Yeasayer engage their psychedelic realm

Brooklyn bounce
By CASSANDRA LANDRY  |  August 28, 2012

BREAKOUT "We have been such a hardcore touring band," says Yeasayer's Ira Wolf Tuton (left), "so bands that have remained in Brooklyn and gestated here, we're not really a part of that circle of people anymore."

When Googling Yeasayer bassist Ira Wolf Tuton, autocomplete brings up this search: "Ira Wolf Tuton girlfriend." Since people combing through the black hole that is the Internet for your relationship status has got to be some kind of major ego boost, it's one of the first things I mention when I catch Tuton over the phone from Brooklyn. He lets out a guffaw. "Ira Wolf Tuton giiiirlfriend?" he says, putting a high, Valley-girl upswing on the last syllable. "My girlfriend would be flattered. Maybe they're just searching for her through me! She's pretty hot property."

Fresh off a relatively short European tour, Tuton tells me about discovering the Olympic pool in Helsinki, where he decided to rent a bathing suit, since he didn't have one. "It was basically a dick-and-balls pocket on a drawstring," Tuton says. "I was like, 'Oh, I guess this is what everybody wears here!' I got out to the pool and it was like, nope. Just me."

Tuton and his bandmates, Chris Keating and Anand Wilder, were home for a week before heading back out into the wilderness. "I live in a bubble," Tuton admits. "We have been such a hardcore touring band, so bands that have remained in Brooklyn and gestated here, we're not really a part of that circle of people anymore."

When Yeasayer debuted in 2006, their identity as one of the core Brooklynite bands who were both popular and experimental (and playfully weird) seemed to define their sound, as well as their fan base. Brooklyn was coming into its own as Brooklyn, a hipster mecca and creative macrocosm that made people like me, who were stuck in boring old California at the time, dream of packing up and riding a fixie to the dreamland. Back then, Tuton was known for his mountain-man hair and straight-out-of-'72 mustache; these days, he's clean-shaven and nearly unrecognizable. Yeasayer have streamlined their niche as much as the popular borough has. "It's weird, but I don't really consider my scene a Brooklyn scene, because I'm as good friends with people in bands in LA or all around the world," he says. "And really, I don't even think the Brooklyn scene exists anymore without being written about as such."

Fragrant World, the group's third and perhaps gutsiest album, feels like part of the natural evolution that began with their first release, All Hour Cymbals; their signature howling harmonies and trippy effects are still there and still catchy, but this time, swirling, psychedelic visuals play a stronger part of their onstage presence, and the whole is something vaguely alienated, tinged with just a hint of sadness and unease. "It feels good to have a whole project devoted to territory that we haven't trodden before," Tuton says. "We set out to do something different, and I think we achieved our goal of completing something with a totally different set of aesthetics. The world we exist in has changed, and is doing so at such a rapid pace. In order to live and exist inside of that, we had to react accordingly."

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