A Conversation with Yeasayer


by Dan Harpaz

From the archives of Smoovtunes, I bring you a review of Yeasayer’s live set in Chicago in April 2008. This article also features a chat with Luke Fasano, former drummer of Yeasayer.

It’s Wednesday, the night of the Man Man and Yeasayer concert in Chicago, and a line of fans wraps around Logan Square Auditorium just prior to show time. “Has it started yet?” a girl asks her friend. “I’m here to see Yeasayer,” a man says over the phone. There was plenty of buzz about Man Man’s opening act, but did the Brooklyn four-piece satisfy everyone’s expectations?

I give Yeasayer a solid “A” for effort. Yeasayer has a big, “dense” sound, as drummer Luke Fasano described it, that may overwhelm some audience members in a live, big-room setting. But even without a proper sound check, Yeasayer delivered a solid, tight performance that certainly warmed the audience up to Man Man’s high-energy, borderline psychotic set. Mellower songs with slow, fat bass lines like “Wintertime” reminded me of old-school psychedelic, progressive acts, while crowd favorites like “2080” relied slightly less on heavy reverb and sampler use, and more on stage energy. “Worms” was a good example of the band’s “world” sound, in the sense that the band incorporates cultural influences not normally heard in Western music. Lead vocalist Chris Keating looked like he was in a Robert Plant-esque trance most of the night (holding out his hand in the “I’m a little teapot” stance, as I call it), while bassist Ira and guitarist Anand connected through tasty vocal harmonies and guitar arpeggios. Take that as you will, but the performances were tight and full of surprises. Each member of the band had access to trip-inducing samplers, except the bassist, who used effects pedals to turn his bass into flutes and organs that were especially interesting to hear while syncing up with Anand’s guitars.

I had a chance to sit down with Luke after Yeasayer’s set, where I learned a bit more about the story behind the music and the live show. The last member to join the band, Luke wasn’t sold so easily on the idea behind the style. When members of Yeasayer tried to describe their sound to Luke, his first reaction was naturally, “That sounds…fucking terrible.” Until he finally listened to the music on the radio, Luke was nearly a lost cause. “We have no perspective on what the sound actually is,” Luke explained. It’s pop, but it’s not at the same time. He continued, “We’re trying to keep ourselves interested and entertained and provide songs will be maybe new…something simple and something complex.” Strangely enough, Luke’s answer makes sense. What makes Yeasayer unique is their ability to write a pop song, but still keep the style and instrumentation interesting enough to make it nearly impossible to describe or classify by genre. So if I were to grade Yeasayer’s performance on a comparison to other African-Indian psychedelic prog rock indie fusion bands, I’d say they’re through the roof. But overall, solid performance, solid music—and I would definitely look out for this band’s sophomore release.

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