W.I.L.D. Profile: Yeasayer

| Music Editor

Alec Luhn
Brooklyn art-pop trio Yeasayer’s debut album, “All Hour Cymbals,” made the group one of the buzziest acts of 2007. Three years later and just four years after forming, the members were named the most blogged-about artists of 2010 by The Hype Machine following their sophomore LP “Odd Blood.” Though many would consider such a rise meteoric, multi-instrumentalist Anand Wilder made clear that the group was not an overnight success.

“For us, everything seemed pretty gradual. It’s not like we didn’t put in tons of work before 2010,” he commented.

Despite Wilder’s reservations, it’s clear that Yeasayer has quickly ascended the indie ranks. Last weekend, Yeasayer played at Coachella, a music lover’s mecca that is considered America’s answer to England’s massive Glastonbury and Reading Festivals. Having played Coachella twice, Wilder has become dismayed with its increasingly corporate nature. While most college kids struggle to scrape together enough money for single-day passes, wealthy yuppies can drop thousands of dollars for exclusive access to the bands, a privilege once afforded only to the press and fellow artists. While he didn’t have any problems with unruly fans at this year’s festival, he finds the concept “exemplary of American hyper-capitalism.”

High-end festivals such as Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo charge around $230 for three-day passes, but the rapidly increasing popularity of streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora has begun to eliminate the need to purchase music. As a result, concerts and festivals have become the music industry’s last resort for maintaining steady profit margins. This dilemma is particularly resonant for Wilder.

“My [festival] experience has soured over the past few years. And it sucks because that’s how I make my money, and so you can’t really be that angry because you want to be invited back,” he said.

Yeasayer felt this shift with the release of “Fragrant World” and its tour behind its most recent album. Though critical opinion was divided and sales were lower than expected, Wilder hasn’t noticed a change in audience turnout at concerts.

“This newest record hasn’t sold as many copies as the last one, but it doesn’t really feel like that at our live shows. I still feel like people are coming out to see us live. Maybe people just aren’t buying records as much anymore,” he said.

In fact, its live shows shaped many of the songs that would eventually appear on “Fragrant World.” Over a year before the album’s release, the group began to integrate some of the new material into its set lists. “It’s just great to get the songs out of the recorded environment and into a live setting,” Wilder explained. “It always helps the songs. You always come up with new things you can’t think of in your house when you’re listening to it on headphones at four in the morning.”

While he’s pleased with the way the songs have translated to a live setting, he acknowledged that none of the “songs on this album have the same kind of mass appeal that [“Odd Blood” tracks] ‘O.N.E.’ or ‘Ambling Alp’ or ‘Madder Red’ had.”

Yeasayer has always prized its creative restlessness, and if its initial plans hold true, its next album could prove a radical departure from “Fragrant World.” But instead of moving further from the group’s pop influences, Wilder hinted that it may be “going for a simpler kind of vibe,” drawing inspiration from the likes of Paul Simon and Cat Stevens. In particular, he expressed a desire to “figur[e] out how to really strip down songs to their bare elements,” a far cry from the dense textures of “Fragrant World.” Wherever the future takes the band, Yeasayer will never rest on its laurels, ensuring that the band will remain vital and exciting members of the indie community for years to come.

Yeasayer is scheduled to perform at W.I.L.D. on the Brookings Quadrangle at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, April 26.

  • Nick

    Surprised that there is no mention of Yeasayer playing WUSTL’s own Gargoyle back in 2010