.

BPM: Getting a bit more particular – not that anyone with a brain has ever been particularly fond of him, but with the Killer Mike record and so on, I feel like Reagan as the villain has become a popular tool for 2012, as what kind of device would you say he’s intended on “Reagan’s Skeleton”?

AW: Oh, you know, I think that songs just kind of about the deification of Ronald Reagan, and how he’s seen as this sort of saintly figure for half of the country, it’s just kind of a silly story song, an anecdotal song about a séance of ultra-conservative, tea party type people just blind in their love of Ronald Reagan.

BPM: Fragrant World is releasing on blue marble vinyl, and some of the singles have come in glitter & glow in the dark vinyl, how much thought do you all put into the physical features of an album, and how would you say it impacts listener experience?

AW: I don’t think it really impacts the listener experience, I think you can have just as genuine experience just listening on your Ipod, but I think it’s another interesting experience of putting out a record, especially in this day and age where you really don’t have to put out a record, at least in that it’s not the only technology we have disseminating our music, but it kind of shows an extra kind of…not effort, appreciation for the recorded music if you put a little effort into the artwork and packaging…I think it’s also nostalgic too, because for us, we grew up with the physical copy being so important, whether the CD, or the vinyl, or the tape cassette, it has this kind of tangible quality to it that is sort of lost when everything is just uploaded to iTunes.

BPM: Yeah, my nephew couldn’t understand me bothering to build a physical collection on vinyl.

AW: Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to have 500 records, or 500 DVDs when you can have it all on a hard drive, but…I guess it’s just the area where we’re going, having everything on your computer, on Kindle, it’s a piece of technology just as much that a book was a piece of technology that replaced handwritten scrolls. We’re that generation that grew up with something old that’s been replaced, and it’s probably just nostalgia.

BPM: For something unrelated to the new album, some of you linked up with Natasha Khan for Two Suns, did you all get together again for her new LP? Are there any plans with her in the future?

AW: No, Chris and Ida were working with her for a couple of songs, I didn’t actually have anything to do with that, but she actually worked with the same guy who mixed our record, so there’s a connection there, he worked with her on Bat for Lashes.

BPM: Ok, just a personal question, you guys have mentioned a few rap favorites in the past, Tribe and Young Jeezy and so on, did any particular MC rob off on you all whether generally or regarding the way you make albums?

AW: I think the recent Kanye stuff has been pretty inspiring; he’s been doing some cool stuff, especially with the production, but as far as lyrically, we can’t really pull off many similarities, the goals of hip hop lyrics are obviously very different (laughs).

BPM: Is Detox ever coming out?

AW: (without pause) What’s Detox? Oh, I don’t really care. Dr. Dre’s kind of a one trick pony, isn’t he? It was a great trick for a while, you know I like his work on early ’90s stuff, Snoop’s stuff, Eminem’s stuff…he did some of 50’s stuff, too, right? But I’m probably more into production on OutKast records. Yeah, that’s some of the best shit ever, and the profile is so much lower for some reason… those guys are ATL, right? You’re from Atlanta? I was doing a photoshoot the other day, and it must have been like a greatest hits OutKast album, because they were playing stuff from SouthernCadillacPlayalisticWhatever to “Ms. Jackson” and I was just like, ‘This band? They’re the best. The best.’ They’re the Beatles of the ’90s and 2000s, you know?”

BPM: What is the single best venue you’ve played? By audience or the location itself, your call.

AW: Best venue… hmm… really, I’m partial to New York venues, I really love Music Hall at Williamsburg, Slow Down in Omaha is really nice, San Francisco has a lot of really great things, I really can’t pick any one place, too many great venues.

BPM: Something I’ve often wondered about when a band is releasing a new album: do you get a feeling of completion that lasts you for a tad and relax and watch the LP play out, or does the need to create, to forge ahead, immediately return?

AW: There’s a sense of accomplishment, a sense of productivity, but then you need to start touring. It’s not manual labor, but the closest thing we have to working with our hands and bodies is going back on tour, you start singing again every night, have to keep your voice in good health. So I know that then, the touring experience, will – at least for me – give me the need to do something new, to create again. It’s really just a cycle.


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