Psych-Pop Purveyors

Yeasayer Return to Montreal After Brief Hiatus

The last time that psych-pop act Yeasayer came to Montreal, it was a long weekend in August and the city was caught up in the sights and sounds of Osheaga—every note was experienced one bead of sweat at a time.

Yeasayer emerged onto the stage in the early evening on the second day of the festival. Looking back, bassist Ira Wolf Tuton still marvels at the sheer energy feeding the audience that night.

“That was the best crowd,” he said. “One dude was crowdsurfing and while he was, he got pantsed. Like, totally pantsed—but I don’t think he cared.”

The band, until that point, had a hit-and-miss relationship with Montreal. Although they have had great shows here, Tuton remembers other times that garnered more lukewarm reception. Understandably, there were plenty of doubts leading up to the festival.

“We weren’t really sure about going into that festival, what it was going to be like, what kind of crowd it was going to be,” admitted Tuton.

“But it’s always nice to have those pleasant surprises, when people are willing to be 120 per cent open with themselves and with people around them and with you on stage. It makes it such a better show, so much more comfortable such a more communal experience, which is what, on the best nights, we’re striving for.”

The band continued to tour following the festival. Their plan was to be on the road until October, but when guitarist Anand Wilder’s daughter was born a few weeks early, they decided to cut the tour short.

They had also just celebrated another milestone: the release of their third LP, Fragrant World. The release was noticeably tighter, the wall of synthesizers had more grit and less layers, and the vocals more pronounced.

Coming home after their extensive tour for their last record, 2010’s Odd Blood, everyone had things to catch up on.

“We were gone for a long period of time,” said Tuton, “Besides that, we are all maintaining our personal lives: marriages and non-marriages, staying together and all that stuff.”

“I guess all of that kind of led us to find a place in New York City to record Fragrant World, as opposed to going out of town for three months again like we did for Odd Blood,” he said.

“[Our Osheaga 2012 show] was the best crowd. One dude was crowdsurfing and while he was, he got pantsed. Like, totally pantsed—but I don’t think he cared.”
—Yeasayer Bassist Ira Tuton

The band found a studio in Greenpoint, NY and got to work. They had plenty of new gear to experiment with, which let them treat the vocals differently for every track, said Tuton.

The center-stage vocal treatment and more minimal textures led many critics to call the album a departure from Odd Blood, but Tuton didn’t agree.

“I think to a lot of people, they see a huge departure because the vocals aren’t screaming loud and there’s not a lot of candy pop like Odd Blood,” he said.

“I definitely think it’s a development and a step in an interesting direction,” he continued. “But I still think we’re on the path of constructing songs in a similar fashion, getting more comfortable with the way we do things.”

According to Tuton, there was still plenty of experimentation.

“[We use] whatever we have in the arsenal, whatever fits,” he said. “It’s kind of what’s fun about the recording process.”

Tuton, along with his bandmates, Wilder and Chris Keating, self-produce the bulk of the Yeasayer catalogue. It is hard to give someone else much control over their work, Tuton admitted.

“I don’t want to just come in and lay down my beats and then go off and get wasted,” said Tuton.

“The idea of sonically trying to experiment and turn something into a unified whole or a complete project, to try and expand those ideas that are laid down in the demo into some new and interesting fashion—that’s exciting.”

The recording process then becomes a communal event.

“We go in to the space and everybody brings all tools that they have,” he said. “We kind of have this candy shop of different things to employ at any given time.”

As the members of Yeasayer focus on re-embarking on tour, Tuton’s still very conscious of the outside world. The tour begins on Nov. 6—election day in the United States. To Tuton, who said he could talk about politics for hours, it’s going to be an important turning point.

“We will be starting off this tour in one of two very different ways,” he said, depending on the results. Fragrant World is also good for political conversation, he added, like an expert salesman.

But before the touring and the politics, Tuton has to finish cleaning the dishes—something he promised his girlfriend he would do days ago.

Yeasayer + Sinkane / Nov. 8 / Cabaret du Mile-End (5240 Parc Ave.) / 7:00 p.m. / $20.00 advance, $22.00 door