MUSIC PREVIEW | Yeasayer: Your future congressmen with a supercalifragilawesomedope live show coming to First Avenue

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All good naysayers! Quiet down! Because Yeasayer is coming to First Avenue on August 24 in support of their new album, Fragrant World. The band’s third studio album was recently leaked by Yeasayer themselves via a sort of video scavenger hunt. Each track was hidden somewhere across the World Wide Web and was also accompanied by a unique vignette created by Yoshi Sodeoka. This decision was made in order to “tell the story before our mouths can spit.” The songs were only up for audio and visual enjoyment for 72 hours, but the album in all its glory released on August 21.

This is the band’s second time playing at First Avenue, and were last here in 2010 for Odd Blood. They keep to their electronic aesthetic with this new album, but are ever-so-slightly evolving their sound with each new effort. Fragrant World provides an almost heavier approach to their music and includes songs like “Reagan’s Skeleton” and “Folk Hero Schtick” along with the lead singles “Henrietta” and “Longevity.” Here’s what bassist Ira Wolf Tuton had to say when I spoke to him:

I just have to tell you for legal purposes that I’m recording the phone call.
You’re lucky ‘cause I was just about to sue you (laughs). Litigation is great.

Okay, question #1: I know you guys recently leaked Fragrant World onto the internet via the video scavenger hunt, was that a spur-of-the-moment thing or did you plan it for a while?
It definitely wasn’t spur-of-the-moment thing. I think that’s what we were trying to harness, in the climate that we exist in leaks do happen spur-of-the-moment outside of your control, and as a result they’re just kind of regurgitated onto the internet without any overall, kind of, artistic or aesthetic introduction. You know I think that can be cool but it also can be kind of, you know, it’s not as interesting of a way to release [music]. And you can’t harness that and control it and do it in more of an intriguing way. We were trying to beat people to the punch and do it in a way that felt a little bit more fresh.

So next question, what was the last album that you bought?
Let’s see… the last album that I bought, I was just at the Goodwill in Rockport, Maine and I bought the Reality Bites soundtrack, the Threesome soundtrack, Whitney Houston’s first album, and a Mahler symphony from the used CD bin. You always find good stuff in the CD section.

How do you think that you guys have changed as a live performance, and just overall as musicians since you last came to Minneapolis in 2010?
Yeah, I love Minneapolis. We have a new setup, and we have two guys that have moved on to do other things, and we have a new member—Cale Parks—so the setup of the band is different. We’re taking advantage of new pieces of equipment and technology that we used also in recording but for the live [shows]  we’re doing that and then we’re bringing a very new, overwhelming visual show that I’m pretty excited about, especially for a band of our size and the size of the venues we’ll be playing. It’s an exciting time for us to be able to do that—to team up with interesting artists and people that are known in their field to do something for an interesting rock show. We’re re-arranging some of the old songs too within that construct.

I read on your website that you guys are releasing vinyls pressed with glitter and it has the small print saying “The vinyl is pressed with glitter so there is chance some copies might skip but remember it’s art!!!” Was that something you knew beforehand or did you realize afterwards and were like “Oh…”
No, they warned us that it would, and we were kind of like “Well, I wanna see the way this looks” you know? And it’s kind of, it’s an art piece and I think it’s something that looks beautiful and we didn’t want to sacrifice that and it might work! (laughs) But I’m pretty excited to see it. And feel it.

So setlist-wise, what can we expect to hear you playing. I know you said that you re-worked some of your older songs for this tour.
I mean, I can’t give you the exact setlist but we’ve toured a lot of the new material for a little over a month and done a lot of America and Europe and we’ve been continually working on arrangements. So we’re gonna do a lot of new stuff and some old things to keep people going through it. So yeah, it’s a mixed bag but I’m pretty excited about the live shows.

When you were writing Fragrant World, was there any specific source of inspiration that stood out more than others?
Well, I’m not going to speak for Ahmed and Chris for where their inspiration [came from] but I think we’re a band that’s pretty well-based in reality. Or also just interesting and intriguing stories and sometimes there’s a little bit of mythology and fantasy to it but I think it initially comes from a place of reflection of not only different times [in our lives] but also different lenses of the times.

For the artwork on your albums and merchandise, did someone in the band make it or are they commissioned out?
It’s been different for each project, but we’ve gotten to the point—which is one of the most privileged things about what we get to do—where we get to search out artists and people  that are talented in other walks of life to amplify the things that we’re doing, whether that’s through a live light show, or album artwork, or t shirts, you know, all of the above and on [Fragrant World] it was a team that did all the album artwork and Yoshi Sodeoka did all the little videos for PSCYVOTV (Pre-emptive Self-Commissioned Yeasayer Vorstellung or Track Visualizer) and we have other people that we’re teamed up with for the live show that I’m really excited about. So that I feel like is our fortune; being able to force out so many talented people and to work with them and have them amplify our artistic vision.

Did you guys have any specific goals for yourself in making the new album or was it just like “Eh, we’re gonna make an album and see how it goes.”
(Laughs) Yeah the second, one I mean, what else are we gonna do? Specific goals? Domination.

World domination?
Yeah, that’s not that specific, that’s actually pretty broad.

I think that’s a good plan though.
Yeah we’re gonna get into politics and I feel like this is the best way possible. Some day hopefully we will be your congressmen. Watch out Paul Ryan!

Alright, so for a kind of weird question, what is your favorite non-animal, non-human sound?
I don’t really have a favorite, but a sound that I always like is when the public bus stops and they release that hydraulic sound. The “psssssssssssssssh.” I really like that. That’s a really good percussion sound.

Have you ever thought of sampling that and using it on a track?
Yeah, well actually I used to live right on a main bus line so I’d get those sounds in the background. There’s one of my tracks that just has a “BrrrrrrrBBBBBBBBBBBB” sound in the beginning (laughs). But you know, when you’re recording I think it’s cooler to take sounds like that and try to re-create it in an artistic way.

Is there any one band or artist that has just been on repeat for you lately?
You know, not really. I just had a week of vacation up in Maine and I was just swimming and listening to nature and stuff. I also went to Atlanta for a wedding and I was just experiencing the city, so I haven’t been listening to a lot of music lately.

Alright, for a closer, if you had to describe your upcoming performance at First Avenue, what would that word be?
Uh, one word? Supercalifragilawesomedope.

That’s a good one. Thanks for talking with me and see you at the show! Well I guess I’ll see you but you might not see me…
No, I’m gonna stare creepily right at you the whole time.


Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.