"I wouldn't say this album is particularly rooted on earth," vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Keating tells Spinner, "because we are constantly trying to find things that sound weird and new to us."
While their 2007 debut All Hour Cymbals served as a ticket to daydream about the other parts of this world, thanks to its apocalyptic harmonies ("Wait for the Summer" and "Red Cave") and tribal polyrhythms ("Worms" and "Waves"), 2010's Odd Blood rocketed the listener off Earth with its pop-influenced electronic bells and whistles. ("O.N.E.," Odd Blood's most upbeat and danceable track, could easily start a conga line at the Mos Eisley Cantina.)
With Fragrant World, named for a track that didn't make the new album's final cut, the band -- Keating plus fellow vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder -- promise "a more emotive but personal" album than its predecessor. Judging by the album's tracklist -- it includes cryptic titles like "Devil and the Deed," "Demon Road" and "No Bones" -- the trio might be traveling towards a wormhole instead of some intergalactic habitat.
"We decided consciously that we were going to exorcise some demons on this album," admits Keating. "Everyone has light and dark sides of their personality. That's what the blues is -- sad music that makes you feel like taking on the world, like 'damn the man' or something. There's always a light and dark side to songwriting. We've always tried to balance that contrast.
"[Fragrant World] sounds upbeat but it's actually saying something dark. 'Longevity' is super slow and sludgy, but it's actually a song about relationships and having good memories about some. I think conversely maybe some of the uptempo songs have darker context. I think it comes from searching for new ways to make sounds."
Unlike Odd Blood, the 11-track Fragrant World was recorded at various studios around Brooklyn, which Keating says added to the personal purging on the album and the darker vibe. "It definitely feels like more of a New York album," he says, "like something you'd play on the train or on the bus or listen or just walking around the streets of an NYC neighborhood."
Another track on the album, "Folk Hero Shtick," almost comes off as a vague diss track. "I think there's just an overall idea of musicians having a stick or gimmick, and a means to sell yourself," explains Keating. "It's an important aspect to any musician who has had success, they've had a gimmick or a shtick, but some people just don't even realize it, so it's sort of taking the piss out of ourselves or music in general and the idea of very self-righteous musicianship."
In May, Yeasayer sent out 200 CDs of the album's lead single "Henrietta" to select fans who had previously purchased tickets and merchandise from the band's website. "We decided, well, they put themselves out there and we'll give them something free," Keating says. "It's like a vaguely stalker-ish hug."
Experimenting with electronic exaggerations could very well be considered Yeasayer's shtick. "I think if you are a band working today and you are trying not to use electronic elements then you are trying to be retro," says Keating. "I'd be denying the truth if I said we didn't have one. I don't know how to verbalize it."
He pauses and tries for a witty response.
"Our shtick is being three very good-looking dudes who love rock 'n' roll," he jokes. "Not really true. We're not that good looking ... except for Anand."