When I started out, I thought that connecting with individuals through music was the most important thing. For me, connecting was meant to be intimate. This connection seemed to be lost as the music became more widespread and, concurrently, conversations about music became often vapid and a bit self-serving. That is, the whole thing seemed to lose its authenticity. Reducing to the living room format, I was able to regain that sense of intimacy, meet a lot of good and interesting people, and remember why I began doing this in the first place.
BY ERIN MALYSA
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s 2005 self-titled release almost broke the blogosphere with instant breathless acclaim from pretty much every indie media outlet on Earth to big-time musicians like David Bowie and David Byrne, who you might even be so lucky as to spot in the crowd at one of their early shows. The band’s upbeat indie rock sound and pleadingly melodic vocals became signatures of the group, which reached the peak of its success with that debut. Over the past 10 years, it’s been largely downhill as the band has seen anniversary tours, lineup changes and eventually the paring down of members to its one original, Alec Ounsworth. But that doesn’t mean CYHSY isn’t still enjoying the ride.
On the eve of the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album The Tourist, Chicago INNERVIEW hit up Ounsworth with some burning questions about the new album, the band’s living room tours, and what’s next.
Chicago INNERVIEW: The sound of The Tourist is a bit of a departure from your earlier work, especially your first three albums. What was the impetus behind creating this album?
Alec Ounsworth: I don’t think it’s too much of a departure. None of the albums really sound the same, which I prefer, but they also don’t sound entirely different. I’d rather not talk too much about the impetus. I think you can hear for yourself on the album.
Chicago INNERVIEW: You had an anniversary tour where you celebrated and played songs from your 2005 self-titled album. What was it like going back and playing songs from that album?
Alec Ounsworth: It wasn’t too unfamiliar. I have been playing those songs here and there for years. The only difference really was playing the songs in order rather than peppered throughout the set.
CI: It’s been a few years since you recorded a Clap Your Hands record. What were you working on between albums?
AO: I have been touring frequently. Outside of that, I have been writing more and more.
CI: Did playing that anniversary tour influence this new album?
AO: I don’t think so. I think other shows and tours might have informed the new album a bit more, because I more often incorporated material from the four albums as well as from the two others not called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. In a way, this album has combined elements from the previous six.
CI: What would you like your fans to take away from The Tourist? Or did you create it as more of a release?
AO: If you listen to it, you will be able to take away what you need. I don’t mean to be facetious, but I can’t rightly speak to how an individual should react and I’d rather not suggest anything.
CI: In terms of shows, I see that you played a series of shows where the venue would be a fan’s living room. Where did you come up with that idea? What do you like about these shows?
AO: When I started out, I thought that connecting with individuals through music was the most important thing. For me, connecting was meant to be intimate. This connection seemed to be lost as the music became more widespread and, concurrently, conversations about music became often vapid and a bit self-serving. That is, the whole thing seemed to lose its authenticity. Reducing to the living room format, I was able to regain that sense of intimacy, meet a lot of good and interesting people, and remember why I began doing this in the first place.
CI: Do you find it hard or comforting to be the singer/songwriter/all around musician on these albums? Is it isolating or freeing to you?
AO: I find it pretty difficult sometimes, but I have and have had some really talented musicians to help me out along the way. In the beginning of a song when it’s just me hammering away at variations on a particular theme, it can be isolating and difficult. When it starts to open up and I can really hear what is happening and hear everyone working toward the same end together, it is liberating.
CI: What’s next for you?
AO: I’m working on the next album, of course!