Yeasayer’s songs have been the soundtrack to some of my most memorable life events. Moments of tears, dancing, excess amounts of vodka, good friends and bad heartache, Yeasayer has always been there. So when I secured my interview with Yeasayer’s bassist, Ira Wolf Tuton my heart skipped a beat.
They’ll be in Toronto on June 7 for a show at the Phoenix. Have a read through my interview with Ira and watch one of my favourite videos below. If you weren’t a yeasayer for Yeasayer, it might just change your mind.
Torontette: Where are you right now?
Ira: Right this second?
T: Yes, right this second.
I: Right this second I am in my garden, drinking a cup of coffee.
T: In Brooklyn?
I: In Brooklyn, yeah.
T: What’s the music scene like in Brooklyn? I’m curious as to what it’s like being right in the thick of it.
I: Well you know it changes. For us, we spend so much of the year gone when we come back, the scene is something different. I still have a lot of friends who are active in bands. The other night three of our friends were playing at different venues. So it’s a nice supportive group. Here in Brooklyn there are a lot of musicians and a lot of artists – a friend of ours who designed a lot of the artwork for the last album has an opening on Saturday. So it’s a good feeling you know to come home and be surrounded by a lot of friends who are engaged in productive artistic activity.
T: What about you? Do you have any side projects on the go?
I: My side project right now has been my garden. Which has been really nice. As Brooklyn goes – really as anywhere goes, I have a gigantic backyard. We haven’t been home for the summer in so long because it’s always been festival season so this has been my first opportunity to really do some intense pilling and sowing.
T: And are you doing any summer festivals this year?
I: After Conan we go up and do Sasquatch. So we’re doing that but we’re keeping it pretty low key. The focus really this summer is to get new material and get the next album going. Just keep writing. Writing good songs.
T: I was at Lollapalooza last year and I was so bummed because I just missed you guys.
T: You know how it is when you’re at those festivals with a group of friends and everyone wants to see something different.
I: Not only just at festivals but in life too.
T: I was pretty bummed but I’ll see you guys when you’re here in Toronto.
I: So what you’re saying is that your friends don’t like us. (laughs)
T: Maybe they just don’t appreciate you like I do. I think it might be cause to break up our friendship.
I: I really don’t want to be the reason you break up friendships. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
T: Speaking of friendships, tell me about your friendships with your bandmates. Do you guys ever get on each other’s nerves? Or do you deal with each other well?
I: We’ve all known each other for so long.
T: How long? When did you guys meet?
I: Well Chris [Keating] and Anand [Wilder] grew up together since first grade I think. So they’ve known each other the longest and I met Anand when I was probably in 11th grade in high school cause my sister is married to his cousin. So we’ve known each other for so long that it makes the relationships easy because you know everybody’s secrets. Actually we were talking about it yesterday how important it is to really get along with your co-bandmates because that can be the most important thing, even before you get into the music.
T: Tell me a little bit about End Blood and what your hope was with it?
I: That was our psychological cap on that phase of music making. That was what was leftover from that period of time, making the last album. And you know that was our, I guess turn in the road for us to start in on some new stuff. Instead of letting it linger and think about it for a new project. You know it really had a lot more to do with and we wanted it to remain to have a lot more to do with Odd Blood than what we’re doing in the future.
T: So now you can kind of close that chapter.
I: Yeah, we’ve closed that chapter.
T: So one of my friends is in love with that new Moby track you did…
I: So he appreciates us.
T: Yes. Definitely.
T: Who are your electronic influences?
I: Chris did the Moby track but in terms of electronic influences. A lot of Bowie and Eno albums and also more soundtrack and scoring by Vangelis with things like Blade Runner and Escape from New York, and Tangerine Dream and people that are older and have been around for a while. A lot of the soundscape guys.
T: I always love asking this question–
I: Oh so I probably hate answering it. It is what’s the craziest thing you’ve done on tour?
T: You’re lucky, it’s not that.
I: Thank God.
T: Mine is: If you could make music in any other era, what era would it be?
I: In any other era? I would say either now, in the far distant future or in the far distant past. Like you know, in the Americas in 1100 A.D.
T: What is your idea of what music was like back then?
I: I don’t know, I’m sure it was really weird. I’m sure that the cause for making music was very fun and different than it is now.
T: And you think that the place that music is at right now is good? Even with all the shit that is being made?
I: But there was always so much shit. You know a lot of the music industry has very little to do with music. Even for us – a lot of anybody’s career image, and who and what people believe you are even before they start hearing notes. But yeah, I think music is in a really exciting place right now. Everyone likes to bellyache about the industry and talk about how it’s changing so swiftly and fast and when you really think about music making – the industry, as it is has not lasted that long. And has not been what it is for very long. But music in itself continues to develop and the technologies to make it continue to develop, the range of what’s excepted continues to broaden and also the range of what you can grab at for influence continues to broaden. And I think that’s happened in an exponential way for the past 5-10 years and I think that’s a pretty exciting time to be doing what we’re doing. I think that goes across the board in a lot of things, in a lot of things having to do with media and art and design, architecture, technology is changing at a very rapid pace and our abilities to cope with them are changing, and the way we live our lives and the way we have to evolve in different ways than we’re used to evolving. I think its pretty interesting and exciting.
T: When you put it that way, it’s definitely an exciting time.
I: Much better than being in the 1920s and hanging out with flappers. I don’t really romanticize that.
T: You mention influences. Do you find that there’s one constant influence – object, idea, or thing that runs consistently through your music?
I: I think the challenge is to maintain as broad an influence as possible. So it’s kind of a fun exercise of trying to think of what this song can sound like and then searching out that artist and that artist’s material and listening to that and how it does or doesn’t relate. So I think the influence is this constant challenge to try and find different sources and re-mesh influences into something that’s new but obviously a reference point to many things because all music is referencing something. Nothing is just coming out of the ether. That’s where I’m at with that.
T: If you had to pick one thing you like about Toronto what would it be?
I: About Toronto? One thing? I think Toronto is an amazing city. I’ve said this before, I don’t know if I’ve ever said it in an interview but I really feel like more than any other city that I’ve been to in the world it really is closer to being post-racial. You know America – I love it to death and I’ll probably stay here, but it’s an insanely segregated place, and you can kind of have your own imagined pocket that you create or bubble that you live in as I do in Brooklyn. You know this is not America for a large part of the country. And Toronto really seems like there’s a lot of mixed marriages, there’s a lot of multi-racial people and it just has a really interesting international multi-racial doing which I think is really cool culturally. And from that you gain all kinds of benefits whether it’s from artistic culture to good food and restaurants, a political awareness that people may not have otherwise. So yeah. There’s your one thing.
Watch ‘Tightrope’ performed on The Current 89.3 FM live: