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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Alec Ounsworth, am: 28.09.2011 ]

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah haben nach knapp vier Jahren Pause ein neues Album aufgenommen. Es hört zwar auf den Namen “Hysterical”, ist aber eigentlich gar nicht so hysterisch. Vielmehr sind die zwölf Songs um einiges geradliniger und geordneter als noch auf den Vorgängern. Mastermind Alec Ounsworth hat sich noch stärker dem Popsong geöffnet und trotzdem seine sympathische Schrulligkeit nicht ganz über Bord geworfen. Das Ergebnis ist mehr als erfreulich. Wir sprachen mit ihm über das neue Album, John Congleton und das „9 to 5“ des Songschreibens.


Musicscan: Please tell me a bit about how you put this record together?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: We began pre-production about 6 or 7 months before getting to the studio. We certainly wanted to make sure the band's strengths were exhibited. Each song was put together with the intention of every individual being absolutely comfortable with the song. I think that we had our eye on live performance a bit more than the second record and now it is quite gratifying to find that these songs fit within the scope of the entire project.

Musicscan: What impact did John Congleton have on the record? Why did you choose him as a producer and what is it like working with him?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: John was able to tap into how the band worked as a whole. I believe the record sounds a bit more unified than the other two because of our approach to the material and because John made sure that the record was expansive and incorporated the elements which make this project an interesting one. That said, John is well-versed in many different forms of music. He could understand most any idea and precedent presented him. Also, he has experience writing and recording his own material. As a singer and songwriter, this is very comforting. That someone can anticipate certain concepts and doesn't need them explained always helps.

Musicscan: Would you agree that the edges are a bit smoother on Hysterical than on your previous albums? Was that a conscious effort?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I don't know if I could say that for sure. The first two records were done in relatively unconventional ways. The first record was effectively a compilation from three different locations and was intended as a record only near the end. The second record was a conscious experiment in recording for the studio, which is to say a lot of material which was not absolutely intended to be put forward live. This, as I mentioned earlier, was certainly more of an absolute band effort whose goals were more clearly defined. I think the sonic treatment had a lot to do with John's consideration but we did expressly want the record to sound "bigger" than what we had previously done. We did basic tracks in a large room in New Jersey and overdubs at John's place in Dallas.

Musicscan: What primarily non-musical things influenced this album?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: As we develop, we have come not to take our position for granted. I think over the last few years, we have come to understand pressure in a way that might not have been readily apparent before. The type of pressure which makes one ask the questions like: Why am I doing what I do? Sometimes it is hard not to imagine that we are not chasing an apparition, or chasing our tails, but there is a certain need to move forward and the important thing is to be honest with yourself doing so.

Musicscan: Did you ever contemplate ending CYHSY and only focus on your solo career? What made you decide to write another CYHSY record?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: It just seemed the right time to work together again. There is something about CYHSY which I can't put my finger on which gives it strength. I suppose, after a bit of time, I knew I needed that feeling again.

Musicscan: Did you have certain aesthetic goals when you first started the band and how have they perhaps changed over the years?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I think I had a vague sense of arrangement for the project when we began. To a large degree, this seemed - and still seems, to a certain degree - to dictate how we approach songs. Nevertheless, I had no choice but to reevaluate over the years as I became more and more familiar with the inclinations of my bandmates. These days, I generally don't approach Clap Your Hands material without them directly in mind and, because of their involvement, the songs are likely to evolve in a collective fashion.

Musicscan: What makes for the perfect song in your opinion? Have you ever achieved something like a perfect song in your opinion? How would you define a perfect song?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I really can't say whether or not I've written a perfect song. A perfect song, in my mind, would be a song which adheres to certain well trodden structural limitations while somehow appearing to have come out of nowhere. It's true that this is a common approach so I imagine it is a bit arbitrary to try to figure it out but I do believe there are certain songs, John Lennon's "Across the Universe" for example, which, when the writer has finished, s/he can say, "Well, that time I really got it right." I tend to be a bit hard on myself so I don't say that too often.

Musicscan: What does an average day of yours look like when you are not on the road?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: 8am – wake
9-930 – emails
930-1200 -- piano (sight-reading, technique)
12-1230 – lunch
1230-1 – emails
1-5 -- work on other people's songs and ideas for own material
5-9pm -- dinner/hang with family
9pm-1am -- work on songs
That's about right with some variations depending.

Musicscan: What are some of the things you would have done differently in terms of your musical carrier in retrospect?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I would have probably have worked a bit harder on the piano as a kid. As it stands, I'm playing a bit of catch up.

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from a CYHSY show?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: That's up to them but I prefer laughter to tears.

Musicscan: Is there something like a theme that ties the songs of the album together lyrically?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I think that a lot of this record had something, lyrically, to do with trying to get to and/or find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The point is to relax and try to let little things pass. If I sound a bit like a career counselor, that's because I am.

Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I don't know if I should try to explain this here. I'll just say they are closer than you might think.

Musicscan: What can we expect from you guys in the near future?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I imagine we'll tour on this and our other records into next year but we are already chomping at the bit to get to the next record which is a good sign. The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.

Musicscan: Current favorite record, book, and film?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I like The Walkmen's last record, Lison. Book? I might say Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I'm also nearly finished Brothers Karamazov, which I like. Also, Master and Marguerita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, which a friend recommended. Similar to my feeling after listening to Dr. John's Gris-Gris, I wanted to punch the person who suggested it for not having suggested it earlier. I watched Fellini's 8 1/2 for the umpteenth time the other day. We might as well call that my current favorite. I also have developed a real appreciation for the TV show, "Breaking Bad."

  Cooperative Music