Baltimore City Paper

Yeasayer, set to release new album, declares pride in Maryland roots

Though he and his band Yeasayer

moved to Brooklyn before making it big, guitarist Anand Wilder still has plenty of love for his hometown. “We were psyched to hear from


City Paper

,” he says. “It was always what we read to find out what was going on. But sometimes, now, I feel like Baltimore feels spurned by Yeasayer because we moved away. But I’m proud of my Baltimore roots. It’s where I learned to be a musician,” he says by phone from the Latitude Festival in England, a scene he likens to “the Maryland Renaissance Festival, if there were a lot of cool bands.”


These days, when the members of Yeasayer come back to the area, they generally avoid playing in Baltimore so they can still have time to spend with their families and friends. Like their former schoolmates, Animal Collective, Yeasayer still feels in-touch with their alma mater, the Park School, in Baltimore. “We go back and see our old teachers and hang out,” he says. “We never played music with the Animal Collective guys. They were a few years ahead of us, but it’s cool whenever we see them to catch up on old times. There were the normal different scenes, the partiers and the nerds, and they were definitely the experimental music kids, which is what we were also trying to be.”


Fragrant World


their highly-anticipated third album coming out on Aug. 20, Yeasayer is doing more than trying these days. Critics have compared them to the Talking Heads, and Wilder concedes certain similarities with David Byrne—that other New York-by-way-of-Maryland experimental musician: “the way he experimented with samples and loops, creating this bed of sound, while always marrying that sound to really catchy songwriting.”

When Yeasayer first moved to New York, they were playing gigs around town, but Wilder says they had no concept of the music business. “Our manager, Jason Foster, was integral,” he admits. “He’d been in the business for, like, 15 years, and he found us on MySpace and decided to put all his eggs in one basket, like ‘I’m going to make this band a success or quit the music business.’”

Suffice to say, Foster has remained in the music business. Yeasayer’s first release, 2007’s

All Hour Cymbals


was a critical and commercial success. Their next release, 2010’s

Odd Blood

, was criticized by some of the more indie-minded critics for going too mainstream pop. “We try not to pay too much attention to that. People always have their idea of what the ideal Yeasayer sound is because of the song they first heard or whatever,” Wilder says. “But we did try to move away from some of the more anthemic pop sound for this new record. When you get some distance, you think, maybe we didn’t need the vocals up that high.”

So the new album is both a progression and a return. “We tried to keep things organic,” Wilder says. “We’d start off with demos and ideas but we try to go about replacing those sounds with more 3-dimensional interesting sounds in the studio. We take those sounds and run them through weird reverbs and maybe sample them and change the pitch and try to get it to where you can’t identify its source,” he says. “At the studio, we had this crazy array of analogue synths that had a different depth, energy, oomph, and warmth.”

Sonically, the album has a unified feel. “But in terms of vocals, it’s not like a concept album or anything, where all the songs have this single concern. But we write about our lives and about mortality and stuff like that.”

One of Wilder’s favorite songs, “Demon Road,” is not likely to be a single, he says, though he wishes it would. “Chris [Keating] wrote it, and it has these great lyrics up against a crazy bounce.”


Though perhaps not as anthemic as

Odd Blood,

there is a cinematic quality to the new album. Like many contemporary bands, a big part of Yeasayer’s success has depended on licensing songs to television shows. “I definitely don’t feel like it’s selling out or anything if it’s done well,” Wilder says. “Right now, I think that the long-form drama on TV is one of the most vibrant art forms, and we’ve been lucky to be in some great shows like

Big Love

, which was super-cool because it is such a great show. I’d love if we could do something, obviously, for

Breaking Bad


or maybe a medieval-sounding song for

Game of Thrones

,” he says. “Break out the old hurdy-gurdy.”