There is this desire for something that is a little more tactile and intimate than just another software application on your phone.
BY JACKALYNN HOWELL
Photo by eliot lee hazel
Yeasayer is a band that puts as much creativity, thought, and care into the process of making music as visual artists put into creating their next masterpiece. While they are fans of art, its history, and what drives good art, the incorporation of this appreciation is splattered throughout every element of their music from the songs themselves to the album artwork to the way they view the changes in the modern-day music industry.
Having recently dropped its fourth album Amen & Goodbye on London’s impeccably curated Mute Records, Chicago INNERVIEW spoke with Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder to get the lowdown of one of Brooklyn’s preeminent experimental rock groups.
Chicago INNERVIEW: What was the thought process behind the artwork for Amen & Goodbye?
Anand Wilder: When we were working on the album, we were trying to make an effort to include a lot of characters because we were always enamored with bands like The Beatles and David Bowie and Prince and these bands that were able to create these characterizations where they’ve created someone that’s really just as vivid as someone from a novel or a children’s book. So we were really pushing that with the lyrical content of the album, and then [Yeasayer member] Chris [Keating] had the idea that we should really incorporate some of those characters on the album cover. He was in touch with David Altmejd, who is a renowned visual artist, and asked him if he would be willing to collaborate on the album artwork. We didn’t have much of a budget but David was really enthusiastic, so we sent him some of our records and he sent us three sculptures of our heads with holes in the sides of the faces that were filled with gems and strange wigs and that really provided some inspiration for us while we were in the studio. So we gave him a list of characters from songs that we had actually described, characters from music videos, and then he came up with his own, some that he drew from current events. Like, there was [Yeasayer’s] Ira [Wolf Tuton] transitioning into Caitlyn Jenner and there was a severed Donald Trump head and he was dead set on making it into a real art installation. So a lot of these characters came from songs, religious mythology, there were a couple of authors on there, and we really just let David put it all together, which it ended up being a fantastic melange of characters. We really wanted to create some beautiful artwork to inspire people to do more than just download it.
Chicago INNERVIEW: The sales of vinyl records, in 2015, surpassed the sales of subscriptions to streaming services. Are you surprised by that?
Anand Wilder: Well, that shows that there is this desire for something that is a little more tactile and intimate than just another software application on your phone.
CI: There’s this newly arisen trend of having friends over and putting a record on that younger music fans are partaking in. Is this something you see more amongst your fans that purchase your albums on vinyl?
AW: It’s funny, you know, that’s awesome! That is definitely something I did really heavily in college but now, being a thirty-something, it’s more dinner parties and putting on a mix of something. But back then it was, ‘hey have you heard this new Can CD?’ and then you would go home with your group friends and burn them the CD. I don’t know if there’s still kids burning CDs, I think it’s more become digital or vinyl in a way, but I still really love the sound of CDs. There is something really nice about putting on a record and listening to a whole side and deciding if we want to hear that same side again or flip it over and let it continue. We always try to do both where, if you want to listen to one song, we’ve got enough jam-packed in there to make it a worthwhile listening experience. But that’s also why we include these kind of tertiary instrumental tracks on the record, because they really split up the flow nicely. It’s kind of poetic in the way we’re trying to make the album flow.
CI: You tended to this album with care and really packaged it as a full art piece. Was that your intention?
AW: We worked on really trying to piece the album together like a puzzle [to see] what would fit the best and we had some fights over it, you know, as far as what goes where. But I think we finally settled on something really nice and hopefully it came out as synergistic, not just compromise. As far as the meaning, I think it’s always open to interpretation. I think what people have always come up with deepens the meaning.