When I heard Yeasayer‘s first album All Hour Cymbals, I thought I was listening to a bunch of acid-addled psychopaths who lived in the woods. When I inform the band’s primary songwriters Chris Keating and Anand Wilder of this, they laugh. “We don’t,” Keating tells me. “We could do that,” Wilder says. But they don’t. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Baltimore band, comprised of Keating and Wilder, as well as Ira Wolf Tuton, Jason Trammell and Ahmed Gallab, craft spacey experimental jams that have the sort of retrofitted, futuristic feel that suggests, if not woods-dwelling, at least residence in some sort of alternate universe. Again, they live in Brooklyn. To help promote the release of their new album Fragrant World, Keating and Wilder were confined to a room in Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel and ended up giving roughly thirty interviews over the course of two days. That can get tiring, so I tried to ask them as little about their record as possible. Instead, we discussed pretty much everything else, ranging from the feeling of performing live to a room full of strangers, the actual process of getting interviewed, breakfast cereal, and whether or not it’s a good idea to look in a mirror when you’re on acid.
BULLETT: At what point did you guys give up your day jobs?
CHRIS KEATING: At this point it’s like I’m just a really bad employee. Due to years of touring, drug use, and self-important ego building.
It’s gotta be weird standing on the stage. How does that affect a person?
KEATING: I don’t know. I’ve never walked off stage and been like David Lee Roth, going, “I FUCKING RULE, I’M A MANIAC GENIUS.” Every time I walk off stage, I’m like “oh I fucked up this, I’m tired, we could have done this better,” you know.
ANAND WILDER: I always get a pretty big high off it.
Do you think that’s a fundamental difference? That you get excited and you don’t?
KEATING: I sometimes get excited but often not.
What does it take?
KEATING: I dunno. I think it has to really click. The expectation is really high, it’s really about the crowd. The crowd can just be super drunk and into it, and you say “I guess it went well.”
You guys have been booked for interviews for two days straight. Have you been enjoying them?
KEATING: The thing is, the interview is something that you’re happy people want to do, and if nobody was calling we’d be like ,”I guess it’s all over.” It’s something that I kind of dread, but once I get into it, I’m like “Oh! that was fun.”
WILDER: In an interview people realize how inane everything you have to say is, and how simplistic your grammar is, and how little you have to say.
KEATING: It all depends, you know? An interview we did an hour ago was really annoying. Certain questions, you’re like “What? It’s not that deep.” Leading questions, annoying questions. It feels like a takedown piece.
WILDER: This one girl who interviewed us, she mostly talked about herself. She had interesting volume control issues. We thought she was from the Midwest, but she was from here.
It’s interesting that you thought she was from the Midwest.
WILDER: Yeah, once I found out she grew up in New York… you can talk like anything if you’re from New York.
So what are you guys into other than making Yeasayer songs?
KEATING: Movies. I like movies probably more than I like music.
WILDER: Reading books. What are normal people into?
KEATING: I was gardening yesterday, all day.
What’s your garden situation looking like?
KEATING: A lot better than it did about six months ago. She does pretty much all of the beautification, I’m just there for brute force. There’s a whole new fence, crazy sunflowers. It’s pretty crazy. The grass is grassy, instead of this shitty gross neglected lot. Now it’s a place for us to sit. When you live in BK it’s hard to get a little serene quiet place.
How do you think that the reaction is, when people listen to your music then meet you guys? Does that match up for them?
KEATING: I think we’re more fun to hang with than many musicians. I’m somber, dull, weird.
WILDER: I’m trying to cultivate the somber, dull, and weird thing.
So many musicians are introverted. They tend to dive into their own worlds, I think.
KEATING: But then performing music is always fun. Also, a lot of people take a lot of acid.
Have you ever been on acid and looked in the mirror? I’ve heard it’s like meeting yourself for the first time.
KEATING: Oh no. That’s not good. I don’t really want to be on any drug… drugs and mirrors… drugs and introspection never end very well for me.
So tell me what the process was making this new record. What were you going for, and do you think you met it?
KEATING: I think we’re trying to make something that was a little more layered. Took a little longer to investigate, and slightly darker.
WILDER: A little more abstract. Less direct.
KEATING: I feel like we achieved that. You never feel like you’re fully done with an album. You feel like, “Oh man, I would change so much now.”
WILDER: But it’s an album. It exists, it’s out there.
KEATING: I’m happy with it. We wouldn’t let it get out if we weren’t happy with it. It’s hard to have an accurate perspective. I’m still excited to make another one. My babies.
Do you have kids?
WILDER: I have one on the way.
Congrats. Are you excited?
WILDER: Yeah, of course.
KEATING: Nobody ever says no. “I’m not even gonna bring life into this wretched world. I’m not gonna build a crib, I’m just gonna wait, it’ll probably go to college soon.”
Are you gonna be on the road when it comes?
WILDER: Hopefully not. But, you know. You never know with these things.
Are you guys pretty into straight pop?
KEATING: Sure. Depends on what it is.
Carly Rae Jepsen?
WILDER: She’s horrible.
You don’t like “Call Me Maybe?”
WILDER: I mean it’s catchy the first time… then it’s so irritating. And she has so many opportunities to change around the lyrics, she could do so many different things.
Do you think there’s a fundamental difference between making a pure pop song and what you’re doing?
KEATING: We’re making pop songs for sure. Stuff like what we do doesn’t have the insane hierarchy that that music has, where someone else wrote the song, and someone’s like, “It’s not catchy enough! It has to be catchier by the 8th second of this song.” There’s this corporate structure behind manufactured pop. Sometimes it ends up being cool, but it’s definitely a different world. We produce it ourselves and we make all the decisions, so it’s based on what we or our friends think.
What were you shooting for?
WILDER: I mean, it’s an individual thing. I don’t sit and write 10 songs in one sitting with the same lyrical conceit. It’s more “that’s a good topic, let’s write about that” It’s not a concept album.
KEATING: A concept album would probably be easy to write. It’s all about pumpkins! The life of a pumpkin! Go from there! It’s not like that. It’s like “I’m upset this day, I’m happy this day, I read this this day,” and you’re trying to filter and make sense of it all.
There’s a concept episode of “Charlie Brown.” With the Great Pumpkin.
WILDER: That’s a good one.
KEATING: Right on, the next album’s going to be about that “Charlie Brown” episode.
What are your favorite cereals?
WILDER: Homemade granola. Nah, just kidding! Corn Pops! Burn! I got you.
KEATING: COUNT CHOCULAAAAAAAAA. Nah I don’t eat cereal.
WILDER: I do eat homemade granola pretty much every day. But do I enjoy it as much as Corn Pops? No.
KEATING: You probably feel better, though.
WILDER: You know sugar cereals when you eat them it’s really good, then your mouth is all cut up and burning? Froot Loops just cut the roof of your mouth, what is that?
KEATING: Wasn’t that a “Simpsons” episode, with Jagged Metal O’s?
WILDER: He had to get it removed, right?