Yeah Yeah Yeahs
SU: Do you enjoy the success the band has had lately or would you rather remain more of an underground band?
Brian: I think the thing with this is we all started out really cynical and jaded when it comes to the mainstream and everything associated with it, but now that we have been involved with I think we have realized that the boundaries between mainstream and indie are definitely blurred, at least in terms of music production. The business side of things is definitely clear cut because there is so much money involved with the mainstream.
As far as music goes, you know we made this album before we signed to anything and I think we ended up going Interscope maybe 6 or 7 months after we finished recording the material, which is around the same time we still expected Touch and Go to put it out. So the music is still the same whether it is indie or major. We are definitely surprised at everything that has happened. We are all thrilled to be playing sold out crowds and to be getting played on MTV is extremely strange, but at the same time we think the video is great and want as many people to see it as possible.
SU: Is life any different now that the band has achieved some success? Have you actually seen any of the cash from sales of the record?
Brian: Kind of. I mean there hasn't been too many drastic lifestyle changes. The biggest thing is that we have done this tour and everything and have spent the majority of our time traveling and haven't had to worry about holding down a job or anything like that. We are still at the beginning of our career, especially as far as being a major label band, it isn't like we have a lot of money or anything, we still have to recoup everything Interscope has paid us so far. So we are still just trying to be a touring band right now.
SU: But it must be nice at least having a nice bus this time around and a crew and everything.
Brian: Oh yeah, it is great just waking up in the city you are going to play in and having some time to hang around and then going to the club like 20 minutes before you are suppose to play.
SU: What I think is amazing is that the record has been out for nearly a year now, but there is still so much hype around the band and I think that really says a lot about the quality of the album. It has withstood the scrutiny of the press for all this time and people are still talking about it.
Brian: Thanks, thanks.
SU: You can't watch a show on MTV after 9:00 now and not see the video for "Maps" at the end of the show. How important do you think MTV exposure like this is to the success of the band?
Brian:: It has an amazing role. We were shocked what happened once MTV took on the record. Our weekly sales for the record actually doubled ever since MTV picked it up. Until that point we has just been covered in music magazines, so it really goes to show that people watch MTV and listen to major radio.
SU: Do you think placement like this is more about the quality of the music, or corporate dollars your record label handed over?
Brian: It's all pretty much pay-to-play in the industry and that is pretty much why we decided to go with Interscope. With them we knew they had the cash to get the band in rotation on major radio and MTV.
SU: So you new early on that these were things you wanted to push and you were looking for a label that could do that for you?
Brian: I think it was more of that if things got to that point we didn't want to be frustrated or hit a ceiling that we couldn't pass on an indie.
SU: What is it about the New York scene that has everyone so interested? I mean there has been such a resurgence of great music coming from the city, and everyone has their eye on the place. Just more good bands surfacing or???
Brian: I think that's probably about it. I think a lot of the bands that are making music right now are really fucking great and I think that it is just the quality of music being made. I also think the bigger thing that kinda characterizes the NYC scene right now is diversity. You have the Black Dice which is sort of experimental music and you have like The Rapture which is more of post-punk dance stuff, but then you have bands like Oakley Hall, which is this amazing 9-piece country band. So there are just so many great bands that are doing great stuff, yet at the same time everyone is kinda hanging out with each other and playing group shows and stuff. So it is definitely a great time.
SU: I have read that when Nick and Karen first got together to play music, the sound coming out was more of rock ballady type stuff. Is that something that is behind you now, or do you see the band ever moving towards that kind of music?
Brian: Yeah definitely. Songs like "Modern Romance" and the hidden track on the record reflect more of that sensibility. We have a new song called "Cheated Hearts Now", which kinda comes out of Karen's melancholy acoustic singer songwriter kind of stuff.
SU: How do songs come together? Who are the primary writers in the band?
Brian: Nick and Karen kind of come up with the basic songs and then we all get together in rehearsals and the song will be pretty much laid out and once we start playing it live as a full band we will kind of change things around. They definitely come up with the music.
