Yeasayer rekindle spirit of Woodstock

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

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Yeasayer [L-R]: Anand, Ira and Chris

To all intents and purposes it's just a green field now.

But in August 1969 thousands of music fans descended on the patch of ground in Woodstock in upstate New York to witness Jimi Hendrix and The Who. An event now inked in history as the greatest festival there ever was.

Almost forty years later, New York's mysterious alt-pop mob Yeasayer made a pilgrimage and discovered the spirit of the festival lives on, albeit in a different form.

"There are a lot of lunatics in that town," says lead singer Chris Keating, straight-faced.

"There's a lot of energy with people who moved there and went there to the festival in '69 and they just stayed. They think they're a wizard. They think they're Merlin."

Woodstock locals

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Chris recently guested on albums by Bat For Lashes and Simian Mobile Disco

Renting out a house to build a live-in studio, the threesome - Keating, joined by guitarist Anand Wilder and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton - wanted to integrate themselves into the local community and lap up the atmosphere. But it was disturbing.

"There was a dude in town and he would dress in flowered drapes. Him and his wife they were both about sixty," begins Keating.

"They both had really long silver hair and his keys were attached to it. He would pull her along in a little wagon all throughout town.

"He would have a stick like a 10 foot long poll on the end of it was a video camera so they video taped everything they did."

"There were some characters in that town," says Tuton, slightly understating their experiences.

Out in the country

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Yeasayer return to play gigs in the UK in February 2010

However, as the band began work on the follow up to their critically acclaimed debut album All Hour Cymbals (2007) it wasn't the only offbeat experience they had.

"We rented a house and built a temporary studio that actually was the drummer for Peter Gabriel's house - just randomly," says Keating.

"We didn't know whose it was, we just found it through a real estate agent and there were gold records all over the floor.

"Part of the reason we went there was that it was close enough to New York so that we could get back home - so we wouldn't totally lose our minds," he says.

All of these bizarre adventures have been filtered into their forthcoming second album Odd Blood - released in February 2010.

Bigger album

A far more chunky, larger sounding LP compared to their first. It's had critics saying they're next year's big America alt-rock success, following TV On The Radio, Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear.

Odd Blood - it's "future slang" says Tuton, "I saw some odd bloods walking on the street here" - is a complex, thoughtful hook-laden spin on conventional pop.

"We've always been interested in dealing in issues like where humanity is headed," outlines Keating of its abstract themes.

"We're always interested in what's the cutting edge technology. We're not in any way retro-ist, we don't need to throw on the same guitar that Jimi Hendrix had - that was done, that was then and that was great but this is now.

"This is now, it's exciting, music is still exciting.

"There are some amazing really creative things being done. I want to make music which sounds like it came from 2010, I want to be living in the future in a way. That's what we try to achieve."

UK return

After playing a string of dates supporting Bat For Lashes (Keating sang on her most recent album) in autumn 2009 and a gig at the Guggenheim museum in New York City they return to the UK hoping to play some unusual venues.

"We're going to play at Buckingham Palace; we're going to play in the Queen's boudoir.

"We're going to do the Wren tour of all the churches he designed and built," jokes Keating.

In Yeasayer's way-out world we wouldn't be surprised if they did.

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