Back in October, renowned New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones provoked a bit of a storm by taking nearly four thousand words to explain a rather dubious theory about indie-rock being some-kinda-racist, because not enough white bands were incorporating elements of ‘black music’ into their styles. (Unfortunately, he neglected to mention the lack of twinkling harp on Akon’s latest album, and totally forgot about the scandal of Daddy Yankee’s missing power chords.) Even so, for that theory to emerge in a New York publication was especially puzzling: from Talking Heads’ work with Brian Eno in the late 70s, to TV On The Radio’s kaleidoscopic anthems of the new millennium, to Vampire Weekend’s 2008 afro-pop stylings, New York has a fertile and ongoing habit of merging traditionally white and black musical elements. Meet another
Bassist and singer (they all sing) Ira Wolf Tuton explained: “I think we’re all interested in exploring as many avenues and flavours as possible, bringing it all into the pot. We like to keep an open ear and an open eye to different sorts of tones, styles, melodies and arrangements we can use, to keep it fresh and exciting”. Think of the rhythms and bassline of “You Can Call Me Al” - or anything else from Paul Simon’s Graceland – think of Fleetwood Mac, and Peter Gabriel; but insert steel drums, falsettos, chants and screams, handclaps, synths, keyboards and the apocalypse. There are guitars too, of course, they’re just not fetishised like elsewhere. “It’s a mixed-bag,” Ira says. “We all have our own home studios so we all write our own music and see how the others can improve it. It’s a pretty collaborative effort, and technology makes that possible”.
While there’s much scaremongering in the music industry about the advance of technology, there is a clear advantage to the proliferation of easily-available music that hasn’t been fully discussed. It makes sense that more informed musicians will have to stretch themselves further to find originality. Confusingly, Frere-Jones decried advances like MySpace for widening tastes but narrowing visions, as if fans of eclectic musical styles are incapable or unwilling to integrate them. Ira is convinced that the opposite is true: “It’s such an advantage to be able to so easily listen to so many different kinds of music, it’s at your fingertips all the time.” It doesn’t just apply to making music either, he believes: “I think it helps anybody to be exposed to as many things as possible. It can only widen your horizons and help you understand other people and other things more - and to understand yourself a little bit more, who you are and where you fit in. It opens your eyes to realise how many different things you can make of yourself.”
Yeasayer have already finished their first European tour, but promise they’ll be back soon. They’re yet to play in
Whether it’s travelling the world to sample local food, or browsing the net to taste international musical flavours from the comfort of a home studio, Yeasayer display an open-minded tendency to try new things, compare them, mix them all together, and sing over the results. Haggis isn’t really like the