SU: Do you ever feel that the lack of a bass player puts limits on your music in some way?
Brian: Well I think it kind of opens us up because it gives Nick the ability to experiment with whatever guitar song he likes. He actually just bought a third amp today so whenever he plays live he will be playing through 3 amps so I think he is just having fun trying to make it sound as big as possible. There is a great balance between Karen me and Nick and we never felt the need to throw anyone else in there.
SU: Speaking of songwriting, how do you go from a song like "Man" or "Cold Light" to something like "Maps?" They are such different songs and have totally different moods?
Brian: Just kinda feeling it while up on stage and trying to get in a sad mood to play. (laughs)
SU: I know Nick has the book coming out and gets a decent amount of attention…
Brian: Yeah, he has two actually. The most recent one is "Slept in Beds" and it came out a couple months ago or something like that.
SU: … and Karen always seems to get a lot of attention for her fashion and plus just being the female front woman. Do you ever feel like you may be left in the shadows a bit?
Brian: I do have another band called The Seconds, which does have a small kind of cult following of its own. We have a record out on 5RC, which is a label Kill Rock Stars uses to put out Hella and other stuff. Actually The Seconds were invited to play All Tomorrow's Parties in England.
SU: My next question was what else do you have going on besides the band, so anything else?
Brian: Yeah, that and then I work with an experimental jazz quartet. I also play in my girlfriend's country band. She goes by the name of "The First Lade of Cuntry". (laughs) so it is pretty fun.
SU: So you like to mix it up a little bit, huh?
Brian: Yeah for sure.
SU: Who do you feel is the most important band in music right now?
Brian: As a default, I'll say The Liars.
SU: Here is a little fill in the blank. You know your band has made it when ____________?
Brian: (laughs) Uhhhh? When you have uhhhh… Fuck! When you have girls driving six hours to see your fucking rock show. (laughs)
SU: We are always interested when relatively young independent bands that haven't really had any proven success get picked up by major labels. What do you think it is that major labels see in bands like the YYYs?
Brian: I don't know. The big thing with us is in January 2001-2002, we were in Rolling Stones bands to look out for. So I think it kind of snowballed from there and major labels are like, these guys were in Rolling Stone so lets see what they have, and then other labels saw that labels were looking at us. Interscope is really great, but there is definitely dollar signs in their eyes a little bit.
SU: What do think about how magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone seem to lump you in with the Distillers and other female fronted bands?
Brian: Yeah. I am sure you can find some similarities, but it is just a little too broad of a generalization. So, yeah it's a little misleading.
SU: You said in an interview a while back when asked where your music comes from that, "If I'm drunk the music comes from the loins. If I'm sober it comes from the heart. If I'm tired it comes from the soul."
Brian: Did I say that?
SU: Yeah, so where is it coming from these days?
Brian: From the butt.
SU: I would imagine now that you have been playing these songs over and over and touring constantly, the band would be starting to get worn down. Are there any new songs that your playing live?
Brian: Yeah, we have about 7 or 8 new songs that were written after the album. We're not sure if those songs are going to be on the next album though.
SU: Cool, but it at least gives you something different to play.
Brian: Yeah, exactly.
SU: How do the see the live show versus recorded material? Are shows about playing your album perfectly, or playing things a little different to incorporate some of the live energy?
Brian: The second thing. Whatever happens on stage is good as long as the energy is there. I could be dropping sticks and Nick could be just fucking around doing something, it's all about the energy.
SU: What's in the future for the band? Any new recording plans scheduled or will there just be more touring for now?
Brian: Yeah, we are going back to Europe in April and then we are taking off a bunch of time to write some new shit and hopefully you will see it in August or September.
SU: Do you think major labels are going to survive with the way the record industry is going? I mean MCA has folded, Dreamworks folded, Warner Brothers got sold, and there is lots of consolidation going on.
Brian: Our manager might give us updates now and then, but as long as Universal is ok then we're OK.
SU: When you get tired of being a rock star one day, what do you want to settle down to?
Brian: Be a jazz bum, and just play experimental music at the local café.