Yeasayer, always full of surprises, recently dropped their new album Fragrant World via an online scavenger hunt. Now they’re on tour and bringing their experimental proclivity to life with a new kind of stage and light show. Our very own Hilary had the chance to talk to bassist Ira Wolf Tuton about the new album, tour, and how they’re spending election day. Read the interview after the jump and make sure you catch them at the 9:30 Club November 14th.
STREAM: Yeasayer – “Henrietta”
You just released a new album, Fragrant World. With each album, you guys have redefined your sound pretty substantially. How do these sound transformations happen–is it one person driving the direction or everyone working organically?
I think it can be both of those things. We definitely influence each other. At the base level there’s a concerted effort to keep the interest and excitement in what we’re doing; we don’t want to regurgitate the same thing we’ve been doing. That’s been our approach from the beginning. Even before we had any albums, our approach was to make music that excited us in a way that wasn’t really driven in a singular style.
So would you say the direction is influenced more by a reaction to what’s happening in the world or within the band as your own artistic styles evolve?
I don’t think there’s any rule to that. I think it can be all of the above. We all have a similar approach to making music in that we don’t have any rules or constructs. I think once you start to do that it can stop being fun and anytime we did start doing that it started becoming less enjoyable. So you have to look for different things you can approach, different things that you can be influenced by, because that is the exciting thing about making music: There are no rules there are no walls no boundaries. Except those that you put on yourself.
Can you talk some more about the release of fragrant world and your decision to release the album as a digital scavenger hunt?
We basically started and owe our career to the power of the internet and the way people use it to obtain music. Now people just assume that your album is going to leak ahead of time and people will get it before you intend them to. We basically wanted to control that and do it in an interesting way, so preemptively obtaining our music could be more exciting and intriguing for both us and also our fans. so we asked Yoshi Sodeoka to do the silo TV things which I think were really exciting for us. it was really a privilege to work with people there, very talented in their own fields to augment what we are doing.
You’re taking experimentation to a new level on this tour with a new immersive light show. How did you bring this to life?
We teamed up with Creators Project, and they linked us with a few different artists. We were back and forth about ideas for a live show. It was exciting because [software art pioneer] Casey [Reas] is a guy who is on the top of his game and we have this opportunity to work with these incredibly talented people. It’s also exciting for a band of our size to do something this elaborate; The visual part of our show has always been very important to us as part of the overall experience. We’ve never just tried to be a few guys on stage banging on guitars, we don’t really idolize that romanticism. So we just went with it and we have what I think is going to be a really, really exciting touring show. I think it’s going to be fantastic.
So is it fair to say you all value music more as an immersive experience, not something to listen to in the background?
I mean, I think there’s a time and place for listening to listening to music by yourself, like if you’re doing the dishes. Like what I’d be doing if I weren’t talking to you. Music can be for all different moods. You can be nostalgic if you remember a song from some tragic part of life or some really enjoyable part of your life, and it can be everything from something incredibly meaningful to something that feels like you put a piece of bubble gum in your mouth for a quick fix.
Do you think about the listener when you write music? How much of what you do is based on the “user experience” versus what you just what to get out there in the world?
What our music means for the listener, that’s up to the listener. Once we put it out there, it’s out of our hands. It’s much different than the live show–the live show, we definitely want to take control by creating an immersive environment. We want to capture that joy with what we’re doing onstage and what the people in the audience are doing, that collective experience.
With the albums, you can’t control how people will listen to it, and that’s what I like about it, that personal experience.
So what’s next for Yeasayer?
What’s next for Yeasayer is we vote on November 6. Four years later, we have the same arguments and vote again.