Yeasayer have spent more than a decade evolving a sound that always keeps one finger on the pulse. Their shimmering psychedelic 2007 debut ‘All Hour Cymbals’ found itself comfortably slotting alongside bands of the moment MGMT and Empire of the Sun, while a longterm experiment with pop infusion hit a high with 2016’s ‘Amen & […]
Yeasayer have spent more than a decade evolving a sound that always keeps one finger on the pulse. Their shimmering psychedelic 2007 debut ‘All Hour Cymbals’ found itself comfortably slotting alongside bands of the moment MGMT and Empire of the Sun, while a longterm experiment with pop infusion hit a high with 2016’s ‘Amen & Goodbye.’ The band’s upcoming fifth studio LP ‘Erotic Ruins’ is as crisp as it is compact; a nine track reflection on both the self and the difficult times in which we find ourselves. Born at the tail end of the 2016 US election, the album stands as a cut-to-the-bone reaction to surveillance states and the absurdity of political caricatures Sarah Sanders and James Comey.
We caught up with bassist and singer Ira Wolf Tuton to chat about the band’s nod to turmoil, and to hear his thoughts on self awareness and staying on course.
What are you guys working on at the moment?
Right now we are gearing up for an extended world tour, so there’s a lot of logistical work being done to put the tour together, and get everything properly set up and coordinated for travel, gear, personnel, etc. We have a new drummer on this go round [Noah Hecht] who played on the record, so we’re revisiting some old arrangements and refining the new material for the live set. He’s really a joy to play with, and we got the rhythm section firing on all cylinders!
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?
I would say personally that dealing with the suddenness and inevitability of the death of people that I love has repeatedly been the hardest thing to cope with and understand. The cruel repetition has always been an unfortunate reminder to pour myself into the people and experiences around me. It also is an odd opportunity to condense another persons positive characteristics into lessons in how we can change ourselves for the better, and live a more whole and positive life.
What have you learned about yourself over the past five or so years, professionally or personally?
I’ve always felt that I never knew as much about the world as I did when I was 16 years old. Since then, I’ve gradually realized that I know less and less answers to more and more questions. I like to think that I take myself less seriously than I used to.
There are tracks on your new album ‘Erotic Reruns’ that acknowledge the current turmoil of US politics. Do you ever find yourself being sucked into negative news cycles?
Of course. Is there any other kind? Our tools of convenience, connection, and communication are designed to keep us from hitting the off switch. There is no off switch. The president is a character of the moment and is gold for the insatiable needs of the 24 hour news feed. Unfortunately he is also a bigoted white supremacist who has galvanized the worst our country has to offer. Shame to him, his sycophants, and supporters.
What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?
I try not to think in those terms. Trying to have a “perfect” day seems like a good way to ruin a “perfectly” fine day. I think if you can start with a coffee, learn something, teach something, show love, be shown love, and break a sweat, that’s a pretty great day!
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
It changes as my life experiences and self awareness (or dissolution of self) evolve. Right now I can say that I’m grateful that my wife and I were able to have a child this past year. I continue to be grateful that I am able to do what I love, challenges and all, while being engaged in the shared support and care of my family and closest friends.
What are you guys listening to, reading, and watching at the moment?
Yusef Lateef – Self titled on the Prestige label
Jaron Lanier – Who Owns the Future
Complete this sentence: “Great mental health for me means…”
Sounds like the start of a book… or a longer article! I really try to stay aware of the moment that I am in, and only engage in what I can directly effect in the present.
What three songs lift your spirits?
Here Comes My Girl – Tom Petty
I Say a Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin
Can You Get to That – Funkadelic
What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?
Slow down and stay the course. We can only to one thing at a time, so focus on one goal. Achieve it to the best of your ability, and then move on to the next one. Easier said than done! But all the advice that I follow tends to boil down to the simplest of ideas. And these ideas are pretty universal, as is the human condition. Always move forward.