Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Interview
Oh Yeah They Did!
Along time ago (2001) in a galaxy far, far away
(New York City), a little band named Yeah Yeah Yeahs started to build buzz for
their wild shows, which featured the ridiculously-attired, beer-spitting Karen
O. Her bandmates, Nick Zinner on guitar and Brian Chase on drums, matched her
chaotic delivery with an equally raw and fun edge to their performance. Pegged
as members of the "New Rock Revolution" alongside other New York bands such as
The Strokes and Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs started a frenzy after putting out one
5-song EP and caused a furious bidding war among labels.
Although the idea of a rock revolution seems to have stalled, the strength of
this band's music have brought them far from the small rock clubs they used to
play. Since they released their first album in 2003, Fever to Tell, they
have been nominated for a Grammy, had a heavily-rotated video on MTV, and even
had pop songstress Kelly Clarkson rip-off (pay homage to?) their best-known
After finishing support for Fever to Tell, the three band members took a
rest and worked on their own projects before regrouping. Karen was heard in an
Adidas commercial, Nick put out a book of his photography, and Brian worked in a
new album with his other band, The Seconds.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back with a new album, Show Your Bones, which will
come out March 28, and the band will be touring extensively with new addition
Imaad Wasif on guitar. Their first single "Gold Lion" can be heard
here (REAL) or
here (WMP). And while you enjoy this little preview, here's an interview
with Brian Chase:
Hi, Brian. I should just start the questions, right?
I was just wondering if you did anything special for Purim.
Ah, for Purim! I had a nice hamantaschen from a really great bakery.
So how did
you feel about your recent mini-tour to test out the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It was a
pretty big, familiar shock, if that makes sense. A familiar shock, you know,
like, you jump right in and then there's all this excitement and then there's
sort of the mind-numbing repetitiveness of being on tour. It's like, "Oh yeah,
this again, I've done this before." It's a blast, though.
Is the band ready to tour again? I remember reading so many things about how
exhausted you all were after Fever to Tell.
We definitely kind of wore ourselves out by the end of the whole Fever to
Tell cycle, but I think we just needed to spend time and not be thinking
about the band, and just write a whole new batch of material. So now we have a
real challenge in front of us... but that'll be a lot of fun.
Did it help you guys to work on your own projects for a while?
Yeah, I think so. Definitely. That was a big part of being able to stay healthy
You were working on The Seconds album, right?
How differently do you approach your work in The Seconds with what you do in
Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
The Seconds have a very, uh... more DIY, lo-fi approach. And uh... Yeah Yeah
Yeahs are very DIY also, in the sense that we're in charge of everything and we,
you know, handle everything ourselves, but there's still a lot more people
involved, and obviously, you know, there's more funding that needs to go into a
Yeah Yeah Yeahs project. There's just a more lo-fi, grassroots element to The
How come Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn't work with [previous producer] David Andrew Sitek
for the new album?
He was still
involved in some parts. He was around and I think he has an additional
production credit for this record. The thing about it was, we recorded the
record in Brooklyn but most of the record was written in LA, and that was done
at the home studio of Sam Spiegel [Squeak E. Clean], who eventually became our
producer for the record.
Is the band still bi-coastal?
How is that working out and everything?
During this past year, it required a lot of trips for me and Nick to go out to
LA but now that we're just gonna be touring around, it's not gonna be so hard.
Right. Because I heard you weren't like, happy about the whole move with Karen.
[Chuckle] I was okay with it. Well, you know, it's nice to have
her in New York, when she's here. But she's happy in LA, so that's what's most
important, that she's in a place in a good place where she wants to be.
"It's all about subjectivity, like, 'This is
my opinion, and all the people that are gonna agree with me are gonna be my
friends, and then I'm gonna feel free to exclude whoever else from my
So with Show Your Bones,
how did you manage not to leak it so early?
mean, some bands get their albums leaked months in advance, but you guys did
pretty well with your album, I don't understand how that worked!
Yeah, our manager and our publicist should really take credit for that. They
have the, you know, watermarked CDs, which help, but yeah, Interscope's been
really good about preventing that kind of thing.
Would you have minded if it had leaked really early?
Um... yeah, yeah. Mostly because we wanna prevent—uh, present the music
as a full package, with the artwork, and with all the songs together in CD
quality, rather than mp3 quality or something like that.
So you made the album as a whole work?
Yeah, I'd say that's true, for sure. Each song is pretty much different from one
another on the record and I think it helps in your understanding of the songs
and enjoyment of the record when you listen to the songs in context of the
record rather than the individual songs.
One thing I noticed about the album—well, it might not be that important to you,
but the songs on Show Your Bones seem longer than the earlier songs and
they also feel more "anthemic." Do you guys feel like you have more to say to
the world now?
