Yeasayer: Apocalyptic Dance Party
- Words: Robbie Mackey
The world is about to end.
But at the moment the apocalypse hardly ranks on Anand Wilder’s list of concerns. The Yeasayer guitarist has been touring Europe for two weeks now, which means 14 days of dropping eight bucks a pop on Whopper Juniors. Eight bucks. A price so steep that the exchange rate will do him in just fine if the A-bomb doesn’t.
“Seriously, this English tour is killing us, man,” Wilder laughs, wrapping up a soundcheck at The Catch Bar in London. “The fucking pound…”
His lighthearted candor comes as a bit of a surprise considering Yeasayer’s debut, All Hour Cymbals, is an obtuse set, as comfortable trading in Eastern-tinged psych-pop or hippie-fied Krautrock as it is in gnarled gospel and sample-laden indie rock. The one unifier is a blanket of anxiety and fear of the future. So when Wilder goes from bemoaning the pound to recounting a night of drinking games with Welsh frat boys, I’m even more shocked.
But why? The idea of diversion from despair–à la the squalor-obscuring veil of Bollywood cinema, or the toothy celebration of Zimbabwean guitarist Thomas Mapfumo–is central to the Yeasayer universe, both in substance and sound. It’s fitting then, that our 45-minute chat runs the gamut from serious to silly to mundane–from discussing waxy English produce and fantastic breakfasts, to the best books about global warming and the band’s seeming preoccupation with the end of the world.
“There’s this sense of extreme emotions, and extreme ups and extreme downs [in our music],” says Wilder. “We’re not just trying to replicate our boring suburban, middle-class lives, you know? We’re trying to escape into something. We’ve always had a sense for melodrama.”
Much like Wilder, Cymbals is at once concerned with rejoicing and The End, reality and escaping from it. In less capable hands, this could have been a blatant pop album, or one long cautionary tale. But it’s both and neither, chafing in wonderful ways and turning a looming apocalypse into an all-hours dance party.
“It’s funny that people have been focusing on our lyrics so much,” says Wilder. “We don’t really consider ourselves lyricists or poets or anything like that. We’ve always been more concerned with the hook, with making it memorable. But if you can sneak a few subversive lyrics in there, then so much the better.”
Wilder’s modesty undersells the vitality and importance of Yeasayer’s message: that we might as well dance until our time’s up, or, as he puts it, “face disaster with a positive outlook.”
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