Okay, you’ve heard Yeasayer’s second set, Odd Blood, but do you understand it? Well? DO YOU? The band’s Anand Wilder provides some clues to their future-pop odyssey with this here track-by track-guide.
That one was deliberately a palette cleanser from the last era of Yeasayer, we’re reversing expectations, you know? We used to have tonnes of organic vocals, now we have one lead vocal being processed by a machine, a digital vocal peddle. The song was really written by Chris [Keating], and we added the production to it; we really wanted to get the sound of this futuristic, Orwellian work camp and the noises that you hear at prison camps. So there’s a pick axe hit and it’s actually a guitar, I’d be hitting a guitar with a drumstick ‘plink!’ to make that interesting sound. The whole track was slowed down half speed, that’s how we get such a subby sound.
‘Ambling Alp’ was an instrumental track that Ira [Wolf Tuton] composed, he’d just purchased an electro-harmonica pedal, and we got these really cool flute sounding tones out of that make the riff, and then Chris wrote the song around it. At first it was all [makes disturbing wordless sound approximating the melody], and I think he was reading the Malcolm X autobiography, which mentioned Joe Lewis fighting Primo Carnera, also known as the Ambling Alp, and he shaped the verses around that story. The video was done by these guys Radical Friend, they’d done a Black Moth Super Rainbow video that we really liked, and so Chris got in touch with them. He talked to them about the concept and then they wrote a treatment for it and asked if we were okay with nudity and being in a desert and getting gunk poured over us. We were like “sure, whatever it’ll take”.
Video: Yeasayer: 'Ambling Alp'
‘Madder Red’ was a folky kind of jam that Ira had sent to me, and I wrote all the lyrics and the melody. I think I took a line from this book of Celtic verse that I had, which was “even when my luck is down”... it’s a Kenny Rodgers/Glenn Campbell type of song, just the idea of being on the road, not living a normal 9 to 5 lifestyle and following your passion and that means you’re away from your loved ones for long periods of time. It’s a song of resignation, really, but then we threw a massive industrial sounding beat over it, which created a very interesting juxtaposition with the sweet sounding vocal.
For this album we set out to make some love songs and I think Chris really hit the nail on the head here, ‘I remember this about the start of our relationship’, ‘I remember that’, ‘I remember you’, ‘I remember making love’... so he basically made that track entirely on his own on keyboard and I thought he really did a good job of choosing the right tone and frequency. For me that song was all about not adding too much to it.
Yeah, we just call it ‘one’. So O.N.E began as a little bit more Eastern sounding – and you’ll hear this version as the B-side to the single – and kind of almost like a Nineties dance sounding song, with a sampled drumbeat. But it was feeling kind of low energy, so we eliminated this really long riff I had written and tried out a completely new arrangement for the Bonnaroo audiences and everyone seemed to like it. That song is about addiction, specifically about alcoholism, kind of as if a bottle of booze was a love interest or somebody that you were breaking up with.
‘Love Me Girl’
I was trying to sing a song that Justin Timberlake would sing and the really long intro I wanted to be something like a late Nineties Blur song, but then we reconceptualised it as an early Nineties club anthem. We wanted it to sound like a future band, all these different things coming in, like thre’s even a country and western guitar in there, but then it all comes in with a kind of Beatles-esque chorus, very simple, clichéd.
‘Rome’ was a song that Chris had a full demo of, and we had this other song we were going to put on the album, but I was always happier with ‘Rome’, it has a great hook and almost a big band swing beat, which isn’t something we’ve ever really done before. We were looking for uptempo, high energy songs that would be great to play live, so we threw ‘Rome’ on literally at the last minute. I don’t think we’re going to do a video, but my ideal video for the song would be a bunch of multi-ethnic muppets having a really good time.
‘Strange Reunions’ was a really stupid song that I wrote, and I cut it up and turned it into this really weird piece that goes from 5/4 to 6/4 to 5/4 back to 4/4. It was really my attempt at ridiculous time signature changes that bands like Dirty Projectors will effortlessly use in songs. But the subject is the debate between atheists and super religious fundamentalist people and how they’ll never see eye to eye, they’ll be feuding forever.
‘Mondegreen’ was a song that Chris made a long time ago and I laid some guitar over it. I really liked the lyrics, about a guy so paranoid he can’t even leave his house. We had a kind of cheap horn riff and then we recorded some real ones but were happier with the crappy synths ones we’d used. And I really liked the outro, using computers to slow everything down, like it was falling into this K-Hole.
‘Grizelda’ was another track Ira had written on harmonium and then he sent it to me and I wrote all the lyrics. The subject of that song is Grizelda Blanco, one of the biggest... not a serial killer, but she was responsible for more murders in Miami’s history than anybody else. We were watching this video called Cocaine Cowboys and we thought it would be interesting to write this song from the perspective of one of her hitmen, kind of writing her a love letter. She was this really crazy woman who ordered all these people to be killed, kind of to the detriment of her own industry, because it drew all this law enforcement to Miami, which was otherwise a very peaceful centre of the cocaine trade.