I'm not sure if we have more to say, but you're definitely right in describing
the songs like that, 'cause yeah, they feel more epic. There's something more
like, grander about it than sort of the rag-tag, punky, trashy kind of sound. I
think a lot of it has more to do with our moods now, that this record didn't
come out of a nightclub circuit, it came out from us being tucked away in a
studio by ourselves.
But when you were making these songs, were you thinking on purpose to make them
It's more that it just happened that way. The material that we were writing just
seemed more epic.
How come you decided to get a second guitarist?
When we were making the record we found ourselves putting in a lot of layers of
instruments and we realized we would need an extra person on stage to pull it
How did Imaad prepare for this?
Oh, yeah. He was great. He learned most of the material in a week.
pick him up?
He was recommended to us by a friend of ours.
So you guys didn't know him before that?
Nope! [Laugh] It was a gamble.
How does this change the dynamic in the group when you're playing live?
It's really nice, actually. I was a little wary at first, but he's an awesome
musician and a really great guy. He just, he really knows how to fit in between
the three of us and just add his part to the song and really make it drive.
Since Yeah Yeah Yeahs started, a lot of things have changed in, you know, the
"musical landscape." I mean, The OC became a huge thing in the indie
world, and every band is on MySpace, and things like that, so where do you think
you fit in with all of this?
That's an interesting question. Yeah, I've been having a bad reaction to a lot
of it. Especially the whole blogging thing. Now it seems to be a big part of the
youth culture now, it's you getting online and creating a community for you and
your friends online, you know, whether it's MySpace or Friendster, or just even
blogging. It seems to be really scenester-y, or clique-ish, and it's all about
subjectivity, like, "This is my opinion, and all the people that are gonna agree
with me are gonna be my friends, and then I'm gonna feel free to exclude whoever
else from my community," and it doesn't seem to encourage openness or a mix of,
like, inter-reading, different opinions. Since everything is so anonymous
online, it seems to pride itself on, you know, pride, really. That's how it
feels to me, and it seems to me that it's just selective and overly critical. It
just feels very clique-ish, and, I don't know, I've stopped reading stuff
You guys keep
your distance from all of that?
Um... it's hard, because I'm curious, and I want to see what kids have to say
about the shows. But a lot of times I find myself feeling frustrated by the end
Actually, one thing about those shows, I thought it was cool your parents were
Oh, yeah! Did you go to—were you at any of the shows?
sure if we have more to say, but you're definitely right in describing the songs
like that, 'cause yeah, they feel more epic. There's something more like,
grander about it than sort of the rag-tag, punky, trashy kind of sound."
I was at one of the Bowery
ones. Do your parents come at every New York show?
I wanted to ask you about All Tomorrow's Parties. How badass is it that you guys
get to curate it?
It's pretty awesome, right?
We're psyched. Yeah, there's nothing better than just getting the chance to put
together a day of all your friends' bands and all that. It's gonna be a really
Was it easy to organize? Did you guys get free reign and everything?
Yep. Yeah, we got free reign to pick all the bands and all that good stuff.
Was there any band you wanted but couldn't get?
Um... I think so. That's a good question, I can't remember off the top of my
Oh, oh, that's right. The Breeders!
That would have been sort of amazing... Okay, so I wanted to ask if there were
any jazz artists you'd count as influences.
The biggest influence on me has been a New York City drummer named Susie Ibarra.
Her last name is spelled I-B-A-R-R-A, and um—
Is she Hispanic?
She's, uh... Filipino.
Yeah, she's probably been the biggest influence on my playing. She's from the
Downtown scene, you know, improvising, experimenting...
So you actually know her?
Yeah, I took
lessons from her, for a little bit. And then, some of my favorite jazz artists
are Albert Ayler and Duke Ellington.
Um, a few months ago, I met you at the WFMU Record Fair—
Yeah, and you showed me that you bought a Shirelles album—
Oh! Okay, yeah...
And I was wondering how you were liking it.
Oh, oh, that's awesome. Yeah, it's brilliant, it's amazing. Oh, that's great,
yeah, I remember. Were you with two other friends?
Yes. Yeah... um... how you doin'?
[Laugh] I'm doing good! Thanks!
I was a little nervous about this interview thing. But I'm okay.
Oh, really? Um... no, this is a great interview. This is my favorite interview
How many did you do so far?
I did like ten.
I wouldn't be able to do that.
Oh, no, it's a piece of cake. But yeah, the Shirelles album was called
Tonight's the Night and it has one of my favorite songs, "Dedicated to the
One I Love."
I'm glad you're liking it! Well, I guess this is my last question: is the band
willing to play weddings and/or bar mitzvahs?
There's no price...?
No, just a, uh, picture of the happy couple or the lucky, you know, boy or girl,
and that should be enough.
That's a good deal. Anyway, thank you so much. Bye!