For the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ upcoming fourth album Mosquito to be such a highly anticipated release is no small feat. With new records from Daft Punk, Queens Of The Stone Age and Black Sabbath all due out in 2013, there’s only so much hype to go around.
Yet thanks to the choir-injected lead single Sacrilege, the New York outfit have claimed their share of the ballyhoo. Of course having James Murphy from the now defunct LCD Soundsystem on board to produce one of the new songs hasn’t exactly hindered interest.
In the lead-up to its release Mosquito has been described as lo-fi and light-hearted despite frontwoman Karen O acknowledging that she was suffering from an identity crisis during the album’s beginnings.
Calling in from Brooklyn, drummer Brian Chase explains why Mosquito has a jovial quality, his proudest moment on the album, and working with James Murphy.
Music Feeds: The new album Mosquito has been labelled as a lo-fi record. What does that mean for you in terms of how you approached your parts in the writing and recording process?
Brian Chase: I personally wouldn’t consider it a lo-fi record. I feel like it’s very hi-fi. It does have lo-fi elements to it, for sure, like some of the drums were recorded through 4-track; 4-track is definitely lo-fi. Then we used that effect on the record, but at the same time we would layer hi-fi elements with it.
Some of the tracks were recorded using some similar lo-fi production techniques but were also simultaneously combined with more hi-fi elements, which I think gives the sound of the record a lot of depth. The record from a production [standpoint] does feel like it has many layers to it.
MF: Would you say Mosquito is the most diverse or complex record from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in terms of its layering.
BC: Yeah, I’d say. It’s Blitz! has a good amount, but I think the variety and diversity on this record is greater.
MF: Why has Mosquito been described as the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s most light-hearted work to date?
BC: (chuckles) Let’s see. It seems like there is a sense of humour to a lot of the tracks. You’re definitely towing the line at being very dark, and also at the same time very light-hearted … I think Karen realised that a lot of the songs have a very depressing feeling, like Under The Earth, Dispair, and Slave; (chuckles) all the song titles are very morose sounding.
But none of the songs, of themselves, are downers. There’s definitely an upbeat tone to them. So I think that kind of describes the comic element on the record.
MF: Karen and Nick (Zinner) were both going through personal issues that affected the songwriting on Mosquito. What was your mindset going into the album?
BC: My mindset? Well, the recording process definitely seemed to span a big period of time. We did some demos for maybe over a year before we actually got to the studio. So the album really took shape slowly. But by the time we got into the studio I didn’t really know what it was going to be like.
I feel like a lot of the songs developed as they were going about being recorded, almost (chuckles). So it was [about] giving the songs and the creative process a little breathing room…
MF: Does that often occur with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, allowing the songs to reveal themselves, or do you normally go into the studio with a clear idea of how the album should sound?
BC: Allowing the songs to reveal themselves is very much the way it always is. At different times we go through different degrees of trying to assert control over the material, but that usually ends up with us being frustrated because the songs are going to let us know what they’re going be like.
MF: Karen said that she wants Mosquito to stir some shit up inside Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ fans. Do you share the same aspiration for the new album?
BC: Well, it’s good for people to really get into the music. And I think Karen was looking to almost provoke a response to the music, almost like a reaction. Each song seems like it definitely has a specific mood and theme to it and I think she encourages people to get into the songs for what they are.
MF: What moments on Mosquito or ideas you contributed to the new album are you most proud of?
BC: Ummm, I never really thought of it in that way (chuckles). There’s a beer bottle track on Mosquito that’s very subtle, but it’s in there and it seems to really work well for that section.
MF: Did you just happen to have an empty beer bottle nearby?
BC: It was a full beer bottle, actually, and I think I walked by it and I saw it and I’m like, “Hey, that could be pretty good!” (chuckles)
MF: New track Buried Alive was produced by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem). What did he help bring out in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
BC: Well, he’s a very entertaining fellow. He’s a pretty funny guy. And this track seems like it has the most repetition out of all the songs on the record. It’s kind of like a dance beat that goes on for a little while and then there’s some guitar riffs that come in and out, and then there’s Dr. Octagon rapping.
That seems to be, for me, very different from a lot of the other tracks. I think James Murphy has that quality where he can make one groove or one idea just sound really good. And that’s awesome on its own, it doesn’t really need too much else.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs fourth studio album Mosquito is out today.